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Family Fun at Grimsay Boat Day

Calum Iain MacCorquodale, and other musicians and singers, make sure that local music plays an important part in the Grimsay Boatshed cèilidh at the end of the annual boat day.

But music is just one of many homegrown skills that have been on display during the day. People started gathering at Kallin many hours earlier on this Saturday in late May. For many, the first place to visit is the Old School, where they get a chance to see young boatbuilders at work. These boys are putting on a demonstration under the guidance of their tutor, Ronald John Maclean. The exhibition attracts an interested crowd of all ages.

Later in the day the attention shifts to Kallin Harbour – a busy centre for fishermen. Stalls on the pier display fresh live catches of langoustines and lobsters. You can take a close look at them, but the rubber bands around the claws remind you not to touch.

Meanwhile in front of the boatshed itself a large creel stack arouses interest. By lunchtime the crowd has grown considerably, and local traders do well providing food for hungry visitors.

After lunch the reason for the creel stack suddenly becomes apparent. Local youths knock it down and race to be the fastest to build it up again. And younger children get a chance to take part in another competition – tossing the fisherman’s welly. It is not as easy as it might look!

Further down the slipway, rowing boats made on the school course are waiting to be launched. They’re available for anyone who wants to take a ride across the harbour. Some like to race. Others take it more gently. Eventually all the rowing boats come in. It’s time for the bigger boats to take a turn.

Grimsay has a longstanding history of boatbuilding. Now several traditional Grimsay boats parade around the harbour in front of the crowds. Judges will assess them, and give prizes for different categories, including, among other things, the best working boat, the best painted boat, the boat that’s travelled farthest, and even the most interesting crew.

This is the climax of the day’s outdoor activities. Grimsay has a close connection with fishing and the sea, and the community takes a rightful pride in this heritage, while continuing to support interesting new developments within their culture. As they take a last turn round their harbour perhaps thoughts now turn to the evening’s entertainment to come back in the boatshed.

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