24 Jul 2009

TWENTY five years ago the harbour and its precincts were a hive of activity for a gala day held by the Benholm and Johnshaven Ladies’ Lifeboat Guild.

Conditions were perfect, with warm sunshine, no wind and calm seas. However, this was no ordinary gala day because it was arranged appropriately to commemorate the opening of the dock in July 1884.

In 1871 an extension had been built to the original pier to create the present harbour but ten years or so later it was thought that an even safer refuge was necessary. So, the inner harbour was built, at a cost of £4,000, paid for by Hercules Scott, owner of Brotherton Castle. It could accommodate 30 large herring boats, the depth of water was 10 feet at high tide, apparently the firm of Brebner and Duncan who carried out the work was required to do little blasting on the rocky bottom and when the project was completed 125 years ago people came from near and far for the opening.

There were special trains from Montrose and Inverbervie. A procession which included fishermen, Templars, Masons, militia, school pupils and a host of others marched to Brotherton Castle. Later, Mr and Mrs Scott and their two daughters were pulled in a carriage by fishermen to the harbour where notable personalities were present including the Viscountess of Arbuthnott and members of her household.

The assembled throng was addressed by Captain Cruickshanks, the oldest seagoing fisherman in the village, before a ribbon across the new dock was cut and a travelling clock presented to Mr Scott in appreciation. The celebrations ended with games and dancing in the Haughs of Wairds with music provided by the Ferryden Flute Band. The gala day in July 1984, which raised £750, was opened by Mr Jack M.D. Smith, President of the Montrose branch of the R.N.L.I, who outlined the invaluable work being done by the Institution in saving lives at sea and gave a brief resume of the great occasion when the dock was opened. The large crowd who attended the gala were then able to clear the many well-provisioned stalls, inspect the Montrose lifeboat, Lady MacRobert, and end the afternoon by watching the rockets set off by Montrose Station Officer Paton.

In 2009, while gala days no longer take place, the local Ladies’ Lifeboat Guild continues to put in tremendous efforts on behalf of the RNLI, the recent "New-2-U" sale, for example, raising £1,025. While the sizeable herring fleet of yesteryear has long since gone, the dock continues to fulfil its function of sheltering vessels, although today it tends to be part-time creel boats and pleasure craft which seek the sanctuary of its sturdy sea walls.