The herring were cleaned out and put into barrels with salt, mainly by a migrant labour-force of Scottish women. They were employed by the processing companies at Ardglass and would arrive from Scotland from April to September.
...early morning on the quay presented an indesrcibable scene. Overhead the screaming of the gulls, down below the creak of the winches as the crates of fish were hauled up from the little ships, tied up, two or three abreast.There was the cries of the buyers and most picturesque the fishergirls from Petershead in their gay shawls and petticoats, the ready laugh on their lips, the shrill word on their tongue as they leaned over the troughs, gutting the silvery mass with sure and swift stroke of the knife...
"Well I remember 150 girls in the town, when I was a lad, running around having an eye, maybe , on one or two.Aye there was about 150 girls here in different lodgings...six generally speaking , if they had the accomodation into a house...but a large house away down below us here..it had accomodation for 24 girls. There was no fishing on Sunday nights and Monday was more or less a kind of slack day, but then their second week - their first week there would be a clear day on Monday- but then their second week would be busy, because the herring cured all week, they cured on tuesday, wednesday, thursday and so on . They were down there in the morning on Tuesday and say there was a really heavy landing, well those herring might not all be gutted or processed. And their normal start time was 6.00 in the morning and they worked on until the herring were cleared, many a time I saw them down on the harbour away with, what we called old Duk lamps, Duk , D-U-K , Duk lamps, they were a round thing , a big spout on them and wick stuck in them and you filled them with paraffin and they were set up on barrels and those were lit for the girls to work."
Now as we move towrds the 21st Century , commercial fishing has become an exact science and in the case of Ardglass, where once there were very few home based fishing boats, a local fleet is beginning to grow.