• Eric Smith
  • Sandy Sutherland
Location:
Buckie
Date:
Friday 5th December 2008
Reference:
SWI2008/019

Simon:

How far back do your families go in this area and with the fishing? Do you know?

     

Eric:

Good question. We’re back to the eighteenth century I suppose. Smiths, aye. Just through the heritage, going back, I’m just looking at the ships as ... Being people that’s been lost, families that’s been lost. Aye. Just ... (inaudible) ...

Sandy:

Well, I can still remember both my grandfathers and they were both fishermen but I haven’t done anything about further back than that. I actually went to sea first with my grandfather, that was my mother’s father, during the war. He’d a small boat in Portsoy and I think I was nine when he took me out because we were allowed to go out and fish for mackerel in the bay. During the first, ‘41-42, we had to be in the house by eight o’clock at night. We were only allowed out for a wee while but we caught mackerel. See a pound a box for it, it was good. Then we went to lobster. We used to set creels for lobsters. That’s when I started really, I suppose. Cos my father was away at the war. He was in the merchant navy so he never came home till 1947. That’s when he took me off of school and I started in May 1947. Cook in a drifter! Always remember the stove was that high I couldn’t lift the broth pot onto the stove. Had to get somebody else to do it because I was only fourteen and two months old.

Simon:

How long were you out when you were out on the drifter?

     

Sandy:

Well, that was night fishing. You sailed late afternoon and you shot the nets about an hour before dark or so. But they aren’t on the move until the sun started going down. And then you shot and then you started hauling about midnight. In the summertime you started hauling about midnight. They’d be no fish finding equipment or anything at that time. I was on a drifter and all they had at the wheel was the steering wheel, the compass.

Simon:

How did people know where to find the fish?

     

Sandy:

Well, I think it had been handed down, you know? Over the years and they just knew that the herring moved ... They used to start off Shetland in June time and they moved, the herring. In the summer was in ... The end of June, July and into August. Straight after that you see? They moved south. The herring used to spawn in August up here and that was the end of there and then they started fishing it at Scarborough and Shields on the way to Yarmouth. And that was October, November fishing.

Simon:

So you’d follow them as they go?

     

Sandy:

Yes. It was a different herring in Yarmouth. The herring grew bigger in the summer here so they used the newer nets and the meshes were a bit bigger but it was caught in nets and they used to shrink. And the old nets you used in Yarmouth because it was smaller for the herring down there. But the Yarmouth fishing was a ... It was a good fishing. A lot of the boats used to get a boost of their ... (inaudible) ... down at Yarmouth. In fact, they depended on Yarmouth for it because the shoals were pretty dense down there. There was a lot of banks down there off Yarmouth and the herring used to ...

Eric:

It was strange. I can remember in shallow waters and one of the ... without the modern aids for fishing, they used to look for seagulls and the water, especially in Yarmouth ... Brown water, ken? Had oil. This was just the aids. They always thought that’s where the herring was. Aye. My experience in starting the fishing is the same as Sandy. Going away to sea, the drifter the Rising Sea, that was the name of the boat. And a cook. As Sandy says, you could hardly lift the pots. It was learned. After two year at that, and one fishing as the fireman. And then the Rising Sea was scrapped and the Sirus ... was built in 1952, it had a motor. That was just left. I was promoted when ... (inaudible) ... A diesel!

Sandy:

When I started as well, in 1947 we had strict rationing, you know? You maybe got beef twice a week, if you were lucky. That was the most you got, depending on other things and I remember if we went ... Lowestoft was my first fishing in Flora Fraser, and when the stores came down on the Saturday they were divided because some ones would’ve used all the sugar in a day! Of course butter used to go on the table and we used to divide. Everybody had little tins that they kept beside their bed.

Eric:

The sugar!

     

Sandy:

Aye. And you got one egg a week and you kept that for Sunday morning breakfast.

     

Eric:

And then we had ...

     

Sandy:

Dried eggs we used to eat.

     

Eric:

Dried eggs. This bucket contains twelve eggs!

     

Sandy:

That’s what we had. And the rationing stayed for a number of years. We were rationing for a number of years after the war and ...

