Ring-net fishing tales hook youngsters
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.
Dennis said he would ‘never forget’ the technique for mending nets.
Above, left to right: Laura Ondova, Deirdre Nelson, Marek Ondo, Mario Ondo, Jill de Fresnes and Dennis Meenan on board the bus.
Left: Dennis, right, in his ring-net fishing heyday.
Friends Lexi-Lou Lang, four, Laila Morran, three, and Emma Ramsay, three, whose dad is a fisherman, learned about ring-net fishing.