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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Hue and Cry, Hog or Ox

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas OCTOBER. 21, 2020

[76-365] 20th. October 2020- This is the summit of Burgh Island in Devon. This ruined building is a Huer's Shelter built in the 18th century. During the pilchard fishing season, July to October, a lookout would keep watch over Bigbury Bay for shoals of fish disturbing the surface of the sea, and call out to the fishermen below to launch their boats. The Huer would then direct the boats to the fish.

Rowing boats would then let out a long seine net encircling the shoal. The seine net was some 1200 metres long and 80 metres deep. Each end of the net was brought back to the shore where the whole community would help to haul the net and it's catch of fish to the beach.

The fish were gutted, salted, a process known as baulking and could then mature for weeks or even years. Thus preserved, they were then laid in hogsheads, and pressed to expel the oil before being exported in their thousands.

The Word of the day is hogshead- A hogshead is a large cask of liquid (or, less often, of a food commodity). More specifically, it refers to a specified volume, measured in either imperial or US customary measures, primarily applied to alcoholic beverages, such as wine, ale, or cider.

A hogshead in Britain contains about 300 L (66 imp gal; 79 US gal). The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) notes that the hogshead was first standardized by an act of Parliament in 1423, though the standards continued to vary by locality and content. English philologist Walter William Skeat (1835–1912) noted the origin is to be found in the name for a cask or liquid measure appearing in various forms in Germanic languages, in Dutch oxhooft (modern okshoofd), Danish oxehoved, Old Swedish oxhuvud, etc. The Encyclopædia Britiannica of 1911 conjectured that the word should therefore be "oxhead", "hogshead" being a mere corruption.

During the sixteenth century, the fishing industry of Cornwall and Devon was a major national industry and at the heart of it was the pilchard. The main export market was the Mediterranean, particularly Sicily, where it formed an important ingredient in puttanesca sauce. The Newlyn Pilchard Works made its first export to Italy In 1555, and its last in 2005.

"Sardine" and "pilchard" are common names that refer to various small, oily forage fish in the herring family Clupeidae. The term "sardine" was first used in English during the early 15th century and may come from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, around which sardines were once abundant.

The terms "sardine" and "pilchard” are not precise, and what is meant depends on the region. The United Kingdom's Sea Fish Industry Authority, for example, classifies sardines as young pilchards. One criterion suggests fish shorter in length than 15 cm (6 in) are sardines, and larger fish are pilchards.

(Wikipedia and

I had only come across the word hue before in the expression hue and cry, which means a lot of loud noise and disturbance.

The origin of hue and cry is a legal process, whereby before the times of organised law enforcement, responsibility for keeping order was placed squarely on the whole community. The hue and cry was a system where the victim of a crime could shout for help from the whole community to catch a thief. If the community did not respond they were all deemed to be responsible for the crime and all could face punishment.

This system has its roots in a time when the king -the government - has almost no paid officials. It also suited the Anglo-Saxons who seem to have had a strong sense of community responsibility. It worked when everybody lived in small, stable communities where everyone knew each other.

This community-based system continued for some time after the Norman Conquest, but by the later medieval period new systems were needed.

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