Life at the end of the road

May 24, 2009

In search of the ‘silver darlings’

Filed under: boats — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 6:39 am

It’s Saturday evening now and who knows when I’ll finish this post, it’s been juggling about in my head for 3 weeks now but with illness and one thing and another it kept getting put on the back burner. I suppose really it started much longer ago, 20 years in fact when I first met Murdo Nicolson from Torran and he told me riveting stories of his days ‘ring netting’ for herring on board the fishing boat Johan from Lochcarron, at the the time they were just that interseting tales of the sea but as the years pass, I meet more and more people from these yarns and events in them  like daring rescues at sea and once in a century storms cement all the memories together into a priceless mosaic and I wish my memory was better 😦 Murdo has long since passed away taking with him many tales, but the Johan has returned! not to Raasay but to Kyleakin.

The Johan was built in 1949 at J N Millars of St Monans in Fife for I think the Macrae family in Lochcarron as a ‘ring netter’ for herring and for many years was crewed by men from Fladda and the north end of Raasay. As far as I knew she’d been de commisioned and broken up years ago like most of her generation of sturdy wooden craft built after the war. So I was somwhat surprised when one Saturday about 3 weeks ago Calum Gillies a former crewman, resident of Fladda and father of one of my shipmates was going to visit her on Skye! Apparantly after spending years as a houseboat in Brighton she’d finaly returned home.

The weather was rubbish and the owner got called away so Calum never got aboard her (yet) but he spoke with tremendous pride and affection about his old boat. The boat infront on the beach being the ‘clam diving’ boat ‘Sabre II’ of Kyle, a more different fishing method it is hard to imagine!

I had intended to go and see the Johan for myself but ended up in my bed so I’m much indebted to John Allan Gillies for these pictures. It was for this type of fishing that Louis boat, ‘Golden Emblem’ was built by yet another east coast yard.

Built by Watts of Macduff in 1958 with dimensions of 49′ 9″ x 16′ x 6′ 2″ or 15.2 x 4.9 x 1.9m in new money 🙂 for the MacBain family of Lochinver. This is her in the 1970s and whilst she still looks like she was rigged for netting she could well have been fishing for prawn with creels as I see there are some on the pier at the left of the picture which was taken at her regular berth in Lochinver.I have  Dave, one of the owners sons to thank for this photo and lots of background info as well as the one below taken shortly after her launch.

I showed these to Calum whilst he was on the ferry heading for Kyle and he remembers her well from his days at sea. It also brought forward more memories of ‘Misty Isle’, ‘Caberfeidh’ and ‘Seaflower’

from my ex skipper Willie Eyre who served on yet another ‘ringer’, the ‘Maryann’ pictured above, built again by Millars of Fife she sadly ended her days by striking one of the many rocks in the Sound of Harris and sinking.

I could spend all day surfing the net looking for pictures and info on these fine boats, the ‘Misty Isle’ is still afloat somewhere, in a museum I think but it’s now after 7:00am and the farm yard is calling. Apart from the slight headache induced by my first glass (or two) of red wine last night in well over a week I’m almost back to normal (whatever that is) so whilst this post is nowhere near as long as I’d intended and probably contains loads of inaccuaracies it will have to do for now.

And for those with no interest in boats I’m sorry so here’s a picture taken at 21:00 last night of the old homestead at Arnish on what was my first walk in over a week. It was also the first time that the rain had stopped in over 12 hours, or at least stopped long enough to remove oilskins.


  1. Thoroughly absorbing post, Paul. These old fishing boats with their sweet sheer and (canoe stern?) are beautiful shapes for the sea. Things that evolved the way they are to do their job instead of suit a fashion, I suppose, which is not the way these days. How strongly built too – larch, oak?

    Comment by Rambling Rob — May 24, 2009 @ 1:13 pm

  2. Great to see you’re getting back to full strength.
    We were worried about you and Wifey having to put up with her Man having a bout of the “notsowells”
    Loved the pics of Louis Boat, haven’t heard anything about him or his Goose called Duck lately. Hope he’s well.

    Comment by chrisb — May 24, 2009 @ 4:59 pm

  3. Glad you’re up and about again Paul. Take care not to over do things.

    Comment by Rienza — May 24, 2009 @ 6:24 pm

    • Morning Rienza, feeling pretty much 100% now thanks and Chris don’t worry we’ve not strangled each other yet, though I start my 3 weeks holiday on Wednesday and I don’t think we’ve ever been alone up here together for 5 weeks!

      Hi Rob,
      glad you enjoyed the post, wish I could have wrote more, ‘Reaper’ FR958 was in Portree the other day but I was too ill to go and visit and she left for Stornoway on Friday so I missed her. I think she’s the last sailing herring drift netter afloat. Your dead right, larch on oak, they just don’t make them like that anymore!

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — May 25, 2009 @ 4:31 am

  4. Hi Paul. Glad to hear you’re feeling better. I was on Raasay last week and was looking forward to meeting you, but I heard you were not feeling well when I was in Portree and everywhere in between. Maybe next time or whenever you make it to California!Had a great time walking your beautiful island.

    Comment by Morgan — May 25, 2009 @ 3:15 pm

    • Hi Morgan,

      gutted that I never got to meet you but glad you enjoyed your walks on Raasay.

      Take care, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — May 26, 2009 @ 9:22 pm

  5. hey paul glad your back to health. the dreaded man flu!! lovely boat they sure dont make them like that any more. and after seeing the serene wood is def the way to go. if you can afford it. sorry i havent sent them pics ive got some real good ones from edinbane wind farm the other day with my mates big camera so will get them to you this week. thinking abiout a camping weekend over your way soon neil

    Comment by neil w — May 25, 2009 @ 10:03 pm

    • Hi Neil,

      You come here and watch the pigs and we’ll go to ‘Rockness’ 🙂

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — May 26, 2009 @ 9:24 pm

  6. ha ha. would love too! lack of funds has put a damper on rockness this year unfortunately. neil

    Comment by neil w — May 27, 2009 @ 7:30 am

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