The Cellardyke Echo – 29/9/2022 – Issue 358

On the 70th Anniversary of the death of Provost Willam Carstairs

Dundee Courier – Tuesday 30 September 1952

EAST FIFE BURGHS LOSE PROVOST Provost W. W. Carstairs, civic head of the united royal burghs of Anstruther and Kilrenny for the past 20 years, died yesterday after a long illness. Provost Carstairs was highly successful business man, a public benefactor and an authority on Scottish fishing affairs. A native of the burgh, he went to sea as a boy, but gave up to train with a Glasgow accountant. He returned to his home town to enter the business of Messrs J. Martin & Co., woollen goods and oil skin manufacturers, and eventually became head of the business. He was also managing director of Messrs Gray & Pringle, ironmongers. Provost Carstairs maintained a keen interest in the sea and fishing. He owned several fishing boats, and was frequently consulted by the Government on fishing problems. He had the finest collection of model fishing boats in Scotland. For his national service to fishing Provost Carstairs received the O.B. E. He started his Civic service on Kilrenny Town Council, and was Provost in 1929 when the neighbouring burghs were amalgamated. He became magistrate of the new Town Council in 1929, and in 1932 was appointed Provost, office he held until his death. He had many other local appointments. keen church worker, Provost Carstairs was an elder of Chalmers Memorial Church. A fine baritone, he took a leading part in the promotion of music in the burgh, and appeared on concert platforms many parts of East Fife. There was hardly a local organisation which did not benefit from Provost Carstairs’ generosity. At his own expense he built a bridge across the burn at Kilrenny Mill; he presented the local football club with a pavilion; and he bought ground and presented it to the local bowling and tennis clubs. Provost Carstairs was unmarried.

St. Andrews Citizen – Saturday 04 October 1952

Well-known in St Andrews as managing director of Messrs Gray & Pringle, Ltd., South Street, and as a prominent East Neuk business man, Provost W. W. Carstairs, civic head of Anstruther for the past 20 years, died on Monday after a long illness. A fine baritone singer, he often appeared on St Andrews platforms. A native of Anstruther, he went to sea as a boy, but gave up to train with a Glasgow accountant. He returned to his home town to enter the business of Messrs J. Martin & Co., woollen goods and oil skin manufacturers, and eventually became head of the business. Provost Carstairs maintained a keen interest in the sea and fishing. He owned several fishing boats, and was frequently consulted by the Government on fishing problems. He had the finest collection of model fishing boats in Scotland. For his national service to fishing. Provost Carstairs received the 0.B. E. He started his civic service on Kilrenny Town Council, and was Provost in 1929 when the neighbouring burghs were amalgamated. He became a Magistrate of the new Town Council in 1929, and in 1932 was appointed Provost, an office he held until his death. He had many other local appointments.

Dundee Courier – Saturday 01 November 1952

FIFE PROVOST LEFT £92,170 Provost William Watson Carstairs, 0.8.E.. J.P., manufacturer, of 18 West Forth Street, Cellardyke. who died on September 29, left £92,170 4s. In his will, lodged with the Sheriff Clerk Fife at Cupar yesterday, he bequeathed to the Town Council of Kilrenny, Anstruther Easter, and Anstruther Wester, over which he presided for 20 years, portrait himself in oils and a picture, “The Tea Clipper Race,” in view of its historical connection with both Anstruther and Cellardyke. His only other public bequest is £250 to Chalmers’ Memorial Church, Anstruther.

Dundee Courier – Thursday 04 May 1922

OVER £10,000 DAMAGE BIG FIRE AT CELLARDYKE WORKS. The big blaze which raged at the oilskin works of Martin & Co., Cellardyke, on Tuesday night and yesterday morning was successfully overcome about five o’clock. Throughout yesterday the workers (over one hundred) were engaged returning the large stocks of oilskins, pallets, silk, cloth, &c-., to the stores which were preserved from the flames. The damage is considerable and cannot yet be estimated. A rough calculation places it between £10,000 and £15,000. Only two stores, the offices, the stitching machine room, and the cutting-room were saved. The factory was proper completely gutted, involving the loss of valuable machinery. . The cause of the fire outbreak is unknown. A similar fire occurred at the factory twenty years ago, but during the intervening years the firm had made extensive additions.

Dundee Courier – Wednesday 03 May 1922

BIG BLAZE IN FIFE CELLARDYKE WORKS GUTTED Heavy Damage One of the most disastrous fires that has occurred in the East of Fife for many years broke out last night in the oilskin works of Messrs Martin & Co., Cellardyke. Fed on the highly inflammable contents of the factory, the flames spread with amazing rapidity, and although St Andrews Fire Brigade was early on the scene, so fierce already was the blaze that for a time they could do little to check its progress. The fire originated in the new wing of the factory which was erected during the war, but soon the greater part of the works was involved. The blaze lit up the sky with a ruddy glow that was seen for many miles around, and the scene of the fire a great crowd collected, watching with awe the progress 61 the flames. About midnight the Buckhaven Fire Brigade arrived and added their efforts to those of the St Andrews brigade. The fire fighters worked with feverish zeal, but for long time little progress could be made against the roaring flames. Householders in the vicinity of the blaze worked with frantic energy to remove their belongings to places of safety, and in this they were aided by many willing hands. An old church standing next to the factory, which was used as a store, was cleared of its contents. Strenuous efforts were made to remove as great quantity of the oilskins and pallets from the stores as possible, and lorries were requisitioned to carry the salvaged goods to safety. The machine-room and the store to the east of the factory have been saved, but the rest of the factory has been practically gutted. The fire was still raging in the early hours of this morning, and the damage will amount to several thousands of pounds.

