Blessing of the nets set to mark start of salmon fishing season

A traditional blessing to mark the start of the salmon fishing season on the River Tweed will be held at Pedwell Landing in Norham on Friday morning.

Wednesday, 30th January 2019, 8:43 am
Updated Wednesday, 30th January 2019, 8:45 am
Rev Rob Kelsey conducts the blessing of the new salmon fishing season at Pedwell Landing in Norham. Picture by Jane Coltman

The Pedwell Landing is one of many sites along the Tweed where, for about 1000 years, net fishing for salmon was a major part of the local economy, until its demise in the 1980s. There will be a short service at 8am, conducted by the Rev Rob Kelsey, followed by a wee dram at Pedwell Landing. All are welcome.

In the past, the Vicar of Norham said prayers of blessing at midnight at the start of the new salmon fishing season on February 1.

Part of the tradition was that, if a fish were caught during the first casting of the nets, then it was given to the vicar.

Norham fishery was actually closed in 1987. Before then the ancient custom began in the cold and the dark at midnight on February 14.

The Pedwell Prayer would ask for a blessing on the fishery, its crew, its nets and its catch. The shot was rowed and the vicar would be presented with the first salmon. The nets men and a few friends might then retire to the warmth of the shiel for a wee nip of whisky from an old tin mug!

But while this version of the annual ceremony appears to have Victorian origins, it is probably rooted deeper in the past, perhaps in the ‘ancient legend’ retold by the 12th century hermit, Reginald of Durham.

A reluctant schoolboy, Haldane, legend has it, was trying to avoid the lessons taught by the vicar in the church. He stole the door key and hurled it into the Tweed. The priest was reprimanded in a dream by St Cuthbert for not educating the boys. The poor man explained his problem – no key. The saint told him to go to Pedwell and ask for the first salmon caught the next day. Low and behold there it was, lodged in the fish’s throat!