Sunday, 31 July 2011

Up In Caithness 3

It's the last night of the annual Wick gala. The final event features the pipe band and the local Highland dancers, seen here doing the sailor's hornpipe.
Wick is a very different sort of town. From a tiny village, probably established in Viking times, through a small market town in the middle and later ages, it expanded dramatically in the nineteenth centurt to become the premier herring fishing port in the country. Over a thousand boats hunted the silver darlings in the summer season and ten thousand migrant workers from the Highlands and elsewhere joined the locals to fish for and process the herrings, mainly by salting for the Baltic trade.
    Overfishing and revolutions in key markets greatly diminished the industry at the end of the nineteenth century although it limped along into the 1950's. I have boyhood memories of herring boats landing their catches and gathering up the few fish that spilled over the side of the lorries.
    Wick harbour is now the site of a marina and hopes to play a role in the proposed developments of wind and wave power. The 19th century action was dramatically captured by the Johnston family of photographers who plied their trade in Wick and Thurso. Around sixty thousand of their glass plate negatives survive and are owned and cared for by The Wick Society, who also run the award winning Wick Heritage  Museum. The view above shows Wick Harbour in the 1860's

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