This film is part of Free


A gripping ballad of fishermen aboard the Ben Torc trawler chasing the cod shoals on the black night seas to bring the catch back to North Shields.

Documentary 1959 14 mins

From the collection of:

Logo for North East Film Archive


With their nets and cable winches, their boxes and their creels. Theyre the lads that bring the harvest into Shields. An epic in miniature set into sea-faring song by radical folk musicians Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, fishermen aboard the Ben Torc diesel trawler battle rain and sleet squalls and black nights on the North Sea, risking their lives for little reward to bring home the fresh catch to market in North Shields.

As Head of Features in the early years of Tyne Tees TV, Herbert K. Lewenhak produced two little-known ballad films, written, scored and performed by MacColl and Seeger, under the title The Way We Live. These documentaries heroize the working lives of men in the North East and dramatize the tension between tradition and modernity. The Ben Torc was built in 1959 for Richard Irvin & Sons, a new diesel trawler with radar that replaced the old steamers. Along with radio producer Charles Parker, MacColl and Seeger were creators of the critically acclaimed BBC Radio Ballads, first broadcast in 1958, which broke the mould of radio programmes and deeply influenced Lewenhaks television ballads.