Good evening buoys and gulls! Well, where do I begin? I’ve been looking forward to this trip since my mum said she’d booked it way back in January! I’ve dreamt of this trip since the first time I caught an episode of the BBC series “Trawlermen” completely by accident about 3 years ago.
I’d already started my fishmonger journey at that point, and just so happened to be flicking through the TV channels one quiet afternoon, and happened upon a programme with subtitles (!) And trawlers crashing through the waves. I was, no pun intended, completely hooked. I watched a whole series of Trawlermen in one day. The fortunes and misfortunes of the trawlermen in Peterhead and Fraserburgh became compulsive viewing for me, especially with John and Jimmy Buchan.
My colleague Alex, was born and bred in Buchie, a little further round the coast from Peterhead and Fraserburgh and he had trawler stories of his own from when he was a younger man with his brothers, which only fueled my love of what fishermen do and the trawlers they bring the catch in on. After my visits to Brixham fish market, it then became even more of a goal of mine to visit Peterhead, even if I could just say “I’d been there.”
My connections since then have grown on social media and I will admit to being a bit of a swooning girly fishmonger (honestly!) When both John and Jimmy Buchan followed me on Facebook, Twitter and even LinkedIn. Most girls my age get excited when a film star or someone like that follows them or comments on their post on social media. I get the same excitement when a fisherman does likewise and I’m not ashamed of that. After all I’m a girly fishmonger in the middle of the midlands trying to highlight the fishing industry and to have them follow, comment or even acknowledge that they’ve read a blog of mine is deeply honouring to me.
Anyway, I’d been counting down the days to the journey up to Scotland. We stayed over in beautiful Stirling, before carrying up to Peterhead. Within 30mins of arriving, I’d already made plans to visit the fish market for today (5th June!) The lovely Mr Peter Bruce, the skipper of Budding Rose, messaged me to say he’d very gladly show me around.
So, this morning, I was up with the lark to pale sunshine and drove down to the market. I’d never been, so made sure I was down in plenty of time. It also gave me a little time to soak in the atmosphere and take some photos. There was already plenty of activity, with refrigerated lorries maneuvering in and out of the port. Just a few minutes later, Peter arrived and we were already talking about my fishmongering and how much fish had been landed. A good amount of fish for the market, 5200 boxes been brought in and auctioned off, hopefully bringing the trawlermen a good price for their hard work.
Going inside, I met the very lovely Sally on the desk who got me suited and booted, complete with hat for going in to the market. It was a quite surreal moment walking into the market. Not only is it the biggest fish market in Europe, not only was it the sheer size of the amount of fish, it was knowing that I was actually there.
The first boxes we came to was Mackerel. Beautiful, clear eyed and still in rigor fresh fish. Then rows upon rows of Squid. Some smaller size, some huge. They were beautiful and clear eyed beasties. Peter was extremely impressed with the size of the Haddock, hence the photo of me holding one up. I admit to taking it for granted when I have fish in which is already filleted, and I forget how beautiful fish such as Haddock and Cod actually is. There were some Cod which were that big they just about managed to fit in the box, albeit head out one side, tail over the other.
I was bowled over by the sheer variety of fish landed in the market.
Whole Plaice, Megrim Sole, Lemon Sole, Monkfish (rows of them!), Turbot, Halibut, Cod, Haddock, Ling, Skate, Mackerel, Coley, Squid and even a few Lobsters!
The auctioneers were busy shouting out prices, so Peter and myself went out to where the Trawlers come in to land their catch. I smiled as The Jubilee Queen was tying up alongside. I smiled because it’s a Grimsby trawler, and then laughed as 2 seals were bobbing alongside the trawler hoping for something.
I watched in awe as the market, which had started off pretty full was emptying. As soon as it’s sold it gets taken off to refrigerated lorries, and the trawlers (if they hadn’t already done so) back out to sea. Everything requires hard work, from the trawler men, to those stacking the boxes of fish, to the auctioneers and buyers who were studiously checking the quality of the fish. I also met Peters brother, who not only has his online fish company but also his mobile van. You could just tell how proud Peter is of his brother when he told me how hard he works and how good his site is.
The same could be said of Peter. I’ve seen his tweets and how much fish he’s landed on certain days. There seems to be an air of pride in what they do, something you can’t put your finger on. I suppose in a way the same with me. People tell me that they never see me smile as broadly when I’m with fish, proud of the industry I’m involved with I think, and seeing the industry first hand just makes me burst with pride.
I’d never been to Peterhead until this week, actually this is only the 3rd day of being in this part of Scotland, but there is such a draw. Like with Brixham and Grimsby, I feel drawn to it. It’s not just the sea, it’s the whole industry and the people and it’s boats. Even the buildings and street names take me back abit in time and I can imagine the whole town full of fish merchants and trawlermen with their tales from sea. Walking into Peterhead town centre I was happy to find the Fishermen’s Mission Centre. Everything and everyone connects.
I’m very pleased to say I will be back up to Scotland to take part in the Royal Highland Show in just a couple of weeks time, fishmongering alongside my best friend Nicola Rowbotham and our butchery friend Gavin Kempsell for Tesco. In the mean time, the memories just from today at the Fish Market will give me an even bigger boost to take pride in what I do, and in those who risk their lives at sea.
Massive thank you to Peter for spending his time showing me the market and Sally for being so great and telling me about her past jobs!
Thank you to Jimmy Buchan for the lovely comments and I will hopefully get to meet you one day! Our paths seem to cross with the Stansfield boys.
You can follow Jimmy on twitter @buchanjimmy and check out Skippers Choice page on Facebook.
Thank you to John Buchan for the welcome to Scotland and the many likes on Facebook of my fish counters and my Facebook check ins around Peterhead.
Please check out http://www.peterheadfish.co.uk a brilliant website for fish buying.
Myself and Peter discovered that we know quite a few in the fish industry too, so shout outs to
Barry Young at Brixham Fish Market who you can follow @bazilyo on twitter.
Mike Warner who not only does amazing food blogs and fishing, but also does tours around Peterhead amongst others. You can follow his blogs @eastcoastavocet
Duncan and Sue Lucas @passion4fish on twitter and also search on Facebook for The Fish Shop by Passionate about fish. Their shop and passion for what they do is incredible, so check it out.
As always a massive shout out to The Fishermen’s Mission @thefishmish especially as Fish Friday is fast approaching.
Thank you for taking the time to read my adventures, and here’s to many more.
Em (a very happy girly fishmonger) x