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

Posts tagged ‘seaflower’

Chat about Herring,a Migraine and some Contrasts

A couple of days of intense contrasts. Following a phone call from Dundonnel it was off to Kenny’s at Shieldaig where we met up with Sue for a chat about the herring fishing, have to say several people more knowledgable than me from Applecross to talk on the subject.. Although Kenny and I had not a lot of involvement in the actual fisheries it was great to hear some of his stories and that in itself brought back memories about my Dad and the Mary Ann, the ring net boat he was engineer on. Kenny and his brother Dickie went off on trips when they were 7/8 years old and this was for the whole week. The negotiations between his Mum and Dad would have been interesting. His Dad’s boat, the Seaflower, would head of to Stornoway with the four share owners to pick up crew for the season and they were drift netting rather than ring netting. Also these boats did the ground nets in the spring for cod which came in to spawn and feed on the herring eggs laid in great quantities in days of plenty.  Kenny had spent 10 years with the Torry Lab working on fisheries research and what he was say about the herring spawn was fascinating. They used to take sample grabs of gravel and the herring spawn would be a sticky,like frog spawn,layer on top of the gravel. Seems ,like sea-trout and salmon they needed lots of oxygenation, hence the gravel base. Off Melvich,Gairloch and Ballintrae, south end of the Clyde,were two main herring spawning beds. Sue was suggesting that the young herring stayed in the lochs for a year before heading of out and they provided good feeding for the sea-trout population which following the herring collapse has also to a large extent disappeared. Descriptions of the spotless and warm focs’le where up to seven men ate and slept reminded me of trips over to Applecross from Kyle to the communions here. We were allowed down below and it was great us young guys messing about on the way home down below free from supervision and away from the pressures of the day’s church attendance. The trust and camaraderie of these men can only be imagined and the pressures on the skippers to find the fish to pay for their crew and families must have been great. My conversations with Hector in Kyle were remembered, he was also on the Mary Ann. Some of the stories had a bit of regret as well with my Dad telling me that they should not have caught the “mazy” herring, the herring that had not spawned. And Hector landing beautiful silver darlings for fish meal and in some cases dumped when they could not sell the herring but got paid the subsidy. My saturday lunches in August in the 70s I remember well, salt herring well boiled served with Kerrs Pinks, jackets bursting open. A great way to spend two and a half hours on a wet and windy Friday morning. The only drawback was my developing headache which I can control for a certain period of time but always wins out.

Off to Sarah’s for a pre planned massage and after warning her about my delicate health I only managed about half an hour before admitting I had a full blown migraine under way. After a visit to the bathroom and another attempt from Sarah I had to admit defeat and accept the kind offer of a lie down. To cut a long story short six hours later after a period of excruciating intense pain and lots of stomach upset I now know I can drive over the Hill with one hand and hold my head in the other. It did take an hour. What I will always remember is the sympathy and care people express when you are in trouble up here. Offers to stay in Shiedaig, offers to drive me home, looking after Dougal and family, even wishing they had a magic sympathy wish to cure me. I have to say that thinking about all this on the way home it was quite overwhelming and fits in with what I think is ultimate community spirit. People do care, we may disagree but we care. The one thing I would say in favour of migraines or like pain you know what ultimate pain is and you sympathise so much more easily when you come across other people’s pain.You also experience the intense relief when you come through. Maybe that sums up the wonder of life. Loved the comment this morning that my public image took a bit of a beating “being laid horizontal in Shieldaig Thai massage parlour for six hours”. Past the Hall where there was a busy AppleX factor taking place. It sounded a great night out and seems there is lots of talent here, singing, poetry and Chris with Emily taking the prize of the night.

