The Laurel

The Shetland Times, 12 October 1907 reported an important event at the Ness. Harry Irvine of Glenfield got a Fifie fishing boat, the Laurel. Built in Sandhaven in 1902, and operated there by F. (probably Francis) Watt, as FR 962, it became LK 680. It was an optimistic time in the South Mainland, where the population had actually increased – unlike in many parts of Shetland. This was largely due to the herring industry, and the Laurel was to pursue the herring for the almost the next half century.

Photographed by A. Flaws, crew on board LK 680 Laurel Bobby Smith, John Sinclair and Jackie Johnson.

The initial owner was Sinclair Johnston, a Lerwick draper who used the slogan Sinclair Johnston’s trousers are coming down for his sales. In 1919 the owners were Harry (1858-1947) and George Arthur Irvine (1881-1953) – father and son – and two Scalloway men – Laurence Williamson and William Ross Smith. Harry Irvine was the first skipper, George in 1919, Harry again in 1920, with George for 1926-1934, and finally Alex Flaws of Gusseltoon from 1935-1955.

Crew of the Laurel LK 680, 1940s; Harry Irvine, Peter Sinclair (Outvoe), George Robert Smith (Troswick), George Burgess, Alex Flaws (skipper).

Alex Flaws was a distinguished mariner. He had served in the RNR in World War One, and again in World War Two as skipper of HMT Cape Melville. He was awarded a DSC for rescuing crew from the collier Rubislaw, mined in the Thames in November 1939.

The Laurel worked as a sailboat. Press reports show her doing well. A report from July 1909 has her landing 50 crans at Lerwick, and in October a report from Sandwick suggested that she was one of a number of boats with average earnings probably not far short of £500. In July 1910 she was reported to have earned £440 up to the present time. In 1920, the Laurel got a Gardner engine, extending her working life.

LK 680 anchored at Levenwick in 1922. Beyond her is LK 1104 SUNSHINE. Photographed by Bertie McLaughlan.

If the herring industry had been better between the wars the Laurel would probably have been replaced. When World War Two came skipper Flaws went into the Royal Navy and the Laurel was laid up. She was once advertised for sale, but nothing came of it, and she went back into action when the war finished.

In June 1946 she got her biggest shot of 191 cran. In 1955, the Shetland Times of 26 August reported that the old Laurel had 120 [cran]. The Laurel was keeping her end up at age 53. Alex Flaws was 63, Robert Smith of Troswick and John Sinclair of Outvoe, also on the boat, were 64. When the Laurel developed a problem with a leak they had to decide on whether it was worth repairing for the next season. Nearing retirement age they decided against.

The end of the Laurel came when she was taken to Aithsvoe, Cunningsburgh, for scrapping. Or not quite, as she never got completely dismantled and parts of her remained there for decades. The Laurel’s capstan was one of those surviving items, and when the time came to restore LK 243, the Swan, the capstan was uplifted and put to a new use. Part of the Laurel lived on at sea on a fellow Fifie.

LK 243 Swan in Lerwick, September 2014, the Laurel's capstan brightly visible in red.

Note – Many thanks are due to Willie Flaws of Dunrossness for his help.

Related Posts

Research project commissioned to encourage locals to grow more aets!

Shetland Amenity Trust has commissioned a research project with two local straw makers to understand more about the growing of ...

Read more

‘Logical Confusion’, a retrospective exhibition of Mike McDonnell opens at the Shetland Museum

An ambitious new exhibition dedicated to the artistry of well-known local artist Mike McDonnell opened this weekend at the Shetland ...

Read more

New poetry book - ‘Love in Human Herts’

‘Love in Human Herts’, a new publication celebrating Vagaland’s finest poetry has been launched today by the Shetland Amenity ...

Read more

The funny story behind some of Lerwick's street names

In the 1880s Lerwick was changing rapidly. As the great herring fishery of that era developed, there were new streets, and potential ...

Read more

Film celebrating the achievements of Johnnie Notions launched by Shetland Museum and Archives

A new film which brings to life the incredible story of 18th century inoculation pioneer and Shetland crofter Johnnie Notions has been ...

Read more

Keep a look out for Skeklers this Halloween

We had a great time at our recent Skeklers Hat workshop with local artist Eve Eunson in preparation for Halloween.

Read more

Pre-school Activity Mornings

Bring your little explorers to the Shetland Museum & Archives for our heritage-filled fun sessions, designed especially for under 5's ...

Read more

National Poetry Day

To celebrate National Poetry Day we asked assistant archivist (and poet) Mark Smith to uncover a hidden gem from the archives. This ...

Read more

October Holiday Workshops

Join us this October Holidays for heritage inspired workshops and some spooky Halloween fun! From witchcraft to skeklers and faas ...

Read more

Treasure Trove Comes to Shetland

Members of the public are invited to come along with their ‘treasures’ and meet experts from Scotland’s Treasure Trove Unit ...

Read more

Bold exhibition featuring photography by legendary Diane Arbus opens at Shetland Museum and Archives

A new display of powerful and iconic photographs by Diane Arbus, one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century, opened ...

Read more

Shetland Museum and Archives Launches New Online Archive Catalogue

A new online Archives catalogue has been launched today (Tuesday 8 August) at the Shetland Museum and Archives.

Read more

CLOSED: Friday 12 noon - Sunday 12 noon

Shetland Museum and Archives will be closed from 12 noon on Friday 21 July until 12 noon on Sunday 23 July, due to a private ...

Read more

A celebration of Shetland’s maritime heritage at the museum

Shetland’s maritime heritage will be at the heart of Shetland Museum and Archives’ summer programme, with a series of themed ...

Read more

Alanbrooke and the Kearton Brothers

When archivist Angus Johnson started to read through his copy of Alanbrooke's War Diaries, he did some digging in the archives to see ...

Read more