Survey hopes to rescue Moray boats abandoned 100 years ago

The last example of a Zulu class fishing boat (pic:
The last example of a Zulu class fishing boat (pic: Scottish Fisheries Museum)

THEY WERE ONCE the vessel of choice for Herring fishermen on the Moray Firth – but many were abandoned 100 years ago when men went to fight in the First World War.

Now moves are being made to restore a rare collection of the ‘Zulu’ boats led by a special project team from the Scape Trust Scottish Coast Archaeology, a charitable trust that researches, conserves and promotes the archaeology of Scotland’s coast.

The group have been conducting a mapping project along the Culbin shore opposite Findhorn Village, with a spokesman explaining: “The old boats at Findhorn were once at the heart of local industry, but were abandoned and left on the Culbin shore when fishermen joined the war effort.

“In 1879 Lossiemouth fisherman William Campbell came up with a radical design for his new boat – it had the vertical stern of the Fifie and the steeply raked stern of the Skaffie.

“He called his boat the Nonesuch – she had her registration closed on January 12, 1901 after having been broken up. The Zulu War raging in South Africa at the time gave the name to the new class of boat.”

The Zulu design produced fast boats that became invaluable to herring fishing fleets – they could get to the fishing grounds quickly and return just as fast with their catch. As a result the boats very quickly became popular along the entire east coast.

Survey work around Findhorn has been helped by experts from the Scape Trust based at the University of St Andrews while volunteers from the Findhorn Heritage Centre were also trained and tasked with the job of carrying out detailed surveys of wrecks.

Tim Negus, chairman of the Heritage Centre, said that 36 of the vessels have been identified. An aerial photographic survey that was originally planned using a drone for May had to be postponed because of bad weather but is now rescheduled to take place in September.

It is hoped that the work will provide a great deal more information on the boats which at one time numbered thousands but there is now thought to only be one intact example remaining, which is currently on display at the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther.