Dreg Songs at Porty and Portsoy


Crews from three clubs, Boatie Blest, Newhaven and Portobello,  gathered on the Forth off Porty beach last Wednesday and performed  their recreated Oyster Dreg songs to a large crowd of onlookers,  gathered on the beach.  The songs were originally sung as local  fishermen towed small dregs (dredges) over the oyster beds, which once  lay under much of the south shore of the Forth from Newhaven to  Cockenzie.  It was only with the recent rediscovery of recordings of  the songs, made by American James Maddison Carpenter in the 1930s,  that it become possible to reinterpret the songs.  They are a bit of a  musical curiosity as they were intended not just as work songs but  also as lures to the gentle Oysters themselves.  They also take a very  odd pattern, with three beats of a call (often comprising local  gossip) followed by a two beat response.  This makes no sense when
rowing but add in a dreg towing behind the boat and it becomes much
more logical.
Boatie Blest crews got particularly involved in the project and turned  out in mid-19th Century fisherman’s costume complete with two oyster  dregs, one of which was a replica of the only known surviving dreg now  held in the collections of the Scottish Fisheries Museum.  The replica  was funded by local fish suppliers J K Thomson and made by P Johnson  and Co. at their Ratho Byres Forge.
The Portobello event was captured by Radio Scotland and a feature  appears on last weekend’s Radio Scotland programme Out of Doors.  The  show was broadcast live from the Portsoy Traditional Boat Festival and  is now available on iPlayer here:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01k2k93/Out_of_Doors_23_06_2012/
The Portsoy broadcast makes up the final hour of the programme.

Further report on Bob Walser’s website:  http://bobwalser.com/what-a-night/

  1. #1 by Bob W on 26 June 2012 - 5:25 pm

    The Dreg Songs part of the Radio Programme begins at 1:18:45

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