     

Eric:

One of the places that I ... Well, Yarmouth wasn’t so bad, chasing you for ... tripe, the butchers. But Stornoway and one of the coastal ... Stornoway, the butcher had always a great selection of beef. It was strange. But in Ullapool, there’s nothing shown in the butcher’s at Ullapool. You went round the back and you maybe got the bone! You had to watch your coat! (laughs)

Sandy:

We were fishing ... Summer fishing was finished aboard the boat the Flora Fraser and went away to Minch to fish. We went away down to Mallaig, you ken? And we was there for three weeks and we got a good week right enough, and then the news came about the herring were on so we came away to get to Lowestoft. I was in Castle Bay the next day and was short of bread so went away with the ration books to get loafs or whatever we could get with the bread coupons, you know? And I wasnae watching and she cut out this much coupons of my book and then I went away. So we sailed and never realised it and was never back in there again, you ken? It was two or three weeks bread coupons and everything. I had to cope with two loaves. I should have watched!

Eric:

I was saying ... Castle Bay’s one of the most popular villages in Britain! But the worst spent Christmas lying in a tanker in Castle Bay. There was a foot of snow on the deck, I’ll never forget it. Oh dear ... They didn’t believe in Christmas then. It was more Hogmanay, coming home for Hogmanay.

Sandy:

We used to hang our stockings up on New Year’s Night. You never bothered wi’ Christmas. Even when I went with my father, just saying that, for years and years. We went to sea on Christmas. The only break we got was couple of days at New Year. It’s the only break we got.

Eric:

I was married on Boxing Day, Simon. That’s about all the time you were at home. And we sailed on the New Year’s Day. Just the way of the world eh?

Sandy:

Ah well you see, when I was courting ... See, Emily wanted a June wedding and I said: “Well, I dinnae ken boot that, let me see the boss!” And he just said: “Well, you’ll either get married when we stop for relief in the summer time or else when we stop in New Year.” And the day was coming, it happened to be that the New Year’s Day was on a Thursday. Thursday was it or Friday? Or a Wednesday? I cannae remember but anyway, it fitted in. And the Saturday was the 3rd of January and that’s when we got married, the 3rd of January. Father says: “No, no, you cannae ... (inaudible) ... you’ve gotta ...” And it’s fifty year on the 3rd of January it is! It’s our Golden Wedding on January 3rd.

Eric:

I’m forty-two years married.

     

Sandy:

It was snowing and everything.

     

Eric:

Ah, his wife just accepted it. There’s no fancy honeymoons or that then, Simon. Doon to Edinburgh.

Sandy:

Nae cars or anything like that. And you’d to do ... Your father was the boss and you’d do what you’re told.

Simon:

Were the boats run through families? So would you work on your father’s boat?

     

Sandy:

Aye. Well, I was and Eric was the same.

Eric:

Yes, aye. My father was colourblind, he couldn’t take a ticket. My uncle wasn’t interested, he says: “I’ll never take a ticket.” It was just ... My wife had it planned out before me. A lot of friends went away to deep sea and that kind of things and seen the world but we just put our tickets up and carried on with family business. Aye.

Sandy:

See, there was a period in the 30s and it’s known in fishing circles as the ‘Hungry Thirties’. I mean the drifters brought all the prosperity to this coast. In the 30s things got bad. There was a depression in the country as well and they couldn’t get anything sold and a lot of men had to scrap their boats, sell them for scrap. And the ... (inaudible) ... were driven up on the beaches and just broken up. I remember when I got married I bought a house in Portessie and the family that owned that house, they had a drifter. And the title deeds for the house and all that, they had to bond it to the bank in order to get money to buy food, that’s how bad it was. A lot of them had to do that at that time. So it got really bad in the 30s and my father and them, they scrapped our drifter. And then he eventually went away to the merchant navy in 1936-37 I think it was. And the company he was with, they put him ashore and he took his Master’s Ticket and that, so he was in the merchant navy all the war and he had a bad time while there. But, so he never come home till 1947 and by that time most of the boys that were in the patrol service and different things, they were all home. And the government took out a grant and loan scheme for men that had served in the armed forces or merchant navy during the war to enable them to get boats. By the time he come home, all the rudder books were full so he couldna get a boat so he got a job on the Mary Johnson, a drifter, you see, on the understanding that if a decent second-hand boat came up for sale he was in to get it. Didnae get it, went to Flora Fraser and then the February this boat came up for sale down at Fleetwood. Well, she was Max Glean but she was built at Macduff, a Boy Graham. That’s when he and his brother got it first, the boat. Named it the Bezalel and went to sea in it and after two year we went to herring in the summer for a whiley in Yarmouth. Think it was five years, five times, in Yarmouth.

