For a period of some 30 years between the 1870s and the early 1900s Collieston was one of the most prosperous fishing communities on Scotland’s NE coast. The silting up of its natural harbour (following the building of the Pier in 1894) and the introduction of steam trawling from the nearby ports of Aberdeen and Peterhead changed all that…………..

To view the movies you will need to have the Quicktime media player installed on your machine. If you do not have the player, it can be downloaded from here [get quicktime]

 

 
Part 1 of the Lang Lines Colvid0049
Part 1 of a six part edit of the Lang Lines video programme about long line fishing at the close of the nineteenth century. It was filmed by Alan White and is narrated by Bill Torrance.
It describes how the combination of the silting up of the harbour and the introduction of steam trawling led to the demise of commercial fishing in Aberdeen.

Part 2 of the Lang Lines Colvid0050
Part 2 describes the wintering of the larger Collieston yawls on the Ythan estuary.
It also includes an extract from the award winning film “The Last Fisherman” showing Norman Grant fishing for cod in the 1960s. His technique is much the same as would have been used in the 1900s.
It closes showing how the hooks were attached to the lines.

Part 3 of the Lang Lines Colvid0051
Part 3 describes the work involved in baiting the lines and how the women used to carry their men to the boats. It closes with a sequence filmed aboard the Scottish Fisheries Museums Reaper – a larger version of the traditional “zulu” design of yawl that would have fished from Collieston.
Part 4 of the Lang Lines Colvid0052
Part 4 begins with Norman Grant hauling in his lines at sea and continues by showing how fish were gutted and cleaned before being packed into creels to be carried and sold around the countryside by Collieston fish wives.

Part 5 of the Lang Lines Colvid0053
Using archive footage, Part 5 shows the work involved in making the famous Collieston Speldings.
It continues to tell how the minister once had economic ambitions for the village including the construction of a branch railway line and a bank in the village.

Part 6 of the Lang Lines Colvid0054
This final part describes again how the building of the Pier led to the silting up of the harbour. It closes with a tribute to the many fishers who lost their lives plying their trade at the Lang Lines.


Aunt
Steve & Jock Ritchie reminisce about their Aunt Jean who worked as fishwife Colvid0001

Salmon hydraulics
Malcolm Forbes demonstrates the hydraulic technique of sinking wooden poles into sand that was developed during WW2 to prevent enemy planes and gliders from landing on the long beaches on Scotlandís east coast. Colvid0031

Salmon fishing declines
Netsman Malcolm Forbes talks about the decline in salmon fishing along the coast between Aberdeen and Forvie Colvid0041

Forvie Salmon fishery
The general location of the salmon bothy and fishery along the shore of Forvie Moor. Colvid0040




John Robertson and Dr Lewis Mackie describe how many Collieston fisher families moved to Torry.

Dr Lewis Mackie, Rachel Walker and John Robertson talk about speldings.

 
     
  Yawls landing prior to building of the Pier  
 
 
Collieston circa 1890, prior to the building of the Pier and looking north to the part of the village known as the Cliff. The main focus is the fishing boats returning to the natural harbour under sail.

Sailing as far as Belhelvie, these smaller haddock boats would each have had a crew of three or four men who would often have had to row there and back when there was no wind to assist them.

One of the boats is carrying a jib as well as the lugsail.

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Circa 1890 women stand ready to carry their menfolk to their boats
 
Circa 1890, the women, Sara Robertson (nee Ross), Maggie Walker and Annie Wilson (wife of Sandy ‘Da’), have each removed their stockings and shoes and have their skirts hitched up ready to wade into the cold, icy water to lever the boats forward with their backs. Afterwards they would carry out the heavy stones for ballast.

Their final task would be to carry the men, ‘Bricky’ (John) Walker, Sandy ‘Da’ Walker, Tam Walker and Alex ‘Rossie’ Ross out to the boat, ‘The Vigilant’, on their backs. By carrying the men, the women would ensure that the men’s leather boots would remain dry. Launching the yawls was indeed a hard job for the women.

Houses that subsequently fell into decay and were later demolished are visible behind the boat.

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  Fishwives gutting/cleaning fish on the shore.  
 
