This blog post is about my paternal great, great grandfather and one of his fishing boats, the Buttercup.
John Murray was born on 23 January 1863 at Buckpool, Banffshire, Scotland to James Murray,a fisherman, and Ann Mair. In the 1871 census John was a scholar living at 12 Brae Side, Buckie with his parents and his older siblings, Helen, George, Jean (also called Jane in other records) and Jessie. In the 1881 census John is a fisherman living at Chapel Lane, Buckie with his parents and his sister Jane.
On 9 September 1887 John married Ann Reid at Main Street, Buckpool after banns according to the forms of the Disciples of Christ with James Bowie and Alexander Stewart as witnesses.
This photo of John and his wife Ann is one of my favourite family history photos. I love the contrast between John’s appearance here and how he must have looked when he was working as a fisherman. In this photo John and Ann are with their grandson John Murray. Not all of the colourising facilities on family history websites work brilliantly on all photos but I am quite taken by Ancestry’s coloured version of this photo which I’ll share at the end of this blog post.
In the 1891 census John (a fisherman) and Ann were living at 23 Seaview Road, Buckpool (which would then be in our family until the 1980s) with their baby son James (my great grandfather). In the 1901 census John, a fisherman, and Ann were at 23 Seaview Road with their 3 sons, James, William and John. In the 1911 census we have John and Ann at 23 Seaview Road with their 4 sons, James, William, John and George – by this time James and William were fishermen as well as their father still fishing.
This is 23 Seaview Road:
John Murray died on 30 March 1943 when he was aged 80 at 23 Seaview Road from arteriosclerosis and aortic incompetence, ie heart disease. John is buried in the cemetery at Buckpool:
It was John’s obituary in the 8 April 1943 issue of the Aberdeen Weekly Journal that introduced me to his fishing boat the Buttercup (the obituary also refers to the Craigmin fishing boat which I’ve blogged on previously):
WELL-KNOWN BUCKIE FISHERMAN
‘The death has occurred at 23 Seaview Road, Buckie of Mr John Murray (‘Farmer’), retired fisherman, who was well known and highly respected in the community.
Mr Murray, who was eighty years of age, had several sailboats – his last being Buttercup – and then he and his family built the steam drifter, Craigmin, of which he was skipper. Retiring from the sea about fifteen years ago, Mr Murray took a keen interest in bowling, frequently taking part in games on the public green.
He was predeceased by his wife and is survived by four sons, one of whom is harbourmaster at Buckie.’
I am currently analysing my numerous books of fishing boats built near Buckie for those boats which belonged to my ancestors but it is quite possible to determine details of the launch, working life and eventual fate of the Buttercup from the digitised newspapers.
The Buttercup was launched in 1897:
ELGIN COURANT AND MORAYSHRIE ADVERTISER, 23 APRIL 1897
‘In view of the west coast fishing, several more boats have either been launched or are ready for the water. On Friday Mr George Smith launched the Buttercup BF 1981 for Mr George Murray Farmer.’
(As an aside, the suffix of Farmer is a tee-name. In the fishing communities of Scotland there are relatively few surnames so families are differentiated between using suffices added onto their surnames).
BANFFSHIRE ADVERTISER 21 OCTOBER 1897
THE FISHING INDUSTRY – YARMOUTH AND LOWESTOFT
‘The BF (Banff) and INS (Inverness) boats generally have been doing as well as any sailing out of port, for the week ending Friday. The highest catches amongst the BF boats were – (first place) Buttercup 8 3/4 lasts.’
ELGIN COURANT AND MORAYSHIRE ADVERTISER, 9 SEPTEMBER 1902
CLOSE OF THE HERRING FISHING – A SUCCESSFUL SEASON
‘After a most successful season the east coast fishing season has come to a close. The total catch at the mainland stations amounts to 670,416 crans, as compared to 453,353 crans last year. FRASERBURGH – the fishing at this port has been the most successful one during the past eight years. The following are a few of the most successful crews fishing from the port this season: (last in the list of 27) Buttercup of Buckie, £440. ‘
ELGIN COURANT AND MORAYSHIRE ADVERTISER, 22 MARCH 1904.
BUCKIE – SALE OF FISHING BOATS
‘Seven first-class Zulu fishing boats were exposed for sale by auction in the Masonic Institute on Saturday. There were about 100 fishermen present, but bidding was exceedingly stiff. The only boat to change hands was the Buttercup, BF 1981, which was knocked down to Mr George Flett, Findochty for about £390. An offer of £200 was made for the Lebonan, BF 1715, but was not accepted. Mr Murray, of Thomson, Murray & Co, acted as auctioneer.’
ABERDEEN PEOPLE’S JOURNAL, 12 AUGUST 1905
‘The Findochty fishing boat Buttercup (BF 1981), which was wrecked on Friday of last week at the back of Wick harbour, was owned by Messrs George and John Smith and William Ross. The boat was insured in the lately-formed Findochty Insurance Club. The wreck has been sold for £60.’
This is the colourised version of my favourite photo of John and his wife:
Sources: birth, marriage and death certificates and census records from the Scotland’s People website, digitised newspapers from the British Newspaper Archive website.