Eric:

That was a ... (inaudible) ... in Bezalel Sandy. Aye your father, aye.

     

Sandy:

Well, it’s a biblical name you see. My old boy was awful religious. I researched it. Bezalel, he was a member of the tribe of Uri and he was a master craftsman. He worked in precious metal he did. And he was one of the lads that designed the Ark of the Covenant. And also he designed the Menorah, the candlestick that ... That was Bezalel. And that’s ... It says in books or whatever that it means: ‘Under the shadow’. Protection of God really, that’s what it means to ...

Simon:

It’s quite a good name for a fishing boat then.

     

Sandy:

Well, there’s a lot of the boats with religious names, a lot of boats. St. James up the road printed a book of about a hundred names, the biblical names. And that was it.

Simon:

You were saying earlier that in the time of drifters, that a lot of men came off the West Coast? Could you talk about that a bit?

     

Sandy:

Well, in 1912 or 1913, Buckie had the biggest amount of drifters in Scotland. There was over two hundred registered. And, you see, there wasn’t the men here to man that because most of them had nine or ten of crew. So they used to come fae the West Coast, berth up for the summer. I heard my father saying they had one. Well, when I started on the Mary Johnson we had one aboard of the Mary Johnson, Donald. And he just stayed on board all summer and then he went home and I think he went to the Yarmouth fishing wi’ them as well, cos we weren’t there at the time. I also remember he couldn’t read or write. And he used to get letters and I had to read them to him ... Mondays ... He could be short. When you went down on Monday, all the newspapers were there and he could only look at pictures. Couldnae read or write.

Eric:

I remember that.

     

Sandy:

That was 1947.

Eric:

There was a few employed. If you had one or two they used to ... Bad manners. They used to speak in Gaelic. It upset the crew. I remember in Yarmouth, they used to ... I mean, a lot of people used to collect up at the street on Saturday night and just discuss letters or news from home and it was still all the people from the West Coast that all stood and spoke in Gaelic and discussed everything and ...

Sandy:

But when they came ... If a skipper passed them, he gave them a set of oilskins, sea boots and caff-bed see?

     

Eric:

Know what a caff-bed is son?

     

Simon:

No.

     

Eric:

Donkey’s breakfast? (laughs)

     

Sandy:

But when I started it was caff-beds and you went to the farm with this thing and you filled it with chaff.

     

Eric:

And off the corn, ken? The shell off the corn.

     

Sandy:

You went after the thresher.

     

Eric:

This is where you get a good bed.

     

Sandy:

When you first put it under your bunk, you could hardly get in it was so high! But it was a good bed because you used to make your own and the boat was moving a bit it was great. I used to like a caff-bed, I still remember a caff-bed yet. Cosy. And then in came the donkey’s breakfast.

     

Eric:

Donkey’s breakfast, that was just straw in a bag. It wasnae so comfortable as the caff-bed. It wasnae ... (inaudible) ...

     

Simon:

The guys that came over from the West Coast, did they ...? Where did they stay at night when they weren’t on the boats?

     

Eric:

Usually on the boats.

     

Sandy:

Aye, they just stayed on the boat.

     

Simon:

Did women come over or was it just the men? Was it just the men coming for the boats or did the women come for the gutting?

     

Sandy:

Women came, aye. Women came for the gutting as well.

Eric:

Yes, aye. Got Irish girls too.

Sandy:

Aye, they used to come.

     

Eric:

They were fae everywhere. Fae Wick!