 
Circa 1890, prior to the building of the Pier, a group of women on the rocky foreshore after a catch of fish has been brought ashore. The fish are spread on the rocks in front of the women whose task now is to clean and gut the fish before the hungry gulls appear.

The women are cleaning and gutting the fish on the shore below the part of the village known as ‘The Bog’. Houses that subsequently fell into decay and were later demolished are visible to the rear of the women.

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Fishwives gutting fish on the apron area of the newly constructed Pier.
 
Circa 1895 four fishwives, Libby Mitchell, Mrs Mitchell, Jean Ritchie and May Ritchie, are busy cleaning and gutting fish on the apron area of the newly constructed Pier. Their traditional wicker woven baskets, murlins, full of fish, are clearly visible nearby.

Behind the women is the area of the village known as Low Town where a recently built row of two storey cottages runs across the middle of the photograph. These cottages, originally called Jubilee Terrace, were built in 1887, the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.

Behind Jubilee Terrace can be seen Seaview, home of the Ritchie family, and the Dairy House. The roof of the village shop is also visible in the background.

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  'The Boatie Shore'  
 
 
Between 1894 and 1899, three boats, on the part of the beach known as ‘the boatie shore’, are in the process of being beached and are being hauled up onto the shore by a group of men and women.

It would appear to have been a successful fishing trip judging by the number of seagulls assembled on the rocks near the harbour entrance eagerly waiting to feed on the scraps which will be discarded when the fish are cleaned and gutted.

Part of the recently built Pier can be seen to the left in the background.

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The Harbour
 
A yawl sails into the harbour at the end of the 19th Century prior to the construction of the Pier in 1894. The Pier was built because of the increasing prosperity of the fishing industry and records show that, at that time, some 165 men were working 63 fishing boats.

Ironically, it was the building of the Pier that led to the harbour silting up. Small herring boats soon became outmoded and the young men left to join larger boats in Torry, Aberdeen.

Soon there were not enough men left to haul the large line boats up the beach. By 1900 only 16 boats were left, by 1929 only 14, and the few remaining fishermen were well in to middle age.

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  Fishwives gutting fish near the shore  
 
 
A group of fishwives are gutting fish near the foreshore circa 1900. Their traditional hand woven wicker baskets lie on the rocks nearby and a small cobble boat is clearly visible behind them.

After the men had brought the catch of haddock and whiting ashore, it was the women’s job to gut, wash and scrub the fish with a brush made of heather stems bound together. After splitting, the fish were salted, laid in a circle head out, tail in the centre, and then laid on racks to dry.

The dried fish were then called speldings. Sold for one penny each for a large one and one half penny for a small one, the demand for this famous Collieston delicacy often exceed the supply and sometimes speldings had to be posted on to the customer when a fresh supply was available.

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  Fishing  
 
The Collieston fishing fleet of larger, tall masted, yawls in port circa 1900. Some of the fishermen’s gear can be seen lying on the pier. Beyond the yawls, the gable end of the cottage now known as ‘Buckies’ is easily identifiable, as is the line of the road running from the harbour up to the village.
 
In wintertime the yawls were taken to the shelter of the Ythan Estuary

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Fishwife
 
A fishwife called Maggie Ross circa 1925 dressed in clothes typically worn by the women residents of the village at that time. The hardwearing leather boots and woollen stockings were required to keep her feet warm and dry and protected from the rough roads.

The skirt, jacket and headscarf were woollen and would have helped keep the cold, north winds at bay. On her back can be seen the creel which would have been filled with fish and carried round the countryside where she would have either sold her fish or used them as barter for meat and eggs.

To keep the farm produce separate from the fish, she would have carried a separate basket.

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Some of the village fishermen and their boats circa 1935. The boat in the foreground, ‘The Nellies’, was registered in Peterhead and had the registration number PD602.

By the mid 1930’s line fishing was only carried out in small boats. This was due to the build up of sand on the foreshore, caused by the construction of the Pier at the end of the 19th century, which made it impossible for the bigger boats to come ashore.

In the background, above the Pier, is the area of the village known as the Cliff and the cottage which can be seen slightly right of centre is the one in which T E Lawrence stayed in 1930. It has received some care and attention and is now harled and white washed.

