Harbour Ceremony

Sunday 29th July 2018

Sponsored By: J Fairnie & Sons


There has been fishing at Fisherrow and Musselburgh since Roman times, and the present 18th century harbour is very close to the Roman harbour which served the Inveresk Roman fort on the high ground east of the River Esk. The Fisherrow fishermen used to fish for herring and later for white fish, prawns and sprats. The harbour was home to a large fishing fleet.

In 1939, the Firth of Forth became a strategic area for the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, and fishing activities were curtailed. Many fishermen were called up, and the Navy commandeered some of the boats for war service.

The Harbour Ceremony was introduced to Festival Week in 1946 following the end of the 2nd World War to celebrate the vast fishing history of the town and to introduce the Honest Lad & Lass and their Attendants to the Fishing Community.

This event has not taken place every year and until it was re-introduced in 2008, the event had not taken place in almost 35 years. With the general decline in fishing throughout Scotland and the total loss of fishing boats based in Fisherrow, the Association felt that this event should play an integral part of Festival Week in order to help preserve the history of the fishing community within the town.

Historically, fishing villages were close-knit communities, and there was a Fishwives’ Choir, and golf tournaments took place between the fishwives of Musselburgh and Fisherrow. Fishermen and fishwives held a “Box Walk” each September which marked the end of the fishing season, and an opportunity to give presents of money to those in need.

The Fisherman’s Walk took place in many fishing communities like Musselburgh and Fishermen and their wives took part in processions through the streets, the women wearing their traditional long blue striped aprons and skirts.

The Fisherman’s Walk celebrations were held at the beginning of September to mark the end of the summer fishing season. Originally a friendly society, the Musselburgh Fisherman’s Walk Society provided help and pensions to fisherman and their families in Fisherrow. In 1912 the Society was dissolved as fewer people were involved in fishing, or able to pay their contributions. In 1930, however, the Society was revived by Alex Craig and was preserved until 1997 when again it was dissolved and unfortunately, the Fishermans Walk no longer takes place.

The Harbour Ceremony will see the Lad, Lass and Attendants head out on to the Forth in a fishing Boat. The Official Party will come back into the Harbour where they will be greeted by prominent members of the remaining Fishing Community and the Clark Community Choir who will sing a compilation of well known fishing songs.

The Official Party will then be asked to perform the eightsom reel followed by an ‘attempt’ to eat the shell fish which gave Musselburgh its name, the Mussel, once collected from the mouth of the river Esk.