Sandy:

See after the Yarmouth fishing and the boats come home ... Not all of them but a lot of them used to go for the winter’s fishing round on the Minch. I heard my father saying that they were down in Ireland one winter, at Buncranoch somewhere. I cannae remember. But they never made anything much in the winter. I remember my father used to say when they came home for the winter fishing, if they cleared their expenses they were one of the better boats. A lot of them didn’t clear ...

Eric:

That’s how I started, in winter fishing at the Minch. I can aye remember. It was just sou’ west ...

Eric:

... a gale. And looking up and I just ... I’ll never forget. I say it was just like a curse coming over the medicine bottles, ken? I thought long for home after that.

     

Sandy:

I remember my father saying that they used to catch quite a lot of herring on the lochs. Aye, and they used to get in with the drifter in Anacher and Glen Dubh and that lochs and they launched ... They put the small boat in the water, so many nets on the small boat and they went out through the night and they used to haul ’em aboard the small boat and ... Full of herring. And then they went alongside the drifter and they hauled them aboard there and cleaned them. It must’ve been an awful ...

Eric:

Load of work.

     

Sandy:

Oh aye. Oh, there was a few boats that were capsized and a few that were lucky to get away with it. But that’s how they did the catch and then they went to the steamer with them or also went ashore and landed them. But as I say, that’s how they used to catch them on the lochs. It was just slave labour!

     

Eric:

I remember on they small boats with the loch fishing. With the loch it was ... No gloves or that, it was just freezing.

     

Sandy:

Aye, it’s cold the lochs.

     

Eric:

Yer hands were just stuck to the anchor. (laughs) Ah, it was just life.

Sandy:

Aye it was. And at lochs, they used to be as dark as a grave. On sides of a loch it get so dark. You went one winter to a trawler and you had to put out the lights or else ... If you put on the lights the herring won’t do it. We used to be towing up lochs and you couldn’t see a thing.

     

Eric:

It was surprising ... My father worked a lot. He went to the line net, the drift net, and he knew the West Coast, Mallaig and all the lochs, in his head. All the caves and different things. Surprising that they ... (inaudible) ... Experience of fishermen, ken? That was without the navigational aids. Just a compass. It’s all in your head, aye.

Sandy:

You run a log, you see? When you left harbour you steam ... There’s two down there, what we call the chernokey log, o’er the side side. And there was a clock turning in it. It showed you the miles so far you’d steamed. So what would you fish in a day? Well, it was twenty-four mile normally, north, north-east of Fraserburgh or whatever it was, skipper just gave a’ his books and if you got herring ... See, it was a record, one of the records they used to keep.

Simon:

What was the kind of work that the women would do there? Was it just the gutting or was there other work that they did?

     

Eric:

Well there was the gutting, there was kippering.

Sandy:

Aye, there was the kippering.

     

Eric:

Some ... Well, later on, but different places would have fresh herring. The amount of fresh herring they used to steward out the boats onto trucks with just ice and boxes and away down to Billingsgate. But whether some women worked in that?

Sandy:

But the women that went to the gutting and that, you see ... They used to go to the curer, like Dunbar or some big curers. At the beginning of fishing, they used to sign up with them. Crews of three, two gutters and a packer. Two girls gutted it and another one ... And they selected it to be packed in the packs ... (inaudible) ... And down in Fraserburgh and down in Lerwick was the same, the curers had huts. That’s what they called them, huts. It was just one room. Three of them stayed in one room and when they went away they took what we called a ‘kist’ with them. A wooden ... Hanging all their clothes and all their Sunday clothes ... I think it was for in the kist, and that was the only seats in it. You didn’t have ... Kists were there and ... That’s how they liked it.

Simon:

So they used to travel round with the fish?

     

Sandy:

Yes.

     

Simon:

Follow the shoals?

     

Eric:

That’s right ... (inaudible) ... down to Portsheen. It was strange the amount of romances that started up, ken?

Sandy:

Oh aye. If you were down in Lerwick. I was once down there and I had an away weekend and you went to huts on Saturday night to sing songs. There was always somebody had a piano-accordian or fiddle or something like that and there was no other ...

