The North East Film Archive is one of a network of regional film archives established to collect, preserve and show film made in, or about the North East of England. Our collections are non-fiction, and date from the early 1900s to the present day, providing a rich record of life in the region over the 20th century. Many of our films are available to watch, free of charge, on our website.
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A striking documentary captures the waning fortunes of the herring industry as an old steam drifter braves a squally North Sea to bring in a fresh catch to North Shields.
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Caller herrin was the traditional cry of fisher women touting the days fresh catch, a cry redolent of a prosperous herring fishing industry, back in the day. This vivid 1960s television documentary gives a real sense of the centuries old night-time pursuit of herring shoals in the over-fished seas off North Shields. The tough crew of an old steam drifter are watched over by a converted minesweeper from the Fishing Protection Squadron, policemen of the high seas.
In 1962 during the herring season off North Shields, a Tyne Tees Television production team spent around a week on patrol with the Royal Navy Fishing Protection crew of the HMS Sobiton, whose role was to protect British ships against foreign incursions into territorial waters and mediate between industrial trawlers and drifters, whose different fishing methods often caused conflict. From the 1950s to the 1970s they also played a key part in the various Cod Wars. By the mid-1960s fish stocks were being depleted at an alarming rate and North Shields no longer had its own fishing fleets. The steam-powered Welcome Boys was built in 1918 and was the last one remaining in a Lowestoft fleet of diesel drifters.