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The Fisherman’s Wife

[ Roud - ; DT FISHYFOR ; trad. Peterhead]

Cilla Fisher sang The Fisherman’s Wife in 1983 on her Kettle album Songs of the Fishing.

Janet Russell & Christine Kydd sang The Fisherman’s Wife on their 2004 Greentrax CD Dancin’ Chantin’. They noted:

A traditional song published in Sheila Douglas’s book The Sang’s the Thing as sung by Frank Duthie [of Peterhead], who has the song from his father. We were again attracted by the dance-like qualities of this tune, and the documentation of a way of life.

A live recording of Malinky singing The Fisherman’s Wife at Tønder Festival on 26 August 2000 was included in 2019 on the bonus CD of their 20th anniversary album Handsel. They noted:

From our first and only visit to this legendary Danish festival, this song from the repertoire of Frank Duthie of Peterhead (1933-2017) came to Karine [Polwart] via the singing of Susan Thores whose family roots are in the north east. Sung somewhat at breakneck speed, it captures the energy of the young band at the time, and we’re sure you’ll agree it’s a fantastic bit of rhythmical singing from Karine.


Cilla Fisher sings The Fisherman’s Wife

Wha wid be a fisherman’s wife
Tae gang tae the mussels wi ’a scrubber and a knife,
A deid oot fire, a revelled bed
Awa’ tae the scall’ps in the morning?

See the boat come boatin’ in
Wi’ a three reef an’ a foresail in
And nae a stich upon his back
Awa’ tae the scall’ps in the morning

Janet Russell and Christine Kydd sing The Fisherman’s Wife

Fa wid be a fisherman’s wife
Tae work wi ’a tub an ’a scrubber an ’a knife,
A deid oot fire an ’a raivel’d bed
An’ awa tae the mussels in the mornin

Chorus (after each verse):
Here we come scoorin in,
Three reefs tae the foresail in
There ’s nae a dry stick tae pit on wer back,
But still we’re aa teetot’llers

Noo, fa’ll gie’s a hand tae rin a ripper lead
Tae try for a coddie in the bay o Peterheid?
They ’re maybe at the Lummies or the clock on Sautis’eid
Few we gaun tae the sma lines in the mornin

Ma puir auld faither’s in the middle o’ the flair
Beatin heuks ontae tippets an they’re hingin on his chair
They ’re made wi horses hair, man, for that’s the best o’gear
Tae be gyan tae the fishin in the mornin

Syne it’s doon the Geddle Braes in the middle o’ the nicht
Wi an aul seerup tin an a can’le for a licht
Tae gither up the pullars, ev’ry een o them in sicht
So we’ll get the linie baited for the mornin

It’s easy to the cobbler, sittin in his neuk,
His big copper kettle hingin on a crook
But we’re in the boo and we cannae get a heuk
It’s sair hard work in the mornin

It’s nae the kin o life that a gentle quine can thole
Wi her fingers reid raw wi the scrubbin oot a yole
An a littlen on her hip, she’s awa tae cairry coal,
She’ll be caaed sair deen in the mornin


See also Peterhead Fisherman’s Wife on the Sangstories website.