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Tweed Salmon Fisheries

Feasts and Kettles

The annual Feasts in Spittal and Tweedmouth included salmon suppers, coble races and games and attracted crowds from Tyneside, Edinburgh and the Borders.

The focal point of the Tweedmouth Feast today is the Crowning of the Salmon Queen as its focal point.

In the 18th century, it became an established custom for the gentry to entertain their families and neighbours with a picnic of freshly-caught salmon, cooked in a large pan or “kettle” on the banks of the Tweed.

In 1788, Thomas Newte recorded in his “Tour in England and Scotland”: “It is customary for the gentlemen who live near the Tweed to entertain their neighbours and friends with a Fete Champetre, which they call giving “a kettle of fish”. Tents or marquees are pitched near the flowery banks of the river. A fire is kindled, and live salmon thrown into boiling kettles. The fish, thus prepared, is very firm, and accounted a most delicious food. Everything in season is added to furnish a luxurious cold dinner; and wine, music, and dancing on the green, steal one day from the plodding cares, or more insupportable languor of mortals. The simple rustics around are admitted, in due place and order, to this rural banquet; and all nature wears the countenance of joy and gladness.”

By Victorian times the “kettle” had become an established feature in the social calendar for the tradesmen of Berwick, Tweedmouth and Spittal. The custom was also taken up by factory and mill-owners and community organisations who brought their workers and families by train or charabanc for an annual kettle on the beach at Spittal.

Extracts from contemporary newspapers relating to salmon feasts and kettles in Victorian times