Formed in 1925 by Marion Ritchie (above second from left and below). On occasions her daughter Menie Addison (above left) conducted and daughter Betty Ritchie (above right) provided piano accompaniment. From the choir’s promotional card:
The following photographs and text are from an unidentified magazine article possibly from c. 1941-2:
To-day the Newhaven fisherwomen are not only still a picturesque feature of the Edinburgh street scene, bringing a characteristic note to the life of the city, but they have become a vital part of Scottish musical endeavor, for a splendid amateur choir has been formed from their numbers, the clear vigorous voices are raised in song, and their unique national dresses – one of the few native costumes surviving in the British Isles – are delighting people far beyond the bounds of the Capital.
In the sixteen years since the Choir was formed under the title of the Newhaven Fisherwomen’s Choir, and since then its record has been one of unbroken success and ever-growing popularity. It is, of course, fortunate in its founder and director, Mrs David Ritchie, a charming Scotswoman “eighty-three years young,” who plans all the programmes as well as organising the activities of the Choir.
Mrs Ritchie’s enthusiasm is a source of inspiration to all who come in contact with her, and with the able assistance of her two daughters… she has guided the native ability of the thirty fisherwomen who comprise the Choir into channels of purest music, without in any way sacrificing the charm and expressiveness of their voices.
To a Scots person particularly, it is an unforgettable experience to hear them lilting the songs their forebears sang while mending the nets by the sea-wall at Newhaven, or rising to a poignant climax of melody in one or other of the old Scots airs which have had such power to tirl the heart-strings. These, however, do not by any means comprise their entire repertoire, for despite the fact that they use no printed music, and are entirely trained by ear, the Newhaven fisherwomen have developed a selection of folk tunes and ballads from all over the world… Since the outbreak of war, it has redoubled its efforts, proving a valuable source of aid to the funds of war charities, while, needless to say, it is in great demand for Service entertainments.
Behind this group of handsome Scots fisherwomen, whose ages range from twenty-three to seventy-three, lies a story of great historic and personal interest. Personal interest, because they are not just singers in fancy dress, but genuine fisherwomen and descendants of fisherfolk. They and their husbands and sons earn their living by the sea – a circumstance that has always held an element of danger. but which to-day brings them close to the stark realities of war.
In Edinburgh in September 1933 they recorded eight sides for Beltona.
The choir broadcast on BBC Radio August 1932 July 1951, February 1952, November 1954, January 1957
The following two sides were recorded in Edinburgh at at the 1954 Edinburgh Edinburgh International Festival Hail Caledonia performance:
Will Ye No Come Back Again
From 78 rpm record Columbia D.B.3565 CA23068. Arrangement by A. Moffat.
Auld Lang Syne
Performed by the massed choirs of Campbeltown Gaelic Choir, Falkirk Choral Society and Newhaven Fisher Lassies’ Choir. From 78 rpm record Columbia D.B.3565 CA23068. Arrangement by Cedric Thorpe Davie.
For more information on the choir and its context see the following article and links:
Click to access bow-tow%2013.pdf