The life story of a fishing boat and the mystery of her two registrations:
by Celia Craig, 2012
The Trustful was built in St Monans, Fife, at the Yard of James N. Miller in 1912. However, paintings displayed in the Maggie Law Maritime Museum show the same boat under two registrations:
Trustful ME 262
Owned by David Andrew
Painted by G.M. Brown
Painting donated by Melvin Taylor
Trustful ME 132
Owned by A.M. Craig
Painted by Joseph Craig
Painting donated by Celia Craig
At the stem: probably John (Big John) Mowatt, my father’s maternal uncle ; amidships: James (Jeems) Craig, my father’s eldest brother; in the wheelhouse: either Adam Craig, my grandfather ,or Willie Craig, brother to Alex, Jeems and Joseph. In later life the Trustful had no wheehouse.
The painting by G.M. Brown shows the boat as she was in 1922-26, with registration ME 262. The Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther found reference to her in the 1928 Almanac when she was registered to David Andrew, the then owner. The 1947 Almanac lists his son, David Andrew as owner at that time.
The painting by Joseph Craig shows the Trustful as she was in later life, around 1972.
However, the Registry of Sea Fishing Boats in Scotland, held in the Dundee City Archive, came up with helpful, confirming and clarifying documents with regard to registration dates and owners:
Trustful ME 132 (sans wheelhouse) Pictured at the tiller: Alexander Craig, my father, with crew member Charlie Craig.
Trustful ME 262 was registered to David Andrew as owner in January 1923.
An appended note records that the Fishing Certificate and Registry was cancelled on transfer of the boat to Aberdeen, 27/08/47. From 1923 to 1947 the boat remained in the Andrew family.
Trustful ME 132 was registered to William (Willie) Smart Craig and James (Jeems) Mowatt Craig - my uncles - as owners in April 1948, with William as original Skipper. My father, A.M. Craig, was registered thereafter, presumably after he joined the boat when his brother Willie's arm was torn through the winch.
Trustful ME 132 was next registered to my father as owner in April 1967.
My father sold the boat to Peter Abernethy in 1974: he is registered as owner in April 1975. There is a note appended referring to the closing of the Registry in October 1975 on transfer of Registry to Aberdeen.
Family History: ME 262
Family history provides interesting background details. David Andrew, who bought the boat, was a Gourdon man who fished with the Trustful out of Gourdon Harbour around 1922 and into the 1930s.
The Montrose registration ME 262 is shown in the Brown painting which also shows three figures, at least one probably identifiable as John Mowatt, a Gourdon fisherman and father of Archie Mowatt, who originally owned the painting; John Mowatt, was also my grandmother’s brother.
The man at the Tiller is very probably the then Skipper, David Andrew. His son, David, moved to Stonehaven in 1940 and fished there with the boat. His son, Robert Andrew, born in Gourdon and now a retired Stonehaven skipper, maintains that the boat’s registration remained unchanged till late 1940s.
During World War II, the boat was kept moored on chains for most of the time. However, the appended note to the Registration mentions a move to Aberdeen in August 1947, indicating a gap of some 8 months before its passing into Craig family ownership. Thereafter Robert Andrew’s father skippered in turn the Trustful 3, the Scotch Lass and finally another Trustful. Robert Andrew also remembers that his father sold the boat to my grandfather, William Adam Craig. However, she was re-registered Trustful ME 132 to his sons William and James Craig in April 1948. It may be that my grandfather bought the boat but cited his sons as owners. The boat may have had Aberdeen registration for those 8 months, requiring ME re-registration when back in Gourdon.
Family History: ME 132
Family history certainly tells that the boat passed next to my grandfather, William Adam Craig, Skipper of the May Queen ME 20 of which he was registered as owner in the 1948 Almanac. Fairly soon thereafter the Trustful passed into the Craig family. As stated above, it appears from the Registry of Sea Fishing Boats that she passed not to my grandfather - as family story tells - but to my uncles, Willie and Jeems. She was re-registered at Montrose as ME 132 in April 1948.
There are some further interesting background details here. During the Second World War my father, Alexander Mowatt Craig, served in the Royal Naval Reserve on North Atlantic Convoy Escort duties; his brothers, Willie, Jeems and Joseph, served in various naval theatres of War. Joseph, the youngest brother - an earlier Joseph than the painter Joseph Craig - was killed in action, aged 23, on the Royal Navy Destroyer HMS Beverley off Iceland where he was on convoy escort duties.
My father notes in a poem that he and Willie were no longer going to sea with the May Queen but are off fighting for their country, leaving their father, Adam, to carry on the fishing. At that time neither Jeems nor Joseph was going to the sea.
After the War, my father became Manager of Lindsay’s Fish Shop in Montrose. Some time around 1952/3, my Uncle Willie irretrievably damaged his arm in the winch and my father joined the crew as Skipper of the Trustful; he later bought it in April 1967 from his eldest brother, Jeems, who had retired several years previously. My father continued to skipper the Trustful thereafter with local men as crew.
Eventually he sold the boat in 1974 to Peter Abernethy of Stonehaven when she may have received an Aberdeen registration. Our last sight of her showed her in a poor state, lying in Peterhead Harbour, un-named, I think. For a few years after he sold the Trustful my father worked at salmon fishing at the Rockhall and Inverbervie Stations.
