Dysart Harbour, Circa 1870 – Watercolour in a Watercolour Moleskine

Although I do not have any reference material to base this scene upon, I have used contemporary photographs and my own knowledge(my grandfather and his father lived here around this time) to construct this.

Dysart harbour, like many others along Scotland’s coast, was tidal and ships were grounded at low tide. It was essential that they were properly husbanded into position so that goods could be unloaded in time for the next high water. The position of “Harbour Master” was, therefore, one of great responsibility. Get it wrong and you had to wait until the next tide or risk blocking another ship inside the harbour. Ships too large to use the harbour had to be unloaded into smaller craft which transferred their cargo ashore. The boats in the foreground are carrying out this task, the smaller craft towing the larger one into position.. Lots of trade was carried out up and down our coastline and across the North Sea to Europe, especially Holland, the Baltic countries etc. The whole of the shipping industry was a mainstay of employment for may people, not just those who fished. In Kirkcaldy, for example, just west of this place there was a large “rope works” which supplied the many miles of rope needed to support the masts and operate the sails on these craft. Other factories were dedicated to producing specialised items, such as sails, ironmongery and the thousands of wooden cleats needed to tension these ropes. Add to this the actual boat builders and those who maintained the ships and the myth that Scotland was mainly a farming country is exploded. This industry, manually run, operated until the advent of containerisation in the 1960′s. This dealt the death knell for small harbours but by then, of course, coal then oil powered vessels had begun this process.