“It was quite exciting to get up one morning to find a ship at anchor – perhaps more than one – or we might hear the flapping of sails during the night, then the morning could not come quickly enough to see which one it was. We had our favourites – those which brought the biggest bunch of bananas and sacks of mixed Island fruits!…you see what a large part they took in our social history – all this, twice a year, in our little colony of only one hundred and fifty people.
At break of day the work would begin on board – over the water came the sound of singing, lovely some of it was. The Coopers were at work, tapping, tapping, making up new casks. The staves were brought in bundles. These casks were first used for water – as they emptied they were used for the oil. When a number of new casks were ready they were roped together, end to end, a long line of them floating high on the water, and towed ashore, and stood under a small waterfall, that ran over a rocky ledge onto a beach – this was called ‘watering- bay’. “
This is how Louisa Worsfold recalled the annual arrival of whale ships in her “Social History of Russell”. More of her reminiscences feature in Russell Museum’s summer exhibition “Shaped by the Sea”-we’re open every day in January, 10am to 5pm.