Betty McBay, Johnshaven fishwife

In the 19C and well into the 20C it was common for fisherwomen to make a living by ‘hawking’ fish. That meant they would sell fish from door to door. They carried the fish in great baskets and usually had regular customers, either households or retail premises.

This photograph shows Betty McBay, a fisherwoman from Johnshaven, in her working clothes. She has one basket on her back and another in her left arm. She is wearing the ‘bluecoat’ skirt that was traditional on this East Coast and also wears a fringed shawl.

Johnshaven is a small village north of Montrose. It was a thriving place in the 18C, but declined later that century when people moved to Montrose. The village revived in the 19C, and in 1872 David Walker tried beam trawling. Today there is no full time commercial fishing from the harbour.


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