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Women's Music in the Herring Industry

Women's Music in the Herring Industry

Learn more about Meg Hyland's research into the role of music and dance in the lives of herring gutters and packers in the British and Irish fishing industries.


Hello there! I’m Meg Hyland, a PhD candidate in Celtic and Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. This blog is intended to be a resource for anyone who wants to learn more about my research. I’m supervised by Will Lamb and Lori Watson.

I study the role of song and dance in the lives of itinerant herring gutters and packers. From the mid-19th century to the 1970s, women from Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man, England and Scandinavia worked as shore workers in the British and Irish herring industries. They gutted the fish and packed them into barrels so they were preserved for export. Some women sang while they did this work. Others sang and danced in their accommodation in the evenings. The work brought together people from all over Britain, Ireland and beyond, making the industry a focal point for musical exchange. My research looks at what and why herring gutters sang, from Gaelic dance songs to evangelical hymns, and from music hall to rock ‘n roll.

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