Dundee Courier – Saturday 11 January 1930




Refinements for Crew ; Electric Light, Radio and Searchlight Comparisons with Drifter Earnings By a Special Correspondent. Realising how serious is the situation confronting the Scottish herring industry, a Cellardyke man, Bailie W. W. Carstairs, set himself the problem of finding a solution. That he has in large measure succeeded is obvious from the return he receives from two special motor bauldies he has had built to his own specifications. These two bauldies, named the and the Winaway, are arousing considerable interest in Scottish fishing circles. They are the forerunners an entirely new type of fishing boat.

CHIEF OBJECT building these two bauldies Mr Carstairs’ chief object was to construct vessel which would be within the reach of owner fishermen so far as capital outlay was concerned, and would at the time bring in reasonable remuneration for the other fishermen. Although Mr Carstairs has scored an economic success in the building of those boats, he has, with commendable foresight, given careful study to the requirements of the crew. The men’s quarters on each vessel are the last word in comfort. The fo’c’sle, which is extremely large, beautifully panelled with mahogany. beds are cosy and comfortable, and ample provision is made in the way of lockers, &c., for the storing of clothes. Each boat is fitted with wireless, is provided with a small boat, and is lit throughout by electricity. Another novel feature is a high-power electric searchlight.

CREW PROTECTED Instead of the usual steam boiler and capstan. there has been a new type of motor capstan installed in the fore-hold and takes up little space. Each vessel, also, is fitted with very latest type of semi-Diesel crude oil engine of four cylinders and 48 h.p. While setting up their nets the crews are protected from spray and cold by means of canvas, which is stretched over special safety rails. Each boat has magnificent wheel-house, surrounded with glass and with spars of pitch pine. The engine room, which is aft, is also beautifully fitted up. Each vessel has speed of eight knots per hour.

OBSOLETE BOATS In an interview I had with him, Mr Carstairs described how he conceived the idea of building the Onaway and the Winaway. ” It has been announced,” he began, “that 47 per cent, of the Scottish herring fleet is obsolete, and there is no doubt that that proportion is a correct one. ” I can give you instance of a skipper who spent £20 on his boat so that it might go to Yarmouth, and then the insurance. surveyor came along and would not allow that boat to go to sea. The consequence was that the skipper had to find a berth for himself another boat. There are many more cases like that. ” At. Yarmouth recently one of our own big drifters had to go twice into dock for repairs, and, taking these things into consideration, it is an accepted fact that a great crisis in the herring fishing industry is looming up before us.

DIFFERENT SYSTEMS ” I am referring to the Scottish industry. The English and Scottish systems arc entirely different. In England it is almost wholly capitalistic system, whereas in Scotland the system is individualistic. ” Many of the drifters are years old or more, and it, is absolutely impossible for ordinary fisherman —from the point of view of capital—to get a new steam drifter. I know from experience that the present steam drifter is a very expensive craft to keep running. For a steel drifter, for instance, the expenses over the year total as much £1500.

A COMPARISON ” The cost of a pre-war drifter and its post-war equivalent shows tremendous difference price. ” Before the war, drifter would cost about £2500. To-day that boat, without slightest alteration, would cost somewhere the region of £4500. Such drifters were wooden ones. “A steel drifter nowadays would cost between £6500 and £6700. “It is, therefore, almost an impossibility for the fishermen to obtain capital order to replace a drifter, mainly because of increase in the initial cost as compared with the pre-war period and also owing to tremendous running costs.

COST £1600 ” I reasoned that, as the cost of a drifter was so prohibitive, some kind of boat must be got which would cost less and yet would just as efficient as drifter. The ultimate result has been the building of the Onaway and Winaway. ” Each of these motor boats, which contains everything of the very best, costs £1600. You will see, therefore, that practically three of these motor boats can be obtained for one wooden drifter to-day. ” The men on these new boats have three geographical chances of getting good shots. A drifter has to stay in the one place, but three motor boats can be miles apart. The fleet of drifter is about 80 nets. The Onaway carries 67 nets. “That means that a craft costing £4500 has about 80 nets, and for the same sum one can have three motor boats, with about 200 nets, and three different chances of getting fish.

SAME EARNINGS ” Admittedly has been proved that the steel drifter is the best type of craft that has yet been put at the disposal of the herring fishing industry, on account of the fact that she may take weather which another type of boat could not take, but against that is the fact that for the same initial cost you can take a bigger proportion of nets with the motor boats. ” A steam drifter went from Anstruther to Fraserburgh on the same day as the Onaway and the Winaway. They fished for the same time, and came back in the same week. The steam drifter had £860 gross earnings, and divided £36 per man. ” The Onaway had £480 gross, and divided £36 per man. showing that the crew of the motor boat had the same earnings the men on the drifter, and yet the motor boat had only half the gross earnings. ” In another case a successful steam drifter had £4084 gross, and divided £190 per man; Winaway had £1770 gross, and divided £152 per man. The motor boat’s individual earnings, therefore, were only £38 short a very successful drifter with £1770 gross compared with the drifter’s £4084 gross.

