Motor Replaces Steam Propulsion

Motor Fishing Vessels

Perhaps the biggest change to the fishing industry and the lives of fishermen was when engines and propellers were developed which would eventually replace the use sail and steam propulsion.  Sailing vessels could be difficult to manoeuvre on the fishing grounds and were much slower when returning to the lucrative markets with fresh fish.  Although this was not a problem with the steam drifters they were very large to accommodate the engine, boiler and coal storage and also very expensive to build and to maintain. The new motor engines gave the smaller and cheaper boats the advantages of manoeuvrability and speed to get back to port quickly.

1925 - Zulu's converted to petrol engines

Initially those engines were paraffin engines and a considerable number were retro fitted to the sailing Zulu yawls during the early part of the 1900s where the boats transom and rudder was cut away to fit a shaft and propeller.  This photograph shows this conversion having been done on smaller Hopeman boats.

Over the following years engine design was improved and by the 1930s boats such as the INS 70 ‘LATISHA’, built by Sanny Findlay in Hopeman during 1932 heralded a new era.  These photographs show boats being dragged from the building yard, now occupied by Jimmy Taylor (joiner), over the road and down on to the beach where it was floated with the incoming tide and towed by a small motor boat to the harbour for completion. A hand cranked winch house on the west side of the bay pulled a wire which was led down to a snatch block secured to a rock near the low water line during spring tides.


This new type of boat competed very favourably with the steam drifters at the herring drift net fishery and by the end of the 1930s heralded the end of the steam drifter for fishing however a considerable number of the drifters were requisitioned by the Admiralty during World War 2 (1938-1945) prior to being scrapped.

Over the years the boats improved in design and engine power along with the development of different types of fishing methods.  The ring net for herring and the scene net for white fish became very popular during the 1940s and the fishing industry and fishing communities expanded considerably.  Hopeman unfortunately was a tidal port and required regular dredging and so became very limited when the boats grew in size and this resulted in fish markets going to Lossiemouth and Buckie where our boats became based.  They also fished the West coast of Scotland with crews being transported by bus to places like Fort William, Oban, Kinlochbervie, Ullapool, etc.

1949 - INS 113 Energy & crew L-R John Sutherland,Danny (Doo) Ralph, Daniel George Sutherland, Donald Jack,xxx

ENERGY  INS 116  – Built 1934 by Sanny Findlay in Hopeman for skipper Daniel Jack (Danaki). Photo taken whilst at the west coast fishery with crew members John Sutherland; Danny (Doo) Ralph; Daniel George Sutherland; Donald Jack; xxx.

1959 - INS 190 June Rose on delivery Hopeman

JUNE ROSE INS 190 – Arrival in Hopeman during 1956 from Jones Yard in Buckie where she was built for skipper William Ralph. (Wullie Doo).  152hp gardiner engine , Dimensions 61.5 x 18.7 x 8.2 ft.

Fishermen of course were very superstitious and religious and generally would not leave Hopeman for their boats until the Sunday morning church service was completed. They then would not sail from port before the clock struck midnight on a Sunday and it was quite a sight to see them all getting their engines and coal stoves fired up, stores being loaded on board and fishing gear made ready. It was a better sight to see them all leaving Lossiemouth and Buckie in a long line sailing into the darkness to their chosen fishing grounds whilst family and friends shouted on their encouragement.

1963 - Hopeman Harbour Boats A

Hopeman harbour during the 1950s.  Note that the fishing boats have their foremasts in the lowered position resting on top of the wheelhouse with nets drying over the mast. The lowering of masts was done to lower the boats centre of gravity, improve stability and so decrease rolling of the boats at sea.

2015 - Hopeman harbour

2015  Hopeman Harbour

Fear Not & Arcturus at Peterhead

Hopeman boats FEAR NOT and ARCTURUS lying alongside at Peterhead around 2005.

As the years progressed into the 1970s and 1980s the boats got larger and more powerful and fished in the distant waters of the northern North Sea where they remained at sea for up to 10 days at a time. Their nearest port for selling their catch was Peterhead and so Lossiemouth and Buckie was left to the smaller boats to continue fishing locally for white fish and prawns. These larger boats continued to improve with technology and electronic equipment and so with their superior catching ability they were too efficient to sustain a renewable stock of fish and so the government introduced decommissioning programs and vessel quotas. Unfortunately this decimated the fishing communities with hundreds of boats being cut up and sold for scrap. Those that were left were subjected to catch quotas and limited days at sea. Out of around 30 large fishing boats owned and manned by Hopeman fishermen during the 1980s/90s, today 2015, there are only two left fishing from Peterhead with none on the West coast.

Slowly over the past 30-40 years all of the fishing ports along the Moray Firth lost their markets as their boats disappeared and many of the ports like Hopeman and Lossiemouth are now only used by pleasure craft.  There is however a great fishing heritage left behind and many memories are still being told by fishermen as they gather down at the harbour like their forefathers before them.  Several ports around Scotland including Lossiemouth and Buckie have established museums containing information and exhibits of past times and are well worth a visit.

Photo gallery of Hopeman motor fishing boats from the 1930s to the present.





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