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Dr Adrian Osler considers the cost for John T. Laurenson to build a boat in 1938


Having, in recent years, had cause to examine the building accounts of a couple of historic local (to me) shell-first, clinker-built vessels: King Edward the First’s ‘Newcastle Galley’, 1295; and the town’s civic ‘Rowbarge’ of 1510, it was hard to resist the temptation to consider the material costs of John Laurenson’s twelve-foot-of-keel boat in similar fashion. Granted, for those who are familiar with vernacular Shetland boatbuilding the results are probably much as might be expected, but the analysis presented here may add a trifle to our understanding of the economics of the craft (see Table 1).

Unsurprisingly, the largest single cost element was the timber, which amounted to some three-quarters of the money spent on the materials listed by the builder. Fastenings and ironwork accounted for the bulk of the remainder, comprising one-fifth of all expenditure, and two minor