RUNNING COSTS, The running costs both these motor boats are really very remarkable. They can cover 100 miles comfortably for £1. ” The all-in cost of running the engine, including crude oil, lubricating oil, and paraffin oil, for the year is slightly over £80, and that, with a large amount of steaming. The average works out at under 2 ¼d per mile. ” One of these boats can go out at the shortest notice, sail 50 miles out to sea, sail back 50 miles, and, if she can get two crans (four baskets) of herrings and sell them at 10/- per cran, she is not in debt.

AT YARMOUTH “The Onaway was at Yarmouth when so much gear was lost, and proved herself a most seaworthy boat. She came ashore drier than any drifter, and had it not been for the special electric searchlight she might have lost her whole fleet of nets. ‘ Then men were hauling in when some of the nets broke adrift. The searchlight, however, was trained on a buoy to which was attached the remaining nets, and after half hour’s steaming they were able to get hold of the buoy and “bring the remainder of the nets on board. ” I believe,” he went on, “that these two motor boats are just on the small side and could do with perhaps an additional eight or ten feet in length, thus giving room for a bigger engine. ” Each of these boats is about 53 feet long, and I am of the opinion that a boat 65 feet long with a 75 h.p. engine could be built for £2000, and that boat could carry a fleet of 80 nets, equal to an ordinary drifter, and would only cost one-quarter of the sum to run, with a bigger proportion of earnings divisible among the men. ” Among other things which might be mentioned is the fact that a motor boat can started up within five minutes, while a drifter has always to have steam up before she can get away. ” In addition to the steam engine on a drifter there is the steam boiler, which cuts off from 15 to 20 feet of the length of the boat.

CREW OF SIX ” A drifter has 10 men of a crew, seven fishermen, a fireman, engineer, and cook, whereas a motor boat has six men of a crew when fishing from Anstruther and seven men when at the other fishings.” In concluding, Mr Carstairs said that the only way out was for the Government to develop some scheme whereby the fishermen could get a cheaper capital than by going direct to the bank. ” Surely of all industries,” said, ” the fishing industry is most deserving to be kept up and taken in hand by the Government. as the miners have been. ” The fisherman is a fine type of man who did his duty during war in the most hazardous form of warfare —mine-sweeping ” It would great pity to allow the fishing industry to get into such serious financial position that it was practically crippled.

EASY REPAIRS ” Something must be done to preserve a port such Anstruther from going into decay, and I think these motor boats will help solve the problem. If anything goes wrong with a steel drifter it has to be sent to Aberdeen, Leith, or North Shields. A motor boat, other hand, can be dry docked by being pulled on to the beach at Anstruther, and can there be attended local sailmaker, engineer, or carpenter, as the case may be.” Mr Carstairs told me that he would soon be seeing Mr Adamson, Secretary of State for Scotland, who was greatly interested in his motor boat experiments. The Onaway was built Mr Walter Reekie, of St Monance and Anstruther, exactly a year ago, and the Winaway was built at the same time by Mr Alexander Aitken, Anstruther. Each boat is 53 ½ feet over stems, 16 feet 3 inches of beam, with a tonnage of about 26.75 gross.

HIGHLY ESTEEMED Carstairs is a well-known and a highly esteemed figure in public life in Anstruther district. He was for 17 years a member the now defunct Kilrenny Town Council, and was magistrate of that burgh for ten years. At last month’s historic election of the united burghs

 of Kilrenny, Anstruther Easter, and Anstruther Wester, took fourth place out of total of 25 candidates. A few days later had the honour to appointed one of ‘the Bailies of the new united council. Mr Carstairs belongs Cellardyke, and his life-story reads like a romance. Born son of a poor fisherman, he was sent to sea a tender age as fisher boy. By dogged perseverance and attention to his studies was successful in securing bursary which enabled him to attend Waid Academy. His school days over, entered office a local solicitor and bank agent. From there went to the offices of a shipping company in Glasgow.

SOLE PARTNER By sheer ability gradually worked his way up the ladder of success. After few years in Glasgow, he returned his native town and became joint partner in the firm of John Martin & Co., oilskin and buoy manufacturers, Cellardyke. At that time there were three partners, and some 25 hands were employed. To-day is sole partner in the firm, which now has 230 employees. He is also chairman of directors of the Bon-Accord Ship Stores. Ltd., and of the Ship Repairing Co., Ltd., Aberdeen.

Aberdeen Press and Journal – Wednesday 10 September 1930


Gleanaway on Sea Trials from Anstruther

Speaking at a launch at Sandhaven, Aberdeenshire, yesterday, Mr Adamson, Secretary for Scotland, said the great desideratum in connection with the herring fishing industry was the cutting down of capital and running costs in order to secure a larger margin between earnings and expenses. Reducing Cost of Drifters, At present, owing to the heavy cost of drifters, it was impossible to set aside adequate reserves for replacement, but he was assured that vessels of the oil-driven type that had been launched could be built at about half the cost of steel drifters and that the running expenses would he much less.

What Has Been Done.

