This ain’t what they used to be!

Share this article

In your 2 March Gazette I read with interest the suggestion by one of your letter writers that sea bird eggs should be collected and eaten.

In the 1930s this was quite common.

I was a school boy then and I spent many holidays at Flamborough Head because my father and I loved to go sea fishing.

We also used to go to the very high cliffs at Bempton to watch the local fishermen collecting sea bird eggs for their families to eat and also to sell at the market.

The method of collection was very interesting, the group consisted of four men.

One man who actually collected the eggs, had a basket and on his head he wore a World War One soldier’s helmet. He was tied to a rope and was then lowered down the cliff face by another two men.

The fourth member of the group lay on his stomach looking over the edge of the cliff acting as communications officer telling the two rope holders when to move the egg collector up or down or from side to side as he gathered the eggs into his basket.

Like most of my age, one of my hobbies was collecting birds’ eggs. The great prize in my collection was a sea bird egg bought from the sea bird collectors for one penny - half my week’s pocket money - it was large and blue with fine squiggly back markings. I think it was a Guillemot egg.

There was no way that I could push it off the table. If it was pushed it turned in a circle on the spot, almost triangular in shape, it was designed to sit on a cliff face ledge and not roll off.

Sea birds did not eat human food like ice cream, sausage rolls or fried potatoes. They ate fish, lots of it.

We must not forget the sea birds’ banquet which was the visit to Whitby of the Scottish herring fleet with dozens of fishergirls packing dozens of barrels with hundreds of herring. Fish were everywhere.

As with human beings, all birds have to eat to live and in the past there was no shortage of natural food.

Today it is different - things ain’t quite what they used to be!

From Gordon Hurley, Newlands Avenue, Whitby