Fish on menu at Ellon Probus Club meeting

Ellon Probus Club president Norman Davidson welcomed Jim Gauld as speaker at 2015’s first meeting. The subject was Aberdeen fish markets.

Starting in the Middle Ages, fish were sold at the Castlegate before being moved to a custom-built site in Shiprow. Fishing at this time was for herring by drift net (seasonal) and for whitefish using baited lines, all worked by small family-owned, sail-powered boats.

In the mid-1800s the herring fishery expanded, larger decked-over vessels were introduced, catches increased and there was a demand for bigger harbours. In Aberdeen this was met by the re-alignment of the River Dee to create the Albert basin.

In the later 1800s steam power was introduced, first to herring drifters and then to whitefish trawlers - the first trawler at Aberdeen was the modified tug Toiler in 1882. By now fish catches had outgrown capacity at Shiprow and a new covered market was built in the Albert basin.

Although herring landings continued, whitefish assumed dominance. By 1935 some 300 trawlers were based in Aberdeen and the market could be filled 2 to 3 times in a day. The main sales outlet was Billingsgate and the fish train left daily at 2pm.

As years passed fish stocks declined and landings decreased. In 2011 Aberdeen ceased to be registered as a fish landing port. In its day the fish market was an active, chaotic and vibrant place, highly organised and full of extrovert characters.

Bill Reed gave a vote of thanks. The next meeting is today (Thursday) when Alan Cameron will honour Rabbie Burns.