A fundraising drive for a historic statue on North Shields Fish Quay to commemorate the crucial role women played in the port’s success has received a welcome financial boost.
The North Shields Fishermen’s Heritage Project is aiming to raise £50,000 for Herring Girl status to recognize the vital role women have always played in the region’s fishing industry. The appeal was launched last year and has so far raised £15,000.
Now he has received a £4,000 boost following an auction held at North Shields singer-songwriter Sam Fender’s favorite pub, the Low Lights Tavern on Fish Quay. The prizes included a bottle of House of Commons whiskey signed by Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer, as well as original artwork.
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But the star lot was a painting of the Low Lights Tavern by local artist Mark Taylor-Gregg. It cost £1,600, with the new owner now set to have his own portrait among the figures shown sitting outside the famous watering hole – believed to be the oldest pub in North Shields.
Fishermen’s Heritage Project chairman Terry McDermott hailed the auction as a “tremendous success”. He said the group was confident the £50,000 target would be met in time for Herring Girl status, which has already been commissioned, to be installed on the Western Quay on the North Shields seafront in March 2023.
He said, “There’s no way it’s not happening. The Herring Girl is on the move, following the schools of herring and heading towards the beautiful Shields!
The statue is by Durham-based Ray Lonsdale, responsible for the one-and-a-half-time life-size figure of a fisherman sitting on Fiddlers Green overlooking the River Tyne just off Fish Quay. It was unveiled in 2017 following a campaign to raise £75,000 by the Fishermen’s Heritage Project, and has become a local tourist attraction as well as a place of remembrance.
The statue is a permanent reminder not only of North Shields’ fishing industry, which in its heyday brought flooded wealth to the town, but also of the hundreds of fishermen who have been lost at sea over the centuries.
Now, five years after the unveiling of this statue, the effort is on to create the life-size figure of a Herring Girl seated on one of the barrels that were a familiar feature along Fish Quay. Western Quay was chosen as the site because it is where the women worked tirelessly to empty, pack and salt the thousands of tonnes of herring that were once landed at North Shields each year.
Most of the Herring Girls were local. But during the herring season, they were joined by women from north of the border who traveled from port to port following the herring boats along the North Sea coast.
The new status will be based on an old photo of a smiling herring girl that Terry McDermott’s daughter spotted. He said: “She saw the herring girl who, despite obviously hard work, had the prettiest smile.
“Status will be smiling in the face of adversity.”
The North Shields Fishermen’s Heritage Project is planning a number of fundraising events for the coming months and is applying for grants to help it reach its £50,000 target. Terry said: “It is important that we remember the role women have played in the success of the North Shields fishing industry.
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