JOHN IMLACH’S MEMORIES
(A note on fishing in Lossiemouth)
Reprinted here with the kind permission of Brian Ogilvie – Grandson
From 1500 to 1780 a few fishermen earned a bare living fishing from the Hythe at Stotfield. Their boats were small open boats not exceeding 20ft in length. Baited long lines was the only method used, the bait being mostly sea-worms, of which a plentiful supply was at hand on the sandy beaches from the Hythe westwards, mussels and limpets were also used as bait. fish were sold, to the neighbouring farmers in the district, mostly on the barter system, oatmeal, potatoes, milk, vegetables etc. in exchange for fish.
As the years went by the inland population increased and so did the number of fishermen, and by the early 1800's there were 22 men and boys fishing from the Hythe at Stotfield. The boats used by this time were 23-25ft, long and half decked. Further east at the Seatown 2 fishermen plied their calling from the mouth of the river. Their boats were smaller, around 16ft, and had no deck. Like the Stotfield fishermen, most of the fish caught was bartered to neighbouring farmers.
On Christmas Day, 1806, 21 fishermen put to sea from the Hythe at Stotfield, and after hauling their fishing lines made for the shore. A fierce storm blew up from the SSW and not one of the boats were ever seen or heard of again. Twenty-one men and boys, the entire men-folk of the village perished that day. The oldest male left in the village was a boy of 12 years of age, besides two bedridden old men. In the history of Moray, December 25th, 1806, was recorded as the day of the "Stotfield Disaster." (See Appendix).
As stated earlier two small boats fished from the Seatown, and probably because they were smaller and did not fish so far out to sea as the Stotfield fishermen, they reached the river mouth before the worst of the storm arose, and so lived to carry on as fishermen.
From 1806 onwards the fisher population in the Seatown increased, mainly from the boys in Stotfield Disaster, and by 1826 there was a sizeable fleet of boats fishing from the River Lossie.
Boats had increased in size, some by this time were fully decked and in some cases had accommodation for cooking and sleeping. Fishing methods were also changing, and besides line fishing for white fish, drift netting for herring had been introduced. By 1836 the fisher population had increased considerably, helped by the fact that an inducement of help to provide, a house and boat to fishermen from other ports, if they would make their abode in the fast growing village at the mouth of the river, now called Lossiemouth.
In one instance it is recorded that the first fisherman to receive 'Grant and Loan' , as we know it today, was Alexander Kinnaird from Findhorn, on the strength that he took up his abode in the Seatown, which he duly did. Apart from the recorded instance of Grant and Loan from the then Fishery Board to Alexander Kinnaird, merchants in Elgin, and farmers in the district were giving financial aid to fishermen to purchase boats, and arrangement which was still in existence right up to the beginning of World War 2 in 1939.
However the rapid growth of fishing in Lossiemouth really commenced after the opening of the Elgin and Lossiemouth Harbour in 1837. Although built as a harbour for merchant sailing ships, the fishermen started to desert the river harbour for the new harbour, and with the building of houses in the part now known as Branderburgh, (called Branderburgh after James Brander, the Laird of Pitgaveny whose idea the new harbour had been) more fishermen continued to leave the river harbour and use the better facilities offered in the new harbour. In 1857, to accommodate the growing fleet of fishing boats another harbour basin was added to the west of the first one and all but a few of the fishermen in the Seatown based their boats in the new harbours.
The opening of the Lossiemouth harbour coincided with the start of the herring fishery in the North East of Scotland, and herring curers followed where herring boats operated, consequently such a harbour as Lossiemoth had by then attracted both fishermen and curers to practice their trades.
Before going further into the history of the fishing at Lossiemouth it would be interesting to know the names of the families at the outset of such a history. We rely here on information handed down from father to son, and to the information Kirk Records of that age tell us, and names on tombstones in old cemeteries.
The first Edward to settle in Stotfield came from Wales, and was a crew member of a sailing ship landing merchandise at the River Lossie. His reason for leaving his ship is unknown. The McLeod's there were supposed to be two - were members of Bonnie Prince Charlie's Army, and took refuge in Stotfield after the Battle of Culloden, settled down and became fishermen. Mitchell was washed ashore from a ship wrecked on the Skerries. He was Spanish, and recovering on the sands could only say a word which sounded to the Stotfield residents like Mitchell. It was established in later years that his name was Michelle, but he kept the name Mitchell and his family descendants do likewise today. Main came from Petty, near Nairn. Young and Baikie were possibly from the Cassick, where several people of that name resided about that time. The Crockett's were originally sailors, but where they came from was never ascertained. At the time of the "Stotfield Disaster", two fishermen had their abode near the mouth of the River Lossie, living in the village now called Seatown. One was called Stewart, but the name of the other was never handed down to younger generations, so it seems that he had no family to follow on.
