Old Auchmithie

 

Picture Copyright Angus Council

The Sea

Before 1890 Auchmithie had no harbour and boats had to be dragged onto the beach.

 

It was the fishermen's wives and daughters who baited the lines with mussels and it was their responsibility to gut and smoke the fish.

The women were made of stern stuff . They would wade into the sea barefooted carrying the fishermen on their backs so their husbands could start their fishing trip with dry feet.

The whole village was involved in weddings.

 

In addition to a best man and bridesmaid, the couple also chose a worst man and maid. All six worked to clean and whitewash the new home.

On the Tuesday before the big day women relatives would make all the pillows and mattress ready for a bed making ceremony on the marriage day.

 

On the Wednesday the groom’s house was busy receiving all the furniture. At the bride's house all of the china and crockery was washed and then carried to the new house.

 

The night before the wedding was the feet washing.  The women of the village prided themselves on ensuring that the bride entered her new home with clean feet!

 

The bride and groom's house was decorated with flags the evening before the wedding. The bride would be given money on her wedding day. She would leave her house alone, then she would be joined by her bridesmaids, then the groom and his friends. Then the whole village would join them in a procession to the church.

 

One of the older woman would dance at the head of the procession to lead the way. 

Everyone in the village would contribute towards food and drink for the wedding dance.

 

Celebrations

Picture Copyright of Angus Council

Smokies

Arbroath smokies should really be known as Auchmithie smokies, as this is where the technique of hot smoking whole haddock originated. They were also known as The Lucken, Closed Fish or Pinwiddies.

 

Barrels sunk into the ground acted as a kiln with a fire fuelled with wood chips.

 

The haddock was gutted, but not split open, salted and hung by their tails to dry. They were then suspended over the hot barrels.

 

The fire was dampened down and wet canvas thrown over the fish to contain the smoke. After forty five minutes the mouth watering smokies were ready.

 

On their move to Arbroath the fisherfolk of Auchmithie took their method with them.

Some believe the original fisher folk of Auchmithie came from Scandinavia but some say they were Flemish, Portugese or Spanish.

The village was part of the Ethie Estate. The land had been gifted to the Abbey by King William. (1165-1214).

 

The fishermen were serfs to the Abbot of Aberbrothock, providing regular fish for the monks. After the reformation the lands of Ethie were passed to an estate owner and the fishermen continued to be bound to him.

 

There was unrest in the village by the late 17th century and some fishermen even burned the houses down. Some fisher folk were attracted to Arbroath with its better harbour facilities and fish market.

At that time Auchmithie was owned by the Lord of North Esk. He took legal action and it was ruled that the fisher folk were still serfs and they were forced to return.

 

In 1799 in an Act of George III brought by colliers and salters set them free from their bondage.

Picture Copyright Angus Council

Fishing has always been a precarious way to make a living and so superstitions abounded.

 

Certain animals were never mentioned by name. Rats were known as lang tails, salmon was the red fish and pigs were curly tails.

 

The worst animals as far as Auchmithie folk were concerned were rabbits and hares, known as mappies and mawkins. A common curse was “a hares fit in yer creel!”

 

Picture Copyright of Angus Council

 

When Sir Walter Scott visited Auchmithie he stayed at the North Esk Inn. Lucky Walker was the landlady who was famed for her fish teas.

 

Later the hotel was known as the Waverley in the author’s honour. Auchmithie is thought to be the inspiration behind Musselcrag, the fishing village portrayed in Scott’s novel The Antiquary (a copy is in the bookcase).

 

Scott named his fisher folk characters the Mucklebackits. It became a popular nickname for Auchmithie residents for a time.

 

Another earlier visitor of note was Robert Burns who visited Auchmithie in 1787.

 

 

 

Archive pictures on this website are used by kind permission of Angus Council.

 

There is more fascinating insights into the lives of the fisher folk of Arbroath and Auchmithie at the Signal Tower Museum in Arbroath.