The Cellardyke Echo – 13/5/2022 – Issue 338


On Wednesday forenoon, Thomas Cunningham, pilot, Cellardyke, seeing a schooner entering the Firth with loss of foretopmast and jibboom, got his boat manned and went off, and found her to be the Jean McCole, of Glasgow, bound from Grangemouth to Memel, with coal and machinery. The captain stated that on the previous day, when about 50 miles to the eastward of the Island of May, he lost his jibboom and foretopmast, and two hands who were on the jibboom at the time. He declined any assistance, and proceeded to Granton. The vessel was not insured.


Kilrenny Town Council. —At a meeting of this Council on Saturday—Provost Martin presiding—the Chairman read a note received from Mr Ellice, M.P., who enclosed a communication he had received from the Post Office authorities, intimating that the telegraph would be extended to Cellardyke immediately. The Clerk read a petition from the inhabitants of the village of Kilrenny requesting the Council to take steps to provide a supply of water for domestic purposes, the former source having become impregnated with oil and other impurities from the Paraffin Oil Works at Pitcorthie. The lessee of these works, Mr A. G. Yool having promised a subscription towards defraying the expense making a well, the meeting appointed the Magistrates as a Committee to inquire as the most suitable site, and have the grievance remedied as soon as possible.

THE MUSSEL SCALPS. For some time back regular warfare has been going on between the St Andrews fishermen and the parties authorised by the Town Council to sell the mussels at the scalps on the south side of the Eden. A good quantity of the mussels have been taken away by the fishermen without being paid for, though is said they offered 6d instead of ls the basket, and on the refusal of this sum “helped themselves.” We believe a number of them will shortly appear before the Court in Cupar to answer to a charge of theft. …………. We know it is urged that boats from Cellardyke and other places are able to pay the 1s; but then it must be remembered that these are large boats, and the mussels are only got for the purpose of catching other bait for the deep sea fishing; consequently they only need bait once a week, while our fishermen require it daily. may be urged that our fishermen should also get large boats and go to the deep-sea fishing, but then the question of the risk with these large boats, and harbour like ours, comes in to nullify that suggestion.

CELLARDYKE. BURGH COURT. -At a burgh court held on Saturday—Provost Martin and Bailies Sharp and Watson on the bench—David Brown, carter, Anstruther, was charged with having committed a breach of the peace on Monday 1st inst., and also with malicious mischief, by breaking a window in the house occupied by Thomas Pringle, cooper. He pled not guilty, and the evidence of two witnesses was adduced. It appeared that Brown had on the night in question indulged a little too freely, and in that condition had resolved to pay a visit to his “lady fair.” The stair which it was necessary to ascend, before reaching her domicile, however, proved too much for him, and the noise which he made in attempting to get to the top having aroused the landlord, that person at once proceeded to persuade him to leave, the argument used being a poker. Brown resented the interference by smashing two or three panes of glass, and then raising a disturbance. The Bench found the charge proven, and he was sentenced to pay a fine of 10s. 6d., or suffer 10 days’ imprisonment.

Furious Driving. —At the Burgh Court of West Anstruther on Monday—Bailies Darsie and Dougal on the bench—David Brown, who was convicted on Saturday in Cellardyke, was charged with furious driving to the danger of the lives of the lieges on the High Street on the evening of Wednesday last. He pleaded guilty, and after receiving a suitable admonition from Bailie Darsie, he was sentenced to a fine of 5s, or eight days’ imprisonment.


CAPTURE OF A WHALE BY A FISHING YAWL. Some excitement was created in the town last Saturday morning by the landing of a whale which has been captured in the nets of a yawl belonging to Mr James Gardner, Cellardyke. Mr Gardner had been prosecuting the salmon fishing in the Firth, his brother Mr John Gardner, being along with him in the boat, and they were in the act of pulling in their nets when they first discovered the animal. Steps were immediately taken to secure it by fastening a rope round its tail, which was only effected with considerable difficulty. They then proceeded to tow the whale towards the shore, but the resistance of the animal was so great as to break the rope. They succeeded, however, in hooking it by the mouth, and got the rope fastened once more, but before they had got much further it was again broken. While engaged in making the rope fast, Mr John Gardner had a narrow escape from receiving some injury. The whale had made a sudden movement and striking its tail out of the water almost touched his forehead. The yawl reached the harbour about three o’clock in the morning, and the whale was immediately thereafter pulled up on the slip at the east quay. While lying there, it continued to blow until the tide receded, after which it lay high and dry for several hours upon the slip, where it was visited by a large number of people, drawn to the spot by the somewhat unusual spectacle. The only sign of life was a frequent quivering over several parts of body, and it was thought incapable of further exertion. In this, however, the onlookers were mistaken, for about ten o’clock the animal, to the astonishment of the spectators, made a last desperate struggle, and threw itself over the slip into the harbour, striking and moving a yawl in its fall. It was purchased by Provost Todd for 45s. The whale was a specimen of the minor or smaller Rorqual, (Physalus Boops) which was first well described by the late Dr Knox. The name Rorqual is derived from a Norwegian word which signifies the whale with folds, in allusion to the deep longitudinal folds which these of our readers who witnessed the whale would observe along, the under jaw and a considerable portion of the lower parts of the animal. It was a female, and measured about 17 feet in length, and 8 feet in circumference. The animal lay in one of Provost Todd’s sheds until Monday, when Mr Millen Coughtrey, M.B.C.M., Edinburgh, late assistant to Professor Turner, and who had come down specially to view it, examined and cut up part of the fish, and took minute notes concerning it, with a view to make the most of it for science. The stomach of the whale was found to be empty, so that no light was thrown upon the nature of its food, which is supposed to be chiefly small living creatures which can be retained by the whalebone. According to Wood’s ‘lllustrated Natural History,’ a whale of this species haunted the Firth of Forth for a period of 20 years, and was popularly recognised under the name of the ‘hollie pike,’ on account of a hole through its dorsal tin, which had been perforated by a musket. The same writer save: —’The bulk of this animal is greater than that of any other whale, as many specimens have known to attain the length of more than 100 feet, and one or two have reached the extraordinary length of 120 feet. By inexperienced whalers it is sometimes mistaken for the Greenland whale and harpooned, but is very seldom killed, for the creature is so remarkably active and fearless that in many cases the aggressors have paid dearly for their error by a crushed boat and loss of several lives. On one occasion a Rorqual started off in a direct line and at such a speed that the men lost their presence of mind and forgot to cut the rope that connected the whale with the boat. Making directly for a neighbouring iceberg, the Rorqual shot under it, and drew the boat with all its crew beneath the ice, where they disappeared for ever from the gaze of mankind. Owing to the persevering manner in which the Rorqual follows its prey to our shores, it is more frequently stranded upon the British shores than any other true whale. One of these animals that was thus captured was 95 feet in length, and weighed 249 tons. The skeleton of this magnificent animal was preserved and mounted, and after the bones were dry, their united weight amounted to 3 tons. (This more commonly known as a Fin or Herring Whale)


