BOAT-BUILDING AT PORTESSIE
A HUNDRED YEARS RECORD
The name of McIntosh has been associated with the boat-building industry at Portessie for practically a century, and the record of work produced in that time is highly creditable, while the vessels built and launched by the Messr’s McIntosh have earned a name for themselves among the fishermen of the Moray Firth and far beyond it. Boats were supplied for customers as far apart as Stornoway and Eyemouth.
The founder of the boat-building industry at Portessie was Mr. John McIntosh a native of Keith. In his young days Mr. McIntosh was employed in agricultural work but he wanted to become a shipwright and accordingly he went to serve his apprenticeship with Mr. James Ross, Boat-builder, Cullen. After serving his apprenticeship young Mr. McIntosh came to Portessie about the year 1820 ?? and began business as a boat-builder on his own account laying the foundation for a successful business which was carried on by his descendants up until 1918.
A hundred years ago the fishing boats in use were only about 30ft of keel and cost something like £30. They were of the Scaff type and were all undecked, but gradually they began to be partially decked and then fully decked, while the length of boats increased to some 60ft of keel, which brought up the price of a sailboat’s hull to £540.
In the first yard at Portessie numbers of young men served their apprenticeship with Mr. McIntosh before leaving and establishing boat-building yards for themselves along the Firth. These included George Smith ‘Bodie’ & William Gardiner ‘Bo’ Cullen. The founder of the industry in Portessie was succeeded in business by his son, Mr. William McIntosh, who in turn took his sons John & William into the business which developed with the advance of the fishing industry along the coast. Bigger and better boats were constantly in demand by the enterprising fishermen of the district who latterly discarded the Scaff boat and adopted the Zulu type into which they introduced the steam capstan which became an essential part of equipment of every fishing vessel.
About 900 fishing boats were built in the Portessie yard, the majority of the vessels being Scaffs for which Mr. William McIntosh (son of the founder) was famous. Mr William R. McIntosh (the founders grandson) was in the firm at Portessie for ten years but in 1893 he established a yard for himself at Ianstown, to which all work was subsequently transferred on the death of his brother John. Here he made a name for himself as a builder of Zulus, the boats he produced being noted for strength and durability. The substantial nature of Mr. McIntosh’s Zulus may be gauged from the fact that after some 20 years service many were fitted with motors and could compete with steam drifters.
Mr. McIntosh had to move with the times and when the demand came for steam drifters he adapted his yard for their production. During the time he was in business on his own account he built 130 sailboats and drifters which, added to the number of craft built by his father and grandfather, brings out the respectable total of over 1,000 vessels put in the water by this family in the course of a century.
Last year the extensive Ship-building & Engineering establishment of Jones Messr’s Jones Buckie Slip & Shipyard acquired Mr. McIntosh’s business - both Mr. McIntosh and his son having an interest in the new firm - but the name of McIntosh will long be remembered as one of the pioneers of the boat-building industry on the Moray Firth.