To my mind, historians have to be acquisitive – history is basically curiosity – a getting-hold-of the answers to the questions one has about the past. In my case, these acquisitive tendencies can take a very literal form — I get my teeth into an idea, and if that idea can be relatively cheaply fleshed out with maps, prints, antique knitting paraphernalia or, as of a few weeks ago, early twentieth-century postcards, then I snap up all the examples that I can. From the sheer volume of mass-produced objects that they adorned, it seems that by the turn of the 1900s the Newhaven fishwives had achieved a quite extraordinary ubiquity as icons of Bonnie Scotland. What is written on the back of these cards is often as interesting as the images on the front:

There is so much here that intrigues me. I intend to write about it.

Meanwhile, I find myself in the unnusual position of having finished a pattern before photographing the sample. This weather does not really lend itself to the kind of styling I had in mind. But my fishy design is coming very soon – take a wild guess at what I’ve called it:

24 thoughts on “acquisitive

  1. by weird coincidence last week I bought a little book about furniture in the second hand charity book shop at goldenacre and after I’d paid for it I found a postcard of newhaven fishwives tucked in the back……….


  2. I see we have two Naomi’s here…

    Kate, did you know that you can “like” Fishwife on Face Book? I just did and look forward to the information and conversations there.

    Naomi in Vancouver


  3. My best guess would be Caller Herrin – rather a lovely and unusual name for a garment, I think. I look very much forward to seeing it!


  4. I’m partial to old postcards as well… I’m not ahistory buff, but I love the snapshots of life… not dense, not intimidating, just cheerful and usually light hearted pieces of a long gone vacation!


  5. Here is a very tenuous comment – there was an article on radio a few months ago, maybe more, about the Newhaven fishwives and some of it was commentary from the fishwives themselves – they must have been the last of them. I know this isn’t very helpful – it was either Radio 4 or Radio Scotland and although I would have plumped for Radio Scotland because of the local link it might well have been 4. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful and it may be that you heard it and know about it already.



  6. Those postcards are treasures. I hate to sound too ignorant, but did they carry the fish in their aprons, and then pack them into the baskets? How did that work? And they were fishmongers? I don’t think we have a similar tradition in New England. It would be fun to find out though.


  7. those baskets are wonderful. there’s a tradition here of adirondack pack baskets that look much more comfortable to wear than the fishwife’s. (the design came from native black ash work.) i love the half round carrier.


  8. I would guess that it is called “Herrin” Have just finished “Paper Dolls” a little extra gift for my daughter at Christmas. There is an error in the pattern;row 40 decrease round size 6. K2, k2together around would not leave 108 sts. K1,”k2tog knit1″ until end of round does leave 108 sts.


  9. At first glance, I thought you meant inquisitive. Then I looked up the word “acquisitive” and found a word that describes my behavior when I get excited about something…thanks for broadening my vocabulary this morning!

    And I can’t wait to see the new pattern!


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