Recipes from Scotland 1680s to 1940s

Fish and shellfish

Cod and oysters

In the mid-19th century, the main towns — especially those close to the coast — had specialist fish shops.

Andrew Walker of Bowland bought his fish from Edinburgh fishmonger Gillfillan Reid in 1841. As well as his shop in Queen Street, Gillfillan Reid had a stall in the town's Fish Market.

Oysters appeared regularly on Gillfillan Reid's bill.

They were then plentiful and cheap and enormous numbers were consumed by rich and poor alike. The wealthy ate them on their own or served in sauces as accompaniments.

Edinburgh's oyster taverns were notorious, until over-fishing led to dwindling stocks. Oyster gauges were introduced to regulate the size of oysters harvested.

This had little effect, and oysters are now a luxury.

'What desperate breedy beasts eisters [oysters] must be for they tell me that Embro [Edinburgh] devours a hunner thousand a day'
— 'Noctes Ambrosiana', John Wilson writing about Edinburgh in 1822. [Library reference: Saltoun 1416-1427]

Fishmonger's bill with fish illustration

Fishmonger Gillfillan Reid's bill to Andrew Walker, 1841. [Library reference: MS.13967, f.46]
View zoomable image

Fish and shellfish