Eric:

And then you had to invite the women down to the boat for their ...

     

Sandy:

Sunday dinner. We did it in Yarmouth.

Eric:

Yes aye. That was a common thing.

     

Sandy:

Meeting the girls ... aye the local that we knew ... (inaudible) ... and it was Sunday we would take them for eating with the crew. You used to see them get a good meal on a lot of boats, you ken?

Eric:

It was strange. My mother was always contracted with ... well, it was like a far off relation, but Peterhead ... Sandy Baird. I had the crew that was from Buckie but they went to Yarmouth and that, that’s where they was working.

Sandy:

When they went to Yarmouth they went into digs. Some of the ladies in Yarmouth used to take them in and they stayed in ... I suppose you called it boarding houses at that time, and there was a lot of girls going to Yarmouth. Oh there was an awful lot of ...

Eric:

Of course the men ... The men, the husbands, they slept the shore on weekend.

Sandy:

Aye, some of that were in ... that had kids, they took them down there and they went to school down there. Some of them. Och, and when you went up ... Oh, when you went up ... What was it, Regent Road, on Saturday night or Sunday night and you couldn’t get moved! Hundreds and hundreds of fishermen and gutting girls ... Oh, it was just heaving.

     

Eric:

... (inaudible) ...

     

Simon:

So if there was like a young couple that had kids and they weren’t able to take them, what happened? Did the grandparents look after the kids?

     

Sandy:

Well, I’m nae sure. I cannae remember if they went, you ken? Or maybe just stayed at home wi’ ... There wasn’t ... There was a number of married women that went right enough but ...

Simon:

Was it what you did before you got married but when you got married ...?

     

Sandy:

Aye, mostly single girls that went. Or else, wives that family were up. But there was a few young people with their family with them. Gosh, I’m seeing a Monday morning going away to sea and a white frost freezing. When you were going down the river, they were all in the deens, topping up the barrels. It was just freezing. You used to hear them singing. But we must’ve been ... Cos at that time it was open! There wasn’t even a roof and you used to see them topping up the barrels and them singing away. And it’s freezing. Oh aye, it was ...

Simon:

Did the girls ...?

     

Eric:

Hard life but they were happy. Very happy.

     

Sandy:

Well, one of the main reasons that I think they were happy is that they were all in the same boat you see? They were all in the same situation. And very few people had any money. I mean, in those days you were just working for food and shelter. That’s it. That’s all you had. Nothing more than that. So you had to make your own entertainment a lot, your own ...

Simon:

So was there a good sense of community amongst ...?

     

Sandy:

Oh aye. Aye even among the fishermen ... At that time, even after the war when it was my father and I, it was a different fishing besides it’s been the last ten years or so. You used to go out of Buckie on a Saturday, it was always the same, net fishing and there was cotton nets; you had to mend some when the skippers was up in the office. If you were having your morning tea at ten o’clock, the boys next door you’d have said: “Come on over get your tea,” and they would’ve came aboard and there was a friendliness among the fishermen. And if you got a good day’s fishing somewhere, you come in and the skipper’s used to ... I mean, you would tell them where you were! They would help one and other, ken? That disappeared. But at that time it was, it was more a close-knit ...

Simon:

Kind of connected to that, it’s shifted from family businesses into bigger, commercial enterprises. Like the idea of a family having a boat, does that still exist?

     

Eric:

I would say no, it’s finished. It’s not ...

Sandy:

A young boy now hasnae got a chance unless ... He needs somebody to back him. There’s got to be an office. I mean, what you’ve got to pay for a boat nowadays is a huge amount of money. Even for a license!

Eric:

It’s a strong hearty going in for a boat nowadays with the rules and regulations. They say now there’s more fishing officers in Scotland than there is fishing boats. To me, they’ve just grown like a police state. Sad.

Sandy:

Aye, it’s ...

     

Eric:

Most of our boats is all finished.

     

Sandy:

Our type of boat, finished.

     

Eric:

White fish ...

     

Sandy:

Well, you’ve got to build them ... If you do a boat that you can go to Rockall, places like that way in the Atlantic or away in Vikings, away down there ...