Stewart was known later as 'Press Gang', because as a young man he had been press-ganged by the Navy, served his time, and was put ashore at Spey Bay where he married a girl called Eppie Fraser from Garmouth, came to the mouth of the River Lossie and settled down as a fisherman. They had a family of twelve sons and one daughter. As the years passed, the youths from Stotfield joined with the Stewarts to go fishing and by 1825 a sizable fleet of small boats were fishing from the River Lossie.
By 1833 the Edward's, MacLeod's and Main's had houses built in the Seatown, followed by the Mitchell's, Crockett's and Kinnaird from Findhorn. Many of the fishermen still resided at Stotfield, walking over the Coulard Hill to the river mouth to go to sea. Along with Alexander Kinnaird from Findhorn, a family of Souters from Johnshaven had settled in the Seatown, and had brought their own boat with them named the 'Lord MacDuff.' The Stewart's were by far the biggest family name in the Seatown, owning 33 of the 51 houses there.
From 1700 up to 1833 the river mouth had been extensively used by sailing ships, and the east pier offered of good entrance into the river mouth, and acted as a breakwater as well. Quays on the west side of the river mouth gave good landing berths for the schooners and barques landing and loading their merchandise, but the fishermen drew up their boats on the beach in front of the Seatown; the women folk doing most of the launching of the boats when the men went to sea. The women folk did most of the launching of the boats, carrying the men out so that they started their voyage dry. Line fishing was still the method used for catching fish at this time but a change in fishing was not far away.
The traders in Elgin and the district who partly owned most of the sailing ships plying their trade from the river mouth had felt for a time that a more safe harbour was required for their ships to enter and leave with safety, so along with an engineer called James Bremner from Wick known for harbour construction, drew up a plan for a new harbour a little to the North West of the river mouth. By 1835 this harbour was ready for opening, and the last schooners and barques ceased to use to river as a harbour. The fishermen of the Seatown still used the river to work from, but they too were soon to start using the harbour; for the opening of the new harbour coincided with the start of the great herring fishery which drew herring boats and herring curers to the Moray Firth.
With the knowledge that a good and safe harbour was in Lossiemouth, herring boats from Banff-shire came to land their catches, and curers from the Cromarty, Findhorn, Buckie and other ports soon set up curing yards. A new era started in Lossiemouth.
The fishermen from the Seatown soon caught on to the new way of catching herring by drift net, and although the older men still pursued the line fishing and landed their catches on the beach at the Seatown, the coming of the railway to Lossiemouth made them fish from the new harbour, for the convenience in doing so was enormous.
By 1850 the fishing fleet had grown considerably and boats were much bigger. Men from Portessie, Findochty, Buckie, and other Banff-shire hamlets, where harbour facilities were poor, seeing the advantages of fishing from such a good harbour, moved their homes and built houses in the part now known as Branderburgh.
The Harbour Company, realising that the boom in herring fishing was restricting the movements of their trading schooners, laid plans for a new harbour to the west of the existing one using the same entrance.
As time went on names like Garden, Scott, Farquhar, Reid, Imlach, Murray, Ralph, Cowie, Mackenzie, Wood, Slater, Cormack, Flett, Smith, Gault, Campbell, Thomson and Wilson were to be heard about the harbour and on the boats. The names were common, but too numerous to set down except in cases where a distinction may be necessary. The Wood's and the Slater's besides being fishermen, were craftsmen at boat-building.
Up to the 1800's most of the fishing boats were the 'Scaffie' types, clinker built, ranging from 25-35ft long. Some were half decked, and the newer ones whole decked. A few boats of the 'Fifie' type were also amongst the fleet, but were never popular with the Lossiemouth fishermen. The Portessie 'Scaffie' of that day held sway being the most able of all for sailing and for working herring nets and fishing lines. The Seatown fishermen had long discarded their small boats and followed in the train of the incomers from other ports, with the full decked 'Scaffie' or 'Fifie'.