Mr Adamson mentioned that since the Government assumed office they had provided for the relief of the industry, by way of grants, loans, remissions of debt and new services, approximately £350,000. Mr Adamson, Secretary for Scotland, christened the new vessel, which has been built by Messrs J. & G. Forbes & Go., Sandhaven, to the order of Mr Wm. W. Carstairs, Anstruther, the Gleanaway, and at banquet which followed dwelt on the crisis through which the herring fishing industry is passing.

Last summer, he said, he had spent a considerable time in personally acquainting himself with the conditions at the great Scottish herring fishing ports, because he realised that the importance of this industry to Scotland, and the problems with which it was faced, demanded that he should be fully acquainted with the position and equipped with first-hand knowledge. (Applause.) Everywhere he went he was met with the same cordiality, but also with the same urgent pleas for a policy which would assist the industry and the harbours from which it was carried on. He took back with him to London a resolve to bring before the Government the need for something to be done. (Applause.) Amongst the problems was that of restoring the fishing fleet to a condition that would enable it, in the altered economic circumstances, to restore the industry to the prosperity which it once enjoyed, and so richly deserved. (Applause.) With that question to-day’s events there were closely associated. Government Inquiry.

As regarded all those problems and difficulties of the future organisation and development of the industry, the Government felt that there should be a comprehensive inquiry. Accordingly, a subcommittee of the Economic Advisory Council was set up, and had for several months been carefully collecting and sifting the views of representatives of and branches of the fishing industry. He sincerely hoped and believed that these inquiries would fruitful of good guidance for future policy. (Applause.) Since the present Government took office, grants or loans had been authorised for harbour schemes a total of no less than £185,538, which had enabled a large number of schemes, costing less than £268,211, to gone with. The amount grants or loans authorised for Fraserburgh alone was £25,890. (Applause.) .Further schemes, at a total estimated cost of nearly £200,000, were under consideration for assistance. This record spoke for itself, especially when he added that during the last Government’s term of office the total amount of grants or loans given for these purposes was only £34,540.

Harbour Debts. Another big question which they turned their attention was that of the debts which were weighing down so many of the herring fishing harbours, and none more so that Fraserburgh. The result of the examination that was made was that the Development Commission remitted debts to an amount of about £127,000, of which Fraserburgh’s share was £23,501. The debts due the Public Works Loan Board were on a somewhat different footing, but he was glad to be of such assistance as he could in facilitating the settlement which was reached to their satisfaction with that Board, and which resulted in the very substantial wiping off of Fraserburgh Harbour debts by the Public Works Loans Act of last session to the extent of £67,000, (Applause.)

Of a different character was the assistance offered to fishermen who lost their gear in the great storm off East Anglia last November, by way of loan to assist them to replace their losses. Loans to a total of £19,810 bad been made for this purpose. It might be taken that the sums made available since June last year by way of the grants, loans, remissions (not including those of the Public Works Loans Board), and new services, amounted approximately to £350,000. large part of this expenditure was attributable to works which, apart from their value to the industry, would productive of considerable direct and indirect employment. (Applause.)

The Great Desideratum. The great desideratum in the herring fishing industry was the cutting down of capital and running costs in order to secure a larger margin between earnings and expenses. He had been examining the question of boats very closely, and in his opinion the securing of a type of boat, the capital cost and the running costs of which should be much less than that of the old types of boat, was of vital importance. The capital cost of a steel steam drifter the present time was in the region of £5600, and of a wooden drifter £4500. But the average annual earnings of steam drifters nowadays amounted to only about £2300, and of this sum about half was swallowed by running expenses. Under the share system in vogue in the herring fishing industry, only one third of the residue, or about £400, was consequently available to meet the cost of maintenance, insurance, depreciation, interest on capital, etc., which together averaged about £550, so that loss was inevitable, and it was impossible to set aside adequate reserves for replacement. Similarly, only one-third of the residue was available for the fishermen’s labour share, so that their average earnings for a year’s work were only about £74.

Devising a Cheaper Boat. Mr Carstairs had already made valuable experiments with the object of bettering this state affairs, and they were very much indebted to him for the interest he had taken in trying to devise cheaper boat, and a boat less costly to run. He had built two medium sized motor-boats—the Winaway and the Onaway—at about one-third of the cost of steam drifter. These vessels had already proved themselves, but they were only 50 feet long, they were handicapped as compared with the steam drifter in carrying on fishing in the open sea in rough weather. Notwithstanding these limitations in this respect, however, the earnings of their crews compared very favourably with those of the larger vessels, and an adequate return on the capital cost had been secured.

Earnings of the Vessel. Mr Carstairs has felt, however, that even better results were to be expected from a vessel more closely approaching the steam drifter in size and power, and the results of his study of this question were to be seen in the Gleanaway. This vessel was equipped with extra powerful engine to give a speed of about 12 miles per hour, and her cost had consequently been higher than would have been the case had a less powerful engine been installed. But a similar vessel engined to give a speed of 9n miles, could be built at cost of from £2750 to £2800 or approximately half the cost of a steel drifter, and the advantage thus conferred from the outset was obvious. The earnings of such a vessel might be expected at least to equal those of the average steam drifter, but he was assured that the running expenses would be only about 30 per cent, of the gross earnings, as compared with 50 per cent, in the case of steam drifters, and if this was so. an adequate return on the capital cost was assured and the vessel represented an attractive investment. (Applause.)

