Tom Howe was a well-known figure in the life of Moray particularly his role in the politics including as a Scottish National Party candidate and his work as a councillor. Less is known about his working life in Salmon Fishing. Sadly Tom passed away on 17th May 2011, however, his widow, Margo Howe has kindly agreed to provide some details of his earlier working life for the project.
Tom was born on 14th April 1929. He was brought up in Turriff in a croft near Hatton Castle. He attended Birkenhill School, Turriff and also Torphins School. He left school in 1941 when he was 12 years old while he was living at
Auchlunies House. He was supposed to go to Mackie Academy, Stonehaven however he got a medical exemption and went into fishing. He didn’t know why he chose fishing. He joined a salmon crew under the skipper, Willie Main of Portlethan. The boat sailed along the coast of Aberdeenshire between Stonehaven and Aberdeen. The nets were postioned at sea and the crew emptied them two to three times a day. The boat they used was a cobble boat (see photo- Tom is the one with the cap at a jaunty cap on the left).
From 1947-1950 he did his National Service starting at Gordon Barracks in Aberdeen. One Christmas he went out looking for rations and came back with piglets having done a deal. By 1954 he was the skipper and he received a letter of commendation when he was involved in a life-saving incident with his boat. He joined the Aberdeen North and South branch of the SNP in 1954. By the late 1950s Tom was involved in the campaign re: drift net fishing. He stood as the SNP council candidate for Ferryhill ward and was Sandy Milne’s election agent in the 1959 election. Sandy came third. In September 1961 Tom moved up to Tugnet at the mouth of the River Spey as Fisheries manager of the Crown Estate. It was an operating fishery station and is where the Whale and Dolphin Centre (WDCS) is now. They used stake nets (= bag nets) and a cobble at Portgordon and Spey bay. Slowly over the years the the number of days Tom and his crews could fish at the mouth was eroded due to the campaigning of the Riperian owners who owned the riverbank going up the Spey from the mouth. By 1985 the fishing had stopped altogether. Tom retired on the grounds of ill health in 1985.
During this period he continued his political interests competing in the 1970 election as SNP candidate for Moray and Nairn “achieving 27.8% of the popular vote (7,885 votes), against the Tories’ 49.4% and Labour on 22.8%.” . He ran as local councillor for the Lennox ward in the late 1970s. This continued until he stood down in 2003 after over 23 years in the post. Tom met Margo, a primary school teacher, in 1979. They bought the Harbour Cafe in Cullen which Margo ran. They both successfully ran for council in 1990 when Margo stood for the Rafford ward and Tom still standing for the Lennox ward.
The pictures (except Tugnet buildings) and above information was generously supplied by Tom’s widow, Councillor Margo Howe.
Speyside Fishery Board – information on the salmon catch since 1952.