This article is based on an old history published in the local newspaper. This writer knew little of the migrations of herring. The science in those days was really quite basic.
Fishing of herring began in the North Sea with the scottish in the 9th Century. Exportation caused problems in Scotland because the price was forced up for the local people. The Royal Convention of Burghs prohibited the exportation before the resident population was supplied at a regular price. This caused the Scottish herring industry to decline. Many fishermen simply relocated to Holland and there the industry thrived.
Various Kings of Scotland (King Charles III, King Charles IV and King Charles VI) all tried to promote the industry by building new towns. These attempts were wholly unsuccessful.
In 1633 a Royal Committee was set up and importation of foreign caught fish prohibited. A supply was ordered for the Navy - though lent was strictly observed.
In 1677, after Restoration, King Charles II, appointed a Council of Royal Fishery in order to organise the trade better. All victuallers and coffee houses were compelled to take a barrel a year of herring at 30lbs - per barrel.
The object was to boost the home market until an export market could be built up. This largely failed.
A writer in the Scarborough Gazzette of 1856, describes the vessels used in the herring fishing industry in those days. They were the "five man boat or lugger, the yawl and the coble". The writer observed the fishing himself saying "The sparkling millions of herrings on which the vessel seems to stand, give to the sea a lustrous appearance which cannot be described and the occasional sight of those 'Masters of the Deep' the Thresher and the Bottle Nose, some frequently the size of the boat, threatening danger if too nearly approached, must excite their admiration".
By the 1920's knowledge of herring and its movements was more widely known. Previously it was felt that herring retired to northern waters around the North Pole after the breeding season. Now more was known. The herring do not actually move great distances from the coasts they visit in the summer.
Right up until the 1960's vast fleets of herring boats came to Scarborough. There were as many boats from outside the port as from within. They came from Yarmouth, Cromer, Clay and even as far as Cornwall.
The herring boats were not always welcome. The trawlers often trawled right across the herring nets and destroyed them.
- Scarborough Mercury September 30th 1927.