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The 1861 Parochial Directory – Ferry-Port-on-Craig

The 1861 directory advised about fifty persons are engaged in salmon fishery during the season and lists 40 connected with Sea-Faring pursuits, either as Shipowners, Shipmasters or Seamen. There are also 2 Pilots, 2 Shipping Agents and 3 Ships’ Chandlers, a Marine Architect, a Lighthouse Keeper, a Salmon Fishery Manager, a Harbour Master and various Railway Staff. There was also a Ship’s Carpenter and 7 Joiners and Wrights. It also lists 27 Furnished Lodging Houses to cater for overnighting ferry passengers.

The 1861 census reference

1880 Voters Roll

The parish lists 13 shipmasters, which reflects the economic vibrancy within the community at a time of continued industrial expansion. It also reflects the suitability of the developed harbour facilities at Tayport for commercial marine traffic alongside the connectivity with Dundee Port and the growing demand for coal to provide essential fuel for domestic and industrial use and to power the age of steam.

Map of coal exports & ocean journeys of Tayport skippers & vessels
Captain Milne with crew on Eclipse

Captain William Fraser Milne

Born in Peterhead, Captain Milne was master of Dundee vessels from 1883 until 1910.  He lived at 6 Grey Street from 1894 until 1931 and is probably best remembered for his fifteen-year command of Eclipse. In February 1897 the Dundee Advertiser claimed that “his knowledge of ‘Inuit life’ on the shores of the Davis Strait is said to be more intimate than that of any other living European”. The fact that the Inuit were hunter-gatherers that depended on the seasonal cycle and nature, reminds us of a life style connection with the previous Mesolithic inhabitants of Morton.

A whaler leaving Dundee with Ferry-Port-On-Craig in the distance off the port bow

Inuit Visitors

Schedule or Shoodlue a medicine man who visited on Eclipse 1894, as a friend of Captain Milne

It was fairly common for whaling men to give passage to Inuit visitors back with them to Scotland. One of them was named Shoodlue, a medicine man who was a particular friend of Captain Milne and came to Dundee on Eclipse in 1894. Crowds gathered to meet him when he visited Tayport.

International Recognition

This recognition is reflected on marine charts wherever Dundee masters and their ships sailed they left their mark e.g.  Adams Sound, Cape Milne and Eclipse Sound. In 1900 Captain Milne of the Eclipse received an honour from the Meteorological Society and in December 1907, both Captain W.F. Milne of the whaler Eclipse of Dundee, Commodore of the Dundee whaling fleet, and Captain William Adams also of Dundee, both received Knighthoods from the King of Norway. These awards were made in regard to assistance rendered to Captain Roald Amundsen, as he became the first to navigate a ship through the North West Passage.

Roald Amundsen & his vessel the Gjoa
Captain Harry Mackay of Tayport

Arctic & Antarctic Voyages

Captain Harry D. Mackay, who made his home in Tayport, was another successful Arctic shipmaster with his first command the Diana and also for many years the Aurora. In 1899 Captain Mackay was awarded the Swedish Geographical Society medal for assisting in the rescue of a body of Swedish scientists who had been shipwrecked in the Arctic. In December 1903 he commanded the ex-Dundee whaler, the Terra Nova, in the expedition to successfully recover Captain Scott’s ship, the Dundee built Discovery, after two years stuck fast in the Antarctic ice. On arrival back at Lyttleton NZ, “Captain Mackay was highly complimented by the New Zealand press on the manner in which he conducted his share of the relief of the Discovery”. Captain Mackay died at his home at Linksfield, Tayport in 1925.