It fell to one of the Campbells - tee name "DAD"- to introduce a new type of boat. the story goes that "Dad", thinking of having built a new boat built, discussed the matter with his wife. She, being the daughter of a Fraserburgh fisherman, suggested he should have a 'Fifie' boat built, as her father and brothers set great store on the qualities of the 'Fifie'. They had straight stems and straight sterns, whilst the 'Scaffie' had a curved stem and a slightly raked stern. "Dad" effected a compromise and had his boat built with the straight stem and a long raked stern. He named her the 'Nonsuch', and as the Zulu war was being waged at the time, this boat was called the 'Zulu'. She was an instant success, out-sailing and out-manoeuvring all the 'Scaffies' and 'Fifies', so from then on all fishermen getting new boats plumped for the 'Zulu'.
By this time Lossiemouth fishermen, in common with all Scottish fishermen, were ranging far and wide in search of the 'silver darlings' from the south of Ireland to the east coast of England. Where there was herring these men sailed!
Line fishing for the white fish was still carried out on all the year round from Lossiemouth, but mainly by older fishermen and boys and with smaller sized boats, mainly 18-25ft long.
As time went on 'Zulus' increased in size to as much as 70ft in length and carvel built, superseding the clinker built.
Lossiemouth was keeping well in the van at this time. Men like the Reids, the Smiths(Bo), and the Cambells were on the ball for anything new that would bring better results to the fishing, such as iron hand machines for easier handling of ropes, steam capstans for heaving in herring ropes and setting sail halyards. Fishing and fishermen were flourishing in Lossiemouth and by the 1890's over 100 boats belonged to the port. Some of the fleet would be in Ireland, Castlebay, Shetland or Orkney in the spring; others would fish at home for early summer herring, and there was always the line fishermen bringing in a supply of white fish to supply all the towns in Moray. The railway had made this possible in a large way, and fishermen’s wives with their loaded creels of fish were a common sight getting off the trains at all railway stations between Lossiemouth and Huntly.
James Reid(Bo), one of the enterprising men of his day, ventured into trawling with considerable success, but his most spectacular catch was a large cannon and a huge anchor! These were positioned at the Town Hall for many years, and the anchor is still to be seen at the Municipal Green in Stotfield.
In the late 1890's John Souter (Baldi), introduced the method of catching cod by setting nets on the sea bottom. This was a spectacular success and during the cod season from February to April, the piers, jetties and all landing quay spaces were knee deep with cod laid out for auction. So prolific did this fishing become that Isaac Spenser & Co. opened a factory to process cod livers by extracting the oil. The factory was half a mile to the east of the Seatown, and the concrete foundations are still visible.
Boat building was by this time a thriving industry. Building yards at the Seatown and to the west of the new harbour were turning out 'Zulus' by the score. The Woods and the Slaters were still the craftsmen, each with their own particular model, and the virtues of both builders boats an ever-ready topic of conversation amongst fishermen. However, the days of building the renowned 'Zulus' were drawing to a close.
In 1900, Peter Smith (Bo), brought the first steam drifter to Lossiemouth. This boat was built at Lowestoft and Peter Bo, a leader in his time, set the lead by purchasing one such drifter. He named her 'Success' and successful she was, so much so that building yards everywhere, Lossiemouth included, were soon turning out steam drifters as fast as the could.
The herring fishing continued to flourish in Lossiemouth, and Lossiemouth grew apace with the fishing. Houses were built all over Branderburgh, but because of its distance from the new harbours, no new houses were built at the Seatown. Up to 1948 the number of houses was still 51, the same as in 1835.
The pattern of fishing changed little for many years. The older men with smaller boats carried on line fishing at home, and when herring was plentiful in the Moray Firth they went fishing for herring. The herring curers were ready at all times to cure herring, winter or summer. Local labour for gutting the herring was always available and barrels for holding the cured herring were in good supply.
By 1914 there was only a handful of sailing boats left and Lossiemouth could now boast of a fleet of nearly 100 wooden and steel drifters, all operating with a fair measure of success. Most of the herring caught by this time were landed at Shetland, Orkney, Wick, Fraserburgh, Peterhead and Aberdeen. On the West Coast the drifters landed at Oban, Mallaig, Castlebay and Stornoway, and in October and November in Lowestoft and Yarmouth.
Nevertheless the curing yards in Lossiemouth were never idle for long, and it is on record that boats had salted down their last catch off Lowestoft and landed the catch at Lossiemouth two days later.
Then came the great war of 1914-18. Fishing of all kinds, except for a few small boats, came to a halt by Government decree. Lossiemouth harbour was filled to bursting point with drifters tied up, but very soon the Government found uses for the fleet and in a few months practically all the drifters were either on patrol or minesweeping duties.
