The Cellardyke Echo – 30/11/23 – Issue 420


Boatbuilding – The success of so many local crews at the herring fishing on the Suffolk coast is encouraging our boat builders to speculate the hope of better times. There are five builders between St Monance and Cellardyke, but the trade is so unprecedently dull that not a single boat at present being built to order, though in three of the yards hulls are being constructed on sale. At first sight this may seem hazardous work, considering the different opinions and different fishings on the coast, but the experience of the last year or two has proved that there is seldom much difficulty in finding owner for a good boat of about 45 feet long, as boats of this class can be conveniently employed all the year through. The hull of a fishing boat, including an outfit oars, masts, &c., may said to cost about £2 10s per foot, though this price is seldom exactly adhered to in the present keen competition of the trade, or as it sometimes happens, from the peculiar conditions attached to the order. It is curious to observe the wide difference of opinion which a few years may bring about. Less than six or seven years ago, so much were the boats increasing in size that practical men were convinced that a new era was at hand, when the deep sea lugger would take the place of the ordinary fishing boat, and local readers will remember how strongly this idea was by the promoters of the Anstruther Union Harbour. Experience, however, has in the meantime settled the question, and boats on a somewhat smaller scale than the models of some half a dozen years ago are now preferred as being by far the most convenient and profitable. Still, many substantial improvements have been carried out on boats of a recent build. In every case they are now provided with cabins and nearly decked, and from the very general favour with which the flush” deck system, so successfully introduced by the ingenious Cellardyke builder, Mr Alex. Cunningham, is being regarded by our fishermen, there is good reason to anticipate that it will ere long be the rule with the first-class boats of this coast.

The other day one of “the little daughters of Cellardyke ran breathlessly into the house, which, the way, is situated in the very centre of the town, and next to the shore, with the eager cry—” Eh, mither, Kirsty Rodger’s hen is in oor cellar.” As the said hen was decidedly of a truant character, an order was forthwith given to secure the cellar door, which was as quickly obeyed —a quick footed messenger being the same time sent with the tidings to the worthy neighbour in question. What, however, was the astonishment of all interested, going to the cellar, to find no hen or any other domestic bird, but a fine partridge, which, singular enough, had become effectually “caged” in this out-of-the-way retreat. Suffice it to say that this “bird of the wilderness” never returned thither again.


“THE STEAM AND IRON SHOEMAKER” IN CELLARDYKE. (By our East Neuk Rambler.) There is a story told of the good and great Bishop Kennedy, of St Andrews—so remarkable for his princely hospitality—that one day his chamberlain took upon him to remonstrate with his lordship on the folly of so wasting his fortune, and concluded offering to make out a list of the persons who might dine at pleasure at the Bishop’s table.

What names would your lordship wish me to put down then asked the chamberlain.

“Begin with Fife and Angus,” was the laconic reply of the Bishop, meaning those counties, ” and as many more as you please !”

It was this large-hearted prelate who built the fishing town of Cellardyke, that his table might be better plenished with fish than when his boats sailed from the tempestuous bay of St Andrews; and we all know how well, through the blessing of the good Bishop and the industry of the’ people, it has risen, and is rising, into prosperity and fame. Many one during the last years that the town has existed has gone the errand of the famous cobbler, Tarn the Gallanter, of whom it is recorded—

” Fu’ aft he gaed to Cellardyke,

To get a caller skate to pike.”

But our concern in the meantime is not with Cellardyke as a great fish mart, but the seat of certain manufactures which are destined to a new celebrity.

One these—the extensive boot and shoe manufactory Mr Gilchrist —has just been rendered singularly interesting by the introduction of that wonderful contrivance, “The Blake Sole Sewing Machine.” The old monks devoutly loved the fish creels of Cellardyke; but what would the good Bishop Kennedy have thought if he had been told that his fisher town would one day boast a machine that within ten hours could furnish shoes for a little army of six hundred men, and yet, extraordinary as it might appear, this is simply the fact as to what the “sole sewer” can accomplish in the hands of an experienced and dexterous operator.

