Storm Claims 100 Scottish Fishermen
Even today the lives of professional sea fishermen are far from easy, but in the mid-19th century in Scotland things were far more dangerous, the killer storm of August 19 1848 just one tragedy underlining the fact.
In 1848 all Scottish fishing vessels were still without engines, relying on sail power and the occasional use of oars when needed. Those boats too were of what could be regarded as a rather primitive design, open to the elements (without decks to prevent swamping by waves) as this was cheaper and meant more room for holding the catch. Most were clinker-built rather than the stronger carvel-built. And what made them more vulnerable was their relatively flat-bottomed design chosen to make beach-launching easier – harbours on the Scottish East Coast were lacking or poor, and moorings cost money.
When the fleets put out after herring on August 18 1848 the weather was fair. This changed overnight, the following day seeing extreme winds and huge waves. Of the 800 or so boats that left towns and villages like Wick, Fraserburgh , Peterhead and Stonehaven 124 were lost that day, though their crews were often rescued. One hundred fishermen died in the storm.
An Admiralty enquiry after the event promoted the use of decked-vessels, and the improvement of East Coast harbours. For the 161 children left fatherless by the storm the changes came too late.
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