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From: The Romance of the Coast, by James Runciman

"North Country Fishermen" written in 1883


The fisherman has no amusements. In the afternoons, when his sleep is over, he walks up and down in the Row and gazes around; but he rarely laughs, and few things interest him unless he is religious. Fishermen seldom gossip like rustics. Sometimes they have a queer dry humour which comes out in short phrases, but they never carry on sustained conversation. The faculty of expression is granted them in very sparing degree. The fisherman's courage is perfect, yet he cannot speak of his own actions. He will do the most brave things in a stolid, unconscious way; but he could not frame a hundred consecutive words to tell anyone what he had done. He never shows any emotion excepting when under the influence of religious excitement. The melancholy of the sea seems to have entered his nature, and his chief efforts aim at self-restraint. When the little Methodist chapel resounds with the noise of appreciative groanings and sighing, it is very rarely that anything like gesticulation or vivid facial change is seen. Deep-chested men utter sonorous ejaculations and the women sigh, but there is no shuffling of feet and no movement. As a class, the fishers have grown to be more religious than almost any other body of men, and they like powerful excitement; but they are always severely decorous. In his behaviour toward his social superiors the fisherman is rugged—perhaps morbidly rugged—but his brusque familiarity is not offensive. To touch his cap would be impossible to him, but his direct salute is neither self-assertive nor impolite. The fisherman toils on till the time comes for him to stay ashore always. His life is a very risky one, and the history of every village is largely made up of stories about drowned men, for the coast is an ugly place, and the utmost skill and daring can hardly carry a man through a lifetime without accident. If the accident is fatal, there is an end of all: the bruised bodies are washed up; the women wring their hands, and the old men walk about silently. But if things go well, then the fisherman's old age is comfortable enough. The women look after him kindly, and on sunny mornings he enjoys himself very well as he nurses the children on the bench facing the sea.

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