About midsummer we had occasion notice some interesting things about Mr Gilchrist’s establishment, but within the last few weeks his premises have been considerably enlarged to suit his rapidly increasing wholesale business. A spacious gallery has been erected over the long range of workshops, which may be described as the ” machine room” of this wonderful factory. Here some eight or nine sewing machines work away as busy grasshoppers in autumn, in stitching together and binding the “uppers” of boots and shoes, though, of course, the “admired of all admirers” the beautiful American invention for sewing the soles. It is simply impossible to describe this eminently ingenious contrivance, which is, perhaps, the most complicated and elaborate machine at present in use. It consists of no fewer than 265 pieces, but we cannot illustrate their indefinite and complex arrangement better than the following little anecdote;- Mr Gilchrist has a singular aptitude for mechanics, but when visiting— many others have done—the curious machine, we were struck by the close and rivetted look on his shrewd and expressive Scottish countenance. “I can never examine it,” said he, ” without noticing some new and unexpected movement unthought of before.” The working principle, however, may admit of this general description. The boot or shoe, after the sole and upper has been fastened together, is withdrawn from the last and is then put upon a horn-like projection, which, besides serving the place of the human hand, also contains the sewing thread, which is kept saturated with ” wax “or rosin.” The needle, which is barbed like a crotchet pin, pierces through the soles and brings up the bight of the thread which is thrust forward by a tongue-like slide, so to embrace the next movement of the needle, when as the thread is a second time drawn out of the horn, loop formed, and as two-fold action the machine once presses the leather and tightens the stitch—the result a seam of extraordinary strength and durability, and of no less neatness, as the loop is simultaneously with the stitching concealed in a groove channel cut in the sole. So quickly is this done, and so readily does the machine accommodate itself either to the thin waist or to the thick forepart that the sewing on of the sole of a stout walking boot is done little more than half a minute.

This magic-working invention is gradually spreading over the country, and we believe that though for the first time introduced into Fifeshire it is the seventh in Scotland. It costs about £100, but more considerable still, the manufacturers using it have to pay royalty of fivepence for every one thousand stitches, or fully more than penny on every pair of shoes, which is registered much in the same way as an ordinary gas-meter.

Mr Gilchrist’s enterprise, however, has not stopped here, for a powerful machine has also been fitted up in his establishment, which, while working on the principle of an ordinary sewing machine, can stitch with waxed or rosined thread, and will this way be serviceable for the heaviest class work. There is little poetry in a shoemaker’s shop, but the story of the iron handed sewer is quite a romance.

One evening a little engineer of the name of McKay —Scottish in name, but still more Scottish features and character—was sitting by his cheerful fireside in the city of Boston, when, as he ate his frugal supper, his eye fell on his wife busy with the crotchet needle. Nothing, we venture to say, is more common on either side of the Atlantic, and nothing as a rule excites so little attention. Not so, however, with the little engineer. A thought flashed within him like the birth a new instinct. He had often wondered that in age of universal progress the shoemaker still sweated at his awl, and how living men could always hold on to the things of the dead past; but he believed he could bring about a new era in shoemaking, just as it had been done in cotton spinning, and so he worked on, day and night, that the world might see and believe him. It was, however, as a man seeking treasure, silently and alone but at times his task would seem too great for him, when he would cast his models away, and try to be again the careless and happy craftsman that he had been in other years. The old thought, however, would come back, like the memory of our first love, and with hand shaking with hope and fear, he would work with new earnestness on the grand problem he had set himself to solve; and thus twenty long years had passed on—weary years of heroic but fruitless endeavour—of ruined hopes and blighted fortune—when, just as his heart had well nigh fainted—suddenly as a light at midnight —his triumph came! The neighbours heard wild cry the crazy man they thought had died a suicide, and, true enough, they found him senseless on the floor. But he had only fainted; the joy of the moment had been too great for him when, the last trial ended, his machine had fulfilled its work, and what he had so long sown in the cold and the rain, had strangely, and in the end yielded as it were the hope and joy of harvest. And it all came to pass, for the merits of the invention were so clear that capitalists at once came forward, and we understand that there are at this day about 1000 of these machines at work in America, and about 300 in Britain.

Steam power has been for some months employed in Mr Gilchrist s establishment, and no difficulty intervened in applying it as in the case of the many other machines—the sewing, the sole cutting, and sole beating, and edge dressing apparatus—to the propulsion of the new interesting comer. There are at present about fifty persons employed in Mr Gilchrist’s boot and shoe manufactory ; but, notwithstanding the large extent to which machinery is used, and here it has reached a degree of efficiency not exceeded Scotland—the reputation of the establishment is sustaining itself so well despite the keen competition of the times, that instead of lessening the demand for manual labour, it has increased it, or to use a favourite maxim of its spirited proprietor, ‘”Every improvement is the father of its own success, and, as rule, machinery will be found to open a far larger market in one direction than it closes in another, so far as steady and attentive workmen are concerned. And this appears to be simply the fact in Cellardyke, as every new machine followed by an increase in the number of hands.

“Preserve’s a’, whaur’s the feet come fae to wear so mony shoon,” exclaimed old Lizzie, as she stood behind her little counter, and rubbed her spectacles in wonder over the news of the machine, and while the forty or fifty workpeople were leaving the premises at dinner time. These Cellardyke made boots and shoes, however, are sent by thousands of pairs to all parts of Scotland, and also to Australia; but the following genuine little anecdote will show the vast growth in the demand for shoes even In the home market.

