With the massive emphasis that is placed on fishing, seafaring and the use of the waterways as the main method of travel, it is of little surprise that the men of Lochbroom are natural sailors. Yet one small part of Lochbroom parish has a particular reputation for having the best seamen in the Highlands and possibly Scotland.
During the 19th and early 20th Century there was an expansion of the upper classes. Men of industry and empire started to accumulate wealth more than ever before, bringing them up the meet the nobility in terms of wealth, status and power. These men of ‘new money’ increasingly engaged with new pleasure activities to keep them occupied during their free time. The super cars of the 19th century were the luxury racing yachts, manned by the best sailors the owners could find. Soon regattas, and races of luxury yachts were commonplace, and the mega rich tycoons of the railway, merchants and nobility all devoted their free time to their new maritime hobbies.
The men of the Lochside had developed a reputation among the wealthy owners of the racing yachts and were regularly kept on retainer throughout the year to ensure their return each summer for the season. It wasn’t much but the retainer helped the families get by. Duncan ‘Tor’ Mackenzie recalls his father receiving about £3 a week during the summer in the late 1920s, which was particularly good considering the average wages in 1927 in the UK were just under £2 per week.
The men who worked on the yachts in the summer were easily recognisable during the winter months. Each man was issued with a uniform, that included a thick wooly jumper that held the name of the yacht on which they had served. On the Lochside these jumpers became iconic and a staple of many of the men who lived there. Not only did the jumpers serve as a type of portable Curriculum Vitae but as a valuable warm clothing item that would be utilised even on dry land in the winter.
1 Hansard, ‘Wages (Statistics), HC Deb 08 December 1927’, Parliament 1803-2005, Vol 211, cc1587-90W. Https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/index.html