The day after a migraine reminds me why I do not drink any more. Today is what it used to feel like the day after a hangover and a couple of good chats today and a good walk with Dougal and family on the Forgotten” walk although there were contrasts there as well when Dougal and his Mum decided to disappear and go off hunting hopefully mice and other rodents but suspect they may have taken a fancy to some venison on the hoof. They did appear after 20 mins and seeing I am no dog whisperer it was a smack followed by a relieved pat and hug, hope they understood, means they will be tired when I am out to work tonight. Although there are still lots of local politics rumbling on with another letter from the Trust and residents making sure the ACC is in line, which I take as good in that there is interest in what we do going to take a break on this. I think most people are getting excited on the news about broadband which is seeping out locally. We have to wait for national announcements before making it official but suffice to say it is all good. Nice views of clachan from the “Forgotten Path”

The colours even this late in the year are still so vivid. In the photo below there is much community and personal history. From the left is the Clachan manse then the Heritage Centre and the Clachan church and gave yard where my gentle grandparents are lying….much gentler than me I have to say .

Aron’s homemade ice cream and lots of good fun.

The last three evenings were spent at the Inn and it is still busy but with the high level of compliments on the food and atmosphere it is little wonder people keep coming. On all the nights we had people waiting for tables but no-one minded as they saw the quality of the food being served as they waited their turn. Over the summer having learnt a lot from the master you see that some people do not want to share a table, some want to eat in the bar, residents have priority, as it’s a bar people should be allowed to relax over a drink after their meal no matter how busy and you do not get wound up by anything. It is so different from the scared fisherman in April working front of house. But and it is a big but I have had one of the best teachers and I have another big advantage… I love working there. Where else do you cater for a wedding party at one end of the bar, Hazel, sister, mum and dad with strong connections to Applecross in particular Cruary and Toscaig. The rest of the bar is full of people on holiday or night out. Hazel’s grandfather used to work for the Estate and granny,living in Toscaig knew some of our boys growing up there. One of the wedding friends was a bit taken aback when I said I thought she was from Lewis (for me not a hard accent to recognise) and asked how on earth I knew that to which the response was the same way I know some-one who comes from America. Bit of amusement. Lovely day for the wedding on Saturday and another busy night. I love the range of conversations Brian, Steph and friends over from Shieldaig meant there was some sailing and Olympics, as Brian was just back from Weymouth, crewing on the Seaflower. Then you are deep in a discussion with Andrea about fishing politics and community responses to local fishing problems. We seem to on the point of forming a Federation of static gear men that will cover the whole of the Scottish coastline. This should give us a stronger political voice and counteract some of the disinformation that can emanate from the larger more established fishing sectors. Nice to see the couple from Elgin and the Black Isle who were over on the third anniversary of their honeymoon sitting in the same seat they were in three years ago. Talking to the guys from Vancouver of my trip out there three years ago with Mike,chatting to people from Germany, Paris and Amsterdam as well as having a good shinty banter with the head ghillie of the river Beauly. Coming from Kiltarlity we both know of relations and friends across the Highlands. So many people come from this area,Dingwall,Inverness and even further on a day trip which includes Sunday lunch at the Inn. Can’t forget the drama speaker from Washington D.C. who came in late on Saturday evening to devour a magnificent seafood platter. saw the Bealach na Ba in the National Geographic and decided to head this way before going to his conference in Edinburgh today. The Geordie ,now living in Kilmarnock, could not have been more complimentary about his food, it would have been hard not to as he had Halibut, Langoustine and Scallops on his plate. And this is just three shifts!!!

On top of this I am really excited about a new range of ice creams that have just gone onto the dessert menu. Aron has been making these over the past couple of months and only have been sold by word of mouth and only when you remember to mention to customers. Asked Judith if it was ok to put on the board and of course it was. Aron’s homemade ice creams, I suspect, will be a feature going by staff and first customer reactions last night. The range is wide and varied , from Kraken rum and raisin, rhubarb and stem ginger,black cherry and golden syrup to name but a few. I have tried them all and find then very easy to sell. This ticks all my boxes, a guy who moves from one end of the country to Applecross because he and his partner want to, keeps his passion in food going and may eventually find a niche that may take him places never envisaged. I think this could be an Applecross product that will be talked about in the same way our venison, langoustine, squat lobsters and crab are enthused about. I know now what Sarah meant when she was a little dismissive of my enthusiasm about Mackies honeycomb ice cream a couple of weeks ago in the shop. Looking at the photo I am almost heading back up the road for some more. As I don’t have a staff drink I think it will now have to be a couple of scoops of Aron’s

Almost forgot, Azerbaijan arrived on Saturday, taking the total to 69 visiting.

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