gutters were the backbone of the fishing industry.When the herring
were unloaded from from the boats the quines
were standing at the ready by the
farlins, their fingers wrapped in clooties
and kits at their
feet.They worked in crews of three, two gutted and the third packed
the graded herring.A good gutter could gut and grade herring at
a rate of one a second. When the kits were full they were carried
over to the packer. The quines must have been strong, as two kits
were carried at once. The kits were emptied into the tubs for the
packer to start her work.
The packer had a backbreaking job bending over the barrel layering
the herring and salting them until the barrel was full.
The yards varied
from open-air sites to covered areas, though the roofs often leaked
and underfoot could be muddy and slippy. If there was a big shot
the gutters had to work on after dusk by the light of oil or gas
lamps. Working amongs herring could be cold and miserable so they
had to wear warm clothing. On their feet they wore clogs or rubber
boots. On top of their clothes they wore a quite.
harsh conditions the gutting quines always seemed happy, often singing
as they worked. Every year they packed their kists
and followed the herring from Shetland to East Anglia.Their lodgings
could be huts to rooms let out by landladies.
The Scottish boats tied up after landing their catch on Saturday
and did not sail again until Monday. Sunday best was donned by men
and women for attendance at Church or meeting. The style of life
in fishing led to the closeness of the community and the quines
and fisher loons met and mixed and often married. The women were
prepared to share the hard work with their men. A wife was a financial
necessity not a luxury.