“Willie Thomson.” – No little sensation was neighbourhood on Wednesday last week by the appearance of a swarthy, haggard-looking man, clad in a rough moleskin jacket, and with his bare toes protruding through the points of his shoes—who, notwithstanding an eighteen years’ absence, was quickly recognised as “Willie Thomson,” or more familiarly as “Daft Willie,” who was tried at the Perth Autumn Circuit of 1855 for a criminal assault on a girl of about seven years old the daughter of Duncan Macdonald then a farm servant at Coalfarm, on the 16th of May of that year and being of weak intellect was ordered by the Court to be confined as a dangerous lunatic. Willie was for many years an inmate of the lunatic ward of Perth Penitentiary, but was removed to the Retreat at Springfield, from which, however, he took the first opportunity to escape to the Central Prison, where he had become attached to the officials had shown no inclination to stray till Tuesday morning when something akin to home sickness had tempted him to take the road to Cellardyke. The poor creature was soaking wet with the heavy rains and famishing with hunger; but though his mental condition was not to be disguised, his behaviour in every respect sedate and harmless, and he showed a vivid recollection of the neighbourhood as he had known it some twenty years ago. Poor Willie was soon the centre of a large and interested group, and many a kind word fell upon an ear albeit seldom used to tones of compassion and sympathy. “Do you ken me, Willie?” asked veteran skipper “Aye fine,” was the ready response, ” your auld Davie Strauchan.” “Do you mind o’ that house?” inquired another. “Hoo can I no,” answered the poor waif with a tear, “it was aince my mither’s;” but with childlike simplicity so characteristic of his class, nothing appeared to interest him so much as the improvements that came under his notice. “I’d like tae stop at hame,” he said, “aside sae mony -bonie new hooses.” In the meantime, however our Poor Inspector— Mr Thomas Brown—had by the agency of the telegraph, obtained the secret of Willie’s unexpected arrival in Cellardyke; and it may furnish the best illustration of his quiet and docile character that he  at once accompanied Mr Brown to the station , from which he was at once conveyed under the same humane keeping by the one P.M train to Springfield Asylum. Willie, who is now over 50 years of age, was long the “Davie Gellatley” of the East Neuk . His mother was a strong limbed fish wife of Cellardyke, that besides her ‘haddie creel’ also trafficked in loaf-bread about the cottar houses taking eggs and butter in exchange; indeed, her maxim was that of the famous Tam the Gallanter who took anything for everything from his customers ” but their bare word. “Martha, the black witch” as the country children called her, brought up her illegitimate child, Willie, who was a half-wit from his cradle, to her wandering avocation, and as he grew up a powerful muscular fellow, he was able to carry a giant’s load from farmstead to farmstead, though ever wayward, he would, ten times a day throw his his “big sheetfu'” to the ground and refuse to stir a foot till bribed with “anither cookie” by his indulgent mother. Willie was likewise an artist in his way, and painted sea views innumerable, in all of which however, his favourite French fishing luggers were sure to be the leading figures in the picture, though his passion for colours came to be divided by his enthusiasm for the little trim steam packet, “Xantho” which he watched night and day as devotedly as if it had been a living thing. Like the ill-fated “Daft Jamie” of Edinburgh, Willie was known to everybody about the shore, and about twenty years was frequently employed in porter work about the steamer and to run errands for Mr John Todd and other fish merchants, and though often the sport of the young and foolish was looked upon as simple and harmless, till the attack upon the poor child which has consigned him to lifelong confinement. His mother so far held a firm hand over him, but when she fell victim to the cholera visitation of 23 years ago, he was left as it were to the mercy of the stranger, and though always treated with much indulgence by some of the leading inhabitants of the district, there can be no doubt that his wants have been better seen to in Prison than if he had been at liberty.


Early on Monday morning, some fishermen discovered a steamer ashore a little to the east of Cellardyke Harbour, at Anstruther, and on approaching the spot she was made out to be one of the General Steam Navigation Company’s vessels, the Heron, Captain Wilson, from London for Granton with goods and passengers. Very thick weather had been experienced during the voyage, and the vessel was being steered WNW. when she went ashore, between twelve and one o’clock yesterday morning. An attempt was made to get her off when the tide was full at noon. bat was unsuccessful, and the whole of the passengers, among whom were several soldiers of the “Black Watch” were afterwards landed and left by rail for their destinations. The steamer lay in a favourable position, and was floated off with the night’s tide without assistance. She sustained no damage and arrived safely at Granton at three o’clock on Tuesday morning.

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