Kindly Folk and Bonny Boats, by Gloria Wilson. History Press, £12.99
When one is old enough to look back over quite a few decades, it’s somewhat disconcerting to realise that many things once universal and seemingly everlasting are now rare and historical. Such is the case with fishing boats; you’ll search far and wide today to find a wooden boat still trawling or seine-netting, although it’s only 40 years since the Scottish fishermen began to replace wood with steel.
Gloria Wilson is a rare and amazing lady – an expert on fishing boats and fishing history. For many years she has turned out fine books on these subjects, and her latest work entitled Kindly Folk and Bonny Boats does not disappoint.
It’s a book of photographs mostly, with an introductory text and fine accurate detailed captions. Ms Wilson grew up in Staithes on the Yorkshire coast and the book, she admits, reflects her particular enthusiasms and personal experience and first-hand research “and does not claim to be comprehensive”.
There’s much to be said for this approach, for you can be assured the author knows what she’s talking about. That also explains why there aren’t many images of Shetland boats – though I hasten to add the book isn’t any the poorer for that, for in context Shetland’s fishing effort was a small part of a much bigger industry.
Through her own photographs and line drawings, the author takes us on a journey in time and space, from Bridlington round to Ayr, from the late 1950s to the present day. We see boat development clearly; the post-war innovation, the technical revolution in engines and hydraulics and electronics and the shift to steel hulls. It isn’t all boats though, for about a quarter of all the images are of people or shore trades: the boatbuilders, the fishworkers, the netmenders, the markets. The first seine-netter depicted dates from 1935, while the last is the Radiant Star LK 71, built in Whitby in 2007. This is a fine book of its genre and I commend it highly; for auld eens like me it’s a comprehensive and nostalgic voyage down memory lane, and for younger readers it’s a reminder of days when the sea round our shores was far more productive.