Many of the older men were not taken into service by the Admiralty, so they formed themselves into crews and resurrected what was left of the sailing 'Zulus', and went fishing again. There was still a fair fleet of small boats going line fishing, manned as usual by the older men and boys.
As the war progressed some old crocks of steam drifters unsuitable for Naval duties, were released, and returned to fishing. A few of the sailing boats were fitted with motor engines, but the number was small, and often these engines were unreliable, so in the main the fishing fleet going out from Lossiemouth were sailing boats.
During the war years herring landed at Lossiemouth all went to the fresh market, curing being at a standstill, except on a very limited scale. The cured herring had after all been intended for Germany and Russia.
The large sailing Zulus, many of which had been laid up in estuaries and harbours before 1914, came into their own again and Lossiemouth harbour was especially busy during the cod season. Because of restrictions on sailing after dark, boats from Banff-shire ports would sail into Lossiemouth with their catch. Having a railway on the harbour doorstep at that time made the marketing of fish an easy proposition. Prices were fixed by order of the Government, so there was no delay in transport.
1918 and the war over, men started to return home. The toll had been heavy, as a look at he War Memorial will confirm.
By 1919 most of the steam drifters had been released by the Admiralty and commenced fishing again. Some went to the herring fishing off Scrabster, and occasionally landed catches at home in Lossiemouth. By February a few had rigged out for the cod fishing, and along with the existing sail boats and a few motor boats, a sizable fleet was now operating from the home port, on the whole the catch of cod for that season was a good one. Added to the fleet at cod fishing, there were 30 smaller boats at the haddock line fishing, and haddock were plentiful so the total volume of fish being landed was high.
At this time the marine motor was beginning to prove its worth, especially the Kelvin engine. By 1920 all the haddock line boats had a small auxiliary engine, in most cases a Kelvin. The larger sail boats were all being converted to motor, and at the end of the 1921 summer herring fishing, the last sail boat the 'Gowan' - Skipper; Alexander Edwards - tee name Sandy Baillie, was laid up for good.
1920 saw the Lossiemouth fleet once more on a pre war scale and the search for herring was fully on, but the aftermath of war on Germany, Russia, Poland and the Scandinavian countries began to take its toll, as these countries had no money to buy cured herring so the export market went flat. Fortunately the Government of the day came to the rescue and guaranteed a price for herring landed by fishermen and a trade agreement to the herring curers for disposal by export to the countries mentioned above; so the fishermen of Lossiemouth, in common with the men from other ports, plied their calling with a fair amount of success.
The summer of 1920 was singularly successful for the boats in Lossiemouth; herring was plentiful a few miles off shore and harbours were very busy. One outstanding day is remembered by some ever now, when a average of 80 cran of herring were landed by 40 boats, to top shot for that day being 150 cran by the steam drifter Arndilly Castle,and the sailboat 'Morayshire' had 100 cran, her Skipper being Sye MacLeod.
With two steamers and three motor sailing schooners regularly discharging cargoes of salt and staves, Lossiemouth harbour was a hive of activity, but the end was in sight for the grand fleet of herring drifters as the Government withdrew the guaranteed price for herring, and the curers had no trade agreement. Nevertheless, the Lossiemouth fleet set out of Lowestoft and Yarmouth in the hope that things might turn out better than expected. But the hopes never materialised, prices were rock bottom and in some instances herring had to be dumped back in to the sea.
The herring fishermen of Lossiemouth, in common with other fishermen throughout Scotland, received a set back that year from which a few never recovered financially. Herring curers also suffered severely and a few went out of business altogether.
However the turning point came before 1921 ended, that is for Lossiemouth. Boats calling into the ports of Shields, Hartlepool and Grimsby on their way south to Yarmouth and Lowestoft in 1920/21 had seen Danish motor boats landing huge catches of plaice, and as fishermen are interested in any sort of fishing, took a close look at the gear used by these boats, also at machinery for hauling the gear. They also ascertained through the limited conversation with the Danish fishermen the method of setting out this type of gear and pulling them back. In short, it was what we now call Danish seine netting.
After consultation, some skippers decided to purchase a set of fishing gear and a winch to try it out for themselves. They felt that the prospects for the herring fishing was poor and they could not be worse off by trying seine netting, and so came home to Lossiemouth to try out the this new method of earning a living. Although they did not know it then, the seine net was to put Lossiemouth ahead in the race and make it the most proficient and well doing port for many years.
