18 February 2017

S Wilfrid the Fisherman

Apparently during the first millennium we caught only fresh water fish. The middens that archaeologists spend their lives delving into demonstrate that towards the end of that millennium, such fish became smaller and fewer; so that we had to diversify into sea fish.

This provides the background of something in Bede that has always puzzled me. He says that when S Wilfrid (who was responsible for giving the English Church its admirable Romanita) decided to evangelise the South Saxons, he found them so afflicted by famine that they were lining up to jump off Beachy Head. There was fish galore, but the only fishing they were familiar with was catching eels. So he showd them how to use their eel nets to supplement their diet.

It used to mystify me that people could have been starving who had the English Channel in which to fish and no restrictive European quotas to hamper them. Now I understand.


Kathleen1031 said...

Isn't that amazing! We poor human beings, we can be so limited in our thinking.

Alan said...

I recall reading this a few years ago in a book, the title of which now escapes me, about the apparently widespread belief that the end of the first millennium would mark the second coming of the Lord.

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

Nevertheless, the cockle middens on the Thames estuary, many yards deep, and upon which the sheds of todays cocklers are built, are reputed to be pre-Christian. Leigh-on-Sea is a Roman village; but perhaps there is no contradiction, as cockles are taken on the mudflats, and not at sea. I fear I remain unconvinced that sea fish, available in the estuary, was not caught.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Tidal fish traps seem to appear just after the time of S Wilfrid and appear on the Isle of Wight after its conversion.

Mike Cliffson said...

Hmm . If that Beachy head business was literally so , it'd 've been a case of "Ilkley moor bar t' hat" for a bit.
Seriously, by comparison , for whatever reason , I have it on reasonable authority that the rif berberspeakers on the S .W shores of the med just didn't sea-fish on a couple of centuries ago, and only took to it in any sort of way in the 1950s; they just didn't. You'd think occasional starvation would sharpen men's wits, but we' re funny critters, humans.