What We Know About Rips

Arbroath rip from NMS collection. Liz Balfour's account

Arbroath rip from NMS collection. Liz Balfour’s account

A rip is the name given to large frame baskets that were used by fishwives instead of the back creel in some East Coast villages. They appear to be unique to the area around Arbroath and Montrose and used by fishwives in the villages like Arbroath, Auchmithie, Ferryden, Usan and Johnshaven to carry fish for sale. Evidence for this can be found from pictures on SCRAN. They had a frame style construction and were probably made with willow previous to the cane woven ones that survive today. A strap allowed it to be carried on the back or across the shoulder. As in other areas where back creels were used the fishwives filled up the rips with fish caught by their husbands and took the baskets round houses and to bigger towns to sell. Dundee was the nearest major town to this area and fishwives with this style of basket were often seen selling fish there.

The rip would have been a very heavy load when full of fish and the traditional dress of the fishwives in this area was designed to help with carrying this load. It included a second skirt, or ‘coat’, on top of the first heavy skirt, or ‘blue coat’, which was bunched up at the back to give padding and support to the loaded rip. The women also carried a separate arm creel or murlin to display fish for sale. Sometimes this was balanced on top of the rip in the same way a top creel rested on top of a back creel in other parts of the east coast. (from pictures on SCRAN)

Most of what we know about rips comes from Liz Balfour whose father grew up in Montrose. More details about the construction and materials can be seen in the article The Arbroath Rip. We do not know where the design of this basket originated from but it seems unlikely that it was one that was originally made in willow before cane was imported due to the fine weaving involved in the construction. If you have any ideas about this or more information about the rip in general please contact us.

By Julie Gurr

See Also East Coast Fishwives Back Creel, The Arbroath Rip


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