About the Ring Net Heritage Trust

The harbours in coastal towns along the West Coast of Scotland in the 19th and 20th centuries were filled to the brim with herring fishing boats, with the harbourside bustling with activities such as fish curing, and preparing for market.

The herring industry was incredibly important to Scotland, it provided work for thousands of men and women and herring was a crucial source of protein for many families.

At its peak in 1907, Scotland's herring industry was the largest in the world and at its peak exported over 2.5m barrels of herring.

The Ring Net Heritage Trust was established on 1 June 2015 to protect and promote the ring net heritage.  In February 2016, the Trust was awarded a National Historic Ships UK grant towards work on the hull of Shemaron, a historic ex-ring net boat.  This work was carried out and completed early in March 2016.

Brief History on Shemaron

Shemaron was built by Weatherhead's Boatyard at Cockenzie in 1949 and is one of the oldest surviving ring net fishing boats in the country.  As a ring net fishing boat she represents and integral part of the story of herring fishing in Scotland.  After she was built, she was part of the Scottish herring fleet which worked all around the coast.

The Ring Net Heritage Trust's Objectives

Shemaron and Jasper by at the 2018 Tarbert traditional boat festival (c) J Cresswell
Shemaron and Jasper at the 2018 Tarbert Traditional Boat Festival (c) Jeremy Cresswell

The renewal of interest in the ring net method of fishing can be summarised into two areas:

- the history of the development of the ring net

- the study and maintenance of ring net boats.

To increase interest in the ring net heritage, the Trust works with local museums and heritage organisations towards promoting the ring net story as well as informing the public about the ring heritage through open days, traditional boat events and visits by interested organisations.

Goal 1 - to protect vessels associated with the rig net fishing industry:
The Trust will restore historic ring net vessels, beginning with Shemaron, to a historically accurate standard.
The Trust will also maintain Shemaron, in order to keep her seaworthy and, therefore, safeguarding her for the future.

Goal 2 - to increase public interest and encourage community engagement with the ring net's heritage:
Through working with local museums and heritage organisations, they will promote the heritage of the ring net industry.
The Trust will curate, preserve and display artefacts and information about the ring net era.
They will inform the public about this heritage through enabling public access to a historic ring net boat during open days, traditional boat events and visits by interested organisations.
The Trust will provide an accessible platform via the internet, Shemaron, and through partner organisations to educate, engage and encourage interest and participation.

Ring Net Heritage Trust and Cockenzie

The Ring Net Heritage Trust has been maintaining Shemaron since 2015.  Since that time they have been looking for a viable working plan; a plan is essential to protect this amazing historical vessel and move her forward as a working project.  After visiting Cockenzie, the team were impressed by the heritage community it hosts.  Working with 'Cockenzie Regeneration' and 'Salt of the Earth', they believe Shemaron can add value to the regeneration of Cockenzie harbour.

The area has a strong connection to fishing heritage.and Shemaron would be able to tie in with local events such as the annual Gala and the Box Meeting.  It also offers more convenient access to events such as the Port Soy Festival and the Scottish Fisheries Museum at Anstruther.

Bringing Shemaron Home to Cockenzie

Shemaron (c) Ring Net Heritage Trust

As Shemaron was built in Cockenzie in 1949, the Trust plan to bring her home to Cockenzie to provide an opportunity for people to engage with one of the last surviving boats from the herring fishing industry.  

This journey will create an opportunity for filming and other outreach projects. Shemaron will call at various harbours on her way. There will also be a homecoming celebration when she arrives at Cockenzie Harbour!

Further Outreach

While at Cockenzie, the Trust will present Shemaron as a floating museum.  Visitors will be able to enter the fo’c’sle and fish hold.  Various components will be on display and their purposes will be highlighted with suitable interpretation.  Shemaron is an excellent example of a 1950s ring net herring boat.
Shemaron will be a platform for many types of community engagement.  She can add to the historical story of Cockenzie harbour. The historical story of the harbour is being uncovered by local groups such as the Waggonways Trust. This ring net fishing boat will add to Cockenzie’s heritage appeal by highlighting another layer of local history. In turn this will help support the tourist attractions in East Lothian by adding local heritage interest.

Renovation and Maintenance

The Trust will require to continue her renovation and maintenance.  In so doing they aim to involve the public and community groups with her practical conservation. The Trust will seek funding for further projects that will involve teaching skills in engineering and boat building. 
To meet their aspirations and to develop ideas of community engagement further, they first need to make this historic journey from West to East coast.

For Shemaron to have a home in Cockenzie would be a fitting tribute to her working life. Coming home to this harbour means she will have come full circle, back to Weatherhead’s boatyard where she was built 70 years ago in 1949.
NEWS - November 2019

The project 'Bringing Shemaron Home to Cockenzie' has been awarded full funding from 'Salt of the Earth PSG Community Heritage Fund' and the team have secured funding to the amount of £4508 for the project.


Find out more about the Ring Net Heritage Trust here.