About the Dreg Song Project
In the nineteenth century, Scotsmen fished for oysters in the Firth of Forth by dragging dredges over the oyster 'scalps'. To maintain a steady speed they sang as they rowed. Overfishing brought the industry to a close near the turn of the twentieth century and with it, the use of the dreg songs. In the 1930s James Madison Carpenter gathered some of these songs on wax cylinders and typewritten pages. For years the songs were hidden away - lost. Now, with the work of the James Madison Carpenter Project these songs have come back to life first at Mystic Seaport Museum and, this summer, in their home waters of the Firth! Three Scottish Coast Rowing Clubs: Rowporty, Newhaven Coastal Rowing and Boatie Blest brought the songs home to the Firth at 7:30 pm on 20 June, 2012 near the Dalriada Bar. It was a memorable and historic evening!
Dredging off Cockenzie, ca. 1873
So how was oyster dredging done in the Firth? Here’s an image from J. G. Bertram’s The Harvest of the Sea. London, John Murray, 1873.