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James Walker who was known as ‘Jimmicky’. ‘Jimmicky’ was a fisherman who lived in the village and he is seen here preparing his lines ready to shoot from a wicker skull raised on a specially made work ‘bench’.

Behind ‘Jimmicky’ is a shed which has been painted with layer upon layer of black Archangel tar.

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A yawl sails into Collieston harbour at the beginning of the 20th Century by which time the fishing industry in Collieston was in decline.

After the Pier was built in 1894, the harbour began to silt up, small herring boats became outmoded and the young men left to join larger boats working from Torry, Aberdeen. Soon there were not enough men left to haul the large line boats up the beach.

By 1900 only 16 boats were left, by 1929 only 14 small boats, and the few remaining fishermen were well into middle age. Norman Grant, who died in 1971, represented the end of the line as far as commercial fishing out of Collieston was concerned.

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  Fishing  
 
 
Alexander Ritchie mending a traditional wicker woven basket, known as a murlin, circa 1935. Known to everyone as ‘Cottie’, Alexander Ritchie lived in the Hightown area of the village. His mother was a fishwife who used to travel round the neighbouring farms selling the fish caught by her husband or bartering them for farm produce.

On one of her travels, during the latter stages of pregnancy, the onset of labour pains forced the woman to stop at Cotehill Farm, just over one mile north of Collieston. She duly gave birth to a baby boy and left him in the capable hands of the farmer’s wife while she continued on her way to sell her wares, collecting the new addition to the Ritchie family on her way home.

The baby, christened Alexander, was appropriately nicknamed ‘Cottie’ and answered to that name for the remainder of his days. Alexander ‘Cottie’ Ritchie died, aged 76 years, on 22nd April, 1945.

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Traditional long line fishing continued in Collieston into the 1950s. By the end of World War 2 there were very few boats fishing full time, it was however still very much a family affair.

A young female relative is seated next to Andrew John Walker. He is preparing bait ready to lay it into a wicker skull, two other skulls are sitting on the fence behind him. The bait, either mussels, mackerel, or lug worm is in the enamel plate on his knee. Another, more elderly relative is seated working on a line suspended from a tripod frame.

Behind the group is the row of two storey houses known as Jubilee Terrace. The Walker’s shed with its luxury of running water is to the left of Andrew John.
The dormer windows on the upper storey are the original – they have subsequently been “modernised”.

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  Fishing  
 
 
Circa 1959 the Ingram brothers, Jimmy, Jack and Dick, are doing some maintenance work on Dick’s boat ‘Gipsy Queen’. By the mid 1950’s the beach had become a popular spot with both locals and tourists, many of whom can be seen either sitting on the sand and rocks at the foreshore or paddling in the sea.

Beyond the Pier several houses have either been renovated or extended, including the house in which Lawrence of Arabia stayed. Painted white and with a raised roof and much enlarged gable, it stands out in the centre of the top third of the photograph.

The house to its right has also been extended with bay windows on the ground floor and dormer windows on its now raised roof.

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Fishwife
 
Rachel King Walker was the wife of Thomas 'Tooley' Walker who owned the Peterhead Registered boat 'The Ella Keith'. She is seen here standing outside Ebenezer Cottage the home of her sister-in-law, Jessie King, circa 1910. Carrying a creel on her back, Rachel has a shawl wrapped over her shoulders to protect them from the heavy weight of the creel filled with fish.

Wearing a striped skirt, knitted jumper, hessian apron and stout shoes, Rachel would have had to walk many miles round the neighbouring countryside to sell her fish or barter them for fresh produce from the local farms.

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Fishing

 
 
 
Three men after an early morning fishing trip in 1999. To the rear of the men, Ronnie Chaplain, Mike Wallace and Ken Ingram, small boats are clearly visible tied to moorings near the ‘boatie shore’ at the foot of the Braehead.

Commercial fishing in Collieston is now a thing of the past but it is still a popular pastime with both residents and visitors alike, although it is now only undertaken when the weather is fair and the sea calm. Gone are the days when fishing boats had to be taken out in all weathers and women had to carry their men-folk out to the boats to prevent their leather sea boots from getting wet.

