“I enjoy meeting people,” Jim Buchan DL told Fishing News. “Through my different roles I’ve come across such amazing people from all walks of life. It really is a privilege to be in contact with so many people that are doing such amazing work.”

Jim’s different roles include being deputy convenor of Peterhead Port Authority (PPA) and a deputy lieutenant (DL) of Aberdeenshire – and that’s not to mention the day job, as owner and manager of marine engineering business J&J Buchan.

However, as a young man, there was one role Jim was less keen to take on. “My intention was to complete an engineering apprenticeship, then go to sea, as several friends and family were fishermen.

“However, during the third year of my apprenticeship, I used holiday entitlement to take a trip on a local seine-netter. I quite enjoyed it initially, but we had a force nine gale – and it was the middle of summer.

“We were dodging for two days. I thought to myself: if this is the fishing in the summer, then I have no great wish to see it in the winter! So I continued my engineering career.”

Jim (left) with Peterhead Port Authority colleagues and David Duguid MP (centre) in Westminster for a presentation on the Acorn Carbon Capture and Storage project. “Being a board member is a hugely exciting role. Members can serve for a maximum of three three-year terms. The ambition is to
set strategy to ensure the trust port’s continued development and leave it in a more prosperous condition for port stakeholders and the Peterhead community.”

Jim worked for General Motors (GM) at the firm’s Detroit Diesel Allison transmission plant in Peterhead. However, when the plant closed in 1982, a new opportunity presented itself.

“Whilst working at GM I also did some inshore fishing after hours – potting for lobster and handling for cod. During winters, I usually had some small-scale engineering or fabrication projects lined up. So it was a relatively easy transition to become self-employed.”

In 1982 Jim founded J&J Buchan, with his father coming onboard as partner. The business provides engineering, fabrication and vessel repair services to the fishing industry and energy- related industries.

“After the first year we started working with more and more fishing boats, as there was high demand for the welding and repair services we could provide. I also knew lots of people in the local fishing industry – many of whom were friends and acquaintances.

“At one stage we had 13 employees; however, I’m employing fewer than half that today. There are several reasons behind this, but inescapably the contraction of the fishing fleet and a move to newer vessels requiring fewer repairs played some part.

“We have been quite successful in diversifying, but as with other sectors there is difficulty in attracting and retaining young people. This disconnect with traditional industries is an issue I’m investigating in my role as a DL in conjunction with PPA. It’s a problem we recognise for future development – and we are engaging with Peterhead Academy and Aberdeen University to see what can be done to reverse this trend.”

The diverse nature of Jim’s roles means that no two days are the same. “The huge attraction of being involved with the fishing industry is that it’s pretty dynamic – and things change all the time.

“Often, I’ll get up first thing in the morning with my plan for the day – and by 8.30am that’s already gone out of the window!

“The advent of WhatsApp has helped considerably, because skippers can give some notice and also send photographs of the problem or parts required. However, on occasion we won’t know what’s wrong until things are investigated in port. It can then get very frantic very quickly if the skipper is looking for a quick turnaround and the parts or materials required are 35 miles away in Aberdeen.”

After allocating work to his team of engineers, Jim takes a brief step back from the workshop. “I usually go to a café for a cup of tea and catch up with some harbour chat – just to let the guys get themselves organised and the day’s tasks underway.

“I’ll then go into the office and make my daily attempt to clear my desk, before going back out to ensure works are progressing and are on schedule. If anything is needed, or a help- out is required, I’ll get on the tools and try to get things sorted.

“Ideally, I try to plan one or two days in advance to establish customer requirements and have the people, equipment and materials at hand to go from one job to the next as smoothly as possible.”

As well as running his business, Jim’s work with PPA and as a DL means he’s a man very much in demand.

Jim (right) showing alderman and sheriff of the City of London Alastair King DL (third from right) and guests around Peterhead fishmarket. “My role as a DL is to assist the Lord Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire in carrying out his duties on behalf of His Majesty the King and the Royal Family.”

“During my working day at J&J Buchan I may be contacted to discuss PPA board matters, take part in online meetings on port business, or sometimes take calls about DL duties. These can be quite diverse: presenting 100-year- olds with birthday cards, arranging lieutenancy assessments of organisations nominated for King’s Awards, or suggesting nominees for Royal Garden Party invitations, to name a few.

“Many of the regular meetings for both roles are planned, so I do get some notice – but it can be challenging fitting everything in. Sometimes a day can feel very short, with several changes of clothes – from boiler suit to business suit to full Highland dress.

“There’s usually a bit of everything happening over the course of a day. It can be very challenging, but always interesting and rewarding. You just never know what’s going to happen next.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.50 here

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