Simon:

Who is it that runs the boats now? Is it companies ...?

     

Sandy:

Mainly companies that’s the biggest shares of them, mm hmm.

Simon:

Are they local companies or has it become international companies or ...?

     

Sandy:

Well, only companies that had ... wi’ Buckie and Uist can, but must’ve been five? Four? There was MacRae’s, Irvine’s, Bloomfield’s ... Charlie had two or three a wee whiley but he only had two or three boats. Aye, but that ... When I was in MacRae’s, me and my father, MacRae had between thirty and forty boats and that was in one office!

Eric:

Irvine’s had a lot of boats too. Aye, this was fish selling companies that backed Fraserburgh.

Sandy:

See, there must’ve been a hundred boats in Buckie at one time and that’s when I was a skipper, aye. No North Sea net boats. That was before they went to the lake trawling. We had a big fleet you see and ... (inaudible) ... in offices, it was always with MacRae’s and that, and they helped young lads to get boats. Mind you, the boats were not so expensive at that time. I mean, you could get a boat like we did ... I reckon we did and providing you put in the effort, you could’ve covered the money in that boat over the period of a year. You cannae do that today. No way you can ...

Simon:

So it has to be the companies that buy them?

     

Sandy:

That’s right.

     

Simon:

And did the ... The gutting work, where did that kind of change from being the girls coming in to the factories that they’ve got now? Was that about the same time?

     

Eric:

It was 60s that ...

Sandy:

’66. ’66 was the last year that the boats went to Yarmouth driftnet fishing. Gilbert Buchan was ... He was there and he was one of the last and it was so poor that we never went back after that. So that was it finished. And then the purse net took over but then they had it banned for seven years cos they cleaned up the herring so ... I dinnae ken if there’s any gutting goes on the day or not. What does the pursers do with all their herring? They’d only last for two or three days! It’s a hard fish you know? Because you can catch them so quick ...

Eric:

I’ve got a friend at Caley Fisheries, the Japanese come across, not to buy the herring but to buy the roe.

Sandy:

It’s the roe that they want.

     

Eric:

A lot of Dutch people come across. Caley does a lot of kippering and high sales ... well, transports fresh herring south to different customers. But other companies ... aye, they’re kippering and a lot of export. I was surprised when I heard the amount that the Dutch, Holland ... it’s always been there. I can remember in the drift net, in the drifter, the amount of German and Dutch boats down in Yarmouth just the same. Aye, the Dutch is famous, they enjoy their herring.

Sandy:

Aye, but they used to ... when they caught their herring, they went to Yarmouth. They cured it themselves in the barrels in the boats you see, they had big boats.

Simon:

Yeah, like pickled ...?

     

Sandy:

Aye. And before they went back to land them. Aye. It was just ... it just slowly died. That’s what it did ...

     

Eric:

Fraserburgh and Peterhead, soon and they’ll no ... (inaudible) ... They’re a big, big business.

Sandy:

Mmm, it’s the pursers. And because ... the best price they got for herring, that’s a number of years ago as Eric says when the Japs came. They wanted the herring with the roe in them. But down at the harbour there, in June, they didnae catch them because it wasn’t worth it. They didn’t get the price then. They weigh it when all the roe comes in there and then they go. See, with that pursers, they can take their quota in three or four weeks and that was it.

Eric:

That’s what happened just there.

     

Sandy:

Three or four weeks, that’s the quota gone.

Eric:

Huge ... (inaudible) ... ships ...

     

Sandy:

That’s the boats they have now.

     

Eric:

Yes.

