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Legends of the sea – 1926

Fermanagh Herald 9th January, 1926 p6

Aran Islands, West of Ireland Photo: Fabio Grasso Creative Commons

Aran Islands, West of Ireland
Photo: Fabio Grasso
Creative Commons

Fishermen have legends all their own. They say that the reason why the flounder has one side white is that the Blessed Virgin once placed her hand upon it, and that the spot where her lily hand rested has been the colour of the snow ever since.
An eminent tradition is to the effect that it was the haddock in whose mouth St. Peter discovered the tribute money; that the spots upon its body near the gills was caused by the pressure of the Apostle’s fingers.
The pike, like the passion flower, carries upon it the marks of the Crucifixion such as the cross, nails and sword. This, sailors will tell you, is because the pike remained above the water when all the other fish fled to the bottom of the sea in panic when they found that the Saviour was to be put to death.
The Blessed Virgin has always been considered the especial patroness of those “going down to the sea in ships.” To her they appealed when in danger of shipwreck and ships sailing past any of her sanctuaries used to salute her by striking their topsails or chewing up the topsail sheets. Most of the ships in the Royal Navy of England were in Catholic days given one of her own sweet names. The fishing fleets of all continental countries have always honour her in a similar manner.

Eight different species of fish, including cod, haddock, halibut and mackerel, are lying on a beach. Coloured etching by J. Miller after J. Stewart. Wellcome Images; Creative Commons

Eight different species of fish, including cod, haddock, halibut and mackerel, are lying on a beach. Coloured etching by J. Miller after J. Stewart.
Wellcome Images; Creative Commons

While Our Lady as Star of the Sea has ever been the protectress of all sailors, St. Nicholas has in a special sense been the patron of fishing towns. Many caves along the coast of France have been used as chapels in which both the Blessed Virgin and St. Nicholas have had especial honour.

Formerly it was considered a token of great good fortune when mackerel fleets could arrange to start out on May day; and the sailors took delight in decorating May day garlands. When the mackerel nets, with floats attached, were thrown into the water the sailors would sing;
Watch, barrel, watch, mackerel for to catch!
White may they be like a blossom on a tree!
God send thousands, one, two and three!
Some by their heads, some by their tails
God sends thousands, and never fails.
Then the captain would cry “Seas all!” and over the nets would go.

Ships of olden time often bore an image of Our Lady as a figure head. With her leading them they never lacked courage to fare out into the wide waste of waters.
“Catholic Bulletin

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