Herring and flounders are still caught and there is still a small private smokehouse in the village where the herring are kippered. Speldings, however, are no longer made and the days of Collieston’s famous Spelding Teas have indeed passed into history.

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  Speldings  
 
The fishwives are standing in the Bog area of Collieston beside fish drying on racks circa 1910. Gutted and split the fish were salted, laid in a circle head out, tail in the centre, and then laid on racks to dry.

The dried fish were then called speldings. Sold for one penny each for a large one and one half penny for a small one, the demand for this famous Collieston delicacy often exceed the supply and sometimes speldings had to be posted on to the customer when a fresh supply was available.

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Spelding Teas
 
The Collieston Tearoom was very popular with visitors to the village during the 1920’s and 30’s. It was situated on the Brae Head next to the village bakery and, for the princely sum of one shilling and sixpence per person, a mouth watering afternoon tea was provided.

The waitress, smartly dressed in black with a white apron and frill, would bring the purchaser one of Collieston’s famous Spelding Teas consisting of oatcakes and butter, speldings, home made cakes and a pot of tea.

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The bakery with Mr A Walker as proprietor, provided the villagers with their daily supply of freshly baked big plain loaves and mouth watering shortbread, baked to Mrs Stock’s recipe.

During the summer months of the 1920’s, visitors flocked to the bakery’s Tearoom to partake of the famous Spelding Teas which consisted of oatcakes, butter, grilled speldings, tea and cakes, all for the princely sum of one shilling and sixpence.

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Speldings
 
Circa 1925, the Tea Room, which was located in the High Town area of the village in the house now known as the Bakery. It’s popularity was based largely on the ‘Spelding Teas’ that helped to attract visitors to the village. People also used to buy speldings to take away.

The building is a single storey rubble and harled cottage with a turf roof and wooden extensions. A feature of the building is the very high chimney which would have created extra up draught for the bakery oven.

The proprietor, A Walker, is standing outside the tearoom, posing for the camera, and is wearing a white apron.

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Fishermen

Four fishermen are standing beside a rack of speldings. After the men had brought the catch of haddock and whiting ashore, the women had to gut, wash and scrub the fish with a brush made of heather stems bound together.After splitting, the fish were salted, laid in a circle head out, tail in the centre, and then laid on racks to dry. The dried fish were then called speldings. Sold for one penny each for a large one and one half penny for a small one, the demand for this famous Collieston delicacy often exceed the supply and sometimes speldings had to be posted on to the customer when a fresh supply was available.

Behind the men a shed is clearly visible. These ‘black sheds’, so called because of their thick coatings of Archangel tar were scattered throughout the village and would have been where the fishing gear was kept.

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A posed postcard photograph of fishwives

Two fishwives and a well-dressed Edwardian gentleman. Taken circa 1910 a fishwife with a creel on her back stands to the left of the picture looking seaward past speldings drying on nearby rocks.

A well-dressed Edwardian gentleman and another fishwife, known as Fish Meggie, are seated on the rocks with the sea behind them. In the foreground is Fish Meggie’s empty creel which she will fill with the speldings when they are fully dried.

Fish Meggie and her fellow fishwife will then carry their creels full of speldings around the local countryside either selling their wares or bartering for meat and eggs. To keep the farm produce separate from the fish, the fishwives would have carried a separate basket.

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The 'Howdie Wifie'
 
The ‘Howdie Wifie’ (midwife) known as Jinsy Meggie at the beginning of the 20th century. The clothes worn by Meggie were typical of those worn by the women residents of the village at that time.

Hardwearing leather boots and woollen stockings were required to keep her feet warm and dry and protected from the rough roads as she travelled around the countryside. An apron was worn on top of her woollen skirt to help keep it clean.

A woollen shawl and bonnet completed the outfit and would have helped keep the cold, north winds at bay.

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Gutting Fish
 
Fishwives are busy cleaning and gutting fish on the apron area of the recently constructed Pier circa 1900. Their traditional hand-woven wicker baskets, full of fish, are visible nearby.