     

Sandy:

But they landed on their feet because the mackerel ... They never bothered me at the time of the drift net. Suddenly there was a market for mackerel. I know a lot that went after it in the beginning in different places but then smoked mackerel became awful popular. When you go on airlines now and it’s on the thing, so there’s a big market for mackerel. So it’s the mackerel they depend on now. Oh, they can catch them an’ all. And there’s only ... I think it’s thirty, I’m no at all sure, Purser Licenses, that’s what they still call them, and they hail out of the UK and most of them’s in Scotland. And most of them are in families. The Tates in Fraserburgh, they have three. They Lunar Freezing crowd, the Buchans, they have three. The West Gamery, Alan West and them, they have three. Now Goony Scherlin and Josie Simpson and them, I think there’s four or five in Shetland, one in Ireland and they’re ... they’ve got ... you wouldn’t get in there. Costs millions to get a license and they wouldnae sell them but the government just ... That’s it. That’s a closed shop. But it’s just ... they had the foresight, Roddy Tate and them, to seen this coming, you know? And so I suppose you’ve to hand it to them for ... (inaudible) ... the way it worked out. But there you go. I was never in that ... because if you wanted to be a top skipper, it was there for you provided you were prepared to put in the effort. And that meant hardly any time at home. And provided you were prepared to go to sea in the weather when most of the boats didnae go ... You had to do all that if you wanted to be a ... I wasn’t prepared to do that. I used to go in the summertime and the shore is as much important to me as it is the sea. I like to be home every weekend. ... (inaudible) ... Friday, but you got in on a Thursday. That was a long weekend. That’s what you aimed for, you see? As long as you ... well, me and the boys, as long as I was able to give my crew a decent pay. Because they were happy to get home on a ... So that’s ... But the top boys, they never stopped.

Simon:

Do you think the connection between the fishing and the sense of identity and sense of community is gone or is it still ...?

     

Sandy:

Well, you see everybody’s been retired for so long now, wouldn’t ken who ...

     

Eric:

... (inaudible) ...

     

Sandy:

It’s twenty to me. I had to get out with bad health. And when you’re nae going, you’re nae involved in it the same. I mean I couldn’t tell you what’s going on now or ...

     

Eric:

There’s hardly ... (inaudible) ... Well, I’ve no relations now in the fishing. All finished.

Sandy:

Mmm hmm. I know. My son-in-law, he’s in the ... The last big wooden boat in Jones’, the Maria. Now he’s in the ... It’s not standby he’s in, it’s now standby and ... (inaudible) ... boats and ...

Eric:

That was awful ... Ah, the oil, the amount of fishermen that went away to standbys and employed in the oil company shipping and that.

Sandy:

And the wrecks on the shore as well. If it wasn’t for the oil, this coast would be ... I hate to think what it would be. It would be like the Highland Clearances. The young people would be having to get away. And it’s ... oil is the main employer of males in Buckie and this area now. Oh, they’re no at the sea. They’re standby, they’re on rigs, but they’re also employed ashore in engineering and everything.

Eric:

There was three busy here shipyards here Simon, just after the war. Up to the 60s. There’s just one now. No building. All the great craftsmanship and ... They don’t build boats now.

     

Sandy:

It’s gone.

     

Eric:

All finished.

     

Sandy:

They couldnae build a boat in Buckie now. No, no, the tradesmen are all away.

Simon:

So the harbours in Buckie are ...

     

Sandy:

If it wasnae for the lifeboats, them down there ... (inaudible) ... Their contract with the lifeboats. That’s what keeps them going. A wee bit maintenance but no a lot on boats. Nope. In fact, it was passed in the council, Moray Council, a few months back there and they’re getting the go ahead. They’re meant to get a marina in Buckie harbour, near the basins. Now Lossie’s just a marina now and that used to be a busy fishing harbour. Whitehills is a marina. Banff harbour has been derelict for a long time right enough but they went ahead and built a marina there and the berths were all booked before it was completed. Findochty’s the same, Findochty’s a ... so Buckie’s going to head down there ... it’s a fishing port. I mean, you dinnae like to say it but the market’s never used. Buckie’s finished. If boats come in, it’s on the lorries not the land. And the prawn fleet, and there are a still a number of prawners, they land in Fraserburgh now. One of two bigger boats, it’s the West Coast they fish. They fish round there in Loch Inver, but there’s no so many now. There’s only a few. Scrabster, they land in there. Oh no, I can remember in the summertimes a lot of visitors used to come here. That’s before the cheap holiday flights started and ... when the market for the fish and that, and that was the highlight for the visitors, they used to be down the markets here, fish being sold and the visitors dinnae come the same now. They fly to warmer climates and so on. It’s cheaper as well.

