Bow-Tow, a Newhaven Story

June to October 2014

“Oh weel may the boat row
An muckle may she speed…”

The Boatie Rows, John Ewen (1741 1821)

To be Bow-Tow is to be Newhaven. In the same way a Cockney is particular to London, to be Bow-Tow is to be born and bred in the village. The exact meaning has been lost, but in many ways it symbolises the relationship between the men and the woman of Newhaven and the land and the sea. A bond that was at the heart of this historic fishing village.

Co-produced by Vision Mechanics, Bow-Tow, a Newhaven Story presented songs, music and contemporary oral history in the form of a dynamic community performance in the harbour and surrounding village.

The project was inspired by the local tradition of community singing. At work, the ‘street’ songs of the fisherwomen who sold the catch and the newly rediscovered ‘work’ or ‘dreg’ songs of the men, sung when dredging for oysters. For pleasure, the once famous Newhaven Fishwives and Fishergirls’ Choirs.

This heritage was then set alongside multimedia projections in private residences and multiple traditional music performances in public and commercial spaces in the village, including the historic Fisherman’s Church, now a climbing centre.

By inspiring younger, older and new Newhaveners to join together we strengthened community cohesion, while at the same time demonstrating how traditional arts are applicable to contemporary life in a fun and interactive way.



A collection of oral history relating to the meaning of Bow-Tow, a new composition by Hamish Moore as part of the Bow-Tow performance and the Bow-Tow Bell, as part of the Victoria Primary School Collection.



Vision Mechanics, Newhaven Community Choir, Victoria Primary School, the Haven café, Newhaven Heritage, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop.



Creative Scotland and the Leith Neighbourhood Partnership

Online Archive

Keywords: Project, Bow-Tow, Newhaven, Heritage, Community, Folk, Music, Choir


Project Lead: Jed Milroy