Archive for July, 2016

Oyster Shucking at Seacliff

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

Oyster Shucking at Seacliff

This is the completed painting of  “Oyster Shucking at Seacliff”, it’s oil on canvas, 28 x 22 inches.

This painting will feature in my next exhibition during the Edinburgh Festival at Gallery Seventeen, 17 Dundas Street, Edinburgh. The exhibition will run from Saturday 13th August to Sunday 28th August 2016.

Background Info

In the 19th century 30 Million oysters a year were taken from the Firth of Forth. It is estimated that 5 million oysters were eaten anually in Edinburgh alone. Unfortunately due to human greed not a single oyster now exists there.

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The Oyster Shucker

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

The Oyster Shucker

This is the completed painting of  “The Oyster Shucker”, it’s oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches.

This painting will feature in my next exhibition during the Edinburgh Festival at Gallery 17, 17 Dundas Street, Edinburgh. The exhibition will run from Saturday 13th August to Sunday 28th August 2016.

Background Info

The story of the history of oysters in the Firth of Forth is really quite tragic. Oyster middens found round the Firth of Forth date back as far as 6,000 years and show that millions upon millions of oysters were eaten by hunter gathers in the area. At one time there were oyster beds off Edinburgh that covered 50 square miles, possibly the largest in Britain.

Autumn brought oysters into the taverns of eighteenth-century Edinburgh. Once landed and sorted, the oysters destined for sale were carried up to town by the “fisher lassies”, those of Newhaven were especially admired. No less experienced a rake than George IV is said to have remarked that the women of Newhaven were the most beautiful he had ever seen. But they were also extremely strong, and given to a sales banter that was also said to be second to none.

The story of the exploitation of the oyster scalps is sad and complicated, a detailed account can be found in the book – “The Firth of Forth an Environmental History” by T.C. Smout and Mairi Stewart. It is estimated that the annual yield of the oyster beds was around 30,000,000 oysters a year in the 18th century. Consumption in Edinburgh itself was reckoned in 1839 to be 5 million a year.

Oysters finally succumbed completely to human greed, with not one single oyster in existance after a century of grossly unsustainable over-exploitation, even though that ended decades ago.

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Gathering the Wrack

Friday, July 15th, 2016

Gathering the Wrack

This is another completed painting in my new Seacliff Heritage series. It’s called  “Gathering the Wrack”, it’s oil on canvas, 30 x 20 inches. The scene is from the beach at Seacliff, East Lothian.

This series of paintings has a heritage focus when the seashore was a vital resource for the local community.  The Firth of Forth has been a huge natural resource for thousands of years. Fish, oysters, mussels and seaweed have all been abundant at times, scarce at others and in somes cases, such as oysters, now extinct.

This painting will feature in my next exhibition at Gallery 17, 17 Dundas Street, Edinburgh. The exhibition will run from Saturday 13th August to Sunday 28th August 2016.

Background Info

Historically seaweed was used as a fertiliser to enhance the organic structure of thin soils as it was rich in nitrogen and potassium. Two main types of seaweed were used – “Wrack and Wair“.

The Wair was a species of tangle, Laminaria, the long-stalked, wide-fronded weed growing from 8 to 10 ten feet in length in underwater kelp forests at the mouth of the Forth. The weed was thrown ashore in gales and piled itself onto the beaches. Every winter storm provided an opportunity to bring the sea-ware up before the next high tide carried it to a different place.

The other main weed used were species of wracks, Fucus, which grew between the high and low tide area on rocky substrata throughout the Firth, where they could be pulled or cut at any time of the year. The wracks were the most valuable, but were expensive in time and wages to gather.

The above information is taken from “The Firth of Forth an Environmental History” by T.C. Smout and Mairi Stewart – a wonderful account of the environmental history of the Firth of Forth.

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Baiting the Lines

Saturday, July 9th, 2016

Baiting the Lines

This is the third completed painting in my new Seacliff Heritage series. It’s called “Baiting the Lines”, it’s oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches. The background is a view to Tantallon Castle from the tiny harbour carved out of the rock at Seacliff.

This series of paintings has a heritage focus when the seashore was a vital resource for the local community. All paintings are set at Seacliff Beach in East Lothian. The Firth of Forth has been a huge natural resource for thousands of years. Fish, oysters, mussels and seaweed have all been abundant at times, scarce at others and in somes cases, such as oysters, now extinct.

This painting will feature in my next exhibition at Gallery 17, 17 Dundas Street, Edinburgh. The exhibition will run from Saturday 13th August to Sunday 28th August 2016.

Background Info

In the nineteenth century, the Firth of Forth and its approaches swarmed with large fish of many kinds, cod, ling, haddock, whiting, plaice, turbot, halibut, skate and much besides. The way to catch most demersal fish, before the start of trawling was by “lining”. Lines were of two types, the “sma’ lines” and the “great lines”. Sma lines were used for the smaller fish, above all haddock and plaice in the Firth. A boat would set to sea at the sma’ lines with five men, each man deploying two lines with 600 hooks spaced 3 1/2 feet apart, 120 yards long.

For the sma’ lines, the burden of baiting fell entirely on the women. They would bait the lines with mussels, a daily task between two tides. The quantities used were immense. At Eyemouth in 1885 38 tons of mussels were needed each year to catch 42 tons of fish. Over 80 million mussels were used yearley in Eyemouth alone, and this was only one of half a dozen comparable sma’ line fleets in the area. The maths is quite staggering, around half a billion mussels, all locally sourced, to bait the sma’ lines each year! Mussels were not eaten by people to any degree; they were too useful for the fishes!

The above information is taken from “The Firth of Forth an Environmental History” by T.C. Smout and Mairi Stewart – a wonderful account of the environmental history of the Firth of Forth.

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