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Supported by NEWHAVEN HERITAGE CENTRE which is recognised as a Scottish registered charity No. SC044837

NEWHAVEN — A  UNIQUE FISHING VILLAGE ON THE COAST OF THE FORTH, PROUD OF ITS TRADITIONS, CULTURE AND HISTORY

newhaven-on-forth

If you have contributions to make to the knowledge base and photographic archives on any of the topics on this page, they would be most welcome.  Please contact archivist@newhavenonforth.org.uk

If you have contributions to make to the knowledge base and photographic archives on any of the topics on this page, they would be most welcome.


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There’s a village called Newhaven, it's near the Port of Leith,

Where fisher folk called Bow-Tows lived, it was once their native heath.

The lassies wore their knitted shawls around their head for show.

The ‘Bow’ he was the fisherman and his lass she was his ‘Tow’,

The families inter-wed a lot and by nick-names they were known.
The men sang hymns when at the fishing and prayed they'd all get safely home.

The bulging nets were drawn by hand ‘jist oot there in the Forth’,

Their catch brought in a bonnie coin, which they saved for all its worth.

The Fishwives sold the fish from creels, and their sisters set the bait.

Handed down by their forefathers, it was a family trait.

If a lass and lad were trysted, and decided to get wed,

They didn't make a guest list out, but the bride and groom, instead

Went arm in arm around the doors, asking "freends tae join the throng,

Afore getting to the ‘Peacock’", it could be a hundred strong.

Then a plate of fish and chips was served, it was the wedding feast,

And the bride received her wedding gifts which she stored within her kist

Some lassies worked the kippering, dipping herrings in the vats,

They hung them on the ‘tenter hooks’, and ‘smeaked’ them on the ‘slats’.

The ‘Tenterman’ "wid smoor them doon" and smoke them overnight.

With arms red to their elbows, the lassies were a sight.

The herrings were smoked overnight and the work it never stops,

Next day the kippers gleaming red, were trucked out to the shops,

Fishwives in their working claes, with shawls around their head,

They started work at break of day, to earn the daily bread

They'd buy a pockle at the market, then ‘kyle oot the fish’.

Put their share inside their creel, and some buckies in a dish,

The creels were affy heavy, a hunerweight at least,

And, wi' a strap aroon their forehead an anither roon their waist,

Walk up the toon in two’s and three’s - they never went alone.

And as they walked they sang their songs, the words were all well known.

To Morningside and Rose Street, and as they called the people came,

Or set their creel up at St Giles. or the ‘Tron’ (twa's much the same),

 Doon Leith Street tae the ‘Broadie’, crying “caller ow-a-ooh”,

“Wha’ll buy ma bonnie parton’s” - that’s crabs to me and you.

Those Fishwives were a breed apart, with five petticoats, shawls and socks,

We saw them for o’er a hundred years, now they're in ‘Pandora’s Box’.

But they still make people listen dressed in their colourful attire.

When they sing their songs of yesteryear, in the famous -

‘Newhaven Fishwives Choir’.

A poem by Peter Sillars


I lived in Newhaven as a young lad and became fascinated by the life there  From the stories I heard I wrote this ode in remembrance of those days: running wild round the Halley, doon the pier, and in the Fishy Park.  I attended Victoria School and Miss Ritchie the conductor of the Fishwives Choir was my teacher.

An Ode to Fisher Lassies of Newhaven