Nairn Fishwife

The Nairn Fishwife Statue is based on an actual fishwife, Annie Ralph, who was one of the last Nairn fishwives. She represents the fishwives of Nairn and elsewhere who worked hard in their homes, raising children and supporting their fisherman husbands and brothers – gathering bait, cleaning fish and preserving them in salt water barrels or by smoking.

Most houses in Fishertown had sheds for smoking Haddock over fires of durkins (fir cones) for up to two hours. Children often collected the cones in Granny Barbour’s Wood and sold them to the Fishwives for up to ninepence a bag. Once smoked, the Haddock were packed into creels and the Fishwives would be seen selling fish throughout the town, surrounding villages and Inverness itself, carrying the fish in the wicker baskets.

Prior to the First World War a major aspect of the local fishing industry was catching and gutting herring for salting (Nairn Speldings) and packing them in barrels for export to Germany and Russia. Many wives and young women followed the fishing fleets for 8 or 9 weeks every year travelling to Lerwick, Fraserburgh, Yarmouth and Lowestoft gutting and packing fish into barrels of salted water. They worked extremely hard, gutting 60-70 herring a minute, with a packer filling three barrels an hour. At the height of its prosperity in 1860 the industry supported 410 men with 105 local boats engaged in line or drift-net fishing. The objective was to earn a years income during the 6-week herring season. The industry began to decline with the outbreak of the First World War as the primary markets collapsed. By 1930 there were still 40 boats and 262 fishermen.

This statue was erected as part of the Highland Year of Culture 2007. The sculptors were Ginny Hutchison and Charles Engebretson. It was cast by Black Isle Bronze, Nairn.