Gutting

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Scottish Fishing Girls at a deep Farlane with their gut tubs

The Scottish Cure was used to pack the herrings to keep for transportation. A Dutchman Wilhelm Beukels devised this method. The gill and long gut are removed then the herring are placed in a barrel with a layer of salt between the layers of fish.

The Scottish Fishing Girls did the gutting of the fish the cooper would put the herring into the farlane, which was a wooden trough, and then salt them according to size. Each girl would have her own gut tub which was like a small barrel made with hoops, it sood next to her in the farlane. When the gut tub was full she would empty her tub into the gut barrel and the contents were sold for fertiliser.

In the early years the farlane was deep but as the fish were gutted the girls had to bend to get to the fish and they slowed up as their backs started to cause problems, so the farlane was made shallower so the girls were always in a standing position with straight backs.

Gutting0005
Scots girls at work with the cooper at a shallow farlane

The herring were sorted in size by the Scotts Girls, different barrels were placed behind the girls when the fish was gutted it was thrown into a barrel according to its size this was called selecting. The fish were placed side by side with salt between the layers, they were packed belly-up with the heads towards the outside of the barrel, the next layer was placed at right angles to the previous layer, there were about twenty layers in a barrel and 900 - 1200 fish per barrel according to their size.

When full the barrels were closed by the cooper and left to pickle, as the salt melted it cured the herring but they shrunk so the cooper would open the barrel and drain off the fluid through the bung, because there was now a gap at the top of the barrel more fish were placed into it before it was sealed up and laid on its side then the pickle was poured back in. There were different cures for different orders..

Before unions were formed there was no break for food they had to eat and drink as they worked.The girls had little time during the week to relax but knitting was a favourite passtime, with a stange action, one of the knitting needles being in a fixed position.

The girls worked in crews with their barrels had their own marks and were not paid for the work till the barrels were sold. The curers paid them 40p a week before the first world war for their food and lodgings, they lived with families in the local community and paid about 15-20p a week for the room although buying their own food the land lady would cook it for them. Before World War I a barrel would fetch about 1.75 out of this the girls were paid per barrel a pricely 3.5p, topping the barrels was paid for by the hour at 1.5p.

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