NEWHAVEN — A  UNIQUE FISHING VILLAGE ON THE COAST OF THE FORTH, PROUD OF ITS TRADITIONS, CULTURE AND HISTORY

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From The Aberdeen Journal,  19 December 1889


The Newhaven Fishermen in South Africa


An Edinburgh gentleman received on Tuesday a letter, dated November 19th, from a friend in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, from which the following references to the Newhaven fishermen in that district are taken. The writer, having acknowledged receipt of a copy of the “Evening Dispatch” containing the article on the Newhaven fishermen, in which it was stated, on the authority of another correspondent in Port Elizabeth, that dissatisfaction was being manifested by the fishermen at their change and a desire to return says:-


 “From what I know I don’t think the letter produced by the “Evening Dispatch” is altogether correct.  The boats were always worked by white men or mostly so.  There were off-coloured men amongst them, but they would be very much insulted to be called Kaffirs.  That was up to the time of the strike amongst these boatmen, which was the cause of the Newhaven men being brought out here.  Then the boats were manned by Kaffirs, with a white coxswain; but, as far as I know, the same number of Kaffirs worked a boat as is required with white men.  The fact is, as you say in a letter to the writer from his Edinburgh friend, they must be getting homesick, as all other Scotch fishermen who leave their native country seem to do.  They are a race by themselves and like to keep their own peculiar ideas and prejudices.  I admit these men may have been to a certain extent deceived when coming out here, as a great many others have been who come out here under engagements. They perhaps found their rate of pay not up to the average wages for such labour as theirs here, and they were perhaps misled as to the cost of living, which, I may say, is slightly higher than, say, at Newhaven.  All the same, however, I believe the men are better off here than they were at home with the times they have had lately, if they only knew it, and if any of them should go back they may find this out.  I was rather disappointed when I heard of their being dissatisfied as I hope to see a thriving colony of them here when they get their wives and families out.  I may say I was not surprised, however, knowing as much as I did about the Scotch fishermen class, and on their arrival I said as much.  They seemed to be well enough satisfied at first, so I was looked upon as a false prophet.  I hope, however, they will think better of it yet, and I can hardly consider they will go home, if, indeed, any do, I expect, should any of them go back to their old life, they will only be too glad to come out again when they get the chance.  I know which life I would choose were I in any of their places.  Their work here may not be over-clean, especially when they are working among coals, but neither was it the cleanest at home. .  .  .  .   


These Scotch fishermen were a source of some little amusement for us at first.  Their peculiar clothing, both material and cut  -  not exactly the most suitable for the climate (which is hot) drew attention here.  They can be spotted very easily as they go along the street with their sleeved waistcoats, braces outside, hands deep in the pockets of their trousers, and such trousers.  As you are aware, a Scotch parson came out with them, and they all religiously attended the Scotch kirk on the first Sunday or two after their arrival, and even there they made themselves conspicuous, as when the plates were passed round the church they were found to contain a good sprinkling of the smallest coins of the realm – viz., bawbees and pennies.  It was quite evident to all where they came from.  I am afraid that is one of the Scotch’ prejudices that will stick to them for a long time; but they do not seem to be so zealous in their church-going now as at first, and the most I ever see in the kirk is one or two.”


By the same mail a copy of the “Eastern Provincial Herald”, Port Elizabeth, is received, and it is seen that that paper has reproduced a good part of the article which appeared in the “Dispatch” regarding the fishermen, referred to in the above letter.  The only comment by the editor of that paper is contained in the last sentence, which runs:- “If the men have the idea that they are being swindled it is no wonder they are discontented, and it behoves their employers to set these matters right at once by an explanation.

English sailors stand beside a group of Newhaven fishermen. The two sailors are wearing boater hats and are leaning against the prow of a boat that has coils of rope around it. A boy is sitting on the ground with his back against the boat. The fishermen are wearing short trousers, long boots and hats.


Picture courtesy of Edinburgh City Libraries and Museums — www.capitalcollections.org.uk

Submitted by DAVID PATERSON.  See his appeal for family tree information here > > >