What did you do over spring break? Lauren Hossack made a documentary about her own heritage and the history of Scottish fishing communities. Feeling inadequate? The Herring Quines is short, about 15 minutes long, but explores the role of women in these tight-knit rural Scottish communities.
With the aid of archive footage, subject specialists, personal photographs and interviews with fisherwives and “gutters” (those who gutted the fish), Lauren reveals the harsh conditions and nature of their labour, but also the strong bonds that helped to bind them together. One of the most important jobs of the fisherwives was actually to carry their husbands to shore from their boats, to avoid the men’s leather boots from getting wet! The story was brought to life by little tid-bits like this, and Lauren’s own connection, being from an old fishing community herself. The personal connection was truly evident from the presence of some of her family members at the screening, the photos of her own family, and the interview with her great aunt. Personal memoirs made it clear that this project really meant something to the old women of the community. It feels offensive to call them relics, but hand-me-downs from her family’s fishing days were spread around the room; knitting and photographs that were worth seeing in their own right. At one moment, I was examining a fantastic photo of a young man taking a bath in a massive tub of fish, chuckling to myself, then I turned around to find the young man (now not so young) chuckling too.
Remarkably, this project sprang from Lauren wanting to do something for OTR on the theme of heritage, and simply having a camera, she thought, ‘why not a documentary’. Easy as that. Well, she assured us that although the film was made it only two weeks, those two weeks were a sort of personal hell of stress. It wasn’t polished, or ready to air on BBC4 next week, but Lauren produced a solidly commendable short documentary and put the rest of us to shame. Well done Lauren.