A Place Beyond The Priory

 "A Place Beyond the Priory " This is a story about Life in North Shields during the 1900's-1920's Tom Farrow is a third generation coble fisherman, Who meets and falls in love with a young herring girl who has travelled from the isle of Barra in the outer Hebrides looking for work. Margaret Linnie, her two friends Kerstin McDonald and Beth Munro all end up on the gutting line in Tyne Brand - their unscrupulous foreman Albert Mortimer treats all the girls on the line like animals including his wife Lizzie who bares him 11 children. forced into a marriage she did not want, Lizzie is abused by Albert for his own sexual gratification. She was in love with a young Greek boy called Leonidas Kostalas whom she had known from her days at school and lost her virginity to but her father will not allow them to marry- this is a story of love and betrayal and will keep you riveted until the last page is read.


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It took them a good hour and a half to reach the fishing grounds where Jack, who was named after his late uncle would cast his nets, lobster, and crab pots. It was now May 1961 Just a month after the Russians sent the first man into space. Yuri Alecseyevich Gagarin in the Vostok 1 did the first orbit of the earth and also the first space walk. Jack was surprised at how far technology was moving. He remembered when he was young lad that there was hardly a car on the road and if you wanted to get anywhere then the mode of transport was either a bicycle or horse and cart. Jack was only five years old then and was living in Queen Street it was 1906 and his father took him out in his boat for the very first time. He remembers walking down the bank to the fish quay where there was a hive of activity as the girls from far a field as Scotland came to gut and barrel tons of herring landed on the quayside. The harbour was filled with trawlers; seine net, drift net boats seven deep right along to the ferry landing. The Market would commence at 6am and would carry on right up to lunchtime that day. Fish of all species was plentiful then.’

The main staple in those days was the humble herring or the silver darlings as they were better known. North Shields was the biggest herring port in the world then. It had over 288 drift netter’s coming in and out of the harbour that had easy access and they were not restricted by any tides. The drift netters targeted huge schools of herring using cotton nets which floated on the surface. The herring being a pelagic species fed on plankton and other food stuff near the surface and got their gills caught in the nets up to a mile and a half long. A team of eight men including the skipper, first mate and engineer, two Yonkers, a hawsman, whaleman, and a cook usually a young boy training to be a deck hand ran the boat. There was no time for slackers on board the Lazy Ann. Everyone had a job to do whether it was hauling the nets in, repairing broken nets or in the young lads case coiling all the rope in.

The fishing fleet would pursue the large shoals all the way to the Irish Sea.

When the nets were hauled on board the nets were shook to dislodge the herring. This was called scudding. The crew worked for up to eight hours at a stretch; sometimes they were lucky to fill two crans and other times 200 or more. The crew usually ate what they caught for breakfast and they ate a good quantity of them too as they were plentiful. They were all cooked by the young lad. The race to get to market first would take place as they made for home again and eighth of a cran was sent to market where it was inspected and the best fish would be snapped up by the buyers who represented fish firms all over the country. Once the fish was bought the buyer would locate the vessel and the unloading would take place. Large galvanised shovels scooped up the fish into the crans then they were unloaded.

Then a runner was sent to get provisions of fuel and food before the boat would head off again to sea.


Britain loved kippers for breakfast they were usually smoked for a day unlike the Red Herrings that the Europeans liked which were smoked for up to two weeks. The British also made as paste with the herrings which went into a homemade bread bun or stottie cake. In 1908 Tyne brand began canning mackerel, herring, and pilchards in tomato sauce this was found to be very popular with the foreign markets and locals alike. During the industrial revolution it meant that wagons could take the fish direct to a rail link and it was taken all over the country. It was also flown to Scandinavian countries and Germany all within 24 hours of the fish being brought to market.


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