To the rear of the Pier is the area of the village known as the Cliff. The buildings are of rubble and quarry stone construction, harled with a lime-based mortar. Some of the houses fell into decay and were later demolished but many were preserved and modernised.

The grassy mound behind the houses is called the Rivie, the promontory dividing Cransdale from Collieston. This was where the 'herdie lad' looked after the cows until it was time to take them down through the village and herd them up to the byre near the dairy to be milked.

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Gutting fish on the 'boatie shore'
Fishwives hard at work on the ‘boatie shore’ at the beginning of the 20th Century. After the men had brought the catch ashore it was the women’s job to sort, gut, clean, split and salt the fish.

The women’s traditional hand woven wicker baskets, known as murlins, are clearly visible lying on the rocky foreshore.

The gulls, hovering overhead waiting for a feast when the women have finished, will make sure that not a scrap of food is left.

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Sorting the catch
Two women busy at work on the foreshore circa 1890, prior to the building of the Pier. The woman on the right is sorting the catch of fish in preparation for gutting and cleaning.

The one on the left is carrying a bucket of water, fetched from the Bog Wall which provided the entire village with its water supply at the time.

The houses, clearly visible behind the women, are situated in the area known as the Cliff. Some of the houses subsequently fell into decay and were later demolished but many were preserved and modernised.

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Cleaning the fish
Fishing was the predominant way of earning a living for most of the families in Collieston during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Both men and women had an important role to play.

The men would bait the lines with mussels and pieces of mackerel, go out in the early morning to lay the lines and then wait patiently for the fish to bite. Once the catch was brought ashore it was usually the women who had the job of cleaning the fish.

The women seen here circa 1910 are busy at work on the rocky foreshore gutting, washing and scrubbing the fish with a brushes made out of heather stems bound together.

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Setting a long line
 
Jimmy Ingram is setting the lines circa 1950. Having already baited the lines with either mussels, lug worm or pieces of mackerel, Jimmy would go out in his boat in the early morning to lay the lines and then wait patiently for the fish to bite.

A traditional wooden skull, from which the lines were shot, is clearly visible at Jimmy’s feet.

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Fish wife’s Creel
 
Woven from willow, these wicker creels (full of upwards of 50 kilos of fresh fish) were carried on the backs of fishwives as they sold the daily catch around the countryside.

The load was supported by a hessian strap attached across the women’s shoulders.

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Murlin
 
Wicker murlins or flat tray-like baskets were used to coil the long lines during the redin, or removal of the old bait, prior to the lines being baited once more and set neatly into either wicker or wooden skullls ready for the fishing.

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A Family Haul a Small Yawl up onto the Beach
 
Making a living from fishing involved the whole family. This included quite literally pulling together to haul the smaller, but still heavy, wooden yawls up from the water, over the sand and onto the shelter of the “boatie shore”.

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Oiling Sea Boots
 
Before the invention of waterproofed rubber, sea boots were made of leather. Fishermen kept them waterproof by the regular application of oils such as Dubbin.

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A view over the Harbour
 
Circa 1910, looking at the northerly part of the village. On the horizon, behind the grassy mound known as the ‘Rivie’, Slains Kirk and Collieston School are clearly visible.

In the foreground a beached yawl lies on the rocky foreshore while two more yawls can be seen on a part of the foreshore where sand is beginning to accumulate after the recent construction of the Pier.

The houses at the foot of the ‘Rivie’ are built on the area of the village known as the Cliff. Some of the houses subsequently fell into decay and were later demolished but many of them were preserved and modernised.


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Fishwives sorting the catch
 
Circa 1905, fishwives and fishermen from the village. The fishwives are Annie Wilson, Aggie and ‘Old May’, while standing nearby are the fishermen known as ‘Captain Sandy Ad’ and ‘Jock Retch’.

The well-dressed lady is Molly Clark who, along with several other visitors is watching the fishwives hard at work on the Pier as they sort the catch of fish and get them ready for cleaning and gutting.

To the right of the Pier is the area of the village known as the Cliff and the line of the road running from the harbour up to the village is clearly identifiable. Some of the houses subsequently fell into decay and were later demolished but many were preserved and modernised.


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