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Elphinstone Kist   Folk-History, Work

A Fisherman's Memories     by: Donn, J

I wis born inno a fishin faimly in the fishin toon o Cullen on the hinmaist day o December 1915, the youngest o fower, twa sisters an a brither. I dinna myne muckle aboot Cullen, as ma fowk flitted tae the Broch jist efter the eyn o the Secunt World War. Ma faither thocht there wid be a better future fur us at the fishin as the Broch wis the biggest herrin port in Scotlan, an wirk fur the faimly wad be easier tae finn than in Cullen..a gweed decision thon.

I stered wirk at the age o 12 as a milk loon deliverin sma flagons o hauf pints an pints. I left the skweel fin I wis 14, still wirkin wi the dairy fermer fae seeven in the mornin till sax at nicht wi ae evenin meal fae the fermer's wife. Ma wages war 7/6d per wikk (45p) an I'd tae gie thon tae ma mither.

I gaed in efter ma wirk ae nicht an ma faither said 'Ye'll get £1 per wikk as a cook in the drifter I ained. (Ma faither wis the skipper o't). Thon wis in the beginnin o Mey. The herrin fishin sterted in June sae ma mither hid a fyew wikks tae learn me foo tae cook jist ordnar meals...stews, soups, rice pudden an custard. I hid nae ither option bit tae dae't, as it wis a big rise in wages.

It wis a big cheenge in ma life, fae wirkin in a dairy ferm tae gaun aboord a fishin boat. I mind cairryin doon ma caff bed. Ma mither shewed three blankets thegither, ae pillow, bit fit a fine place tae gyang fin ye wis sea sick aboord.

Fin we war haulin the nets, my wirk wis coilin the messenger rope (or as it wis caad, 'the leader'). At the stert o the simmer sizzen it wis pued throw tar. It wis caad the 'tarry leader', and ma faither took me forrit intae a pairt o the boat caad the 'leader box'. Fit an experience fur a young loon!
Fin the nets war aa aboord, I hid tae clean thirty herrin fur brakkfaist, three per man wi hame made oatcakes. That wis the brakkfaist ilkie day except Setterday. Syne it wis cheese, because on Setterday we hid tae wash aathing.

I wis cook fur aboot twa years, sune I wis made a deck haun an a share fisherman, an thon wis a fine cheenge fae bein a cook. THe time cam fin I left ma faither an gaed aboord a bigger drifter, a mair modern drifter, in fact there wis a lavvie which wis maist unusual amang drifters an fishin boats. We wirked twa types o fishin. Fae January tae the middle o Merch we gaed tae the irish Sea an fished wi great lines wi muckle hooks twal fit apairt, baited wi herrin. This wis affa hard wirk, affa cauld, coorse weather. We fished maistly fur rocker skate, eels an cod.

We cam hame in the mids o Merch, syne gaed tae the same fishin 'great line' on the Viking an Bergen Banks, fishin fur halibut, cod, ling an skate. We vrocht echteen oors ilkie day.

The skipper hid sax littlins, sae he'd a lot o pressure on his shooders. There wis nae faimly allowance an ilkie penny he made hid tae cam oot o the sea. Syne the war sterted...61 year tae the day, the third September. I got merriet, then wis called tae the R.N.P.S. mine-sweepin. I wis postit tae Egypt an mine swept the suez Canal fur three year. In 1945 I wis discharged an gaed back wi the same skipper drift net an seine net fishin. Efter a fyew year I borraed £800 fae a frien an bocht a 67fit boat fur £3,200 caad 'Dayspring'. We biggit anither twa boats. The first ane cost £25,000. it did weel, an we biggit anither, £220,00. Syne at the o 63 I retired. My twa loons hid a boat each, bit sad tae say they've baith selt their boats an wirk inile-related stand-by boats, an on ile rigs.

I hae anely my youngest gran-child at the fishin. It wis a hard, dangerous life, bit if I hid tae live it ower again, I'd still choose the fishin.



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