A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland

Down Memory Lane

Memories appeared through a posting on my timeline, Dauntless Star, alongside the pier. The following photos are all courtesy of Allan Flett and are posted on a Facebook group page West coast Fishing Boats (Past and Present).https://www.facebook.com/groups/703557696334874/.

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1977, I first went to sea in February of that year and worked down the Sound of Sleat and up Loch Hourn. We used to go on wee two-day trips in the Spring when we would haul 800 creels from the North and then anchor at the head of the main loch at Barrisdale before heading back to Kyle the next morning hauling from the other direction. The Golden Rule used to work down there as well and a little bit of completion as well was involved. Used to land over 20 stones per day on most of these trips although the fishing would take off around may time. When you think that is around 130 kilos and the creels were hauled every day it is an indication as to where the fishing is today. That was a time for growing up quickly , although still had my dad as an alarm clock to get me up at 5.30am and then it was day in day out. There were very few days we missed for weather. Always remember one day going through the narrows at Kylerea, a reasonable forecast but still blowing a gale from the south-west with a following tide going south….result pyramid waves. Probably the most worried I have ever been at sea, and I probably did not realise the severity of the conditions, was a trip south in the Dauntless, as feeling well queasy and down below with Big Don, we topped a wave and went down and kept going down into the trough, that was when I saw Don’s white knuckles clutching the bench and heard him questioning him the wisdom of his skipper. Aside from that I learned not to be seasick as there were no prisoners taken with lots of vivid descriptions,usually of colourful food, to help me on the way and no stopping so had to time my hanging over the gunwale in between the creels that kept coming across the deck.

Also on the Facebook site I found photos of the Mary Ann, which was part owned and skippered by Iain Ali Bheag who was one of the two survivors from TB ravaged Coillie Ghillie.

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My dad was engineer on board and a few cran were caught  by these boats mainly in the 50s and 60s. I remember my dad coming ashore, I think in 71, and the Mary Ann was sold not long after.

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In fact one of the biggest ringnet”shots” of herring was caught in Toscaig off Camus na Ba. There was a far stronger Applecross/Kyle connection in those  days, indeed the west coast was a lot closer as  boats would call in to ports to pick up crew before heading out to the fishing grounds. Over the years the Mary Ann had a mix of crew and possibly the last of that generation still here will be Eachann (Hector) from Kyle.

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There were younger boys who crewed just at the end of the ringnet era. Technology usurped the ringnet in the form of the purse seine net and it is more of an industrial type of fishery. We have not learned to mix the technological advances with the spawning biomass of the stocks. We have the capability to wipe everything out but have to regulate ourselves or be regulated. One reason I do not believe in neo-liberal free market ideas, not that they exist anyway. Possibly an anecdotal tale but a Hearach on one of the early holidays to the Balearics was down at the shore met with local fishermen and exchanged tales of their fisheries. Being involved in the herring boom was explaining how technology in the form of echo sounders helped them catch the shoals of silver darlings. Olden days they chased the fire, looking out for the phosphorescent plankton the herring were feeding on. The conversation came to a conclusion when the locals asked how the herring fishery was getting on now to which the reply was “Oh it is closed down because it has been over fished.” A sagely nodding of the head and the suggestion that maybe they will do with out echo sounders.

Comments on: "Down Memory Lane" (5)

  1. A truly beautiful part of the world, and a beautifully written slice from your life. Thanks for sharing it

  2. Fascinating stuff! And talking of the old days and overfishing: back in the 1980s I remember the fleet of rusty Russian ships moored off Ullapool. What were they fishing after in those days? Haddock or what? And why haven’t they been back? Not that I miss them, mind ya…

    Cheers!

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      The “klondykers” were processing mackerel caught by the purse seine fleet. Extra ordinary times it must have been in Ullapool.

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      The end of the cold war and trade agreements way above my head along with changes in the mackerel shoals, moving north so Ullapool was too far to land the fish. A couple of reasons why things moved on.

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