Film ID: NEFA 10864 Video of NEFA 10864 The Way We Live Fishermen THE WAY WE LIVE: FISHERMEN 1959 Visitor TabsDescription An early Tyne Tees Television documentary about the fishing fleet at North Shields accompanied by specially commissioned music written and performed by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger. The film begins with fish being unloaded and auctioned inside the fish market. The film then follows the trawler 'Ben Torc' as he heads out into the North Sea and shows the crew hard at work catching fish using a large drift net. The film also shows the men gutting, cleaning and storing the fish on ice for the journey back to North Shields. The film ends with the men in a local public house drinking to a successful catch intercut with views of them back at work on board ship. The film opens on an overhead view of the North Shields Fish Quay. The camera pans left to right up the river Tyne showing different sized fishing boats moored along the quayside. The camera also looks across the river to South Shields. The film cuts to show a small fishing boat coming up the river Tyne and turning towards the quayside followed by second larger steam trawler coming along the quayside. Along the quayside beside a number of other similar sized boats a sailor throws a rope onto the quay which is placed over a metal bollard by a man in naval uniform. There are various general views showing crates and baskets of fish being winched from the hold of the ship onto the quayside and onto the back of a flat-bed lorry. A man pushes two crates away on a wheelbarrow. Inside the fish market men look over the various types of fish laid out on the floor in front of them. Some are in crates while others are laid out on the floor in horizontal lines. The film cuts to a man hacking at a block of ice with an axe. The film quickly cuts back to two men on board ship talking. Back in the market a man in a white coat conducts the auction. A man with a cigarette hanging from his mouth carries two large cod away. Back outside on the quayside, many small fishing boats are moored up. The one closest to the camera is the ‘Catherine Armstrong’. The film cuts to a shot looking up from the bow of the trawler ‘Ben Torc’ (Reg: SN-100). On the deck of the ship a group of men are seen working watched over by another who is standing on the quayside. The film cuts to the engine room where an engineer reads a dial. Back on deck the film shows a close up of the radar antenna turning. A large bag of potatoes is seen being loaded onto the ship. A man walks past carrying a box with the word ‘Milk’ written across it. Members of the crew walk along the quayside towards the ship. The skipper of the vessel steps out of the wheelhouse onto the deck. Another sailor walks out of a building, stencilled in the glass window above the door is written ‘British Sailors Society – Angus House’. The film cuts to a terraced house where another man steps out, kisses his son and wife and walks away. Back on the quayside the moorings of the ‘Ben Torc’ are released and she slowly moves away. There are views from the quayside as well as on board of the trawler heading into the river Tyne and out into the North Sea. Out in the North Sea seagulls fly overhead. Water splashes across the bow of the ship as it travels through the ocean. The skipper is at the wheel of the ship in the wheel house. Men are seen working on deck. General view of the ‘Ben Torc’ at sea. Back on the deck a young man repairs fishing nets using a shuttle weaving between the threads. A second young man splices a section of rope. Below deck general views of the cramped crew quarters with men in their bunks reading and chatting. The camera pans down to show several pairs of boots by the bunks. In the wheelhouse the skipper calls down to the engine room where the engineer pushes a lever to say ‘Stop’. Back on the bridge the skipper examines the readings from the echo finder. Through a port-hole he points out to sea. On the deck of the ship the crew work to haul the nets into position and the trawl doors, also known as ‘otter boards’, are lowered into the water. With the floats in place the nets are thrown overboard. There is view from the stern of the boat showing the drift net in place. A basket hangs from a rope over the deck. The film cuts to the crewmen hauling in the fishing net. As it reaches the bottom fish can be seen thrashing about in the net. A winch lifts the net into the air and onto the boat and the fish are dropped onto the fish cleaning deck. It is small catch of fish. Below deck the crew sit around a small table eating a meal. Back on deck the nets are repaired again and thrown overboard for another catch. Again, a second small catch is hauled out of the ocean, winched over and dropped onto the fish cleaning deck. Back below deck men are laid on their bunks smoking, reading or chatting. In the wheelhouse the skipper reads the echo finder and the net is seen being thrown over the side. Three sailors detach a net from the winch and drop it overboard. Another sailor stands at the controls of the winch as the trawl door is lifted into the air and lowered into the sea. Another much larger catch of fish are winched onto the fish cleaning deck watched over by the skipper. General view follows of men gutting and cleaning a large haul of fish on the cleaning deck. An overhead view showing all the fish separated into crates and baskets. Large cod are dropped from the deck down into the hold where two sailors pass them to a third who stands on a base of ice laying the fish out in neat lines. Back on deck another catch of fish is brought in and more general views of men gutting and cleaning the fish which goes on into the night. The film cuts to the next day and seagulls flying over the trawler. The camera pans down onto the deck where the sailors begin to store away their nets and gear for the journey home. General views of the ‘Ben Torc’ travelling at speed through the sea, the water lapping against the bow. On deck sailors haul a net out of the hold. In the engine room the engineer signals ‘full ahead’. In the wheelhouse the skipper is at the wheel looking out to sea. Above the wheelhouse the radar antenna turns. Back in the engine room an engineer checks the readings on a dial. The film cuts to show the engine pistons firing. In the galley a man stirs the contents of a small bowl. Two men stand on the bow of the ship as it approaches the river Tyne with Tynemouth in the distance. The film cuts to inside the North Shields fish market and men looking over crates of fish laid out on the floor. In a nearby public house the skipper take a sip of his drink which is intercut with view of him back at work aboard the ‘Ben Torc’. The engineer takes a sip of beer which is intercut with him working on board ship. The cook takes a sip of his drink which is intercut with him back on board ship taking a large pie out of the oven. The film ends with various quick cuts showing the men on board ship catching, cutting, packing and unloading their catch of fish onto the quayside. Context Ballad of the men who trawl the North Sea A gripping ballad of fishermen aboard the Ben Torc trawler chasing the cod shoals on the black night seas to bring the catch back to North Shields. “With their nets and cable winches, their boxes and their creels. They’re the lads that bring the harvest into Shields.” An epic in miniature set into sea-faring song by radical folk musicians Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, fishermen aboard the Ben Torc diesel trawler battle rain and sleet squalls and black nights on the North Sea, risking their lives for little reward to bring home the fresh catch to market in North Shields. As Head of Features in the early years of Tyne Tees TV, Herbert K. Lewenhak produced two little-known ballad films, written, scored and performed by MacColl and Seeger, under the title The Way We Live. These documentaries heroize the working lives of men in the North East and dramatize the tension between tradition and modernity. The Ben Torc was built in 1959 for Richard Irvin & Sons, a new diesel trawler with radar that replaced the old steamers. Along with radio producer Charles Parker, MacColl and Seeger were creators of the critically acclaimed BBC Radio Ballads, first broadcast in 1958, which ‘broke the mould of radio programmes’ and deeply influenced Lewenhak’s television ballads.