Memories from the archives

Grace Leask (née Mouat) shared her memories of time spent as a gutter lass in Shetland.

To tie in with our current photography exhibition – Fisherwomen by Craig Easton – we thought it would be a good time to share a few soundbites from an interview we did with Grace Leask (née Mouat) back in the 1980s.

Grace worked as a ‘gutter lass’ in Lerwick - it’s lovely to hear her voice as she retells some of her memories from that time.

Grace recalls the long hours and hardwork spent gutting and packing herring by the barrel full and how she would bind her fingers with material at the start of the day to protect them from the sharp knives and salt.

Watch - (1) Memories of working as a herring gutter in Shetland - YouTube

It definitely wasn’t glamorous and the work demanded grit and sheer endurance, but the life of a ‘gutter lass’ offered independence and opportunity to women who had limited options when it came to earning power.

Based in huts at one of the many curing stations, the gutters would work outside, unprotected from the elements. Despite the hardships and basic living conditions, the girls were renowned for their tough work ethic and strong sense of camaraderie.

The work of the 'gutter lasses' like Grace, were integral to the success of the herring fishery.

You can listen to the full interview with Grace Leask on YouTube - it provides a fantastic insight into life in Shetland in the early years of the 20th Century.

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