Sangstories - Stories of Scottish Songs

Tales of Scottish traditional and newer songs sung by Sangschule of Linlithgow

Guiding Light And The Evening Star

by Scott Murray

Guiding Light and the Evening Star
Spes Malore and the Anster Belle
Nae boats noo doon in the harbour
But aye, Ah mind on them weel
Aye, Ah mind on them weel

In darkness ye’d look ower the Forth
Tae see the boats by their lichts
Awa tae the east o the May
Like a toon lit up in the nicht
Like a toon lit up in the nicht       

An ye kent that the Sabbath was endin
When ye heard the boots o the men
Soond doon the wynd tae the harbour
Time for the fishin again
It’s time for the fishin again       

And ye thocht on the man nearly lost
Wha was ta’en frae his boat by a wave
He was put back on deck by anither
An we thanked the Lord he was saved
Aye we thanked the Lord he was saved

There’s nae drifters noo, there’s nae trawlers
Ye’re nearer tae Dogger at Shields
They telt me a the guid reasons
It’s tae dae wi siller an’ yields
It’s tae dae wi siller an’ yields    

Words:
Anster
: Ainster, Anstruther
Dogger: Dogger Bank
Drifter: fishing boat
May: the Isle of May
Mind on: remember
Sabbath: Sunday   - Biblical term used by strict observers
Shields: North Shields
Siller: money, silver
Soond: make a noise
Spes Malore: Great Hope (Latin :maior - major)
Trawlers: deepwater fishing boats that dragged nets along the sea-bottom
Wynd: way, narrow path
Yields: quantities of fish harvested

Scott and Anne Murray are members of the four-person Fife-based folk group Sangsters, and have often been tutors for Sangschule. They brought us this song.


Talking with retired men and women in Lady Walk House in Fife about the days of the Anstruther fishing fleet, Scott used their words and memories to create this song, meaningful to themselves and in a form outsiders can share and value.


The song highlights the massive changes to the working lives of fishermen and their communities over recent years, resulting in empty harbours. Boats now need to head out to Dogger Bank to fish and so boats that once would have harboured at Anster find harbour at Shields -  “You’re nearer to Dogger at Shields”.


Nobody would have worked on Sunday,the Sabbath. Faith in Christianity was important in fishing areas, where a strict Christian sect known as the Brethren had many followers. The appeal of faith is clear in a dangerous life where you could easily meet death during your working days and nights at sea.

Scott wrote “Guiding Light” as a result of reminiscence work for the New Makars Trust, a voluntary organisation of songwriters who encourage and enable song-writing about specific communities by and with community members themselves. This song was part of the New Makars project called “Celebrating Fife in Song.” and appears on their Anster Tracks CD.

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