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The Fish-People of Aberdeen
The following article first appeared in the "Penny Magazine" for 26th September 1840
This handsome and flourishing town [Aberdeen] consists of about sixty thousand inhabitants, who are distinguished even in Scotland for their shrewdness. At the mouth of the river Dee, and in two squares, called Fishers' Squares, separated from the rest of the town by only a few dockyards, are a race of people who differ more in dialect, customs, superstitions, and other peculiarities, from the Aberdonians, than the latter do from any of the other inhabitants of the lowlands of Scotland.
They are a completely separate community; and their dialect is so different from that of the working classes of Aberdeen that, though the two races have a sufficient number of words in common for transacting business with each other, most of the words used by the "Foot-Dee" or "Fittie folk," among themselves are unintelligible to the "Aberdeen folk." If a native of Aberdeen were to wander into the square inhabited by the "Fittie folk," who are almost all fishers and pilots, he would run no little risk of being pelted out again with stones and haddock-heads. The "Fittie folk" scarcely ever intermarry with the other citizens.
Their marriages are generally "penny weddings." They seldom send their children to school, and almost never to a promiscuous one. Their sons are almost invariably brought up to follow the occupations of their forefathers, and never learn any regular trades, except that, perhaps, now and then , a youth, more adventurous than usual, becomes a ship-carpenter. They live together patriarchally, sometimes three or four generations in a single room. The oars are laid above them on the couples (or rafters) of their cottages; the children may be seen sleeping on nets in corners; and on the walls are creels, baskets, and other fishing tackle. Their boats descend by primogeniture.
Aberdeen is full of stories of the fisherfolk. A "Fittie lassie" once visited London, and, on seeing St Paul's exclaimed - "This dings the kirk o' Fittie." A woman of this class went to the Post Office and asked for a letter "from oor Jock." She was asked what was her name or her husband's but she exclaimed - "I'se behaud you!" The chief article of trade is "Finnan Haddocks." Finnan (Findon) is a small village famous only for its fishery, situated about six miles south of Aberdeen. Of the excellence of this fish, perhaps the most decisive proof that can be given is that the burghs on the Firth of Forth and other places have regular manufactories of a spurious article, which they vend under its name, and doubtless to the detriment of its reputation among the deceived but unsuspicious purchasers.