On the afternoon of the 18th August 1848 the weather was fair as 800 boats and their crew set out for a days fishing in the Moray Firth.
In Scotland we know the weather can close in fast and it certainly did in this case. The boats were gathering the day’s herring catch when the winds began to pick up late on the 18th and the boats were increasingly bounced over the ever growing waves.
Some of the skippers pulled the nets from the sea and headed for protection from the elements, taking shelter in inlets and harbours around the north-east coastline.
The storm came with all its might during the early hours of the 19th and 124 boats were lost, many as they were trying to enter harbour. Around 100 fishermen lost their lives leaving nearly 50 women widowed.
The government at the time conducted an inquiry into the incident. The two main conclusions in the final report were that the boats were poorly designed and the north-east of Scotland had a shortage of good harbours that were accessible in poor sea conditions.
In the years that followed the harbours were improved and fishermen were encouraged to have decks built on their boats. The building of decks was fiercely resisted at first as it was thought it would reduce the space for their catch, however, gradually more and more boats were fitted with these as time went on.