James Moncreiff, the laird Sauchope, was the greatest man in the world—that is, in the thinking of the good folks of Crail-and such was his ascendancy, even in the Council, that when a doubtful point came to the vote, the burgh dignitaries would do so in the very convenient remark, ” I’ll just say as Sauchie says.” It so happened that this great man had six daughters, one of whom was a sort of pet with poor ill-fated Lady Mary Hay, the first wife of General Scott of Balcomie. The little maiden was one day playing by the roadside, when Lady Mary stopped her carriage and took her favourite to the castle. “Awa’to Balcomie!” cried the Lady of Sauchope, when she heard of the incident, and sweating with mortified pride and vexation, “Awa’ to Balcomie, and the lassie barefuted! Mysie Somers, rin for gudesake to the soutar’s and bring her shoon, dune or no dune.” The squire s daughter had only one pair of shoes, and these being at the shoemaker’s for repair she was consequently barefooted when taken up the noble lady of Balcomie; but we all know how much the world has changed since then, when the poorest of the land can now boast a shift o’ shoon,” or what even a squire’s daughter could not boast of, “a pair aff an’ pair on.”

The Loss of the Taeping, -On Monday Provost Martin received a telegram from Alex Rodger Esq, Glasgow, intimating the welcome intelligence that the boat containing the remainder of the crew of the “Taeping” had turned up all safe. A lad from Cellardyke named John Watson, son of Mr James Watson (Salter) , was onboard the “Taeping” at the time of her loss, and some anxiety had been felt by his relatives as to his fate, which has been dispelled by the receipt of the telegram above mentioned

IMPORTATION OF HERRINGS.— Another two cargoes of herrings from Yarmouth were brought into the harbour yesterday. These are consigned to Messrs Sharp & Murray, Mr Cormack, and Mr Ritchie, Cellardyke; and Provost Todd, Bailie Bonthron, and Bailie J. T. Darsie, Anstruther. Another vessel with a cargo of herrings is expected to arrive to-day.


With his accustomed liberality, Stephen Williamson. Esq., of Copley, Cheshire, has forwarded upwards of 80 pairs of blankets for distribution among poor persons in Anstruther and Cellardyke, and also the handsome sum of £20 to be expended in providing cools to the poor. Such seasonable gifts evince the thoughtfulness and feeling-heart of the donor towards those who are in humble circumstances, and his conduct is worthy of all praise.

IMPORTATION OF HERRINGS.—As yet only one cargo of herrings has arrived here from Yarmouth. It consisted of 440 barrels, consigned to Bailie Bonthron, Anstruther, and Mr Cormack, Cellardyke. Two other vessels were on their way with cargoes, but they were both compelled to take refuge from the storm, one of them running to Granton, and the other—the Blossom—to Aberdeen. The latter has received some damage.

The herring-fishing fleet of the East Neuk has among its ” sons of the sea” not a few daring fellows. When at the herring fishing campaign at Yarmouth the other day, John Watson, belonging to Cellardyke, in the East of Fife, actually climbed up the high column of Nelson’s Monument there, which is 140 feet high, and kissed the cheek of the statue of Britannia on the top of the monument

PUPIL TEACHER. WANTED, a Well-Educated GIRL of about 16, Pupil Teacher. Apply to Miss Law, Schoolhouse, Cellardyke.



With the exception of three detained at Grimsby by contrary winds, the Cellardyke boats have now all returned from Yarmouth and Lowestoft, where during the past two months they have been prosecuting the herring fishing. As a rule their labours have been attended with great success. The best fished boat is that of Skipper George  (this was James Brunton with the Jessies, thought to be the largest sum earned by a Scottish fisherman at Yarmouth to that point) Brunton, who has realised upwards of £420, while Skipper Andrew Henderson comes next with upwards of £400. Many of the others have above £200 and £300, while comparatively few have below the former sum. The lowest we have heard is £130, which will but indifferently remunerate the crew for their work. The expenses are estimated at between £40 and £85, and the most successful crews have thus a handsome return.


During the past two months upwards of fifty Cellardyke crews have been prosecuting the herring fishing at Yarmouth and Lowestoft, and last week the whole of these, with two exceptions, have arrived at Anstruther These craft have again largely participated in the success which has attended the fishing at the ports mentioned, and at Lowestoft one of the Cellardyke crews received about £300, being the largest sum realised among the Scotch crews fishing there. Another crew netted £330 at Yarmouth, and the others received for their two months labours, sums ranging from £250 down to £139.

The boatbuilding trade just now is unusually brisk consequent on several fishermen having sold their boats while at the South. This week Mr Jarvis launched a fine new carvel built boat for Mr J. Adam St Monance, being the first one of that kind built in Anstruther, and today he is to launch a clinker-built one for Skipper T. Bett, Cellardyke. The fishermen appear to be favourably impressed with the carvel-built boats, Mr Jarvis having orders for no less than three, one of which is already commenced, to be owned by Skippers Barclay and Rodger, while the other two are for Skippers George Barclay and James Smith (Hamilton.)

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