High Average Age.

Provost Walker, Fraserburgh, who presided, in proposing the toast of their guest, the Secretary for Scotland, said Mr Carstairs, the owner of the new vessel, might prove to be a pioneer in the development of the fishing industry. (Applause.) Those interested in the industry knew the difficulties that were facing it. A great problem at present was the high average age of the steam drifters, which necessitated a very extensive overhaul before insurance companies considered them worthy of risk. If the Gleanaway was to fulfil what was expected of it as an economic proposition, then their problem would be largely solved. (Applause) R- Gordon Nicol, harbour engineer, Aberdeen, proposed Continued Prosperity to Mr Carstairs,” who, had great hopes, would lead the fishermen back to prosperity with boats that would be an ideal as regards speed, efficiency, and economy. (Applause.) Mr W. M. Carstairs, responding, said felt that he had made an effort contribute the solution of the difficulties that were threatening the fishing industry. John Dunbar, fishcurer. Fraserburgh, proposed The Builders,” and Mr George Forbes replied. Other toasts followed. The Launch. The Fraserburgh lifeboat conveyed Adamson and a Email party to the launch at Sandhaven, the company including Provost Walker, Mr R. Gordon Nicol. Aberdeen; Mr H. R. Barr, Aberdeen, Baillie Peterkin, Baillie Brown, John Dunbar, Mr Tarras, harbour clerk; and others. As the Gleanaway was cut from her moorings, Mr Adamson performed the christening ceremony by breaking bottle of wine on her bow, and a large crowd the quay and the beach raised a lusty cheer. The vessel is different from the ordinary type drifter in respect that she is driven by Diesel engine of 140 h.p.. and using crude oil will be able to stay longer at sea than a steam vessel, and at about a third the cost. Her fuel consumption is calculated at 3s 6d an hour all in, whereas a steam drifter takes much as £400 for coal for the herring season. There will be a crew of eight in place of nine. The length of the vessel is 76 feet, her breadth 18 feet 9 inches, and her draught 8 feet.

Willie Carstairs aboard the Gleanaway

Dundee Evening Telegraph – Thursday 11 December 1930

CELLARDYKE FISHING BOAT’S RECORD JOURNEY. The motor fishing boat, Gleanaway, belonging to Bailie W. VV. Carstairs, Cellardyke, earned reputation for speed which she well sustained on the return journey from Yarmouth. With fair weather almost all the way, the Gleanaway did the journey to Anstruther in a little over twenty-four hours, the fastest of standard drifter taking upwards ‘of thirty-three hours for the journey. The Gleanaway’s maximum speed is rated at a steady eleven knot s per hour.

Gleanaway when she was working in South Africa 1936 +

Dundee Evening Telegraph – Tuesday 23 June 1931

The Modern Way of Making Our Fishermen’s Gear


By Mrs A. R. Rowlands, Cellardyke.

 “WHAT big balloons, mummy !” shrieks the city child as he points an excited finger at the huge globes crowning a lorry load of fishing gear which was being driven down to the boats in preparation for the “drave,” or summer herring fishing.

Those gaily painted spheres which often cause much speculation among towns folk paying their first visit to a fishing port, are the “pallets” floats, buoys, or ” cows,” as they are called in some districts, used for supporting the drift nets, and also for indicating the location of the nets in the water.

To our grandfathers, those well finished, easily handled, and indispensable items of a fisherman’s equipment were unknown. The pallets of a past generation were made not of foiled canvas, like those of to-day, but of sheepskins.

The wool having been first removed, the pelts were soaked in lime water for period of fourteen days, being thus thoroughly cleansed. The hides were then dried the sun before subjection to a further few days’ ” steeping” in strong solution of salt and water.

After a second drying in the sun, the skins were cut in circular shape in readiness to receive a good coating of tar on both outer and inner surfaces. This operation rendered them strictly water and air tight.

The Old Way

After a visit to one of the best equipped and most modern of our pallet making factories, I not unnaturally inquired from an experienced old fisherman, “How did you fill the ‘ bows ‘ before the invention of compressed air machines?”

“Blew them up wi’ oor breath,” was the laconic rejoinder.

“You would need- good pair of lungs,” I retorted, sensing fun at my expense.

“Weel, ye see!” continued the pawky old salt, tilting his cap, while he scratched his “pow ” reflectively. “If ye didna hae enough wind, ye taen the bellowses.”

The pioneer of the canvas pallet was the late Provost Black, Cellardyke, whose factory “wast the toon” has, within recent years, been acquired by Messrs A. & W. Myles.

The large modern erection of John Martin & Co., Ltd., in Cellardyke is known throughout the East Neuk o’ Fife as “Carstairses’ Factory.”

The large and extensive premises erected within recent years at the top of the Urquhart Wynd are devoted not only to the manufacture of fishing gear, such as pallets, but, also to the making of fishermen’s oilskins; that is, their heavy coats, “sou-westers,” and frocks.” The last-mentioned are these chemise-shaped garments which cover their wearers from the neck to well below the knee.

