Herring Tales

4. Jan 2016

Herring Tales is the name of a new book published in September 2015 on behalf of Bloomsbury Publishing in London. The author, Donald S. Murray, states the importance of herring for European nations from ancient times. How the silver darlings shaped human taste and history.

Furthermore, the promo of the issue:

Scots like to smoke or salt them. The Dutch love them raw. Swedes look on with relish as they open bulging, foul-smelling cans to find them curdling within. Jamaicans prefer them with a dash of chilli pepper. Germans and the English enjoy their taste best when accompanied by pickle's bite and brine.
Throughout the long centuries men have fished around their coastlines and beyond, the herring has done much to shape both human taste and history. Men have co-operated and come into conflict over its shoals, setting out in boats to catch them, straying, too, from their home ports to bring full nets to shore. Women have also often been at the centre of the industry, gutting and salting the catch when the annual harvest had taken place, knitting, too, the garments fishermen wore to protect them from the ocean's chill.

Following a journey from the western edge of Norway to the east of England, from Shetland and the Outer Hebrides to the fishing ports of the Baltic coast of Germany and the Netherlands, culminating in a visit to Iceland's Herring Era Museum, Donald S. Murray has stitched together tales of the fish that was of central importance to the lives of our ancestors, noting how both it - and those involved in their capture - were celebrated in the art, literature, craft, music and folklore of life in northern Europe.

Donald Murray visited Siglufjördur in February 2015 - at the urging of dr. Oliver Sacks, the famous neuorogist and writer - and Murray dedicates his last chapter to Herring Era Museum. Two of our museum buildings: Grána and the Boathouse can be seen on the book cover.

Herring Tales is for sale online, both at and


“The story is told with great charm, and tinged with a spirit of loss and yearning.” –  Philip Marsden, The Spectator

“Mr Murray is a gregarious and engaging raconteur as he flips between the diverse aspects of this versatile little creature.” –  The Economist

“This is a splendid book, filled with passion, wit, and wonderful facts.” –  Geographical magazine

“It's a fascinating book and worth a read.” –  The Glasgow Herald

“Like the herring, this is a book that darts across time and oceans. It gleams with story. A wonderful read.” –  Sally Magnusson

“These herring tales are far more tasty than you might expect.” –  The Scotsman

Herring Tales is the story of close-knit communities based around a particular kind of fishing, a world that is both present and, alas, fading. I strongly recommend this eloquent and finely detailed book.” –  Jay Parini