Add to trip

Lifelines exhibition explores fate and superstition

from: Fri  7 Nov  2014 until: Sun 1 Feb  2015

A multi-media installation by Deirdre and Derek Robertson exploring the traditions and superstitions surrounding fishing, particularly the "dressed herrings" of Dundee. The exhibition has been developed and expanded since it was previously shown at Cupar Arts Festival in 2013. Examining the theme of “fate” through the presentation of interlinking motifs, this installation explores the complementary traditions of west-coast fishing communities and their counterparts on the east-coast, and the strange-but-true tale of a drowned fisherman, a lost painting and overlaid stories of superstition and fate. The work is a cultural portrait centred around a powerful story. The centre-piece of the work is the painting of a drowned fisherman completed and sold by Derek twenty-seven years ago which has become an object that has itself determined fates and established friendships. The installation also incorporates assemblages which refer to the almost forgotten tradition of dressed herrings: dried fish that were decorated at New Year and hung in the home for the next twelve months to avert bad luck. The motifs of the painting, installation and strings of eerily-hanging, dead fish reference the lines of fate, heritage, ancestry and tradition. Notes to Editors Scottish Fisheries Museum The Scottish Fisheries Museum is operated by an independent charitable trust and tells the story of the Scottish fishing industry and its people from the earliest times to the present. Fisherman portrait Derek Robertson painted a very personal story portrait in memory of a close family friend. Cathel Hugh Munro, a fisherman from the Sutherland coast, was drowned just a few days after Derek and Deirdre had visited him. Derek came to sell the picture but, later regretting his decision, decided to try to track it down again. The Sunday Postpicked up the story and launched a campaign asking if anyone knew where it was. A woman recognised her childhood sweetheart as the man in the picture and many other pieces of information were delivered but no painting. Ten or 15 years later, Richard Barrett got in touch and said that he had the picture in his possession in Lowestoft - the final port in the traditional herring fishing year. Richard, a singer and herring fisherman, had written an award-winning song about the picture and had begun work on a novel inspired by it. He agreed to sell the painting back to Derek and the pair were reunited. Dressed Herrings The tradition of dressing herrings as a good luck charm for Hogmanay is thought to be unique to Dundee. The archives of the Dundee Courier contain many references and photographs of the custom which began to die out in the early 1970s. Stalls at the Overgate Market would sell prepared herrings for people to buy to give to each other as a “first foot” gift. A pair of herrings would then be kept in the house, at the front door, until it was replaced the following year. Deirdre’s own granny prepared her own herrings. She kept the head and tail but got rid of the main flesh of the body before dressing it. The fish would wear elaborate outfits made of paper or scraps of fabric. The exhibition is a combination of these layers of the story and they are projected as a painting, film and song.

There is a film of the earlier installation at Cupar at

Exhibition dates: 7th November 2014 – 1st February 2015.

Open : Mon – Sat : 10 – 4.30, Sun : 12 – 4.30, last entry 1 hour before closing.

Entry : included in general admission charges, accompanied children free.

For further information please contact Linda Fitzpatrick, Curator A E : W : Images

Please contact Linda Fitzpatrick if you would like to send a photographer to visit the exhibition or to use one of the images listed below:

Dressed herring.jpg

Cathel herrings.jpg


Venue Name:Scottish Fisheries Museum
Address:St Ayles Harbourhead Anstruther Fife KY10 3AB
Tel:01333 310628