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Silver Darlings

Loch Broom
[57.922832136301636, -5.253824520551442]
Siobhán Beatson
Ullapool Museum

Herring by their very nature are flaky, they are free spirits who do not like to be tied down to any sort of routine, the ‘hippies’ of the fish world. They move migratory patterns frequently and are difficult to predict and follow, much to the dismay of the communities who relied upon their presence for…

Given the sporadic nature of the herring it is of little surprise that the locals attempted to find ways in which to understand the herring by either divine or supernatural intervention. Myths, Tales and Legends were passed down through the generations, as to how the herring ended up in Lochbroom and how to make them stay.

Roderick MacKenzie ‘Rory Robb’, (1850-1930) of Ullapool was a local bard and storyteller, tells the story of how the herring were brought to Lochbroom in the first place.

“Every loch in and around the Isle of Lewis was regularly stocked with herring, but there were no herring in Lochbroom. The Lochbroom women made a silver herring and gave it to a stalwart crew of Broomers, who immediately set sail for Lewis. They arrived there at night time. As soon as they had refreshed themselves, they threw the silver herring, which was fastened to a line, into the sea. Fastening the other end of the line to the boat’s stringers, they set sail for home, and och a choin if they did – what a sight, herring playing all around them. So thick did the shoal become in the narrows between Morefield and Druimngaibhre that they had to hail in the silver herring in order to get in front of the shoal. On doing so, they threw out the silver herring again, and brought the herring up the Loch as far as Leac Dhonn on the south side of Letters. There the heroes threw out the silver herring to rest on the bottom, believing while it lay there Lochbroom would never be without herring. I may mention that the boat from Lochbroom was painted black on one side and red on the other to cheat the Lewis witches.”