Kippering Yards

— #2 The Hally

Overview Map of Businesses Kippering Yards Childsplay at the Hally

Kippering Yards

For some time, Newhaven had two kippering yards, Dawson’s and Dow’s, both located in the Hally.  Robert Croan’s came later.

Fisherlassies prepared the herring by gutting and splitting them, and then hung them on the poles by the eye sockets ready for smoking. The gutting knives in the hands of these experts worked at such a speed the watcher would be hard pressed to see it being done. No sooner was the tub empty than another load would be poured in for the process to begin all over again.

The poles were taken away by the menfolk working alongside and more poles would replace them and then filled and so on.  The filled poles were taken to the kilns and loaded from the top down until the kiln was full, ready for smoking.  Smoke from the oak chips billowed upwards and through the louvred-sided chimneys in order that the head smoker could counter the direction of the wind. After a while, the “silver darlings” were turned to gold.  It was said that Newhaven kippers never needed any fat when frying.

Dressed in their long oilskin aprons or in harden brats (hessian sacking aprons), up to their arms in cold water that turned their arms red, the girls were nevertheless a cheery lot who would sing together, laugh, and exchange banter while their knives flashed silver such was the speed of their gutting.

Kippers were packed in full boxes of 20 pairs or half-boxes of 10 pairs. Lorries from the firms in the Hally transported the fish boxes to Waverley Station for onward transport to all points of the country.

4_3001 The Kippering Staff of Messrs Andrew Dow taken about 1920. See the description above.  Whole boxes and half-boxes can be seen in the foreground.  Dow’s are position 27 on the Map of Businesses.

4_3001 Andrew Dow Kippering Staff

4_3002 Dow’s Kippering Staff taken in the mid-20s. The fisherlassies are wearing their traditional protective oilskin aprons and sturdy shoes.

4_3002 Dow's Kippering Staff

4_3003:  Male and female fishworkers, probably Dow’s staff. Photographed in the 30s.

4_3003 Fishworkers, probaly staff of Dow's, Newhaven

4_3007  Two sturgeon on display at Bruce’s yard. By law, the fish had to be offered to the monarch.  On this occasion, one was allowed to be kept and sold.

4_3007 Two sturgeon at the yard of J Bruce & Co, Fish Processors.

A Nest of Songbirds

The kippering yards were a hive of industry — and of song.  It would start with one of the lassies starting to sing, perhaps a popular song, perhaps a favourite hymn, and the others would soon join in with one chorus leading to another and then another.

From time to time, boatloads of herring would arrive late into the harbour and the girls would have to work until all the herring was gutted and smoked.  One of the residents of old Newhaven lived in the Klondyke building and remembers as a child falling asleep to the strains of the songs late into the evening.