Laman utama Oral History Review Following the Fishing. By David Butcher. London: David and Charles, Publishers, 1987. 128 pp....
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Book Reviews Holly Cowan Shulman Washington, DC FOLLOWING THE FISHING. By David Butcher. London: David and Charles, Publishers, 1987. 128 pp. Softbound, £5.95. Following the Fishing is the fourth volume in David Butcher's series of oral histories documenting work in the British fishing industry. This book covers shoreworkers: Scots fisher girls who came to pack herring, English fish merchants, coopers, ice makers, and net braiders. Following a preface useful to those not familiar with the series, Butcher arranges fourteen short chapters by occupation, each featuring one or two individuals' stories. These personal histories span the industry's heyday from 1895 to 1914, the period of decline in the 1920s and 1930s, and the more serious economic failure of the 1960s. Interview selections reveal how different trades, each one important behind the scenes, shared a common tie to the rhythms of commercial Downloaded from http://ohr.oxfordjournals.org/ at Simon Fraser University on June 3, 2015 "a fearful and compulsive maverick, who suffered torments of insecurity . . . [and] who exhibited an obsession with power throughout his life" (17). He was, they argue, a man for whom only two people were fully real, himself and his mother; all others were pawns, to be used to his own advantage. Nonetheless, so secretive was Hoover even in his personal life that the authors found these oral materials not rich enough to provide the kind of detail they would have liked. Theoharis and Cox also interviewed agents and former government officials for information about the inner workings of the FBI. Occasionally they drew upon this material to give texture and detail to their tale. But other than those pertaining to the private Hoover, they used interviews only as a garnish, as it were, to the abundant written records. Given Hoover's obscure nature, the authors' bias towards traditional written sources, the abundance of these records, the probable reluctance of bureau agents to discuss the internal workings of the bur; eau, and the possible unreliability of those few who would talk, Theoharis and Cox used their interviews well. However, they have failed to record how, or where, other historians can gain access to these interviews. Because the book does not include a bibliography, the reader only knows of interviews the authors actually used. Until historians tell where they have placed their interviews, these potentially valuable sources will remain too private and idiosyncratic to be accorded the same credibility as traditional archival sources. 185 186 ORAL HISTORY REVIEW Downloaded from http://ohr.oxfordjournals.org/ at Simon Fraser University on June 3, 2015 fishing. For merchants and migrant workers alike, flexibility and diversity were key to adapting to this rhythm. Arriving in train loads each fall, the Scots fisher girls accepted transitory living arrangements and hectic schedules in order to carve a reliable living out of seasonal work. According to Annie Watts, "A man would come round tae the house and tell ye that the herrin' would be in the yard at nine o'clock, and sometimes we didna stop till three or four o'clock the next morning" (12). There was little to eat in the meantime. Dressed in cast-off clothes and with fingers bound to keep salt out of their cuts, the Scots girls worked hard and fast during the lucrative autumn fishing seasons around the time of World War I. Stressing the need to diversify during slow times, Stanley Bird explained how his basket company, long dependent on the fish market for business, successfully branched out to make cane furniture, hot-air balloon gondolas, and the Queen Mother's dog baskets. But taking risks was not always rewarded; Arthur Pitcher remembered a doomed attempt to turn the ice factory where he worked into a health spa when the fish market dropped. While the seventeen men and women Butcher interviewed generally told stories of industrial decline, they also stressed that the ingenuity that once made the industry successful could be the key to its survival. How successfully does oral history convey their assessments? At best, workers' stories communicate powerful insights into the industry's current woes. Harold Mitchell, selling agent, talks bluntly about technological advance and the North Sea fish trade: "See, the boats have gotten more powerful and that gives 'em more catching-power. At one time, when sail was all there was, the sea produced more fish than was caught. Now it's the other way around" (52). At worst, their insights are diluted by Butcher's minimal interpretation, which leaves the reader to speculate and question. Annie Watts's story of seasonal work illustrates the kind of problems generated by lack of editorial comment. The reader is left to wonder: What bonds or rivalries existed among the women of different Scots clans who arrived each fell to pack herring and who sometimes struck for higher wages? Or among women performing different tasks? For example, some beasters (net menders) thought themselves better off than others because their work "was absolutely clean. All the cotton was white, so we didn't get dirty" (81). Comparing Annie's stories to those of her foreman husband raises additional questions about gender and family relations on the job. Annie remembered that "ye learnt [gutting] yesl' [yourself]. Ye'd just start the job and go along at it and then ye'd come into the speed" (12). But as James Watts recalled: "When the girls started work at the gutting, they'd got tae learn up. You'd put three girls together, just learning, and the men would guide them" (17). How significant were these potentially competing perspectives? Book Reviews Lillian Trettin Department of History Appalachian State University WORKING CLASS COMMUNITY IN NORTHERN IRELAND. By Peter McNamee and Tom Lovett. Belfast: The Ulster People's College Limited (30 Adelaide Park, Belfast BT9 6FY, Northern Ireland), 1987. 513 pp. Softbound, $18.00. Working Class Community in Northern Ireland by Peter McNamee and Tom Lovett is part of a much-needed body of work documenting the history of communities from the residents' point of view. This book has a dual mission: to provide a forum for working-class people in Northern Ireland and to present a more balanced, affirmative picture of a region infamous for its violent political situation. While the book was original- Downloaded from http://ohr.oxfordjournals.org/ at Simon Fraser University on June 3, 2015 Interpretive comment on issues like these would improve our understanding of workplace dynamics. And, since women played important roles behind the scenes, I admit to disappointment at not having heard more women's voices in this book. Furthermore, a brief methodological chapter like the one in John Bodnar's Workers' Worlds: Kinship, Community, and Protest in an Industrial Society (1982) would have alleviated some questions I had about how interviews were conducted. For instance, were Annie and her husband James interviewed together? However, these are minor complaints. Read as a companion to the other books in Butcher's series, or to Paul Thompson's and Tony Wailey's Living the Fishing (1983), this volume is a fair and often provocative introduction to those aspects of fishing less typically studied. Readers will appreciate the judicious use of photos with appropriate captions and the complete glossary of terms at the back of the book. Furthermore, Following the Fishing adds to the growing list of books popularized by the British "History Workshop Series," which uses oral history to put ordinary workers and their experiences at the center of historical processes like industrial growth and decline. Witnessing the past through workers' memories, we gain clearer insights into how individuals experienced industrial change, and we learn to ask what roles family and gender relations played—questions that business and economic history have tended to neglect. Following the Fishing provides a wealth of information on the herring industry, especially on seldom-studied workers like the Scots herring girls, and offers insights into the work life of an era from which we still have much to learn. 187