Helen showing the group how to use a wisker when knitting a sweater
Helen started her first job at the age of 15 at the Marine Hotel in Buckie in 1949.She had got the job because her Mother knew someone at the Marine hotel. She lived in the hotel and had to work very long hours. Starting her working day at 7 o’clock she set the fire in the lounge, ready for people getting their morning cup of tea. She had her breakfast at 8 a.m. and then moved onto kitchen work e.g. preparing the vegetables for lunch. She also had to make beds and change the bedding. Helen remained there until she was 16 years old and then moved on kippering (Bruce’s) for the next two- three years. Her work day was from 6 a.m.- 9 p.m. and her pay was based on piece work. Machines sliced off the fish tails and cut it up. They were then smoked.
A close-up of Helen using the wisker
She remembers an old lady, smoking a clay pipe and going around the village with home-made pegs for sale. Gypsies made pegs which were sold locally as well. Clootie Mats were also a feature of life in the village. They were/are made from torn pieces of felt and fabric.
Her Mother, Anne Mary Reid had worked for Merson Kipper Yard. She had been born into a fishing family in Fraserburgh. Her mother had been a fishing quine.It was very common for mothers to work in the Salt Herring yards however Helen’s mother had another reason as well. Her husband had been on the Daneden trawler when was bombed off Shetland at the start of the second world war (19 December 1939) with the loss of all on board. In addition to her Father, William Reid, Helen’s family lost her Mother’s brother (Uncle) and her Mother’s brother-in-law on the boat. There is a commemorative plaque at Tower Hill in London (see photo) commemorating the loss of the Daneden and several other ships during the war. After the ship was sunk, Helen’s Mother was faced with bringing up the children alone as the sole breadwinner. There were war widows pensions but they were taxed at the highest rate at the time so they didn’t really provide very much support. (N.B. Since 1972 War Widows pensions are no longer taxed).
Memory contributed by Helen Sheed from Aberlour
Helen’s sister, Ellen also contributed to this website and mentions the loss of their Father.
Newspaper article about the Aberdeen trawler loss at sea.
Information about the Daneden fishing vessel including who was on board and their surviving relatives.
War Sailors forum with additional information about the ship Daneden. Helen’s father was William Reid. The forum discusses the loss of the ship although Helen’s Father is not listed in their list of crew. He was on the ship- see the link above.
Catalogue of Merchant Naval Losses in World War 2 by name, type, tonnage and reason for sinking. The Daneden was sunk on 19 September 2013.
There are number of names for the Clootie Mats. They can be called “proggy mat”. There are also Clootie trees decorated with Clootie rags. A search for any of these keywords will bring up many images of these traditional craft activities.
Knitting wiskar,wisker or whisker
Image of a wisker on Scran
Scran link to information and photo of a knitting wisker. You need to be in a Scottish School or library to use this link
or access Scran through your Moray library card here and search for knitting wisker or fisherwoman’s knitting belt. Scran is an excellent resource full of photographs and videos on a wide range of topics.