Let it not be supposed that only useful, unromantic “oilskins ” are made in this factory. In the warehouses and showrooms hang hundreds of the daintiest and most delicately coloured silk oilskin coats, fit wear for the fairest ladies in the land.

When Tar Was Scarce

Near the huge- entrance gates the hum and babble of many girlish voices greet us. Entering the large yard, we pass wide open doors through which the summer air enters.

On our way we catch glimpse of youthful forms swaying, and busy arms moving to and fro. as their owners tend to their machines. There is no need to wonder whence Anstruther lassies obtain their graceful figures and erect carriage. Our observation tells us that their day’s work provides all the necessary figure forming and “slimming exercises.

Two or three pairs of bright eyes smile at us, and several rows of white teeth flash a greeting as their possessors revert once more to their tasks.

The modern pallets have been for many years made of oiled canvas. The divisions, shaped like a quarter of an orange, are firmly sewn together with strong thread before the article is handed over to the oilers.

Before the war, oiling of “pallets” was unknown, tarring being the uniform process. During the war-time, owing to the scarcity of tar, oiling was adopted, and this method having proved more satisfactory has been retained.

The pallets are first turned wrong side out and completely and carefully oiled inside, after which they are hung in the drying shed to dry. After a further coating of oil and a second they are turned to their right side ready for the broding machine.

Coloured Buoys

The “brod or board is that circular piece of wood which fits like a lid exactly into the opening of the pallet. The rim of the “brod” is firmly lashed to the pallet with strong twine by the broding machine.

On the “brod” is a strong handle through which passes the hole for the rope which binds the float of the net and bored through the ” brod ” is also a small round aperture for the insertion of the air-plug.

The finished or “broded” pallet, having now been removed from the broding machine, a coating of oil is given to the outer surface. A further time is spent the drying-room before final coat is bestowed.

The pallet is now ready to receive its “top-dressing” of paint; a special group of girls being detailed off for this branch of the work. Many years ago Scottish fishermen preferred an all-black buoy; English buyers were the first to use the pure white pallet, which, since its introduction, has become first favourite in the fishing world. Preference for the white buoy is due to its visibility in the pitch blackness of a starless night.

It is quite common, however, to see gaily painted pallets—red, blue, and even green—clustered like huge balloons beside fishermen’s gear.

Buoys in olden times were uniformly round in shape. With the development of the canvas float, they became orangeshaped. Recently, however, the pearshaped pallet has been copied from those used by Dutch and German fishermen.

The Air Plugs

The buoys, all painted and ready for sale pendant in a very flabby condition in the factory stock room, present quite different appearance from those inflated globes which will in due time float the nets.

We have’ already noticed in the “brod” or lid that tiny round hole for the reception of the air plug, which forms a small but indispensable part of the pallet.

A tiny cone-shaped article is this plug, made of stout white cord wrapped with tow. While examining the neat little accessory, our attention is drawn to the machine used in its manufacture.

We are shown a cord drawn taut between two clamps of a machine beside which is a bundle of tow and a jar of tar. The girl in charge seats herself and sets the machine in motion; taking a few strands of the tow, she weaves them deftly at the right hand end of the cord, which is now revolving rapidly, at the same time coating them liberally with the tar, which is used not only to bind the strands together, but also render the plugs strictly waterproof.

By means of a few strokes of a peculiarly shaped knife, the machinist forms the plug, drawing the thickness from right to left, thus obtaining the cone shape.

When the exact shape and size is obtained, the worker immediately adds further strands of tow for the formation of another plug, and so on until the complete length of cord has been used.

The line of plugs is then detached from the machine and is neatly clipped asunder into its several sections ready for use.

The Hot Plate

We now turn aside to where at long tables, and with hard brushes, girls are oiling pieces of canvas which, by their shape, we know to be fisher men’s overalls.

Later we notice the finished garments hanging in the store room; we have seen others like them covered with herring scales, enveloping their owners as they trudged up the pier on a cold morning during the “winter herring.”

In another department, a long steel topped table arrests our attention; we touch it gingerly amid amused smiles from the onlookers; it is hot, in fact, too hot for our comfort.

This, we are informed, is the hot plate; its use is presently explained to us.

A web of. crimson-hued oiled silk is lying near, and close at hand are buckets containing a mixture; we are told that a coating of this liquid is first applied to the oiled silk before the latter is rolled over the hot plate. In this way all stickiness is removed from the oilskin used in coat making.

Having passed through ” kilns ” or drying rooms, and visited stock rooms, wherein hang rows upon rows of pallets, fishermen’s oilskin frocks, coats, and “sou-westers,” we come to a little room in which is a line of porcelain basins with bright nickel taps, each bearing the well-known letters ” H ” and ” C.”

Opposite the basins is row of presses or wardrobes, where the girls hang their outdoor garments.

We have seen these girls at work, wearing heavy oilskin, aprons, their fingers coated and sticky with tar. We notice them later going to meals with all traces of toil removed. Here, the workers have both the means and the opportunity of making themselves clean and smart before appearing in public.

D’ye Want a Dook?

The Broding Machine

Within the nearest shed a large tank of paraffin is making its presence felt; its purpose is doubtless to remove all superfluous tar from the plugs before they are fitted into the pallet brods.

“D’ye want a dook?” queried the damsel in charge, waving her hand suggestively towards the tank and its oily and uninviting contents.

