North Shields herring girl statue unveiled by Vera star Brenda Blethyn

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The statue created by Ray Lonsdale pays tribute to the traditional herring girls.

North Shields’ historic Fish Quay have unveiled a brand-new statue which honours the hard-working Herring Girls.

The life-size sculpture which was created by artist Ray Lonsdale who is also behind the Fisherman statue at Fiddlers Green, was officially unveiled by star of ITV’s Vera, on Friday, September 22.

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North Shields’ Fishermen’s Heritage Project helped to raise funds for the statue, with support from North Tyneside Council as part of the authority’s Ambition for North Shields and the Fish Quay.

At the official unveiling of the Herring Girl statue, around 300 local school children were in attendance, as well as Mayor Dame Norma Redfearn DBE, Lindisfarne stars Ray Laidlaw and Billy Mitchell, The Right Revd Dr Helen-Ann Hartley and the Bishop of Newcastle and Lord-Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear Ms Lucy Winskell OBE.

The statue depicts a traditional herring girl, sitting on a barrel, while holding a fish in each hand.

Herring girls’ worked to follow the route of the herring, before gutting and salting the fish that were caught.

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Terry McDermott, Chairman of the North Shields Fishermen’s Heritage Project, said: “The Herring Girl is a perfect partner to the powerful Fisherman sculpture at the other end of the Quay.

“It is absolutely right that we commemorate and honour the role women played in the history and heritage of our beloved Fish Quay.

“The herring girls had a tough job, working long hours in all weathers, it was physically very demanding. Not only did they gut and salt the fish and pack it into barrels, they then carried creels of fish on their backs to sell door-to-door and at the markets.

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“They spent a lot of their time on the move, following the shoals of herring down the North East coast, from Scotland to Yorkshire.

“This went on for centuries, from late summer to early autumn each year, and our local lasses from North Shields would join them on their route.

“Many hard working women still grace our industry today and this sculpture is a tribute to all the women past and present who are part of our proud fishing community.

“We’d like to thank North Tyneside Council for providing matched funding for the sculpture, as part of its regeneration of North Shields and the Fish Quay.”

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North Tyneside Mayor, Dame Norma Redfearn DBE, said: “The unveiling of the Herring Girl was an incredible community event, it was wonderful to see the Fish Quay packed with well-wishers including hundreds of our local school children.

“The statue pays tribute to the incredible, hardworking women who played such an important role in the fishing industry.

“As we approach our North Shields 800 anniversary year, it’s a chance to look forward as well as back, building on the town’s fantastic heritage and strong community spirit.”

North Tyneside Council

She continued: “This is a proud day for North Shields, it’s been both a celebration and a very poignant moment, as we ensure these important women are not forgotten.”

“I want to give a special thank you to North Shields Fishermen’s Heritage Project and all those who donated to help make this a reality.”

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