I don’t know a lot about fishing, but what I do know, is that the longer fishermen are sat around between tows, the less money they’re earning…

On Wednesday morning, our third day out, the mood was low – for the first couple of days out on Mizpah, the hauls of fish had been less than bountiful; the crew were on the processing deck, sorting and gutting fish, for as little as 20-minutes after some hauls. I’d been speaking to Ross through messages during the weeks leading up to my trip, and I knew they’d been bringing in some big catches, so I kept out of the way – I didn’t want the crew telling each other that I’m a Jonah…not that I’d have been able to understand if they were.

Three Shetlanders – David, Ross and Bobby; and two Latvians – Sergei and Roman. I couldn’t understand the Latvians when they spoke to each other, because I don’t speak Latvian. Roman spoke very little, but I could chat with Sergei, easily, when he spoke English. Then there were the three Scots…Now, is the dialect spoken on Shetland classed as a completely separate language? Because it should be. When David, Ross and Bobby talked between themselves, or on the phone, I could bearly make out a single intelligible word of English. It’s a beautiful dialect, don’t get me wrong, soft and lilting with a touch of Scandinavian in the accent. It’s just not English.
Later that day, spirits on Mizpah improved dramatically with the arrival of a much larger catch. The skipper watched the cod end net burst open, and the hundreds of fish cascade through the hatch into the processing deck below, he then turned to me, slapped me on the shoulder, smiled, and said something…I’ve just no idea what?


  1. Your dedication and commitment to this project should be an inspiration to everyone. I find your images to be extremely emotive, it’s really like ‘being there’. Great writing too πŸ™‚ x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Something that always comes out in your work is your compassion, empathy and understanding of the lives of fishermen. “I’ve never met a fisherman I didn’t like” – yes, because there’s never been a fishermen who met you and didn’t like you. Admirable work, Mr Kneen. I’m sure Hannah is very proud of you πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Phil I’m on a netter that goes out of Ullapool. We do 10 day trips back to back for a month, just landing catch whenever we need to. Would love to have you onboard with us for a while if its something you’d be up for? We are a laid back crew, good food and stores πŸ™‚


  4. Beautiful images, Phil. I love how this project has progressed over the years and I’m really enjoying the writing too. I need to get my camera out! πŸ™‚


  5. I’ve seen your a lot over the last few months through social media – you’re doing a great job, Phil. It’s very important that the fishing industry is documented in this way.
    If you’re ever near Aberdeen, I’d love to meet up for a chat and a beer 😊


  6. From experience, after reading ‘The Russian’ and other essays, I guessing you aren’t a formally trained writer? This would seem to be an insult, but it’s quite the opposite – your writing is excellent and has had all the purity of thought trained out of it. Trained writers make boring writers. Your work is far from boring πŸ™‚


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