IN DECEMBER, when we were discussing weighty matters like whether you pronounced the w in Runswick Bay, we used a 1955 picture of some wonderful “Runnie” women wearing their bonnets.

Win Craig from Staithes gets in touch to say that the women were actually from Staithes, the fishing village that is the true home of the east coast bonnet.

“I knew the ladies well,” says Win. “From the left, Mrs Hannah Theaker, who lived in Gun Gutter, middle Mrs Florrie Verrill, who lived just off The Barrass, and Mrs Mary Verrill who lived in The Barrass.”

Gun Gutter, says Win, who has lived in Staithes since she was born in 1934, gets its name from the “gurn”, a Gaelic word for a stream, which now runs under the tarmac and out beneath the Cod and Lobster pub. Barrass is a Nordic word for an enclosed area.

But what about the distinctive bonnets? What was the point of those?

“I was told that they were worn when the women carried the baited fishing lines on their heads to the cobles,” says Win. “They carried them on big wicker trays, made out of hazels.”

The lines could be up to 170ft long with 70 hooks each of which the women baited with mussels.

“When I stayed with my grandmother, I’d get up in the morning, and the women would be skeining the mussels in the kitchen with a tin bath in the middle of the floor,” says Win. By skeining, she means the mussels were opened and prised from their shells, which were then tossed into the bath.

The mussels were then put on the hooks ready to be carried to the boats on the wicker trays on their heads.

“The bonnets would stop any water from the mussels trickling down their necks,” says Win.