Simon:

Emm ... Just coming back to when the guys from the West Coast used to come over, did any of them ever settle or did they always go back to ...?

     

Sandy:

I think they went back. You see, a lot of them had little crofts. Or maybe there was one or two of them settled but I cannae ...

Eric:

I remember two fishermen marrying and still going! Aye. Roddy Guthrie’s brother, he went ... a fisherman, he married a girl fae Stornoway.

Sandy:

Your relation, Willie Garder.

     

Eric:

Willie, married.

     

Sandy:

Stornoway girl.

Eric:

Stornoway girl. Saturday night was a great night. There was a dance ... (inaudible) ... It finished at eleven o’clock. Aye ...

Sandy:

But I dinnae ken any Highland men that settled ... I dinnae ken of any.

Eric:

Aye, that settled in Peterhead or Fraserburgh, probably not.

Sandy:

No, I think they all had their own crofts at that time and they went back to that.

Simon:

Cos lots of people came and settled in Glasgow, with the factory work and stuff, that brought a lot of them down and people didn’t go back.

     

Eric:

I remember ... I dinnae ken much. There’s a few ladies went to Stornoway I think. Married there. I can remember a woman ... (inaudible)... Most of the girls and youngsters that you spoke to from Stornoway, their idea of life was to come over to the mainland, get a job ... The amount of chaps that went deep sea from Stornoway! There was a lot of them and ... Aye, they were well up in the captains of ships and everything, yeah. That’s their aim in life, to get to the mainland and ... Aye. But I’ll always remember, all the women from Stornoway were all up to date with all their cosmetics and everything, jewellery and well dressed ... Aye. I suppose that was just life. Growing up and get away to the mainland but it was surprising the amount of the mariners that went to the sea and ...

Sandy:

A lot of merchant navy came here. But the fishing, you see, during the drift net period and even from when we was going ... it was a way of life on this coast. I mean, like Buckie here. At that time there would’ve been a hundred boats. When I was going as a young skipper, you got all your stores in the town for grocers and butchers and bakers and then when the boats started to do reasonably well, did some money, other shops like Drapers, Mackay’s and all that ... Because the money was spent locally cos that’s afore the cars came on the go and that. So the money the fishermen earned was spent in the town so Buckie was a thriving town. Then everybody got cars and they built big shops and ...

Eric:

Mackay’s used to sell, for example if there was good fishing in Yarmouth, Mackay’s profits went up at Christmas.

Sandy:

Well, James used to tell me that he could tell if it was a good week’s fishing in Buckie by his tills. He could tell by the till whether it’d been a good week. You spent. If you had a butcher you went to and you stayed with the butcher, the same with the grocer. It wasn’t like nowadays when you go into the big stores and all that. Family butcher and a family grocer and a family baker and that’s all it was. Aye.

Eric:

That’s life.

     

Simon:

Do you think younger people want to go into fishing anymore?

     

Sandy:

No. I would say no.

     

Eric:

No, I agree with you Sandy.

     

Sandy:

Unless their father is a skipper and he’s sometimes in wi’ a chance but there’s nae money in it now, no. I mean, if I was ... (inaudible) ... I wouldn’t recommend them to go because the amount of red tape and rules and regulations ... It’s a nightmare now. When we went, our big hardest job was to catch fish. OK, sometimes you would come in and you didn’t get much for them but ... but it’s not the catching of the fish now. I mean, this year, I know from speaking to lads that the amount of cod, beautiful fish, that they’ve had to throw back over the side because they’ve nowhere to land it. I mean, when you’re a fisherman you’re a hunter and to tell your crew to throw them over the side ... it must be soul destroying. I couldnae do that anyway. It’s no a job I’d recommend to anybody. And anyway, any of them if they go, they just go for a wee while until they’re old enough to go into Aberdeen and pass their, whatever it is they have to do, their courses in order to get onto the rigs. Or the standby boats or something where they’re guaranteed a wage, pay. So it could be used by most young lads as a stepping stone now, I would say. I would say there’s foreigners ... most boats down on the Buckie Pier, the fishing boats, they’re depending on foreign labour to crew the boats.