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Boats in sheds on Whalsay

Updated: Jun 6, 2019

A yellow fourareen lying on its starboard side tucked into a shed on Whalsay
White Lowrie built fourareen safely tucked-up in the shed!

Recently my Whalsay boat guru friend Malcolm Hutchison took me and Angela Grace Irvine on an intriguing boats in sheds excursion. It was a jammed packed day, and by the end my head was spinning with which boat was which, who built what and when, and who owned which boat! However, the key thing I took away from this great Whalsay day out was the love that people still have for their old family boats.

As the majority of the boats we saw were stored in sheds it made close inspection impossible. However, I kinda liked the fact that these boats are almost cocooned, waiting patiently, in the hope that maybe they might take to the sea again. The fourareen pictured below belongs to Bobby Johnson who lives in Symbister.

A side on view of a white, six strake fourareen. Built by Thomas Anderson in 1945
Fourareen built for John William Johnson by Thomas J. Anderson in 1945

This boat was originally painted black, white, and green, traditional colours for boats built on Out Skerries. The builder Thomas (Tammy) Anderson was originally from Skerries and he married and settled in Nesting which is on the east coast of Shetland's mainland.

This boat once taken from Nesting, to its new home, was kept in a noost (pronounced naust on Whalsay) on common ground at Beach Lodge.

A Shetland haddock boat in a shed built by White Lowrie in 1885.
Haddock boat built by White Lowrie in 1885.

This haddock boat owned by a lovely chap called Heckie is immaculate! It is incredible to think that this boat was in regular use until the 1990s. Obviously there have been modifications made over the years, notably this boat was originally six-oared and then in her later years she was turned into a four-oared boat. Some of the planking is still original and has the telltale moulded bede locally called the snik on both the inside top edge and outside bottom edge of the planking. The most forward frame variously called the stamron, stameron, or stammerin is made from a grown crook. This boat could be rigged with either the Whalsay eela rig (a loose footed gunter rig with a small jib) or with a dipping lug. A good way to differentiate a Whalsay boat from boats from elsewhere in shetland is that the kabes (tholes) are not mounted through the gunwale, but are instead mounted in a bracket fixed to the inside of the inwale and routh (the piece of wood mounted atop the gunwale upon which the oar sits.

It is very comforting and reassuring to know that folk are caring for their individual family's maritime heritage. The thing that really struck me is that these boats hold many family stories and the people who know these stories are sadly, like all of us, growing older by the day! Unless these stories are recorded soon they will be lost forever. So, please, record your family's maritime history before it's too late! It might appear hum drum to you, however, please believe me when I say, your stories are amazing!

This is just a highly edited version of our day on Whalsay! I would like to thank Malcolm for organising an amazing day, and to thank the people of Whalsay who were so welcoming and keen to talk about their wonderful boats.

Thank you.

Aa da best een noo,


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