Historic herring girls to be remembered on Fish Quay

Terry McDermott and Ray Lonsdale with the Herring Girl sculpture

An exciting new monument is planned to commemorate the importance of the role herring girls played in the bustling Fish Quay industry.

Designed and created by Ray Lonsdale, the sculptor behind the Fisherman on Fiddlers Green, this new sculpture depicts a life-sized traditional herring girl sitting on a barrel holding up herring in each hand. 

The Herring Girl statue will represent the women who followed the route of the herring as they moved down south, gutting and salting the fish that were caught. 

The North Shields Fishermen’s Heritage Project have championed the creation of a Herring Girl sculpture, raising over £19,000 in donations from local businesses and residents.

Terry McDermott, Chairman of the North Shields Fishermen’s Heritage Project, said: “This new sculpture will complement the Fisherman sculpture already situated on the Fish Quay, and helps complete the story of our historical quay by remembering the important role women played in the fishing industry. 

“We’re extremely grateful to everyone who has donated to help make this sculpture a reality, and to the Council for matching funding to ensure this historical art piece is given a home in North Shields.”

The history of herring girls on the Fish Quay dates back centuries. From early summer to late autumn women would follow the fishing fleet down the east coast from northern Scotland, usually arriving at North Shields in August. 

Terry added: “It wasn’t easy work. They gutted, salted and packed into barrels the herring as the catches were landed, carrying creels of fish on their backs to sell door-to-door and at local markets. The herring girls worked long hours, in all weather conditions, open to the elements. Our own local lasses joined them too, and followed the herring down south once they left the North East.

“This sculpture gives the women who have worked, and still work today, in the fishing industry the recognition they deserve.”

North Tyneside Mayor, Dame Norma Redfearn DBE, said: “It’s great to see another of Ray Lonsdale’s artworks commissioned for the Fish Quay. This beautiful new sculpture will provide a lasting reminder in the community about the role women played in our local fishing industry.

“I would like to thank the North Shields Fishermen’s Heritage Project and all those who donated to the project to help make this wonderful sculpture a reality. Every single one of you helped make this happen, and I’m sure those who live, work and visit North Shields with treasure her for decades to come.”

The Herring Girl is welded from Corten steel, which begins life as a shiny metal, but changes in colour over the years. The sculpture will be kept in storage until later this year when she will be fitted on the western quay in North Shields at an official unveiling event.

The Herring Girl is one of five new art pieces under development as part of the Council’s ambition for North Shields and the Fish Quay, and the first one to be finished. The ambition aims to create a smaller, more vibrant town centre with more flexible retail opportunities, expanding the evening and weekend economy and improving the quality of public space in the town centre. The other art works are currently under development and will include a mixture of local historical figures and community focused pieces.

For more information on the Herring Girl sculpture watch our interview with Ray Lonsdale: