Document 65

A Wee Scran o Herrin

Author(s): Robert Fairnie

Copyright holder(s): Robert Fairnie


Young Geordie Jooks wis fair awa wi hissel when he fund oot thon Seturday mornin that aw the yoles wis in Fisherraw herbour liverin thair herrin. It wis juist yince in a blue muin that the boats livert in Fisherraw, maistlins they aye went up tae the mercat at Newheiven an, wi the day bein a Seturday an nae schuil tae gaun tae, thon makit it aw the better. Geordie an his wee brither, Wattie, cuidnae git thair brekfasts ower thair thrapples quick eneuch sae they cuid git doon tae the herbour tae see the boats. Tho thair faither wis awa tae the war, servin in the navy, they cuid aye see thair Granda's boat, the "Felicity", an aiblins, gin he hid a dacent catch, thare wis aye the chance o gittin a scran o herrin an gaun roond the doors sellin thaim. Siller wis aye hantie onie day but mair parteeclar on a Seturday.

It taen the twa o thaim nae time at aw tae rin alang tae the herbour efter they'd feinisht wi thair brekfasts an, yince thare, whit a braw sicht thare wis for thair een tae tak in. The herbour seemed tae be stappit fu wi boats an maist o thaim hid thair foremasts set up alang wi thair liverin derricks. It makit the herbour look lik yin o thae auld farrant picters whaur the rowth o ship's masts wis juist lik a forest o trees. Awbodie wis gey thrang ettlin tae git thair ain boat livert syne oot o the wey tae let ither yins intae the wa sae they cuid git thairs duin an aw. The hail herbour wis hoatchin wi yoles, men an sea-maws an awthin wis ower the heid wi fish scales. Geordie cuidnae mind iver seein sae monie maws aw at the ae time an the air wis fu o the smell o caller fish alang wi the guff o paraffin fae the boats' Kelvin engines. The soond o thae engines melled wi the cries o the maws an the vices o the men ettlin tae mak thirsels heard abuin the racket.

The "Felicity" wis haufweys alang the aist pier an aboot haufweys throu wi liverin aboot sixtie cran o herrin. That wis a braw guid catch; fower boxes tae the cran an a wartime controlled price o fower pund a cran; no bad at aw! Geordie cuid see twa o his Granda's crew, cled in thair sea-buits an ileys, doon in the howld skippin herrin intae a basket then the derrick hysted the basket up an ower tae the pier whaur anither man cowped the basket o herrin intae yin o the fish-boxes lined up alang the edge o the pier. It wis ae basket tae the box. The tuim basket wis sent birlin doon intae the howld again an, in nae time at aw, it wis bein hysted back up again skailin twa three herrin on tae the deck as it gaed.

The laddies' Granda cam intae sicht fae ahint a lorry no faur fae whaur they war staunin. He wis cled in his sea-buits an aw but didnae hae onie ile-skin on tap o his fisherman's gernsey. His pipe wis gaun weel an Geordie aye liked the smell o the Store's black Reevor plug that he aye smoked tho, whiles, when he cuidnae git that he wid aiblins try the Walnut plug. He taen his pipe oot his mooth an gied a grin when he saw the laddies an speirt, "Weel, whit ar the pair o yez up tae the day then?"

"Aw, juist doon for a leuk." reponed Geordie, "Leuks lik a no bad catch, Granda."

"Ay, no bad son. A'v seen waur."

"Granda, dae ye think the'r onie chance o a scran?" speirt Geordie.

"For yer mither?"

"Naw. We fancied gaun roond the doors tryin tae sell thaim."

"Weel, that's ae wey o makin some siller for yer Seturday penny. See Walter sittin thonder at the fore en o the howld? Weel he's makin up some pauchles for the men tae tak hame. Juist you gaun doon abuird the yole an ask him tae mak yez up a scran while he's at it."

"Richt Granda. Thanks!"

Walter wis the cook abuird the "Felicity" an wis makin up sax pauchles o the best haund picked herrin for the crew tae tak hame tae thair wives. When the laddies went ower tae him an speirt nice-like gin he wad mak up a scran o herrin for thaim, he said, "Ay, nae bother at aw. Juist you gaun an see me ower yin o thae bits o wire an A'll hae a scran for ye afore ye can cough."

Richt eneuch, he sortit oot a dizzen herrin as quick as ye like an pit the end o the wire in throu a gill an oot throu the mooth o ilka yin then he jyned the ends o the wire thegither an haundit the scran tae Geordie; him bein the auldest.

"A suppose that'll be you twa gaun roond the doors sellin thaim then. Dae ye ken whit ye'll be seekin for thaim?"