There were many ups and downs during the first years of seine netting by the steam drifters. Perseverance was the key word of those years. Crews learned from crews, skippers learned from skippers, older fishermen gave land marks to what was known as sort of sandy patches of the sea bed. Much was endured by boat-owners in the effort to keep the boats going to sea, and it is worth while recording, for the benefit of the present generation of fishers, that the term 'N.E.' from 1922 to 1925 did not mean 'North-East' on the compass, but the 'Not-Entitled' pound, (from the boat’s reserves) to keep the hungry mouths fed in the home.
Skippers and crews in time picked up and mastered the technique required for seine-netting, also improving in many ways nets and machinery for that particular type of fishing.
1924 saw a partial recovery in the herring fishing and season fishing at Castlebay, Oban, Mallaig, Stornoway, Shetland and Wick, was carried on by steam drifters and motor sail boats of which there were now quite a few.
Mention must be made of the fact that during the 1922 to 1925 period, several of the steam drifters turned to trawling for white fish, but meeting with limited success this was given up in favour of seine-netting and season herring fishing.
For the record, line fishing showed a marked decline after 1922, and by 1930 only one or two yawls prosecuted the haddock lines, working close inshore.
Between the years 1921 and 1929 it was survival and no more for the fishermen of Lossiemouth. Steam drifters were expensive to run, in more ways than one as 'the coal went up the funnel.' Converted sail boats were less expensive to run, and it was with this thought in mind that John Campbell -tee name 'Huntly' or 'Admiral' - a descendant of "Dad" of the 'Zulu' design, hit on the idea of a motor boat designed for seine-netting only. Contrary to his forefathers he chose a 'Fifie' type boat for the new venture, installed a semi-diesel Gardener engine and fitted his 40ft. long 'Marigold' for seine-netting.
His venture was being closely watched by all concerned, for with the poor returns from the herring fishing, and the costly running of the steam drifters at seine-netting, Lossiemouth was certainly at the cross-roads as a fishing port.
John Cambell’s Marigold' was a success. He had ventured his all on the project, and used all his ability plus a lot of hard work, but he proved that the 'Marigold' could catch fish, was economical, and easily handled by a small crew, which meant a bigger financial settling for the crew members.
Orders began to pour in for the boats with semi-diesel engines of the type installed in the 'Marigold'. Improvements in the boats and winches came as a matter of course, boats increased in size and engines in horse-power. The steam drifter as far as Lossiemouth was concerned was on the way out, and many of the older ones were sold for scrap, others broken up. The new and better drifters were 'sold for a song', as everybody wanted to go in for, or get a berth on some of the new diesel motor seiners.
At this stage in the history of Lossiemouth, much praise is due to the traders in the town, the farmers in the surround district, towns-folk in Elgin and the area round about, for without the financial backing they gave, the fishermen of Lossiemouth would never have the total of 90 seine-netters operating by the year 1937.
Not all boats came up to expectations financially, but a large majority did, and a prosperity of a kind not known since the 1914-18 war, was to be seen in the town. Occasional forays to the herring fishing was made by several boats, but it was soon realised that there was more money in seine-netting so these forays died out, and the seine-net ruled supreme.
The Lossiemouth fleet did not all stay and fish in Moray Firth; some went to Oban, others to Ayr, some to Scrabster, but usually the larger part of the fleet fished in the Moray Firth landing their catches at home, although very occasionally landing at Aberdeen. Most of the fish landed locally were transported to the Glasgow market where, over the years a demand grew for the Lossiemouth fish. Some went by night train to Billingsgate for the London market.
Signs were that another war was in the offing and e'er long the young men who were Naval Reservists were called up, soon to be followed by all young men of Service age, when war broke out.
As in the 1914-18 war, the Admiralty found uses for the fishing fleet as auxiliaries serving in one capacity or another to help win the war.
A few of the older boats were left to go fishing, manned mostly by the veterans of the first world war, and young lads not yet age for service. Fishing was restricted during the war years, hazards were great, and fishing time limited by the Admiralty. One advantage, however, of all the restrictions was that when the war was over, there was plenty of fish in all the fishing grounds.
Like the 1914-18 war, the 1935-45 war had taken its toll of the younger men, with 30 fishermen killed and many of the fisher families were bereaved of one or two sons, or of a father, as the case may be.
