'Anymore for anymore!' Memories of boating in Largs in the Seventies
Al Watt shares his memories of hiring out boats on Largs promenade in the 1970s, when jellyfish stings and tangled fishing lines were all in a day's work.
‘Anymore for anymore – anymore for anymore NOW!’ I’d yell at the top of my lungs as I shelled bait on the shore front. I’d be trying to pull punters for the fishing launches or to hire out one of the putt-putts, (self drives) or punts (rowing boats). Like many kids before me, I was earning a few bob during my summer holidays. I felt dead gallus in my waders and steaming bunnet, that I’d use to wipe seats.
We’d work a seven-day week, hiring the wee boats out from a wheeled gangway pushed out into the sea at the start of day. There was a cable that connected to a diesel winch which would periodically haul it up the shore slope as the tide rose.
Boat hire was for half an hour and was paid in advance. We’d make a note of the boat’s name and time of hire. Late returns had their boat held out from the gangway until they paid the surplus. We’d stop hiring when it started getting dark.
There’d be morning, afternoon and evening sailings of the fishing launches that’d last for a couple of hours or so. Serious anglers brought fishing rods but there’d be a box of hand lines that I’d pass out and untangle when inevitably two or more punters got their lines crossed.
Rite of passage
There was a rite of passage involved whereby you’d to haul an anchor up that had jellyfish stings on the rope. You couldn’t get a grip with rubber gloves and had to grab it with both bare hands. You’d know you were in for a painful time of it but went ahead because you didn’t want to be thought of as a 'jessie'. The skipper said that you got used to it once your palms hardened. Right enough, after a while I stopped noticing it and I used to show off cleaning jelly stings from punters’ hand lines.
There was a variety of fish brought onboard, but everyone was hoping for a Codicus Giganticus. If we got over a shoal of mackerel, they’d bite on the way down and as you brought them up as well. The decks would be knee deep in fish and we’d have a boat load of happy hunters returning ashore.
We were generally kept quite busy, but when rain stopped play, or on otherwise slow days we’d whip ropes to send ripples down them and skite them across the beach for a bit of fun.
We’d have an early start some mornings, heading out to Old Fairlie pier to harvest mussels when the bait supply was getting low. Before there was Hunterston Power Station, the seashore at Fairlie was the favourite spot to beachcomb cockles, clabby-doos, (large black mussels) and razor shells when the tide was out. I can remember going there with my dad.
The season would run from beginning of May until the end of October each year. The pitches were hired and licensed from the Burgh Council and each year moved up a site from south to north, to ensure fair placing. Each licensee was responsible for keeping his part of the beach clean. At the end of the season all the boats would go to their respective boatyards for overhaul and refurbishment. The shore front would look so stark and bare through the winter months after all the hustle and bustle of the summer.
Stringent changes in Health and Safety regulations scuppered future plans for this local industry. By the end of the 1980s there were no boats for hire or fishing launches on Largs promenade. Nowadays if you type Largs boat hire in your search engine you’ll get yacht charters, marine brokers and occasionally an excursion boat for trips round the bay or the Isle of LittleCumbrae.
There are no more cries along Largs promenade of, ‘Anymore, for anymore!’ now.
About the author
Al Watt is a medically retired (hypergraphia) technical author, from Largs in Scotland. He has also had a spell as a voluntary Adult Literacy Tutor. He had some earlier success with the biker press before the freelance market dried up. Latterly, he has won prizes from the Largs Writers Group, where he has given talks on the craft of writing and run workshops. Along with contributions to their newsletter, the local press and a regular column in Writers’ Umbrella magazine, he’s had stories published in a few anthologies and small press magazines, one of which ran his horror serial.
QUICK LINK: Memories of a Govan childhood
(images courtesy of OldLargs.com)