John’s mother did not want him to go to sea so his first job was as a message boy. His Father was at sea and sometimes away for weeks at a time. He earned an income when he got a share of the nets as the fish was landed.
1900- 1914 was a boomtime for Herring often sold on to Germany. After 1919 there was no German or Russian market for the Herring. In the 1930s there were too many fish for the demand.
The men moved to white fish trawling out of Aberdeen and some went into the Merchant Navy. There was no sonar but still each boat caught too many fish. The Captain would look for gulls, gannets diving or whales blowing to show where the fish were. His Father got into debt in the late 1920s and moved to the merchant navy. One day his Mother’s fears about the fishing life were realised when his Father (aged 52) was lost at sea with his brother and two friends from Merchant Navy days. At this sad time John’s sister was still at home working as a shop assistant. There was no support money for his mother from the shipping company only a widows’ pension from the government, some of which was used to pay a National Insurance Stamp. She did this from the age of 51-60 to allow her to get a state pension at 60.
John went to sea eventually with his Uncle’s boat The Sickle. They needed a cook. (see the Montrose Review Article below for more information on his life at sea). Often the ships had no fridge. Cold water tank provided drinking water and there was a padlock on it to prevent waste.
He worked on a whole range of vessels throughout his working life out at sea before becoming a pilot at Montrose Harbour.
His wife, Nancy also contributed her memory to the site
Montrose Review Interview with John Smith January 3rd 1991 with John Smith on the event of his retirement (date of article- January 3rd 1991)
Information on the Herring Fishery on the North East Coast for Scotland.
Here is a list of most of the boats he was on.
San Cipriano- nine months down the South American coast.
CedarWood-01, Westwood-01,Northwood-01, Eskwood, Copsewood, Yewarch, Basildon, Yewtree, Teesider, Christopher, Marian M-05, Curran, Yewhill, Columbia Sy