GIRINGOE CASTLE TO WICK
It might have been grey and overcast with showers the night before, but the morning came in with thick fog. I couldn't even see the end of the field in front of me let alone the sea. There was little point in trying to make it even part way along to the castle, and driving on unknown, single track roads in the fog with a wide vehicle is probably Not a good idea. So we stayed put
Fortunately the two large bulls had meandered off somewhere so at least Phoebe could stretch her legs in peace. But after a while there was a slight lifting of the veil and I decided to try my luck that it would at least stay the same and not descend even thicker on our walk towards the cliff top.
Although the sign said “No Loose Dogs” I did take a chance and let her off whilst we were on the fenced off part of the path. She had been a bit low, rarely seeming to want to run. Whether that is because she is not feeling top form (she is currently in season) or whether its because I generally call her back to me if she gets too far ahead since she frightened the little boy, I am not sure, but whichever we just meandered along the path until at a bend the castle came into view, perched on its high jagged cliffs and looming out of the mists
The castle was well worth the visit and I will let the photos describe it. Apparently any ships passing through beneath its ramparts had to pay a toll for safe passage, but then I read later that in many cases this toll was for the upkeep of buoys and lights which gives safe passage a different slant. One implies pirates, the other implies kindly benefactors. You must make your mind up, we will probably never know and it may have been a combination of both.
Giringoe Castle through the mists
with Phoebe mooching in the foreground
Cliffs and Sea Stacks from the Drawbridge
You can hardly tell where the cliffs become castle walls
Sea Inlet next to Giringoe Castle
To get an idea of the scale check out the fence posts on the right hand cliff top
More sea stacks with nesting birds
Back at Thebus the blanket of fog seemed to have no intention of clearing and not wanting to spend a day or two in its gloom I thought I may as well take a chance and start out, Wick was not far up the road, and was rated as having a wonderful Museum. I had phoned first and though they had no carpark, they assured me that the road outside was plenty wide enough fotr me to park, and in the event this was true. When I asked if it was worth waiting for the fog to clear she said – Giringoe Castle - no chance!
Wick Museum is a large rambling place, crammed with all sorts of this and that. I was disappointed not to see the “Cupboard Bed” they generally have on view, as the photos of it made it look for all the world like a wardrobe, and as I couldn't see it I have borrowed a photo from their site. It had been removed from display as there had been a roof problem and that particular room was closed for re-decoration.
Cupboard Bed in Wick Museum
(which I didn't get to see)
The most interesting thing for me was the history of the Herring Fishing Industry at Wick, which at one time had over 1100 boats fishing from its harbour, producing a fifth of the nation's annual herring catches, which in the last half of the 19th C. were enormous - about a quarter of a million barrels being pickled there for export, and each barrel containing around 1000 herrings
I have found it interesting to learn a little about the fishing industry here in Great Britain over the years. Many of our fishing ports enjoyed a massive boost during the Herring Boom years. It seems (as far as I understand it from my little reading and research) that Shetland, Orkney and Caithness in the north east of Scotland, were originally Norwegian and didn't come under Scottish control until the 15th Century.
The Hanseatic traders had shipping ports in the area and exported dried salted white fish and probably the reestit mutton and salted beef, as well as the well respected knitwear of the area, bringing back timber and tar (scarce in these windswept northern regions) grains, furs, honey and metal ore such as copper and iron
The reasons for the Herring Boom which lasted for most of the 19th C. are complicated. One of the first things which happened was that John Knox wrote and delivered a paper advocating the setting up of 50 or so fishing villages in the Highlands each with about 30 or 40 houses with gardens, plus harbours, storehouses, curing sheds, schools, churches etc. These fishing settlements would in turn create work for various tradesmen such as boat builders and craftsmen, as well as being a focal point for fish curers and merchants.
Probably as a result of this a Parliamentary Committee was set to to consider all aspects of British fisheries including the high duty on salt, which was impacting on our ability to preserve and export fish. They concentrated their efforts on the herring fishers, who it was felt needed encouragement, and as a result it was decided that private money would fund improvements and ‘The British Society for Extending the Fisheries and Improving the Sea Coast of this Kingdom’ was set up – and eventually came to be known as ‘The British Fisheries Society’
Sir William Pulteney (formerly William Johnston a second son who had married the heiress to the Earl of Bath, and changed his name when she inherited) at one point mooted to be the richest man in Britain, was the Governor of the British Fisheries Society, and he built several fishing towns with harbours. amongst them Pulteneytown, adjacent to and later amalgamated with Wick.
The Government then began to subsidize catches from larger vessels, as well as encouraging the herring fishery, the government hoped to produce a supply of trained seamen for the navy. Better ways were found for netting the herring which are a Pelagic fish, ie one which swims in water out to sea, and neither close to the bottom nor near the surface, and as they form large shoals, this in turn meant greater rewards. And far greater than from the lines of baited hooks previously used for catching the white fish.
Once larger catches were being made they were salted and barrelled for sale to the Baltic States and Russia where pickled herring had always been in high demand. This then became a self generating industry. The Scottish herring fishers and 'herring lasses' who cleaned and salted the fish following the shoals from Shetland down the eastern coast and round to Cornwall.
The peak years of the industry were immediately before the First World War, but on the declaration of War many of the fishermen enlisted, and after the war with the collapse of the German economy, and the problems in Russia following the Revolution demand began to fade, also over fishing may have had an effect, as just prior to the Second World War the worst catches for years were being recorded
Wick Harbour Circa 1900