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

Posts tagged ‘St Kilda’

Meeting my first St Kildan.

Mainly from a comment from Neil King saying that St Kilda was evacuated in 1930 and not 1936, I think I got the 36 from the number of evacuees, Alison checked up a few things and it turns out I was indeed speaking to Dougie Munro, the son of Dugald Munro, teacher and missionary, on the island. I had left it that he was indeed the last child conceived on the island and was not doubting his word but this confirmation sort of makes it more real. He was born only a few weeks after the evacuation, lived in Kyleakin, went to Portee school and then headed off to London at 17. All this he had told me yesterday. A little coincidence in that  I am reading a novel of St Kilda life in the 1830s.

This was a happier coincidence than when I was speaking to a couple from a village not far from Applecross. I mentioned some one I knew there and it immediately got  a laugh as he was a partner with that person for quite a few years. Went off to serve some one and came back to the conversation where I mentioned another name and another extra ordinary connection when I said that it was sad the guy I knew, the last time I saw him he was home for his brother’s funeral, where the lady said yes it was a bad time as her sister was killed in the same car!!!. Questions and conversations take you where you least expect sometimes.

Glass calm day’s fishing and although the catch pretty poor, it was still enjoyable, being sunny and warm. Nothing much to report apart from the full range of sea birds, from disappearing razorbills


to cheeky fulmars.


Applecross Primary goes to Sea

Early start as a hydraulic pipe had to be changed before nipping out to set up a little string of creels for some very important guests due to arrive at 9.30am. Yet another peaceful start to the day with a little mist lingering.


Changing the pipe confirms why I am no engineer, job done in just under half an hour while I am sure it was really a five-minute issue. So it was out to the creels to make sure all was well and then in to the pier to await the kids. Six turned up with teach and a couple of parents and of out we went. Only out to east of Saint Island or to give its Gaelic name Eilean nam Naoimh. This is where it is traditionally thought that Saint Maelrubha spent his first night in Applecross.

There was a fair bit of excitement aboard but all was under control with life jackets and cautionary words. We hauled two crab pots but the crab fishing is really poor just now and only had one fairly small specimen to show them and Zoe had already caught a massive one with her Dad. Certainly fishing potential there for telling fisherman’s tales.


The prawn creels were far more interesting with a variety of crabs, shore/green, velvet, spider, and swimmer crabs. A wee cuttle fish made an appearance alongside several dog whelks of various shapes and sizes. The catfish raised the interest levels, A few star fish also found their way in, both common and thorn. Mysteriously a big prawn was in each of the creels but they did not create too much interest.


They seemed to enjoy it and back alongside the jetty I was asked a series of very intelligent questions. Afterwards I found the first question the most difficult to answer.” Why did you want to become a fisherman?”.


When I left school I joined a creel boat for 6 months before going to Edinburgh and it was a job. several of my holidays I was back on board boats and still never gave it a thought that I would be one. Coming back to Applecross with little or no useful skills it was back to sea, this during Maggie’s first big recession. Then bought my first boat still with not a lot of forethought and a mix of single-handed fishing and buying/building a bigger boat had me struggling on. It was only with the Varuna and major changes in life style saw me immersing myself in the environment of fishing and really trying to fish sustainably. I always feel that I have fallen into what I do. The one thing that has stuck in my mind, twenty-five or so years ago an elderly neighbour told me “the sea was in my blood” It took me another fifteen years to recognise her perceptive remark. Maybe she knew she was on safe ground with my Dad, grandfather and uncle all spending time at sea.

Quick trip up the road where Mike was leaving with another group and the mist slowly burning off. Dropped off the borrowed buoyancy aids.


The late morning and afternoon were spent in the garden resowing beetroot, starting off more broad beans and peas. watering and weeding. Despite all the nurturing I do I often find nature just gets on with it as this example on the wall. You would not think there was much nutrition up there.


