Ring-net fish­ing tales hook young­sters

Campbeltown Courier - - LEISURE - Words and pho­to­graphs Han­nah O’Han­lon edi­tor@camp­bel­town­courier.co.uk

A first-hand ac­count by a 92-year-old for­mer ring-net skip­per cap­tured the at­ten­tion of some of Camp­bel­town's youngest an­glers. Mario Ondo, Laura On­dova, both 10, and Marek Ondo, 13, bumped into Camp­bel­town's Den­nis Meenan when the Cast­ing the Net project bus sailed into town. Mario and Marek en­joy fish­ing for mack­erel from Camp­bel­town’s old pier with Marek even smok­ing their catches him­self. Den­nis, who stars in a video filmed for the project, popped into the bus, which was in Camp­bel­town last week, at the same time as the young­sters and told them tales about the ring-net fish­ing in­dus­try, which largely died out in the early 1970s. Den­nis, who fished all his life from the age of 14, ex­plained that two fish­ing boats would be used to cast a net around a shoal of her­ring be­fore pulling to­gether to cre­ate ‘a purse’ which traps the fish. He said the real skill was not in catch­ing the fish, but in find­ing them in the first place, at a time when there was no sonar. Na­ture was the most com­mon guide with gan­nets, which feed on her­ring, and bask­ing sharks, which eat the same plank­ton as the fish, giv­ing away their lo­ca­tion. Den­nis ex­plained that a sin­gle gannet once helped him land a mas­sive catch which filled four boats, off the Tiree coast. Cast­ing the Net, a col­lab­o­ra­tive project be­tween the Clyde Fish­er­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion and the Scot­tish Fish­eries Mu­seum, is an oral his­tory project cap­tur­ing the mem­o­ries and ex­pe­ri­ences of the last re­main­ing Clyde ring-net fish­er­men. The bus, bought on eBay, has been trans­formed into the project’s mo­bile hub. Jill de Fresnes, from the Clyde Fish­er­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion, talked to count­less fish­er­men, in­clud­ing Den­nis, car­ry­ing out video in­ter­views and col­lect­ing clips, pho­to­graphs and other ar­ti­facts on dis­play on the bus. Artist Deirdre Nel­son trans­formed the in­te­rior with the help of P5-7 pupils from Tar­bert Acad­emy, the vil­lage where ring-net fish­ing is said to have been born. Ms Nel­son worked with the chil­dren to cre­ate cush­ions, a blind and up­hol­stery with ex­quis­ite de­tail based on the in­ter­views. The Scot­tish Fish­eries Mu­seum loaned sev­eral his­toric items to the project, in­clud­ing a nee­dle used to re­pair nets. As he demon­strated the skill he said he would ‘never for­get’, Den­nis said: ‘Many a long win­ter’s night you’d spend stand­ing on the quay mend­ing nets.’ The bus con­tin­ued to Ayr­shire and Stir­ling and will be at Tar­bert Vil­lage Hall to­mor­row, Satur­day Oc­to­ber 27, where Her­ring Tales takes place. Car­radale’s Lachie Pater­son has spent years col­lect­ing and col­lat­ing images of ring-net fish­er­men which will be dis­played at the event along­side the Cast­ing the Net ex­hi­bi­tion, with a her­ring and potato din­ner top­ping off the evening.

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Den­nis said he would ‘never for­get’ the tech­nique for mend­ing nets.

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Above, left to right: Laura On­dova, Deirdre Nel­son, Marek Ondo, Mario Ondo, Jill de Fresnes and Den­nis Meenan on board the bus.

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Left: Den­nis, right, in his ring-net fish­ing hey­day.

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Friends Lexi-Lou Lang, four, Laila Mor­ran, three, and Emma Ram­say, three, whose dad is a fish­er­man, learned about ring-net fish­ing.

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