Creels were used by fishwives to carry fish for sale. The creels were loaded with fish that had been caught while line fishing, and the fishwives took them to sell inland, around the crofting settlements.
The “East Coast” creel is similar in construction to the back creel used on crofts in the Highlands and Islands off the west coast of Scotland, but the sides were completely filled in with weaving, apart from a small gap, on each side, for the strap. The women carried the creels on their back by putting the strap either across their shoulders or across their forehead. The creels were made from willow or sometimes from hard wearing cane.
It wasn’t uncommon for a fully loaded creel to weigh as much as six stone and it had to be lifted onto a woman’s back by another two women. The fisherwife had a list of names of the people to go to on her rounds selling fish. It was said that a fisherwife always arrived at the front door and not the tradesman’s entrance!
On the return journey the creel was often full of peat, butter and eggs. The advent of railways made it a lot easier to travel and the fishwives laden with creels of fish were often seen on trains traveling along the coast.