I started researching my mother’s family a good number of years ago, and knowing that the grandmother I am named for came from the Newcastle area, I started my search there. To my astonishment though I discovered that her grandfather, Alex, had in fact been born in the fishing village of Portknockie in Banffshire, Scotland, but had moved down to the northeast of England. I still don’t know why and probably never will, as it wasn’t as if the job he was doing couldn’t have been done at home. Maybe it was just a need on his part to get away. Anyway, having discovered where his family had come from I was eager to see it. I had a brief visit a year or two ago with Janet and Ray but wanted to see more, so that was where my adventures took me next.
I drove out of Inverness eastwards, through Nairn and Elgin (cathedral, left); past Baxter’s canning factory at Fochabers, (FOCHA-bers) and turned onto the Buckie road, passing it and Findochty – Fin ECH ti to the locals; past Hillhead cemetery where there is a stone memorial to my great grandfather, his siblings and parents, and on down to Portknockie, quite a large fishing town with the typical narrow vennels running down towards the sea. The town stands mainly at the top of a cliff with the harbour down below. In the days when my ancestors lived in PTK, its local name - probably from the registration letters of local fishing boats - there were no street names. You might live at 3, 87, 168 or 202 Portknockie , or any one of the numbered houses. What I want to find out is what streets the ancestors’ houses were in. To hopefully get that information I have written an email to the local heritage group. (P.S. Received a reply today, so all’s clear).
round by the war memorial, which gives the names of the sailors and the soldiers who died in the two world wars. I was interested to see many of my family’s surnames were listed among the sailors… Wood, Mair, Slater…. In contrast, the list of soldiers had very few of these names.
This is apparently named the Three Creeks, and it was on this shore that the boats were built, in the 1880s. My great great grandfather was building boats in about the1840s/50s. I wonder if they were also made here. I wouldn’t have thought it an easy place to launch boats from.
Before heading down to the harbour I took the cliff top path leading to Cullen to look at the Bow Fiddle Rock. Hundreds of seabirds were flying round it, screeching at each other and at those birds that were nesting (or resting) on the rock itself. All along the grassy coastline were clumps of seathrift. It was almost like the primrose experience in Doune in April, only the seathrift is pink instead of pale yellow!
So, after that exhilarating walk, I came back to the car to drive down the steep twisting road to the harbour. The paddling pool in the outer harbour must be popular in the summer , although it didn’t look as if it was likely to be under water even at high tide.
This colourful Buckie (BCK) fishing boat on the outer harbour wall cried out to have its picture taken!
I wish I had had time to call in at the Elgin museum or the Buckie Fishing Heritage Centre to find out more about my ancestors’ lives back in the early 19th century, but maybe another time. For now it was back to Inverness for me.
Talk again soon.