Finally retiring in 1977, he bought a small fibreglass boat for his retirement which he took to the sea for a number of years: he called the boat the Celia Craig ME218 for me. She is still so named in Gourdon Harbour and worked by the Lownie family after I sold her to Gordon Lownie sometime after my father’s death in August 1993.
Celia Craig ME 218, owned by my father after his retirement in 1977 and named for me.
Trustful ME 132: Driven Past Gourdon in a Gale
I wrote the following poem about a serious incident involving the Trustful ME 132 when she was swept past Gourdon Harbour in a sudden gale, possibly in 1955. My father noted in his diary that they had to make for Johnshaven in a Northerly gale, possibly a force 10. The crew were Charles Dorward and Alister Donaldson who had to bale furiously. Another Gourdon boat, The Boy Charlie, had to cut away their net and make for Johnshaven too. Other Gourdon boats headed for Catterline.
I well remember coming home from school and being taken through to their bedroom by my mother to see my father safe and sound and fast asleep in bed after the ordeal. My mother said gravely, “We nearly lost him the day." What a sense of joy and relief!
Some of the boats with wireless had radioed home that Alex Craig had been “Blawn past Gurden”. Although tradition dictated that women in this situation might go down to the Harbour wall there to await news of their loved ones, my mother decided to continue baiting the long line with its 1200 hooks to keep herself busy and try not to be “ower thochtit”. Friends and relatives at Johnshaven gave the crew dry clothes and warm drinks.
Fin I was a lassie in Gurden
It wis doon at the herber we’d be
The hale lang, glorious summer,
Watchin the boats comin in fae the sea.
Harvester, Reaper and Happy Return,
Star o’ Bethlehem, Quest an aa
But the best o them aa wis the Trustful,
My father, the Skipper sae braw.
Past the auld, curvin horse-shoe braakwater
Syne landin their catch on the pier
Then salesman, and merchants cam clusterin roond
At the fish market, maakin a steer.
Yalla oilskins, blue een and a smile,
My father wis in fae the sea.
The partans and labsters were landit
Wi maybe a fry ti wir tea.
It wis gey cauld and dreich in the winter
My mither wis baitin the line
Fin a gale drove the Trustful past Gurden
And she thoucht that my father she’d tine.
Soakin weet, they had made the next herber
Then hame, safe and sound in his bed.
Eneuch o thae coorse, drublie winters
Bring back glorious summers instead.
I append the final verse of my father’s poem about the purchase of the “May Queen” ME 20 and the loss of the “Craigielea” ME 221, my grandfather’s boat prior to the “May Queen” though the final word of the poem may be regarded as politically incorrect nowadays! The “Neig” was his brother, my uncle Willie, and the “Zander” was one of my father’s by-names:
But for the Neig and Zander,
For the present these days are done.
They are fighting for freedom and the ones they love.
They are boldly fighting the Hun.
I wish I knew even more of the life story of the Trustful, with all its dates exact and in order, even more than this researched article records. She was a beautiful, shapely Fifie, with excellent lines. I greatly enjoyed going to sea to the creels one summer with my father after university. The Joseph Craig painting shows my father, Alex Craig and me on board the Trustful ME 132.
There is no doubt that the two boats are one and the same boat, as Robert Andrew confirms. I myself would recognise her anywhere as would Harbour Master, Jimmy Brown. Just why she was re-registered as ME 132 remains partly mysterious. It was certainly a registration of which my father was intensely proud. The Registry of Sea Fishing Boats suggests that a move to Aberdeen was involved in the 8 month time gap between the transfer and the registration to my uncles. I believe too that the choice of a different number may also have been a personal preference of my grandfather’s and his sons, for reasons unknown to me.
Postscript: "Celia's Boat" by David Elder
The poem below was written by David Elder, of Greenden, Stonehaven. David's parents, Balfour and Alice Elder (nee Gauld; Mr Gauld, her father was Headmaster of Fetteresso Primay School) lived in England but visited Greenden frequently, giving David an enduring love of Stonehaven and indeed Scotland. He is a keen photographer as well as being a poet and author. David sent me this poem along with two photographs of the boat, Celia Craig, which belonged to my father, Alexander Mowatt Craig, in his retirement after he had sold the Trustful. His retirement boat is now owned by the Lownies, a long-established Gourdon family, and I am happy to see her in the harbour and think of her still being in use under the same name.
After the year's first great storm
I came to Gourdon harbour,
Its silent edges flickering
Patterns of gold
On the disbelieving water.
Along the pier
Lobster pots conferred,
In their longing to return
To a submarine life.
Then, as the sunlight fell vacant
For one last time, the wings
Of your boat flew out their whiteness,
In witness of the men lost at sea.
Details for this article have been supplied by a number of sources:
by my father, Alexander Craig, who crewed and then skippered the boat throughout the 50s, 60s and early 70s, via conversations with myself and with fellow skipper, James Brown, presently Harbour Master at Stonehaven, Gourdon and Johnshaven.
by Robert Andrew, retired Stonehaven skipper and grandson/son of owners, David Andrew and his son, David, firstly of Gourdon, later of Stonehaven when the boat was Trustful ME 262
by George Leiper, retired Stonehaven skipper
by helpful researchers at the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther
by a very helpful researcher at Dundee City Archive, Registry of Sea Fishing Boats in Scotland
My thanks also to David Elder for supplying the poem and photographs of the Celia Craig.