Old Low Light Heritage Centre thanks knitters

The Old Low Light Heritage Centre is thanking people who have responded to its call for knitted herring for its new exhibition about the important role of women in fishing and maritime industries over time.

‘That’s Women’s Work’ opened at the centre on North Shields Fish Quay in late July and the shoal of knitted herring is growing by the day.

Coordinator of the team of volunteers that researched and curated the exhibition, Nina Brown, said: “An important part of the exhibition is the story of the ‘herring girls’ who travelled every year from northern Scotland to clean and cure the catch at ports along the way. Local people have provided stories and photographs, but we also asked if they would knit a herring. The response has been wonderful and at the last count we had more than 250, which are now hanging in a net at the entrance to the gallery!

“The exhibition is proving to be very popular and we would like to thank everyone who has helped to make our shoal of herring such a lovely feature.”

The exhibition will run until the end of the year. The centre is currently open to the public Wednesday to Saturday 10am to 3pm. Entrance to the gallery is £4 (free for Old Low Light members). 

‘That’s Women’s Work’ includes stories about:

  • The journey of the ‘herring girls’ who every year from early summer to late autumn followed the fishing fleet down the east coast, from northern Scotland, stopping at ports to clean and cure the catch. Usually arriving at North Shields in August, they stayed with local landladies and were looked after by the Fishermen’s Mission and local churches. There are also stories of local women who were herring girls.
  • The lives of local fishwives who packed creels with fish, sometimes weighing as much as six stone which they carried on their back, to sell door to door or at local markets. There is also a tapestry of fisherwomen, based on a painting by American artist Winslow Homer who spent two years in Cullercoats in the late 19th century, which until recently has been on display in Hull.
  • How women whose husbands were at sea coped with tragedy and hardship and the support provided by the Fishermen’s Mission.
  • Local women who worked in the smokehouses and fish processing factories on the Fish Quay.
  • A North Shields woman’s working life as a trawler skipper.
  • Women and seafaring superstitions.
  • Modern day roles of women in fishing and maritime related industries.

The exhibition, funded using money raised by plant sales organised by volunteers, also includes a selection of works by local artists and crafts people, including some hand knitted traditional fishermen’s ganseys.

Nina added: “We are indebted to local people who have supported this exhibition in so many ways over the past year, during lockdowns and periods of restrictions. We look forward to welcoming them to our gallery in the coming weeks and months.”

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