Harbour Master Pimmy (aka James McLean) runs a very happy harbour! On arrival we met Audrey who “shot me” with her thermometer gun, Chris who runs the marina and the CEO of Mallaig Harbour Authority, Jacqueline overseeing a £60M development plan (with local laird Sir Cameron Mackintosh) and cousin Jeana who ran the showers!
Pimmy spent 35 years as a fisher before becoming HM in 2000. Then, Mallaig had 53 fishing boats (now 8), but now relies on a different type of fishing industry – fish farming. As we approached the harbour Audrey advised us of ferry movements on the VHF – 3 red lights warn you not to enter when a ferry is imminent. As we stepped off the boat, we met Pimmy’s brother Douglas who kindly supplied us with our supper – 32 “creel” caught Langoustine – expertly cooked William.
Pimmy told me about the great Herring fleets of the 1960s and the Eastern European factory ships (Klondykers) who processed the herring catches. [Uniquely Mallaig Harbour limits were extended into Loch Nevis to obtain harbour dues from the factory ships]. When the herrings were “fished out”, the change to catching white fish using ring nets and now they have been “fished out” the change to trawling for “prawns” (langoustine), most of which get exported straight to Spain. I learnt about the cost of a fishing licence today (up to £350,000), and how locals who went to catch whale in the Falklands. Pimmy’s busiest day at work was in 2004 when a storm destroyed the harbour front – lifting fishing boats up onto the quay!
He kindly took my crew to visit the local Salmon processing factory where “Gillie” toured us around his impeccably clean plant where 60,000 salmon per night get “sucked up” out of boats, stunned and slit before being transported in ice in the back of lorries before being processed and immediately air freighted to China. A massive industry that has been pioneered by the Norwegians on the west coast – a nod to their Norse predecessors who ruled western Scotland from 8th to 15th C.
Finally another cousin – Bertie and his son Gary, came to fix our VHS radio. Thank you Pimmy and all your great staff and relations!
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