There is another, and as yet unexplored territory, where woollies of every shade, size, and design are made. Many golfer on our classic Scottish links wears .pullover of intricate pattern knitted by Cellardyke lassies in “Carstairses’ Factory.”

Dundee Evening Telegraph – Monday 06 July 1936



 “A boat’s gaun tae be built in Cellardyke.” Animated groups at the fit o’ the Wynd,” ” the Corner,” and ” The Rockery” recalled in regretful tones the palmy days of the town, speculated as to the prospects of the coming venture, or argued good-naturedly regarding the precise date of the launching of the last boat built in the auld shipyard east the toon.

“Aye ! An’ she’s gaun tae come oot o’ the same yaird,” was the reflective remark, as signs of preparation. became evident; sheds appeared, and engines and circular saws were installed in the long-disused enclosure. More than half a century has elapsed since the last boat left the auld yaird. The builder, Mr Thomson, has long since passed away, but his widow, a hale and hearty old lady over eighty, still survives. Recently she visited the new boat, and at the same time renewed acquaintance with the workshop and yard so long associated with her husband. In those days, so the old folks relate, Cellardyke Harbour presented a busy spectacle, with its incoming yawls unloading their cargoes on the rough, stone quay. Long lines of cadgers’ carts, drawn up close to the harbour wall, awaited the return of the cadgers, whose shrill voices mingled with the deeper tones of the fishermen as they argie-bargied over the prices of the ” catches on sale that morning. The deal amicably completed, and the scaly mass tilted into the capacious hold of the cairt,” the bargain was finally sealed by the exchange of ” pints in one of the many porter and ale shops which then did a roaring trade in the vicinity of the harbour.

One bright spring morning, about Eastertide, we gazed down upon long plank of wood, curving at both ends, stretched lengthwise along the Bulwark,” – which forms the northern boundary of the ancient harbour of Cellardyke. Doubtfully, critically, thoughtfully, we gazed, marvelling that from such a humble foundation a thing so brave and daring a boat should arise. So that’s the keel laid,” we silently commented, at the same time observing with interest the varied expressions on the faces of the old fishermen standing by—some speculative, others uncertain, all wholly absorbed in the new venture. Day by day watched her grow under the skilled fingers of her builders. Little by little the keel took shape and form and curved outward to bear the ribs which were securely dovetailed into their fittings.

Mysterious things are now being done with foot-rules and spirit-levels and planes; measurements are chalked up her bow, her stern, and her ribs; while hours are spent in smoothing away every shred of superfluous wood and in slimming her until her form becomes the emblem of grace and beauty. The period of silent workmanship soon passes. One by one, planks, specially prepared in the shipyard, are laid over her bulging ribs. The whirr of the electric drill is now heard, as holes are bored for the reception of the huge nails which rivet the wooden walls of the elegantly-curved hull. Intermingled with the clanging of hammers and the whirring of machinery, we distinguish the “couthy ” accents of the Norlanders,”for the boat-builders, on whom rests  the responsibility of creating our boat, hail from the northern waters of the Moray Firth. Co-operating with them are the jolly skipper and crew of the Gleanaway, that intrepid Diesel drifter which lately left Anstruther Harbour on her venturesome voyage to Africa. The ” prentice loon ” is also very much in evidence, and his humorous quips and sallies provoke many a laugh from his preoccupied and somewhat serious seniors. Now follows what we consider the most interesting part of the boat-building programme—” calking the ship.” We have read about calking,” and heard of from various sources but we confess to having “entertained very hazy idea about the operation itself. It is with some wonder, therefore, that we watch each boat-builder appear equipped with a coil of ” tow,” a flatheaded hammer, and a tool which is cross between a huge nail and a wedge. We attend eagerly while the workmen insert the tow between the planks, and, using the wedge a medium, hammer the lengthy coil into the seams of both hull and deck. “So that’s calking,” we observe with interest. Why do you calk boat?” “To make it watertight,” rejoins the skipper, as he deftly slaps a knifeful of putty over the sunken nail heads, thus making smooth surface for the initial daubing of pitch which precedes the first coat paint. Uneven shafts of wood still remain two or three feet above the now completed hull, and, in our ignorance, we inquire whether these must now be sawn off uniform with the deck. We wonder, too, how, in event of this, the crew would retain their precarious footing on deck.

Na, na!’ ‘is the laughing response to our query. These are sawn to an even length, and then boarded in to form the gunwale.”

Round the hull, just below the base of the gunwale, is now clamped a strong iron band. The whirring electric drill soon bores the rivet holes. few swift, sure taps from the hammer and the securing belt is firmly fixed.

Are you clearing the decks for action?’

“Yes,” is the laconic retort, as a plank of wood narrowly misses a member of the crew standing on the roadway. The skipper, armed with broom and shovel and busily engaged in scooping up shavin’s,” grins slyly as he plies his task. We wait until the various missiles have been heaved overboard, then view with interest the rigging of the capstan.” until now only associated with a famous brand of cigarette.

For nearly three months our friendly boat has been our neighbour; we shall miss her when she launches out on unknown waters. It is more than half a century since her ancestors glided into the same tiny harbour; therefore are the ‘Dykers both proud and pleased that the enterprise of Provost Carstairs has made it possible for an ancient industry to be revived.

