"The Solway Firth to Hartland Point: The Fishing Industry Through Time" by Mike Smylie is the third in a six volume series which will together chart the decline of the fishing industry around the coastline of Great Britain. We have previously reviewed "The Tweed to the Northern Isles" which looked at the industry along the east coast of Scotland. The current volume picks the story up in the Solway Firth, and continues all the way down the west coast of England, and Wales, as far as Hartland Point in Devon.
As with earlier volumes in the series, Mike Smylie's book is divided into four chapters. These look at "Fishing Ways"; "Fishing Boats"; "Fisher Folk"; and "Along the Coast". Each section is profusely illustrated with a wide variety of images of varying ages, each accompanied by a very full caption filling in the detail and setting out the background. Add in an introduction to the book as a whole and another to each of the sections, and the result is a beautifully balanced book that both tells you the story and shows it to you.
As a group of island nations, fishing has always been an important part of life in Great Britain. What we found particularly interesting about this book was the emphasis given to types of fishing which are less prevalent, or even absent, elsewhere around our shores. The section on "fixed engines" or fish weirs, nets and other traps designed to catch fish during the falling tide is fascinating. This leads into sections looking at Mussels and Cockles; Shrimping; and Salmon and Eel Fishing. The "Fishing Boats" chapter deals with the many distinctive designs of boats used along this long and diverse section of coastline, including Welsh coracles.
"Fisher Folk" uses a series of images which help bring back to life the long-gone traditional fishing communities, while "Along the Coast" gives an overview of the many harbours, large and small, found on the western side of England and in Wales. Among the many nice touches is a collection of images of what might be called public barometers in their harbourside housings: an early response to tragedies caused by fishermen heading out to sea in deteriorating weather conditions.