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The Fishermen's Religious Revival

1921 was an annus terribilis for the fishing communities of north-east Scotland - and the despair of the fisher folk, explains John Lowe Duthie, led them to religious fervour for consolation.

Unprecedented work stoppages, strikes, a religious revival and a highly localised millennial movement – among the fisher communities in the small coastal towns and villages of north-east Scotland – these were the indirect consequences of the First World War and its attendant revolutions. Global events hit hard at these relatively isolated communities because of one industry – herring catching and processing. The catching and processing of herring taken by drift net dominated the coastal economy of the Fraserburgh and Peterhead districts, immediately north of Aberdeen. The summer herring fishing on Scotland's east coast was the country's greatest seasonal fishery and in 1913 no less than 71 per cent of the east coast catch had been landed and processed on the forty miles of coast from Fraserburgh to Aberdeen. Coastal villages such as Rosehearty, Sandhaven-Pitullie, Cairnbulg-Inverallochy, St Combs, Buchanhaven, Boddam and Port Errol were fisher dormitories. 90 per cent of their working population – men and young women – earned a living at the herring; but the men's boats berthed and landed at Fraserburgh and Peterhead – themselves 'sea coast towns where fishing is the main business of the majority of the population'.

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