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A fishmonger in Pike Place Market on the waterfront of Seattle

A fishmonger (fishwife for women practitioners - "wife" in this case used in its archaic meaning of "woman") is someone who sells raw fish and seafood. Fishmongers can be wholesalers or retailers, and are trained at selecting and purchasing, handling, gutting, boning, filleting, displaying, merchandising and selling their product. In some countries modern supermarkets are replacing fishmongers who operate in shops or fish markets.

Worshipful Company of Fishmongers[edit]

A 16th-century fishmongers stall. Bartolomeo Passarotti

The fishmongers guild, one of the earliest guilds, was established in the City of London by a Royal Charter granted by Edward I shortly after he became king in 1272. Partnership with foreigners was forbidden and the sale of fish was tightly controlled to ensure freshness and restrain profit, which was limited to one penny in the shilling. Nevertheless, the guild grew rich and, after Edward's victory over the Scots, was able to make a great show, including one thousand mounted knights.[1]

During the reign of Edward II, the political power of the fishmongers waned and Parliament decreed that no fishmonger could become mayor of the city. This was soon rescinded though and their wealth increased further so that, during the reign of Edward III, the guild could provide £40 to the war against the French, this being a great sum at that time.[1]

The guild was then reformed by Great Charter as the Mystery of the Fishmongers of London. They were given a monopoly over the crying and selling of fish and they regulated the catching of fish in the Thames which teemed with fish such as salmon at that time.[1] The guild still continues today as one of the Great Twelve City Livery Companies.


The tools used by fishmongers include:[2]

  • pliers to pull out pinbones
  • a fish scaler to remove scales
  • a filleting knife to cut away the flesh from the bones
  • short strong knives for opening oysters and other shellfish
  • protective gloves
  • a curved knife for gutting and removing roe

Fishmongers in culture[edit]

In many countries, the fishwife was proverbial for her sharp tongue and outspoken speech. In Medieval France, the ones in Paris were known for their special privilege of being able to speak frankly to the King himself, when he ventured into the marketplace, and voice criticism without fear of punishment.

Molly Malone is a character from a popular Irish song about a young fishwife who tragically dies at a young age.

Charles Fort in his book Lo! compiles the story of the Mad Fishmonger or "St. Fishmonger", which later may or may not appear in the Schrödinger's Cat Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson. St. Fishmonger allegedly caused crabs and periwinkles to fall from the sky.

In the English translation of the Asterix series, the village fishmonger is called Unhygienix. In the film The Beach, the Island's chef has only fish as a source of meat, and is named Unhygienix in reference to the Asterix character.

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, some contend that the word fishmonger was a euphemism for a "fleshmonger," or pimp.[3][4][5]

Historic fishmongers[edit]


  1. ^ a b c John Timbs (1865), "Curiosities of the Fishmongers' Hall", Walks and talks about London, Lockwood 
  2. ^ "A few good tools", The Fishmonger's Apprentice, p. 19 
  3. ^ Steve Roth, Hamlet: The Undiscovered Country, 2009
  4. ^ Hamlet's Puns and Paradoxes, Click Notes
  5. ^ Shaaber MA (1971) "Polonius as Fishmonger" Shakespeare Quarterly, 22 (2).


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fishmonger — Please support Wikipedia.
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893 news items

Irish Examiner
Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:19:40 -0700

The country's best known fishmonger, Cork's English Market trader Pat O'Connell, and his tailor, Eddie Mullins of Fitzgerald Menswear on St Patrick's St, made a joint donation to Marymount University Hospital and Hospice following Pat's trip to ...
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:41:15 -0700

The popular vendor of seafood from the Hollywood Farmers Market, Sea Fever, was arrested on Sunday on several charges, which will probably market goers even more skeptical of the food they purchase. Game wardens from the California Department of ...

Daily Mail

Daily Mail
Tue, 01 Apr 2014 10:15:33 -0700

A 13-year-old girl who slapped a fishmonger in the face with a large sea bream has been let go by police after she apologised. The teenager was captured smiling on CCTV moments before the bizarre fish-slapping incident at an Asda store in Accrington, ...

Gloucester Citizen

Gloucester Citizen
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 07:11:39 -0700

POPULAR fishmonger Malcolm Smith says he is considering quitting Eastgate Market in favour of a market which has headhunted him – as the row deepens over whether the market should move or stay. Eastgate Market traders are being presented with three ...

Irish Examiner

Irish Examiner
Tue, 25 Mar 2014 19:38:44 -0700

Cork's best-known fishmonger, Pat O'Connell, was thinking of his mother as he once again shared a few words with the Queen of England — but this time he was at her pad, namely Buckingham Palace. The cheeky Corkman was one of some 350 Irish people ...
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 03:09:15 -0700

An official clears fish from the Olympiakos benches Police in Thessaloniki said on Thursday that they arrested a 36-year-old man who they believe was behind an incident at Wednesday evening's Paok-Olympiakos game during which Paok fans splattered the ...
New Zealand Herald
Thu, 10 Apr 2014 09:18:45 -0700

Two of the Warriors' most diehard fans have expressed dismay at the saga embroiling the club following the departure of coach Matt Elliott on Monday. Peter Leitch, aka the Mad Butcher, and Bob Lovett, owner of Remuera Fisheries, have taken aim at ...

Surrey Comet

Surrey Comet
Wed, 02 Apr 2014 01:35:31 -0700

Surrey Comet: Terry Evans in Cheam where he sold fresh fish from Hastings Terry Evans in Cheam where he sold fresh fish from Hastings. A much-loved fishmonger who sold fresh fish from his van for 30 years hung up his apron for the final time last week.

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