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Bringing Back The Beauty: Historic Fife fishing boat to be restored in the East Neuk

The Manx Beauty.
The Manx Beauty.

A rare Fife fishing boat will return to the East Neuk for a £200,000 restoration.

The Manx Beauty PL 35, one of few 1930s ring net boats left afloat, is being brought back to Cellardyke by road, more than 82 years after it and her sister ship the Manx Fairy PL 43, were launched on June 11 1937.

Those pair and two others – the Manx Lad and Manx Lass – were ordered as part of a Manx Government initiative to revive the Isle of Man fishing industry. Cellardyke was a centre of excellence at the time.

Discussions have been held with a Men’s Shed, the social work and criminal justice department, the local high school, volunteers from the Scottish Fisheries Museum boatyard and other voluntary groups about the restoration and community use of the vessel.

Retired surgeon Professor Chris Oliver, who lives in Cellardyke and volunteers at the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther, said: “We must not let her die. It’s great she is coming back and will be saved from being broken up.”

The 48-foot boat’s return is being seen as a memorial to Provost William Carstairs of Anstruther, the son of a Cellardyke fisherman who commissioned a series of new boat designs following the depression of the 1920s and 30s.

Provost Carstairs’ yard was seen as a progressive place in which to build the Manx boats and reports from the time revealed  a Mr PJ Moore, who represented The Manx Government, said: “The boats launched are of the very latest type, and are equipped for both ring-net herring fishing and seine-net white fishing.

“They will be able to operate all the year round and to carry on fishing at other ports besides those of the Isle of Man. They are cheap to run.”

The story of the East Neuk connections to these boats did not end with their launch.

Lock Horsburgh, from Pittenweem, had married a woman from Peel in 1934 and had taken up residence on the island. He was appointed as first skipper of the Manx Beauty.

Another East Neuk man was employed to skipper the Manx Fairy but he was unable to guide her through the Forth Clyde Canal and Cellardyke crew member John Deas took over.

The Manx Beauty eventually found its way into the hands of fisherman Arthur Maddock, who took the boat to Birkenhead.

Arthur Jnr was the last fisherman to work from Birkenhead and the Manx Beauty was moored there as a fish shop, with Arthur Jnr working a steel boat and selling his catch from the old boat’s deck.

Arthur Jnr has now retired and, having owned the boat for 50 years, the family are keen to see her restored.

Arthur Maddock Jnr, the current owner of the boat.

Richard Wemyss, a member of the community group formed to save the boat, told The Scotsman: “For Dykers this vessel is absolutely iconic, the photos of the build represent the end of the hey day of this once significant fishing community.

“There are lots of really interesting stories to be told about this boat and her sister ships, the East Neuk and the Isle of Man, Birkenhead’s demise as a fishing port – there were about 30 vessels working there when the Manx Beauty first arrived and she survived to be the last in the dock with her owner selling fish from her whilst working a steel boat.

“It is vital that this boat should be saved.”

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