Book Review – ‘Shemaron: A beautiful endeavour’ by Michael Leek

By Michael Leek, published December 2020


As important as the fishing industry has been to Britain, there have been few comprehensive and detailed studies that examine the development of boats after the introduction of steam and diesel. This includes ring net boats. The literature is woefully small and this new book, and this account of the restoration of a ring net boat originally christened Wistaria, BA64, when built in 1949, is, unfortunately, a missed opportunity. The book is a very personal story of the partial restoration of the Shemaron, CN244, as the Wistaria became following her renaming and change of registration in 1964, when she moved from south Carradale to Campbeltown, both on Kintyre.

The style of writing is a mix between the personal, the emotive, the subjective, the factual and the romantic. Indeed, chapter 10 is titled Poetical! Sometimes the almost fictional descriptions or ‘scene setting’ can be irritating, but to be fair to the author she was clearly not writing a historical record. In terms of being a missed opportunity there are no plans, no constructional details, and no appendix listing surviving ring net hulls (be they in service in another guise, or as wrecks lying slowly rotting somewhere on the west coast of Scotland). Possibly understandably, the book is not referenced and there is no bibliography. There is also no index. Furthermore, the black-and-white photographs in particular are far too small, and frequently too dark to be of much use. However, some of the colour photographs of Shemaron when still fishing, and when her hull was still varnished, show the graceful lines of these boats, pragmatically designed to comfortably ride the short seas so frequent in the wider Firth of Clyde area …

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Filed under: Atlantic | Other (Twentieth C) | Twentieth Century
Subjects include: Historic Vessels, Museums & Restoration | Whaling & Fishing

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