Film ID:
YFA 5772



Visitor Tabs


This is a film of herring fishing in Whitby, focusing on the Fortune family and their kipper business, as told by one of the local fishermen.  The film includes footage of Whitby Harbour, fishing, and preparing kippers for smoking.  

The film begins showing a small fishing boat out at sea near the harbour at Whitby, followed by an elderly couple, the Fortune family, coming out of their terraced house, at 20 Henrietta Street.  This is accompanied by a narrator saying a few words about the fishing, life and place of Whitby.  A man unloads fish from the back of a van on the narrow Henrietta Street, and the milkman delivers milk.  An elderly man in a flat cap comes out of number 13, which has “Smith” written on the door.  The butcher’s shop and a window cleaner cleaning windows can be seen.   

Two men are out on a small fishing boat, “Janet”, with the narrator relating his own and his family involvement in fishing, including his uncle and Geoff (who may be the two men on the boat).  They unload their catch.  Elsewhere a couple of elderly women skein the mussels, taking the mussels out of their shells, and the process, including the knife which is used, is explained by the commentary.  The commentary then says something about the fishing in the 18 foot fishing boats with their drift nets, as we watch some men mending their nets. 

Men operate the swing bridge from a hut, and the bridge is shown in operation.  They say a little about its history and recount the story of when a boat, the Oporto, got its anchor caught in the electrical cables which operate the bridge and the bridge house burnt down, as we watch the “Irishgate” pass through the bridge.  An old man relates how it was when he was a boy while there is footage of fish being packed into boxes with ice.  He says that there have always been visitors to Whitby, perhaps even more in the past.  He then recounts playing on the 199 steps as we watch the feet of the people going up and down the steps.

At the Fortune business herring are being prepared to make kippers, being hung up for smoking.  Seagulls fly over the house tops and two elderly women carry a bucket in each hand with the leftovers and spread them out on the shore for the gulls to eat.  Sawdust is lit for the smoking of the herrings and we see the smoke coming out of the chimneys as the film comes to an end with Ewan MacColl singing the ‘Shoals of Herring’.

End credits:
we wish to thank:
Breckon, Louis 
Cole, Jim 
Elders, Jack 
Fortune, Wilkie 
The Fortune family
Dave Lock
the bridgemen
the butcher
the milkman
the window cleaner
the people of kiln yard
and Mrs Rossington

technical advice: Page, Alan

technical assistance: Phil Hughes, Geoffrey James

mandolin music: Chalky Brown