[From Mona Miscellany second series Manx Soc vol 21]


" No herring, no wedding."

At first sight it would appear there could be no connection between herrings and marriage, but when it is considered the great number of young men yearly engaged in the herring fishery in the Isle of Man, with whom a successful season is of the utmost importance, not only to them but to the expectant ones who are anxiously awaiting the result of the season, for on its productiveness, or otherwise, depends whether they are to be married or not—hence the saying, " No herring, no wedding." From an examination of the church registers may be learnt whether the fishing was productive or not by the number or paucity of entries of marriages. This is not confined to the Isle of Man alone. In the fishing districts of Scotland the same result takes place, for in the returns for the third quarter of the year 1871, the Registrar of Fraserburgh states that the herring-fishery was very successful, and the marriages were 80 per cent above the average. On the other hand, the Registrar of Tarbert reported a steady falling off in the fishing of that creek, and consequently the quarter passed without an entry in the marriage register. The Registrar of Lochgilphead also returns that the herring-fishery has been a failure in the loch, and states that this accounts for the blank in the marriage column.

" What we lose in dog-fish we shall have in herring."
"As straight as the backbone of a herring."

This is alluded to in the oath taken by the Deemsters and High Bailiffs of the Isle of Man, as mentioned in the first series of Mona Miscellany, p. 20. According to the Report of the Committee of Legislature, 22d February 1827, they state that " herrings in summer are caught to the south of the net, and in winter to the north of it."

In addition to what has been given in the first series of Mona Miscellany on the proverb, " In neither barrel, better herring," the following illustration is to be met with in an old author, John Heywood’s Proverbs and Epigrams :—

"A foule olde riche widowe, whether wed would ye,
Or a yonge fayre mayde, being poore as ye be?
"In neither barrell better hearynge,’ quoth hee."

And also in Stephen Gosson’s Schoole of Abuse, 1579—
" Therefore of both barrelles, I judge cookes and painters
the better hearing."


Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2000