Fishermen recall their experiences
Among those featured in the Ebb and Flow book is 73-year-old Tony Turner – a haaf-netter for 55 years.
He tells how the ancient skill can be dangerous a lot of the time. Tony said: “You have to watch the water to see if it is calm or choppy, or if it is deep.
“You would never walk on the sand where there is plenty of shale, or small shells, because you know that’s where it is soft and you can get into difficulties. Particularly in Annan where there are sticky patches; experienced people including myself have been caught again and again.”
Stake-netter John Panczak, 58, is the last of the Newbie netsmen. He said: “I more or less learned to walk and set nets on the Solway when I was not too young to be a nuisance and old enough to be interested.
“Newbie was one of the biggest fisheries, in terms of success rate, in Scotland.
“They had known buyers and they would take all the fish we could produce: Billingsgate, Grimsby, Leeds and Manchester occasionally. These people sent up boxes for us to fill and we sent them back by the railway.”
He added: “There were once 16 nets just at Powfoot but there are none now. There may not be half a dozen people in this area, maybe even in the whole of Scotland, who would know how to set a stake net these days.”
George Chalmers, 89, of Back of the Hill, is known for his shrimping, whammel-netting, stake and poke net fishing.
He said: “I fished as a boy during the summer holidays, slept on the boat, worked the tides and swam in the river inbetween. I was never paid; I just enjoyed it. We fished mainly for shrimps as they were a reliable source of income.”
The boats had to use Waterfoot as they couldn’t get up to the Welldale at low tides. George added: “There was no landing stage at Waterfoot and the men had to plough through the mud to get the shrimps on to the land.”
He remembers that during the Second World War the Solway was known as Hudson Bay because of the number of planes that went down.
He lost his father and uncle to the sea on The Jean on December 13, 1961 off Skinburness in an 18ft tide.
George said: “It hit a big steel buoy in the channel in dark and dirty water. My uncle’s body was washed up 11 months later and found near the Silloth shoreline but my father has never been found.”
Boat fisherman Alex Thorburn said: “My family had been involved in fishing for three generations; haaf-netting, poke-netting and stake-netting. My grandfather had a fish shop in the town, roughly where the Solway Cafe is now.
“Once in the waters between the Isle of Man and Whitehaven, in a force eight gale, I was pitched into the sea. All the crew could see of me was my red balaclava bobbing in the water some distance away. I was lucky.”
Shelling or picking shrimps was once a thriving seasonal industry in Annan for women. One lady, Patricia Willacy, said the pickery became a “sociable hub” where friendships and gossip thrived.
Weel kent George Chalmers, 89, of Back of the Hill
Care Tony Turner, a haaf-netter for 55 years
Overboard Alex Thorburn