In 2012 playwright Eric J MacDonald of Uig, Isle of Lewis, wrote the monologue, A Souvenir of Great Yarmouth. The theme is the life of the young Isle of Lewis women, who used to gut, salt and pack herring barrels in Stornoway, Wick, Shetland, Great Yarmouth, Fraserburgh, Lowestoft and other fishing ports. The character Mary, looks back on aspects of her working life, memories of community then and observations on her life today.
As part of volunteer group Cabraich Community Arts, I performed Souvenir of Great Yarmouth in English, also Os Mo Chionn Sheinn an Uiseag the Gaelic version in rotation, for a period of eighteen months. Visiting community groups in the Isle of Lewis, Skye, Glasgow also Maritime Festivals at Kinlochbervie and Great Yarmouth.
Audience members at all the performances, having family links to the fishing, connected with the herring girl theme. Surprisingly they brought family artefacts relating to the fishing: plates, clocks, skirts, bits of herring net and their family stories. I so wish I had had a researcher accompanying me to record all those stories.
The attached is A Souvenir of Great Yarmouth a radio version, produced for Isles Fm by Tony Henk. Thanks to other contributors: Margaret MacLeman Back for songs, Ann MacDonald Back for readings and Dol MacDonald Laxdale for the melodeon tunes.
The research for the play: interviewing women in their 90s, who had been at the fishing in the 1930s, was carried out by Eric J MacDonald, Joni Buchannan and Magaidh Smith.
Thanks to the playwright Eric J MacDonald, who brought cultural memories of fishing communities to the fore. This further sharing on line will help keep the women’s working lives on record and accessible as an audio file. My apologies, the Gaelic version Os Mo Chionn Sheinn an Uiseag, has had a glitch and is to follow.
The character Mary, looks back on aspects of her working life, memories of community then, also observations on her life today. (35 m)