The first time we came across the ring netter Oak Lea we were visiting friends in Dornie on the West Coast of Scotland. Our interest in the ring net was just beginning and we were yet to buy Shemaron. When driving along the road we noticed the distinctive shape of a ring netter next to a barn many miles from the sea.
These pictures show Oak Lea BA74 and Arctic Star anchored in Eriskay harbour during autumn 1966. The photographer was William Mackinnon a crew member on Arctic Star. He was on a dinghy belonging to another ring netter Santa Maria when he took this photograph. On deck are George Gillies, Geoff Comber, and Andy Crockett
One night near Loch Maddy she caught a massive ring of herring. This amount of fish not only filled the holds of Oak Lea and her neighbour at that time Arctic Star but also the holds of other boats in the vicinity which belonged to the Mansons of Mallaig.
Oak Lea enjoyed much success with the ring net, one of its skippers once commented that – “Oak Lea didn’t have to go looking for herring, herring came looking for Oak Lea.”
Oak Lea is photographed here alongside King Fisher in Tarbert c1960. These beautiful pictures show both boats in their varnished state with the ring nets piled at their stern. King Fisher is one of the earlier ring netters built for Robert Robertson of Campbeltown in 1933 at Walter Reekie of St Monans. In 1950 she was sold to Eoghan Macfarlane and registered as TT55. King Fisher was also a successful ring net boat neighbouring Mairearhed TT135 and Silver Crest TT75. During 1964 – 1966 she changed from the ring net and dredged for scallops. In 1966 she was sold to Daonagdhadee and re-registered once more as B604. She later moved to Coleraine as CE7.
Thanks to Brian Ward
Tarbert Fishing Boats 1925 – 75
Oak Lea BK51 was built by James Noble of Fraserbrough in 1936 for the town of Buckie on the Moray Firth. At fifty feet she was fairly typical of a pre war ring netter. Oak Lea neighboured Lily Oak for a while before she was sold to the Jackson family in Tarbert when she was renumbered TT131. In Tarbert, she enjoyed much success at the herring whilst neighbouring Village Belle II and III. In 1961she was sold to Tobermory and re-numbered OB74. In Tobermory she neighboured Arctic Star among other boats, again achieving much success. In the mid-eighties, an accident with a buoy resulted in her sinking. She was eventually put on a low loader and taken to a farm near Kyle Lochalsh. Sadly but perhaps inevitably she is no more, she was broken up in 2015.