There was once a willow tree in Fishermen’s park in Newhaven, it was said that if the tree were to die or be cut down then the fishing would leave Newhaven – the park was built upon, the tree lost and the fishing industry that sustained the village is gone.
The tree supplied the raw materials essential for the work of the village. A readily available crop harvested twice a year, the supple willow was woven into the creels that the famous fishwives carried. With 10 stone of fish on their backs both women and girls as young at 15 walked into Edinburgh every day. The willow was woven into many different designs, the lobster and crab pots, the cran that was both a measurement and a basket used to unload and sell the fish and the skulls.
We all like a good story but elders of the Newhaven Community Choir couldn’t remember ever seeing the tree! Then a letter from the archives of The University of British Columbia solved the mystery. The sad story was transcribed in the 19th Century from a Newhaven Bow-tow who was living there. The story will break your heart and we are using it to write a new song thanks to funding from The Edward Marshall Trust. Their grant will enable us to write a series of new songs in the community through our intergenerational project ‘A Nest of Songbirds’.
The choir recently sang at The Leith Festival in front of The Edinburgh Art Festivals’ dazzle ship Everywoman designed and painted by Ciara Phillips and a group of women artists. Our own songbird and artist Kate Downie also helped us with the image for our leaflets.
So come and join us Tuesday evenings 6.30 – 8pm at Victoria Primary School in Newhaven, Edinburgh. For more details see our lovely leaflet printed by Out of the Blueprint in sunny Leith.