In response to the rapid growth of the herring fishing industry, The British Fishery Society began work on building Wick’s Harbour in 1808. A peak was reached in 1865, when records show that 1100 vessels from Wick and district were engaged during the herring fishing season.

Men and women came to Wick from across the Highlands and the Western Isles. Men, to crew the boats and to work in the herring curing yards, while the women worked as fish gutters and barrel packers.

008_JN20904B005Workers in yard

The cured herring were shipped in barrels, mainly to ports in Europe, especially the Baltic countries and Wick became the premier herring port in Britain, producing one fifth of the country’s landings.

Scarcity of the herring shoals in the 1930’s led to a downturn and the fishermen, in search of more permanent employment, began to turn to the emerging seine net white fishing. The final years of Wick’s association with the herring industry was during a short period following World War Two. By 1953 it was all over and almost 200 years of the herring industry sank into the sands of time. Wicks Herring oil extraction plant continued until 1955 using herring imported from the west coast of Scotland but then even that “aromatic” plant closed forever

The Wick Heritage Museum has extensive displays of herring-related activity including coopering, kippering, fishing and trading.