"A'm no very shuir." said Geordie, "Whit dae ye think we shuid chairge?"

"Weel A widnae let thaim gaun for ocht less nor a penny each. That's juist aboot twae times whit yer Grandfer gits for thaim but they'll be a braw sicht mair nor that in the fish shops. Thae fish shop fowk's juist greedy hogs. Ye’ll hae tae watch yersels wi some o thae treds weemin for they’re no like fisher weemin, ye ken. The’r some o thaim’ll try an screw ye doon tae a hap’ny or waur but dinnae you gie intae thaim. They’re your fish an ye dinnae hae tae sell thaim tae fowk that’s juist wantin tae tak a len o ye. The’r plenty o fowk that wid be gled tae gie ye a penny for thaim."

“A penny each?” said Geordie, mair tae his wee brither nor tae Walter the cook. “That means gin we sell the hail lot, oo’ll hae a shillin; a tanner apiece.”

“Ay, the’r lots ye can dae wi a tanner on a Seturday.” eikit Wattie.

The twa laddies sclimmed up oot the yole, takin guid tent no tae drap thair wee scran o herrin, an walked at a guid lick awa fae the herbour, takin the gate tae the treds-fowk’s hooses that ower-leukit the links.

The first door thay chappit wis yin o thae big stane hooses wi its ain gairden an awthin an, as suin as the wumman opened the door, Geordie kent her face richt awa. He’d aften seen her in the Store coffin her messages an she wis yin o thae weel spoken treds weemin, aye pittin it on an the kind that cuid be nice as ninepence tae ye the ae day an crabbit as auld Kate the neist. Geordie smiled at the wumman an baith him an Wattie held the scran up atween thaim as he speirt,
“Needin onie fresh herrin the day, missus?”

“Fresh herring? How did two young lads like you come by fresh herring and how fresh are they really?”

Geordie wisnae shuir if this wis her ninepenny souch or her crabbit yin but he said, “They’re strecht aff oor Granda’s boat in Fisherraw herbour. They war soomin in the firth last nicht. Juist a penny the piece missus!”

“Indeed?” cam the repone an she pit her haund forrit tae feel the fish. The laddies held thair scran up a wee bit mair sae she cuid git a guid leuk an she squeezed yin or twa atween her thoum an first finger but in thon kinna wey whaur ye kent she wis wishin she hid a perr o gloves on.

“I’ll take those four at the end.” she said, pyntin tae the yins she wantit.

The twa laddies wis fair awa wi thirsels as they walked oot the yett efter thair first sale, wi fower pence jinglin in Geordie’s pooch. Efter that, gittin rid o the ither yins wis a richt skoosh. Yin wifie tried her haund at cuttin thaim doon tae a hap’ny but it didnae work an the lave wis aw selt for a penny the piece. On the wey hame, they stopped at the claes green an coontit oot the siller. Thare wis a tanner, a thripenny bit, twa pennies an twa hap’nies. They daled the siller oot atween thaim an gaed hame richt joco, the baith o thaim wi a tanner in his pooch, an juist in time for denner.

Wi a tanner burnin a hole in baith thair pootches, they didnae tak ower lang tae feinish aff thair denner an then it wis aff tae the shops. Tuppence worth o sweeties an a comic each, Geordie gittin the Dandy an Wattie the Beano sae they cuid chynge wi yin anither, then it wis aff tae the Seturday matinee at the picters wi the ither tuppence.

Ay, a wee scran o herrin - a tanner each on a Seturday – millionaires – pure dead brilliant!!!!

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APA Style:

A Wee Scran o Herrin. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 30 May 2024, from

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The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. 2024. Glasgow: University of Glasgow.


Information about Document 65

A Wee Scran o Herrin


Text audience

Adults (18+)
General public
Audience size 3-5

Text details

Method of composition Wordprocessed
Year of composition 2001
Word count 1552

Text setting


Text type

Prose: nonfiction


Author details

Author id 95
Forenames Robert
Surname Fairnie
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1930
Educational attainment College
Age left school 16
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation Consultant Marine Structural Engineer (Retired)
Place of birth Musselburgh
Region of birth Midlothian
Birthplace CSD dialect area midLoth
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Musselburgh
Region of residence Midlothian
Residence CSD dialect area midLoth
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Fisherman
Father's place of birth Musselburgh
Father's region of birth Midlothian
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area midLoth
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Fishwife
Mother's place of birth Musselburgh
Mother's region of birth Midlothian
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area midLoth
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes At work
German Yes Yes Yes Yes In Germany to communicate with two grandsons
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes Wherever Scots is understood