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Singing The Fishing
First transmitted on
16 August 1960

The third programme in the series, Singing the Fishing features the men and women of the herring fishing fleets of East Anglia and Northeast Scotland. It was based on 250 tapes of conversation with fishermen and their families, a wealth of material described by Parker as "all but overwhelming". MacColl and Seeger hit paydirt with the discovery of Sam Larner, an 80-year old ex-fisherman from Norfolk who was also a singer with a large repertoire of country songs, traditional ballads and seafaring material. Progressing from Larner's rich, sail-based memories to the reminiscences of a retired steam-drifter skipper from Great Yarmouth, they moved on to the new centre of the industry, the Scottish northeast coast where a new fleet of diesel-driven boats was built after the Second World War.

The programme reveals the tough lives of these hardworking people, dominated by the herring trade and full of insightful humour, in their everyday speech and the songs inspired by the richness of their tales.

Singing the Fishing won the Prix d'Italia for radio documentary in October 1960 and was eventually transmitted in 86 countries. It was this ballad which crystallized the innovative production techniques devised to interweave the music with the actuality, a process minutely described in MacColl's autobiography Journeyman (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1990). The exhaustive process perfected for this programme over its three to four months of production made Singing the Fishing the first fully integrated work produced by the team and it became the flagship for the series, the ballad most remembered and talked about. The techniques for research, field recording, musical scoring and recording were then set for the rest of the series.


What did you think of the Radio Ballad extract? Were you or any of your family involved in the fishing industry? Send us your comments.

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Read what others have said

elizabeth murray Falkirk
Absolutely stunning radio. New series not a patch on it.

Brian Elliott, Normanton On Soar, Leicestershire
An excellent programme. Thank you very much for the option to use the "listen again" facility to esure these programmes (and more recent broadcasts) can be listened to when it is convienient. A first class facility whih I hope will grow and grow to include more and more programmes. Certainly these last 4 months myself and a number of my friends and colleagues are now aware of and are using this service. Thank you again

David Rowley Worcester
Great to hear extracts of these important works, I have wanted to listen these in full for ages, please play them in full and issue on CD.

Penny Clark
this was the best of the original radio ballads. will they be released as a cd

Shaun Wall, Essex
I am of the crew of "Kenya Jacaranda" coverted in 1938 from a Brixham sailing trawler "Torbay Lass". KJ is the longest serving Sail Training Vessel in UK waters, 1951 - 2006 and still going. This excerpt really brought home to me maybe for the first time where my heritage is rooted. I can imagine those old boys take the helm of Torbay lass in the mid 30's to hunt the herring. "The more you sailed a boat, the more enlightenment you got" I'm still being enlightened!

Keith Allan Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland
As a young radio producer working with BBC Radio Newcastle in the seventies and eighties listening to Singing the Fishing was a revelation. The mixing and production techniques sent shivers down my spine and it still does!

J J Walsh Merseyside
Radio at its best - always a great pleasure to listen to a master - McColl. I met him once in a bar and was charmed by his down to earth genuine love of root music.

Steve Rudd, Huddersfield
Singing the Fishing represents the highest point of the BBCs achievenement in the 1960s. This comment comes from the son of James Rudd, son of James Rudd son of Thomas Henry Rudd, buried at sea off the coast of Portugal 1906, son of James Rudd of Downham Market, sone of Benjamin Rudd of Saham Toney, Norfolk, 1837.

Max Beare
I`ve sung most of these songs in most of the East Coast Folk Clubs whilst being at sea with the RAF based at Great Yarmouth. It`s great to hear them again, are they going to be brought out on C.D ?

Owen McMahon
Singing the Fishing Extract. Great stuff. I recorded this whilst doing national service using an AR88 receiver and a Vortexian recorder. I still have the tape. Is it at all possible to obtain this programme on CD or Cassette tape?

julian ford
very much enjoyed, have been trying to listen to the radio ballads for ages, will they be on cd at some point.


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