Previous names

  • 1903 - 1933 Heather Bell
Certificate no 173
Status National Historic Fleet


Function Fishing Vessel
Subfunction Drifter
Location Anstruther
Vessel type Zulu
Current use Museum based
Available to hire No
Available for excursions No
Info required No


Builder Stephen, W & G Boatbuilder, Banff
Built in 1903
Hull material Wood
Rig Unknown
Number of decks 1
Number of masts
Propulsion Motor
Number of engines 1
Primary engine type Inboard
Boiler type None
Boilermaker None


Breadth: Beam
19.84 feet (6.05 m)
7.21 feet (2.20 m)
Length: Overall
78.69 feet (24.00 m)
Tonnage: Gross
Air Draft
To be confirmed



RESEARCH is the sole surviving large zulu, a first class herring drifter of the type once numerous along the shores of the Moray Firth. She was built as Heather Bell (BF 1206) in 1903 by W & G Stephen, of Banff, for three co-owners – the fishermen George Paterson, William Lyall and Andrew Lyall, all of Macduff in the County of Banff. She had a 62ft keel but the long raking stern gave her an overall length of 78ft. The new boat was registered on 6 May 1903 and her first skipper was Alexander Paterson. Equipped with a steam capstan for hauling the drift nets, Heather Bell fished under sail for herring in the summers until April 1912, when the Banff registration was closed and her new owners (William and John Ritchie, of Rosehearty) registered her at Fraserburgh (FR 498). A 30hp auxiliary Kelvin engine was installed but later the sails were discarded when a second 30 hp Kelvin was added. In the early 1920s these engines were replaced by twin 60hp Kelvins, which powered her for over forty years.

After several changes of ownership at Fraserburgh she went north to Shetland in 1935, having been bought by a crew from the island of Whalsay, and was renamed RESEARCH (LK 62) after the crew’s previous vessel. She continued to fish successfully until the Second World War, when she was requisitioned by the Admiralty to carry supplies around the Shetlands, and also saw service at Scapa Flow, Orkney. In 1945 RESEARCH resumed her fishing career under skipper Robert Polson, and in the following year was fitted with a seine net winch which allowed her to take part in the new winter fishery which had developed off Shetland during the war years. In 1955 her younger crew members left for a new vessel and RESEARCH was laid up in the subsequent winters but continued to fish for herring in the summers. Remarkably she remained a very successful boat, and in the late 1950s recorded her biggest catch of 211 cran. In 1968, by which time her skipper Robert Polson was over 70 years old, she completed her last season and was laid up.

In 1979 the Scottish Fisheries Museum mounted a rescue operation and towed the boat back to Anstruther with the intention of restoration back to her original appearance. However she sank shortly afterwards and after being raised was refitted at Miller’s boatyard in St Monans in 1984 at a cost of £24,000, with a new keel, some new planks and the internal doubling of some frames. She went down again in the winter storms of 1995-96 and lay under water for three months. With the help of a £35,800 Heritage Lottery Fund grant she was lifted into a steel cradle at Anstruther and a project to display her in a new gallery, with other smaller craft, was embarked upon. In addition to local fundraising the project benefitted from a further grant of £664,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 1997/98. The new gallery opened in April 2000 and RESEARCH is displayed as a bare undecked and unrigged hull.

Source: Historic Sail, Britain's surviving working craft, Paul Brown, the History Press.


Classic Boat: The Mighty Zulu, pp66-70, January 1997 
Walker, Alistair, The Fleet: a guide to the historic vessels at the Scottish Fisheries Museum, St Ayles Press, 2002
Newland, K, The Zulu herring drifter: case study of historic vessel preservation at the Scottish Fisheries Museum, 1998
Dewar, Rosemary, East Fife Mail: Wreck or Relic?, pp26-7, March 1997 
St Andrews Citizen: Lightship may not be only vessel bound for new home, 18 August 1995 

Key dates

  • 1903

    Built by W. & G Stephen of Banff on the Moray Firth and named HEATHER BELL

  • 1903-33

    Fished out of Fraserburgh

  • 1930s

    After earlier experimentation with a Kelvin auxiliary power unit she was fitted with twin 60hp engines

  • 1933

    Sold to a Shetland firm and renamed RESEARCH

  • 1933-68

    Fished out of Whalsay in Shetland

  • 1939-45

    Admiralty service in Shetland and Scapa Flow

  • 1968

    Laid up and her condition began to deteriorate

  • 1979

    The Scottish Fisheries Museum mounted a rescue operation and towed the boat back to Anstruther

  • 1984

    Fitted with a new keel at Miller’s Boatyard in St Monans

  • 1979-97

    Laid up in Anstruther harbour

  • 1995-96

    Sank in winter storms and  lay under water for 3 months before being lifted into a steel cradle

  • 1999

    Transported to the Scottish Fisheries Museum’s new purpose-built gallery

  • 2000

    Zulu Gallery opened by Deputy Minister for Culture and Sport

  • 2010

    A laser survey of the hull was conducted by Headland Archaeology


  • 1997/98

    The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £664,000 for acquisition of premises

  • 1996/97

    The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £35,800 for purpose built building

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