The latest release from Lewis writer Donald S Murray is a lighthearted and informative history of the herring and Islanders’ love affair with the ‘Silver Darlings’.
Herring Tales blends together politics, science, history, religious and commercial life in a celebration of the humble herring, which has done so much to shape both human taste and history.
Scots like to smoke or salt them. The Dutch love them raw. Swedes look on with relish as they open bulging, foul-smelling cans to find them curdling within.
Jamaicans prefer them with a dash of chilli pepper.
And the Germans and English enjoy their taste best when accompanied by a pickle’s bite and brine.
Co-operation and conflict
Men have co-operated and come into conflict over its shoals, setting out in boats to catch them, straying, too, from their home ports to bring full nets to shore.
Following a journey from the western edge of Norway to the east of England, from Shetland and the Outer Hebrides to the fishing ports of the Baltic coast of Germany and the Netherlands, culminating in a visit to Iceland’s Herring Era Museum, Donald S Murray has stitched together tales of the fish that was of central importance to the lives of our ancestors, noting how both it - and those involved in their capture - were celebrated in the art, literature, craft, music and folklore of life in northern Europe.
Donald S. Murray hails from Ness on Lewis but now resides close to Ness on Shetland.
Donald’s poetry and prose is often about the Islands and the wildlife on or around them.
If you would like to read Donald’s new book it is published by Bloomsbury Natural History priced £16.99 hardback.