Absolutely glorious weather all day into the evening and it was off up to the Inn after falling asleep and missing out on a Camusteel barbecue. Busy, busy evening and although must have walked miles back and fro to the Garden where the majority of people were eating felt a lack of connection with the customers. It was busy and every one enjoyed the fare on offer. It was the turn of the kitchen to get panned as there were so many more seats to feed. Strange how weather affects a shift, poor weather and front of house is spinning trying to find a seat for the customers.

Today starts with a prawn delivery and very noisy birds, followed by a full on shift. Not knowledgable on the subject so have no idea what was making the noise.


Calm still morning on the way to the Inn.


We call them relentless but enjoyable with lots of good connections. Met a guy who claimed he was conceived on St Kilda. Quite feasible going by his age and knowing the evacuation took place in 1936. Lochcarron, Germany and Inverness turned up today to get fed, well it seemed like it at five when I headed for Toscaig with Aron and the dogs to clear my croft for ploughing as a precursor to sowing the meadow. Sara and Aron live in my grandfather’s old house and he would not recognise it now. It was the other night I noticed how lovely it looks and thought the camera would have to come down next trip. The wooden end is being renovated and is going to be an ice cream parlour, possibly the first here.


So now it is some oatcake, followed by some rum and raisen and a new wonderful raspberry ice-cream courtesy of Aron.

Fishing future,the Inn and a little Bees.

Just read a report from the New Economic Foundation about how inefficient our fishing methods are and how far we are from sorting it out. Although the report concentrates on white fish and pelagic fisheries I see the same happening on our prawn stocks. The report suggests that if we take measures to get the stocks of fish and shellfish back to a level which is a maximum sustainable yield then everyone from fishermen to buyers and all connected on the shore make more money than they are doing just now and more people will be involved in the fishery. The present situation of catching more than is being replaced by the stock is unsustainable but every-one both at sea and people in power seem unable to take action until yet another stock disappears from view. The report uses the word ‘restore’ and I remember we tried to put that into a management plan for our inshore fisheries future. We had to take out the word because other fishing association leaders objected to the unscientific nature of the word. Unfortunately I had not read this report as the science is there to back up the use of the word ‘restore’. One suspects that the opposition to the word restore rests in the fear that their members would have to suffer some short-term pain, that is lose some earnings, in the hope that stocks will recover. When you look at the Applecross Inn,one of the best west coast eating establishments, specialising in seafood, what a shame that all the white fish comes from the east coast. It is a pity but I see no long-term future for fishing in Applecross if we stay on our current track. One of the more troubling developments in recent years is the fact that by putting back the berried prawns you can no longer make a viable living from the fishery. Up till now you could argue that I was making a good wage while still returning the berried females and you could argue with other fishermen that this is good fishing practice. I do not think that is the case now and that is why I now work part-time at the Inn and am fortunate Alison has a two-year contract. So unless there a policing policy introduced then it will not happen on a voluntary basis. The brief spell of good fishing has already tailed of here. The other missing link is that we do not seem to catch for the market but go out and catch whether the demand is there or not.

On a lighter note work at the Inn is going well. Was there the last couple of days where the Easter trade has started up and the Inn is full of happy diners. A couple of shifts lined up over the next couple of days and the staff numbers are reaching full complement as the boys come back from South Africa. It does seem that the Inn is not being too badly affected by the general down turn in the economy but this is not accident in that there has been a huge amount of hard work gone into building up a loyal and sustainable trade over the last 23 years. Spoke to Kenny and Gemma for a while last night. they came down with leaflets for the Torridon sea tours, although it may have just been an excuse to have some good food. Booked a trip this summer to the Shiants an ambition second only to going to St Kilda.

Turning thoughts to bees again as the weather and the time of year means the beekeepers will be having their first look at their hives. We are hoping to get 3 nuclei from Colonsay. Toying with the idea taking Dougal and co with me and camping overnight. Hope the winter was not too harsh and the keeper has some bees for sale.

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