Fishers of men: maritime radio and evangelical hymnody in the Scottish fishing industry 1950-65

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Gospel singing has played a large part in the lives of evangelical members of fishing communities of North-East Scotland since the Great Awakening of 1859-60. Subsequent missionary activities that took place in the following years introduced new repertoire and ideas for instrumental accompaniment, including the highly influential two-week visit of American evangelists Dwight L. Moody and Ira D. Sankey in 1874. The singing of hymns and psalms whilst at sea has also played a large part in the spiritual lives of the fisherfolk as a means of both prayer and praise from the early days of the fishing industry in the eighteenth century. The introduction of a ship’s radio trawler band in the late 1940s as a means of transmitting vital information between vessels during the early part of the twentieth century provided the opportunity for musical communication and ministry to be transmitted between fishing boats and to listeners on shore. A number of Christian fishermen would sing over the airwaves, with those on other boats and on land tuning in to hear them. This frequently took place up until the early 1960s when the regulations were tightened concerning the use of broadcasting equipment.

The aim of this essay is to explore the development and rationale of a gospel singing tradition via trawler-band radio transmission in the fishing industry during the twentieth century. The construction of a virtual singing community over the airwaves, the choice of repertoire and the key figures in the transmission of such songs will be discussed within the wider context of the gospel singing community of North-East Scotland. This will be illustrated by photographs, musical transcriptions, and extracts from fieldwork interviews conducted between 2005 and 2009.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Sea in the British Musical Imagination
EditorsEric Saylor, Christopher M. Scheer
PublisherBoydell Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)978-1782046950
ISBN (Print)1783270624, 978-1783270620
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2015


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