John Murray and the Buttercup fishing boat

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.

John Murray, Ann Reid and John Murray

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:

23 Seaview Road, Buckpool

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:

John Murray’s gravestone.

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):


‘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:



‘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).



‘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.’



‘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. ‘



‘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.’



‘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:

John Murray, Ann Reid and John Murray

Sources: birth, marriage and death certificates and census records from the Scotland’s People website, digitised newspapers from the British Newspaper Archive website.

The sinking of the Craigmin

This blog post is about my paternal great-grandfather who was from Banffshire in the north-east of Scotland.

My great-grandfather James Murray was born in Seaview Road, Buckpool in 1890, married Williamina Geddes in 1917 in the Church of Christ, West Church Street, Buckie, married Margaret Thomson Cowie (my great-grandmother) in 1920 in the United Free Church, West Church Street, Buckie, died in 1985 in Seafield Hospital, Buckpool and is buried beside the hospital in the New Cemetery. All of the censuses from 1891 to 1911 have my great-grandfather living at Seaview Road, Buckpool.

My great-grandfather was a fisherman all his life (he came from a fishing family in a fishing community) and this blog post is about the sinking of one of his fishing boats, the Craigmin.

Craigmin fishing boat

On Saturday 6th November 1926 there were severe gales with many casualties and one of those was the Craigmin.

The Craigmin was around 28 miles from Great Yarmouth with a load of nine crans ( a single cran is around 370 gallons) which was 2 days’ worth of catches, when it suddenly sprung a leak at 3am owing to the strain caused by the rough seas during a severe gale. The leak happened after they had finished hauling their nets. An hour and a half after the leak sprang, the boat sank.

Water rushed in at a rate which overwhelmed the boat’s pumps and the water simply kept rising under it reached the boiler furnace. The crew did try pumping out the water for an hour but to no avail.

When there was no hope of saving the boat, the crew of ten abandoned the drifter and after the crew including the skipper, my great-grandfather, boarded the Great Yarmouth drifter the Chestnut, the crew watched as the Craigmin sank.

The crew of ten consisted of seven Buckie men, one Porsoy man and two Stornoway men.

The crew lost all of their belongings and the weather was so rough none of the boat’s gear or nets could be salvaged. There were eight or ninety nets onboard at the time.

On landing at Great Yarmouth the crew of the Craigmin were cared for at the Yarmouth Sailors’ Home and the crew arrived home to Buckie on Monday 8th November.

The Craigmin was a wooden steam drifter weighing 33 tons, used primarily to catch herring and was owned by my great-grandfather and others.

The sinking of my great-grandfather’s boat was reported in the Aberdeen Press & Journal, the Dundee Evening Telegraph, the Northern Whig, the Southern Reporter, the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, the Shepton Mallet Journal, the Yarmouth Independent and the Western Daily Press with most details in the Aberdeen Press & Journal and the Dundee Evening Telegraph. The other papers just carried minimal detail.

As an indication of how bad the weather was that day, the Belfast News-Letter and the Western Daily Press published information on several disasters that happened that day: an elderly woman in County Derry who died when her house was blown down, ten families in Dublin made homeless when a tenement building collapsed, flying slates and debris and uprooted trees in Belfast, the west wing of Linlithgow parish Church demolished, a teacher and two boys went missing in the storm in Ballymena, flooding on the west coast of Scotland, flooding in the Galashiels district, flooding in the Lake District, a railway viaduct on the Lancashire-Cumberland border sank by two or three feet, St Michael’s Church in Bristol was damaged and trees came down in Wotton-under-Edge.

The Aberdeen Press & Journal, the Gloucester Citizen and the Daily Herald all reported in December that Ernest Lilly, the skipper of the Chestnut, was rewarded for his bravery in rescuing my great-grandfather and his crew. The Board of Trade gave Mr Lilly a piece of plate.

There will be another blog post on the Craigmin in the coming months – in 1928 my great-grandfather and his father along with one other man, the registered owners of the Craigmin, were sued in Banff Court by George Smith, a Buckie ship bullder in respect of repars to the Craigmin between 1919 and 1925 which George Smith indicated had not been paid for.

Sources: personal family knowledge, Scotland’s People website (birth, marriage and death certificates and censuses), Aberdeen Press & Journal 6 November 1926, Dundee Evening Telegraph 8 November 1926, Belfast News-Letter 6 November 1926, Western Daily Press 6 November 1926, Aberdeen Press & Journal 16 December 1926, Gloucester Citizen 17 December 1926 and Daily Herald 16 December 1926.

(For the benefit of anyone else researching families in the fishing communities of the north-east of Scotland, the tee-names or by-names, ie the local nicknames, of my great-grandparents were Murray Farmer and Cowie Pum).