The last Century has seen Ardglass grow and thrive to be a busy herring port, nowadays a major fishing plant where fish are shipped all over Europe. But why the association with herring ?
Ronan Fitzsimmons (former harbour master)
"Possibly going back to the time when the old Scottish steam drifters used to come here form Fraserborough and Peterhead. They arrived here in the herring season, and landed the fish here, and at that time it was all salted down and put into barrels and the a cargo shop would have come, or a couple of cargo ships at the end of the season and shipped this all away to the continent. I think it (Ardglass) was the only port on the east coast that did that. Portavogie and Kilkeel, to my mind didn`t, not to the same extent anyhow.There were smaller baots in those boats of course. I ahve heard tales of as many as 100 or 150 steam drifters, in then port here, way back in 1910 or 1920."
Willie Willimas (former fisherman )
"I remember myself working with my father, where that white boat is lying now, and I was lowering cans down into the boat, of oil, we filled them for the rotary pump, and my father says Willie, will you take a turn round and have a look. Well I turned round and I had one hundred and ten steam drifters in the harbour, that time. But then after that, they ahd to limit them because we hadn`t the landing space."
The task of keeping order in such a busy fishing port belonged to the harbour master. When Willie Williams was a boy the harbour master was a Mr Young.
"A strict man, he had a terrible time, of course with the drifters. They would have put the rope , their mooring rope ashore onto the bollard, onto the tying bollard, but he had a little block of wood, a square block of wood and avery sharp hatchet. And he put the block of wood onto the rope and he cut the rope, if they would not lose and go clear to let another boat in you see..oh it was ...if you were down the harbour and the wooden drifters...alot of them were wooden drifters and alot of them were steel drifters...but the wooden ones and the steel ones and the squeezing and the scringes and the noise of them coming in"