As the two nostalgic photos on this page show, some fifty years ago Aberdeen harbour was home to a large fleet of whitefish vessels supported an equally imposing whitefish processing sector.
At this time, Aberdeen was firmly established as the leading whitefish port in Scotland and one of the main trawling venues in Britain after the Humberside distant water giants Hull and Grimsby.
The large population living just over 100 miles to the south in the central belt Scotland ensured high levels of demand for fresh fish landed by a combination of middle distance trawlers fishing 16 day trips to the Faroese grounds and the smaller class of Aberdeen scatcher that fished in North Sea and off the west coast of Scotland.
In addition to steam and diesel powered side trawlers, some thirty great line boats, evenly split between the 80/90GT and the larger 120/160GT class of vessel also fished from Aberdeen. At sea for up to 28 days,, the great liners fished down to 400 fathoms when principally targeted halibut or ‘geni’ as they were known locally, with some prime specimens weighting up to 20 stone (140kg)
The constant hunger for fish at Aberdeen market frequently resulted in 65/70ft seine net boats running south from Shetland to land their catches alongside the dominant trawler fleet.
Although some local owners invested in new stern trawlers, an aging fleet started to quickly reduce in size from the late 1960’s. From the late 70’s onwards, seine net boats from Fife and north-east Scotland contributed most of the whitefish landed into Aberdeen, before market sales ended completely nearly ten years ago.
The main photograph (above) shows side trawlers laid in to a snow covered Point Law quay in the early 1960s.
Mount Melleray A 558 (nearest to camera) was built at Aberdeen in 1961 for Stroud’s Steam Fishing Company Ltd.
Owned by Distributors’ Fishing Company (Aberdeen) Ltd Aberdeen Distributor A 221 was also built in Aberdeen three years earlier.
Admiral Mountbatten A 188 had the distinction of being the biggest trawler to be built in Buckie by Herd & Mackenzie when launched as Star of Loretto for the Walker Steam Fishing Company in 1958.
The 106ft Stratherrick GN 74 was built by Livingston and Co Ltd at Peterhead in 1960 for Granton based Norman Lyle Ltd. This sidewinder was later owned by Ailsa Craig Fishing Company when re-registered A 763 Clarkwood A 557 and Burwood A 547 were sisterships (LOA 115f x 25ft beam and 249GT) fitted with Mirlees 4SA 6 cylinder (760hp) engines built on the south bank of the River Tyne at Friar’s Goose, Gateshead in 1961 for the John Wood Group by T Mitchison.
Between 1955, when the yard was taken over by James Burness and Co of London before closing in 1963, a succession of side trawlers were built at this venue for Aberdeen owners.
These new builds included, Aberdeen Enterprise A 114, Aberdeen Progress A 157, Dalewood A 481, Donwood A 575, Japonica A 524, Janwood A 457, Marwood A 306, Lorwood A 400, Paramount A 309, Star of Aberdeen A 199 and Starwood A 431.
The second photograph shows the Clovella A 63 and Clova A 417 berthed between trips.
Both trawlers were built at Aberdeen by John Lewis & Sons for the Clova Fishing Company Ltd. Featuring a British Polar engine, Clovella joined the Aberdeen fleet in 1957 and was subsequently lengthened 12 feet in 1966 before being sold to Ailsa Craig Fishing Company Ltd in 1973.
Head to our nostalgia section for more from commercial fishing’s history…