James Taylor’s memory of being a chief cook on a fishing boat out of Portgordon

James left school at the age of 14 1/2 and went to work on the boats in 1947. His first boat was the “Red castle BCK 89” which was a type of drifter. He sailed from Portgordon. He worked as Cook, fireman and then later Skipper and mate. When he was a cook the main meals were stew made with vegetables and meat. They had to sail near Stornaway at night as the water was too clear there and the fish would avoid the nets.he also remembers following fish the herring around the coast ending up at Yarmouth. The fishing quines moved with their families in the same way but they travelled by land and what they needed was carried on the boats. When a big catch came out of Ullapool or Loch broom a layer of salt was added to the catch and the fish was pack into barrels. the hands of the quines could be red raw with the salt. Whole families moved Orkney/Grimsby/Yarmouth. In the summer the fishing was out of Stornaway.  The herring were measured in baskets with four baskets being a cran.

Fishing life
It was a hard life working on the fishing boats. James wore an oily type of gansey. When you picked up the tar ropes with bare hands they stuck to the skin. Pentland Firth had very rough dangerous water. You could mis-judge the tide. the tides changed and a lot of lives could be lost. Had to learn very quickly.

Memory contributed by James Taylor, Cullen

Additional information

Ivor Gault’s Fish website– A personal website talking about the Fishing Industry in the North-East. Although it is a long scrolling page there is a lot of good historical information lower down the page.

Link to the Moray Firth Gansey projectMoray Gansey Project
This three year project, drawn up by the Moray Firth Partnership, focuses on the tradition of hand knitted ganseys in the Moray Firth’s fishing communities as a way of preserving this important part of our culture and introducing the craft – and the area’s wider fishing heritage – to new audiences

More information about the knitting of ganseys – site based in Great Yarmouth

BBC article about Ganseys and use of unique patterns for each placeBBC article about ganseys and the reason behind the wide range of specific patterns used.


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