Our Diesel drifter, made on our shores, built within our view, goes out on her first voyage with many hopes that her successors may, ere long, occupy her cradle on the ” Bulwark. “

As Eve was made of a rib from Adam’s side, so was this bonny boat formed from a rib of wood laid on the rude quayside. By patient and kindly fingers was she fashioned, ” till she grew a noble lady, and the people loved her well.”

A boat built by Provost Carstairs is being launched to-day (or to-morrow, depending upon the depth the water) Cellardyke. The name of the boat, ” Royal Sovereign,” was kept a close secret till it was painted up on Friday.

Mrs Rowland’s shop can be seen just to the right of the Manx Fairy’s wheelhouse. Helen Deas wife of John, can be seen leaning out of their window.

The Scotsman – Wednesday 16 September 1936


 Reduction in Running Expenses Essential


There is a limit to the possible extension of the herring market; if the industry is saved, it will be by means of a reduction in running expenses, and this type of boat is most certainly pointing the way to the salvation of the industry, ” said Mr George Hogarth, chairman of the Fishery Board for Scotland, following the final trials of the Diesel-engined drifter Royal Sovereign in the Firth of Forth yesterday.

The Royal Sovereign, built to the order of Provost W- W- Carstairs, Anstruther, a well-known figure in the fishing industry, incorporates many innovations, and the accommodation for the crew of nine is far in advance of usual drifter practice. One of the most important innovations, however, is the deckhouse, which communicates with the wheelhouse and the saloon. No longer need the fisherman risk life and limb on a pitching deck when on his way to take his turn at the wheel. Instead, aboard the Royal Sovereign, he merely walks through the deckhouse.

ENGINEROOM IMPROVEMENTS In the engine room many marked improvements have been made. A new type of four-cylinder Diesel engine has been installed which is totally enclosed, and is controlled directly from the wheelhouse. The engine made ” by Messrs Blackstone & Company. Stamford, works on the four-stroke Diesel cycle, with clutch and reversing gear, and develops 160 b.h.p. at 600 r.p.m. Every part of the engine and reversing gear is lubricated from a central dry sump force-feed system, a sea-water cooler being incorporated, maintaining the oil at an efficient working temperature. The clutch and reversing gear unit is a new development of the Blackstone engine, and consists of a metal-to-plate clutch and helical epicyclic reversing gears operated by oil pressure. The oil control valve is operated by a small lever in the wheelhouse, mounted with the engine speed-control lever. A bronze propeller is fitted, and runs on rubber bearings while the fuel storage tanks on each side of the engine room carry five tons of Diesel oil. In addition to the main engine room there is a small auxiliary engine room forward, containing the auxiliary engine, bilge pump, and a small dynamo for driving the electrically-driven Capstan, another feature of the vessel. Among those who boarded the vessel for her final trials, which were from Kirkcaldy Harbour, were Mr Hogarth, chairman of the Fishery Board, and Mr J. Henderson Stewart, M. P. for East Fife. The skipper, John Watson, Anstruther, was in command.


The trials were a complete success, an unexpected feature of the trip being an inspection of the Fishery Beard cruiser Fidra. which the Royal Sovereign hailed in mid-Forth. The cruiser went alongside the Royal Sovereign, and an invitation was extended to those on board the new vessel to inspect the cruiser, the opportunity being gladly taken advantage of.

The Royal Sovereign is built for a service speed of ten knots and is much faster than the majority of drifters. On returning to port, those who had been on board the vessel during her trials were entertained by Provost Carstairs.

Dealing with the advantages of a Diesel engined drifter over that propelled by steam. Provost Carstairs said that to begin with, the cost of an oil-driven drifter was less than half of that of a steam drifter. As an illustration, he said that in one particular case last year a steam drifter with gross receipts of £445 had been able to pay the members of the crew only £16 each, while a Diesel-engined drifter with cross receipts of £433 had been able to pay the men £32 5s each. The future of the industry lay in the employment of oil-driven craft, he said.

Dundee Evening Telegraph – Tuesday 25 March 1947

ANSTRUTHER MUSICAL REVIVAL People In The News Anstruther Philharmonic Society have 1 chosen Mendelssohn’s oratorio, ” Elijah,” to inaugurate their second post-war revival. Formed in 1892, the Society has given a concert every year except during the periods of the two great wars. This year’s concert takes place to-morrow in Anstruther Town Hall. Indefatigable in her efforts to get the Society off smooth start again is Mrs Agnes Gardner, wife of Bailie Thomas Gardner, area traffic manager of Messrs Alexander. A native of Blairgowrie, Mrs Gardner is a former secretary and principal of Blairgowrie Operatic Society. In addition bearing the brunt of the organisational work, she is member of the chorus. ** * * Of the three life members, two are still active supporters of the Society, and the other, Mr T. Brownlie, Paisley, maintains his interest in practical form. Provost W. W. Carstairs has been president of the Society for many years, and his connection with it extends over 48 years. A singer of more than local repute, the Provost still freely gives his services at local functions. Proprietor of the firm of John Martin & Company, Cellardyke, oilskin and woollen manufacturers, he was member the old Cellardyke Town Council and has been Provost of Anstruther United Burghs since shortly after the amalgamation in 1929.

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