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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.

Research Activities

Hello! I’d like to write a little bit here about the fieldwork I’ve done and some of the outreach events as well. If you have a lead for somewhere I should go or someone you think I should talk to, please get in touch by emailing me at!


In July 2021, I went to Shetland on a fieldwork trip funded by the British Forum for Ethnomusicology. I spent three weeks there, based in Lerwick. At the Shetland Museum and Archives, I did extensive research in their oral history collection. I went through older recorded interviews with herring gutters. I also interviewed retired herring gutters in Shetland myself. I met and interviewed three women who had worked in the herring industry as gutters and packers, two at the machines and one at the hand gutting. I also did a phone interview with a retired Shetland hand gutter after I left the island. I hope to return to Shetland for future research and to put on a musical event with local collaborators.



During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been doing online research outreach. Before the pandemic, I enjoyed giving public talks in places like Crail and Anstruther in order to spread awareness of my research, give back to fishing heritage communities, and make new local contacts. For now though I have been giving talks online which anyone in the world can view! You can check them out below.


Anster Nicht In: Gaelic Herring Gutters’ Songs with Meg Hyland

Traditional Song Forum:  ‘I Sometimes Think We Sang to Stop Ourselves from Crying’: Singing at Work Among Herring Gutters and Packers

Scottish Fisheries Museum Guts Galore!: Song and Dance in the Lives of Herring Gutters


In the summer of 2016, I was an intern as part of the Laidlaw Undergraduate Leadership and Research programme. This is when I first began doing research into the role of music in fishing communities. I did research in Lewis and the East Neuk as part of this project. At the end of the summer, I began working with the Scottish Fisheries Museum to put on an event bringing my findings to a wider audience. We secured a grant from Connecting Scotland’s Sounds to put on an event called “A Cran of Songs: Memories of Scottish Fishing Music” in October 2016. We set up a soundtrack trail around the museum using archival audio from Tobar an Dualchais and Am Baile. Songs played that were relevant to each gallery, such as gutters’ songs in the gutting gallery and whaling songs in the whaling room. Then there was a live performance featuring contemporary musicians’ interpretations of songs traditional to Scottish fishing communities. Photos of the event below were provided by Connecting Scotland’s Sounds.


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