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James Nicolson (or Nicholson)
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James Nicolson (or Nicholson)


James Nicolson (or Nicholson - unlike the Cockneys, this lot added in an 'h') with yoles in Skippiegeo, Brims If the date on the back of the photo is right,he would have been around 68 at the time.

A member of the crew of the first Longhope lifeboat.
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Picture added on 02 February 2012 at 12:53
Would he have been your granny's father I wonder, or even great grandfather...
Added by Jimmy Hamilton on 02 February 2012
Wilson looked a bit like him. I remember his lifeboat Velum on the kitchen wall at Mucklehouse.
Added by Fred Johnston on 02 February 2012
Yes Jimmy, my granny's father. Son of Ralph Nicolson and grandson of another James Nicolson who seems to have lost his life in the Pentland Firth going out to pilot a boat. Burial/death registers not totally conclusive but my sister remembers granny talk about a woman who, standing with her young son, saw her husband's boat go down. Fairly sure this is the same incident, just wish we'd listened more at the time.

Added by Jane Harris on 04 February 2012
Does anyone mind o a Longhope yole called "Maggie"? Apparently used to sail to regattas in Kirkwall, although before the barriers were built not such a distance as today.

I got this info from Wm Mowat South Ronaldsay.
Added by John Budge on 05 February 2012
Water Ross told me in c.2002 the yole nearest the camera was called the Ina. Does the sail house still exist at Skippie Geo, Brims?
Added by Dennis Davidson on 12 February 2012
No Dennis, it is long gone.
Added by Fred Johnston on 13 February 2012
Skippie Geo,or as we used to pronounce it Skeppie Geo has a very pronounced sloping beach at the inner end ( it is rocky elsewhere). There used to be two iron rings cemented to the rocks, towards the middle of the Geo, each side. Blocks were attached to these rings and ropes rove through them, in order to haul the yoles clear of the beach. Yoles could be left in the middle of the Geo attached by this method for short periods of time , as the water once clear of the beach was deep.
The Geo was a very important Haven in the days of sail and before engines became reliable enough to attempt the tides at the Tail Of Brims. Post war, it rapidly lost it's importance and was seldom used.
Added by Fred Johnston on 14 February 2012
Is it possible that this yole was used for pilotage as Dennis has pointed out she is a stroke lower than normal and has six sets "o thowl" pins. When would pilotage have finished from Brims? I know it was still a practice going on when the Lifeboat Station was established and that was 1875 I think?.
Added by John Budge on 14 February 2012
Yes John, they had a pilot boat in Brims in 1874, which was a big yole. I do not know when the pilotage stopped, but would imagine that it would be about the time when ships ceased calling at Longhope for bunkers. Having said that, Billy Dass piloted some of the German ships when they were towed away from the Flow, including the Derflinger post WW2. Some of the lifeboat crew also piloted RFA's into Lyness after the war.
There were also pilots in Heckness and in Flotta.

Added by Fred Johnston on 15 February 2012
I think there is a Harry Berry painting of that yole in the sea cadet Wardroom at Scapa.
Added by W Watters on 15 February 2012
The matter of a yole having a stroke less than the norm brings tae mind the former Brims Yole "Sylvia" she came fae Stroma, where she had been as the old folk used tae say "sore aboot the mooth" (Tops of the timbers rotten) The easy way was just to remove the top stroke and fit new stringers and deck!.
I used to help as a crew for Billy Mowat and found her low, the side deck was just under my knees, awfull hard on the back for a "lanky cheell".
Added by John Budge on 15 February 2012
The photo of the the South Walls boat Jack Reel with crewmen standing at the ready after rescuing the crew of the SS Dinnington (1906) shows that boat was also built low with only 9 strokes (planks) each side and six oarsmen. There also seems to be lots of sacks of coal lying on the rocks just ahead of the boat. The photo used to be on the Orkney Image Library but must have been removed. If anyone has a photo which shows the entire yole hauled up at Skippie Geo to better judge its length it would be very interesting to see.
Added by Dennis Davidson on 15 February 2012
Fascinated by all the comments here - and all the local knowledge that's at risk of being lost. Time for a Walls (Vagaland) history website?
This is the only photo of the yole we have as far as I know - and it is a pity this photo does not show the whole boat. The name Ina could have been after my granny, Walterina, but that's a guess.
Added by Jane Harris on 21 February 2012
There's a painted board attached to the top stroke and partly visible under the ends of the oar blades aft. Seems to have a decorative pattern painted along the lower edge. Can you make out more on the original photo perhaps?

Also there's a curved piece of wood attached to the heel of the sternpost. I think they called that a mullack in Rackwick, a wearing piece for hauling on stoney beaches.

The Ina had no antifouling or red lead painted on the bottom unlike the small yole behind. I assume these boats were always worked off the beach and never left on a mooring?

Does anyone know how many boats were hauled at Skippie Geo around 1900 and how many families were involved with using these boats? Was a boat owned by one family or did more than one family have shares in a boat? I assume by 1900 the yoles mainly were used for inshore fishing?
Added by Dennis Davidson on 21 February 2012
I managed a visit to Skippigeo in September with Billy Mowat. No sign of any boat remains and only the base of the sail house with the lower wall still evident.
There's two boat nousts below the Boathouse at Crockness which seem to have been roofed with flags at one time. Are there any photos of these roofed nousts and does anyone know when they were built?
Added by Dennis Davidson on 11 October 2015
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