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This page last updated Feb 2011.

The inspiration for this website came from a booklet 'Sail & Steam' by Ron Stewart. Much information was then followed up from the excellent online LIBINDX search engine at the Moray District Library website. I believe many volunteers, mostly involved with the Buckie Heritage Centre, searched old local newspapers to make this resource so excellent. Please contact me for comment or if you can help with extra information.

THIS BOOK 'SAIL & STEAM REVISITED' HAS MUCH OF THE INFORMATION AND PHOTOS ON THIS WEBSITE - PLUS MUCH MUCH MORE.
These books have been selling well. Get your copy from Buckie Heritage Centre before they are sold out.

Homeward Bound
Excerpt from poem by Kersey Breeks from NZ
"Oor boat wis ane John McIntosh made,
In his yaird in the Sloch her keel wis laid;
An' from east tae wast along the coast
A finer craft nae man could boast."

Read the full poem here

What equipment - tools did a boatyard have in 1900?
Read the article here

From an interview with Mr. James Mair, fisherman, b1895 Portknockie
BDFHS
"Some firms got good names. Buckie men eest tae say, if ye wir getting a new boat, gang tae McIntosh the builders in the Sloch - a Tosh boat an a Logie outfit, that wis aye the cry."
Read the full interview here

New September 2007

This photo of William R. McIntosh & family has just been contributed by great-grandson Ian McIntosh. Taken in the 1920's probably not long before his death, it also shows his son William third from right (see obituary below) who contributed so much to preserving history through his contributions to 'Sailing Drifters' by Edgar March.

For a complete list of all (known) boats built Click here


The only known photo of the McIntosh family of boatbuilders. This was taken at the launch of the steam drifter 'Stately' in 1904.
Photo courtesy of the Scottish Fisheries Museum, Anstruther.

Historical overview

This McIntosh family boatbuilding business played a significant role in providing quality timber fishing boats for the 19th and early 20th century Scottish fishing industry. Although mainly building herring drifters, other fisheries were also supplied. Most herring drifters were also used at certain times of the year in line fishing. Spanning the era of the Scaffie, Zulu and the Steam Drifter, they not only supplied fishermen along the Moray Firth, but as far away as Stornoway and Eyemouth. Commencing in Portessie in the late 1820's they had become notable builders of Scaffies by 1849 when the Washington Report (following the 1848 disastrous loss of fishermen during a storm) used a line drawing of their Moray Firth or Buckie Herring Boat as representative of fishing boats in the area.

NEW - May 2007 - Old Buckie Scaffie Photo

Click for a larger size image - for more information see the Scaffie page.

In 1851 the business employed six men & five apprentices. Significant numbers of apprentices emerged from this yard to establish successful businesses for themselves along the Moray Firth. Their first recorded Zulu built was BF 893 McIntoshes in 1883, and as the size of boats increased, they successfully made the transition from clinker to carvel construction, apparently using their own technique (1888 newspaper clipping). One of their last built Zulus, SY 486 Muirneag, built 1903, became Britain's last link to a bygone era, being the last herring drifter to fish under sailpower alone, fishing continuously until 1939. The Aberdeen Steam Liner A 149 White Rose, built 1899 was their first departure from the traditional sailboat, and although engined in Aberdeen was the first steam vessel built in the district, & possibly on the Moray Firth. This was immediately followed by the first Steam Drifter built in the district, BF 398 Frigate Bird, launched 1900, followed by another 20 or so during this golden age of the herring which came to an abrupt halt at the outbreak of WW1.

For more images of Ianstown and Portessie Click here

NEW - May 2007

Click for readable size image

The founder was John McIntosh b1795 d1876 who left his agricultural work in nearby Keith to serve a boatbuilding apprenticeship with James Ross of Cullen, who is recorded as having built during this period (starting 1808) "Sloops" and "Open sail boats". After marrying in Cullen and fathering five children (the last Isabella b1827 Cullen), John moved to nearby Portessie, established his own yard and subsequently took his son William b1821 d1893 into his business. William then subsequently took two of his sons, John b1845 d1912 and William R. b1853 d1927 into the business.

After Williams death in 1893, the younger son William R. opened his own yard in adjacent Ianstown which was likely more suited to the launching of larger boats. John b1845 although a competent boatbuilder in the family tradition, carried on the Portessie yard, but was apparently not as competent a businessman as his brother, and after meeting financial difficulties (possibly due to increasing commitments as a Methodist lay preacher or the much greater investment involved in the building of the A 149 WHITE ROSE) was forced to auction in 1900. The Portessie yard then was acquired by William R. who kept John as an employee until his death in 1912.

For more information on Duncan Click here

During this period some boats were still credited to J & W McIntosh even though the official builder would have been W.R. McIntosh. The Portessie yard was closed after John's death, all ongoing work being transferred to the Ianstown yard, which continued in business until being acquired by Jones Buckie Slip & Shipyard in 1918. William R.'s son William, became foreman shipwright at the Jones yard, a position he held until his retirement during WW2. (See obituary notice opposite) William R. continued boat maintenance and/or building work on adjacent land next to Whale Bay - (The Roarins?).

The last Steam Drifter built by the McIntosh's was the BCK 209 Jeannie McIntosh launched in February 1915. She survived service with the Admiralty in WW1 & was one of the 'little ships' involved in the evacuation of the remnants of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk in 1940, when France fell to the Germans. She apparently suffered structural damage at Dunkirk, but was repaired & assigned to a patrol escort group based at Ipswich (HMS Bunting). Armed with machine guns she was probably engaged in escorting small ship convoys, to and from Ipswich and Harwich, to join the main East Coast convoy route about 11 miles off Harwich. When the Rough Fort was placed in position in February 1942 she was then allocated as a tender and subsequently the Sunk Head Fort - finally being scrapped in 1947. Her remains can still be seen (2005) at low tide at Harwich.

Sources & acknowledgements
Mr. Ron Stewart "Sail & Steam"
Moray District Library
Buckie District Fishing Heritage Museum
Banffshire Advertiser
Edgar March "Sailing Drifters"
Mr. Andy Adams, Harwich
Mr.Charles Flett
McIntosh family history sources
Ian McIntosh - Great grandson of W.R. McIntosh
Mike & Eileen McKeag
The Leopard Magazine