1946 saw the return of most men from the services, but several boats had been lost or wrecked, so it was a case of a building programme again to provide boats for those returning, and the young men who grow up during the war years.
James Wood, the last of the line of boat-builders who had built the first 'Zulu' had died during the war years, and there was only William Slater, senior, and William Slater junior, with a boat-building yard to build the boats now required. The first boat they built was for William Stewart, tee name 'Pilot', 67½ ft long and fitted with a 152 HP Gardener diesel engine. The boat named 'Rival III' was some 10ft. longer than the pre-war boats, and this set the pattern for seine-net boats built later on.
It was not very long before Lossiemouth regained its busy pre-war look. New and bigger boats were built and by 1950 the fleet was again 100 in number.
It must be recorded here that the old order of financing and owning boats had changed. The Government had brought out a Grant and Loan Scheme whereby fishermen, either by themselves or in partnership with other fishermen, could get a new boat and, without exception, all boats since then have been Grant and Loan aided.
With bigger boats, the Lossiemouth fishermen went further afield, very often from Monday to Friday, and these boats became known as the trippers. Apart from the trippers there were boats landing every day and sales were held every morning and afternoon up to 5.30.p.m.
As time went on ports like Scrabster, Kinlochbervie and Lochinver, came to have good facilities for landing and selling fish, so instead of making the long voyage home through the Pentland Firth a few boats started landing their catches at these ports. Consequently the volume of fish landed at Lossiemouth declined, but nevertheless the fleet landing at home was still considerable. Later on, however, some of the fleet operated mainly from Oban and a few, working far out in the North Sea, landed at Aberdeen.
The cod season from February to April still found most of the fleet working at home until 1965 when cod shoals were not so plentiful in the Moray Firth, and half the fleet became based at the ports mentioned above.
There were changes in the size and type of boats being built; they were larger and very heavy powered. Shipbuilding had ceased in Lossiemouth; the Slaters had either died or gone out of business, and boats for Lossiemouth men were built at Buckie, Macduff, Fraserburgh or Peterhead.
With a declining fleet, fish sales in the afternoon, except Monday's and Friday's were abandoned. With the opening of the Moray Firth to prawn trawling. a few of the smaller seine-netters turned to trawling for them, and although financial returns were fair, the number never increased beyond a few boats, and Lossiemouth virtually stayed a seine-net port.
By 1970 boats up to 80ft were being built, and in most cases were made of steel. With their size and water draught these new boats, except in solitary cases, never landed their catches in Lossiemouth. They were entirely based at Peterhead, Lochinver and Oban, and so landings at Lossiemouth took a bad knock. Where in the past the three fishmarkets had been overflowing with fish, only very occasionally in 1976 was the second required.
By 1975 and early 1976 the high cost of running fishing boats, coupled with inflation had taken its toll and one third of the fleet had been sold or scrapped.
With the first half of 1976 behind us, the fleet at Lossiemouth working the home markets are holding on, prices for fish have stabilised and earnings are more in keeping with shore wages, but there are many factors, which if not ironed out may ' rock the boat' completely for the home-based Lossiemouth fleet. In particular the establishment of the 100 mile limit and a complete stop put to industrial fishing, so that fish stocks may be preserved.
In conclusion it is only fair to say that although the port of Lossiemouth has declined in the landing of white fish, Lossiemouth fishermen are keeping up the tradition of being first class fishermen in the ports of Peterhead, Lochinver and Oban, and their prosperity, in a large measure, circulates here where they still live.
Extract from the Records of Drainie Parish Church, which started a fund to help dependants of the fishermen who were lost in the "Stotfield Disaster"
Christmas Day, 1806.
“The morning of that day being very calm and favourable, most of the fishing boats in Moray Firth went to sea and amongst others, three boats belonging to Stotfield, the crews of these being all the seamen belonging to the place, excepting three superannuated infirm men, who had given over the business of fishing, and a few boys too young to engage in it.
After having finished their process of fishing, and while on their return home with the fruits of their industry, these unfortunate people were, about noon, overtaken by such a violent and tremendous hurricane from the W. and S.W. that after their utmost exertion, none of them were able to regain the shore, and being driven before the wind down the Firth, neither men nor boats were ever seen or heard of again.
The dreadful gale continued with unabated fury for about four hours, and then the wind changed to the North, and gradually subsided."
THE FAMILY NAMES OF THOSE WHO PERISHED IN THE "STOTFIELD DISASTER"
A TOTAL OF 21 LIVES LOST.