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Home  >  Features  >  Looking Back: Fisherman's Institute

Looking Back

Friday December 11 2020

Looking Back: "She's Affa Trim"

An account of the 1949 opening of St. Andrew's House, the Church of Scotland's mission to Scots in the fishing fleet at Great Yarmouth, when 'The whole harbour quayside echoed to this "giving of praise".'




On 15th October the new St. Andrew's House was opened and dedicated by the Moderator of the General Assembly [George Simpson Duncan, principal of St Mary's College at the University of St Andrews]. The former Fishermen's Institute was destroyed by enemy action.

“SHE’S affa trim.”

The skipper of a Buchan drifter was casting an appraising eye over the new House, opened to serve the thousands of Scots folk at the East Anglian fishing.

Certainly not a foot is wasted. On the ground floor and the floor above there are lounge, recreation room, writing room, sick bays for men and women, and a kitchen. On the top floor is the accommodation for the staff. (In addition, down by the quay, there are a canteen and a dressing-station).

And the new building is trim. Advantage has been taken in the rebuilding to bring both house and “gear” completely up-to-date.

The new name has more than the usual appropriateness, as the Moderator remarked. St. Andrew was a fisherman. And the name in this case unites Church and nation in special significance. Here are 5,000 men and women of one of our national industries who have to be absent from home for several months, exposed to considerable danger and hardship, at the mercy of weather and herring shoals, or engaged in the yards in one of the severest of all manual jobs. No national enterprise has ever stood by them to mitigate their difficulties. But for many years the Church has; and, being the Church, has been able to bring also what to them is not an addition to these amenities, but the chief gift of all: the Word and the Sacraments.

For they are, most of them, religious folk. You will frequently find that beside each bunk and in the wheelhouse of many a boat lies a Bible. Not a few skippers gather their men around them each day for the reading of the Word and for prayer.

Fishermen of that stamp want something different in an Institute. They need attention for their injured bodies; but they want a minister of their own Kirk to be walking round amongst the beds. They need a place to rest in on Sunday – when the English boats are out at sea – but they want it to be a place where they can be quiet if need be, and a place where the music can be the music of the psalms and the hymns of the faith.

The scene at the opening of St. Andrew’s House on 15th October seemed to take the townsfolk by surprise. Perhaps it was the freshness of what to us is traditional.

The Moderator of the General Assembly stood before the closed door, flanked by the fishermen in their blue. The twenty-third Psalm was sung. Principal Duncan then solemnly dedicated the house to be set apart for its holy and helping uses; and, with the choir singing “Ye gates, lift up your heads on high,” he unlocked and opened the door – this was to be a house, however humble its functions, into which the King of Glory might enter.

Down by the river, every Scots drifter took up the shout, till the whole harbour quayside echoed with this “giving of praise.” “All Thy works” – the work of men’s daily toil not least – “shall praise Thee.”

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