On 4th January 1980, while fishing for mackerel off the coast of Cornwall the Buckie fishing boat ‘Bounteous’ capsized. Mrs Jean Hillier lost her son Russell, aged 24 and her friend Mrs Joey Bowie lost her son Joseph. They shared a friend Mrs Lawson, who had lost her husband in the ‘Carinthia’, the previous year. These ladies, conscious of the community’s all too frequent loss of life at sea felt that a local Memorial, might offer some comfort and help to provide ‘closure’ for the bereaved. To sound-out public feeling towards the idea, they produced a petition inviting signatures from those who approved. The response was substantial.
A small Action-Group met, consisting of the three ladies, plus George Murray, Peter Slater and Sandy Sutherland: and on 9th January 1981, a public meeting was convened, the Memorial Chapel Committee was formed and its officials elected. George Murray, whose son-in-law had also been lost on the ‘Bounteous’ was elected Chairman, with Peter Slater, Vice chairman. The Rev Fred Coutts became Secretary and Gordon Taylor, Treasurer. Sandy Sutherland and the three ladies formed the rest of the committee, with the latter electing to become fund-raisers for the project. It was decided at this point, to approach Sandy Wilson (retired County Architect), to invite his planning expertise and Charles Florence (Principal teacher of art at Buckie High) to seek his artistic skill in creating stained glass windows.
Such was the enthusiasm demonstrated by the committee, that it took only eighteen months of extremely hard work by all, to move from these first beginnings to an Opening Ceremony conducted by Jean Hillier, on Sunday 4th July 1982. The following day, Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Phillip visited the chapel and spoke to some of the families of the bereaved.
Some further notes on the Chapel … At first, the upstairs room at the Harbour Office was considered as a possible site for the Chapel, until Sandy Wilson inspected the then almost derelict present building and announced… “This is It !” Charles Florence presented ten drawings which produced the six splendid stained glass windows in the Chapel.
There are over 190 names on the Roll of Honour, from the post Second World War period. They cover an area mainly from Nairn, in the West, to Gardenstown in the East.
Any bereaved person who has had a relation lost at sea, may request that the loved-one’s name be recorded on the Roll of Honour. There is no charge.
Buckie Seamen’s Memorial is housed in a tiny picturesque late 19th century Chapel, built at the east end of New Street to allow the Rev Dr Alexander Miller, minister of Buckie Free Church to hold local services and prayer meetings. Although at that time Buckie’s population was only a little less than it is now, its footprint would have been only a fifth of its present size, with most of the population living nearby in the Yardie and Seatown (Catbow) areas.
The Free Kirk itself lay almost a mile away in thinlypopulated High Street and from the eighteen eighties until well into the Twentieth Century the Church made use of the chapel, with bible classes and even weddings taking place. However as the town grew and expanded, the need for the Chapel diminished and it fell into disuse for a time, until in the years prior to and just after WW2, the Buckie Fishermen’s Choir moved in to make it their base for choir practices.
After the Choir had finished with it in the late forties, the next tenants were the Salvation Army, who desperately needed a base while their new Meeting Hall was being built. A recent visitor to the Chapel (a Salvation Army Member) proudly informed us, that she had been married in the Chapel in 1959. By the sixties the building was once more empty and 1st Buckie Company, The Boys Brigade put it to good use as a store for their camping equipment.
Later again, the building, now looking rather weary, lay empty, until Mr and Mrs Cowie, who had Pozzi’s shop, had the use of it to store waste paper, which raised money for Leukaemia research. That is, until the cost of transport exceeded the value of the paper and the project ground to a halt, leaving the Chapel full to the ceiling with stored paper and cardboard.
It was at this time and in this condition that the Memorial committee, having rejected the Harbour Office venue, went to see the rather shabby time-worn Chapel and architect Sandy Wilson joyfully announced that “This is It” The committee immediately swung into action. One has only to visit the chapel, to realise how enthusiastically they did so and how right Sandy was.
The Committee is most grateful to individuals and local businesses, too many to name, for their generous support.
For security reasons, the Memorial Chapel is kept locked, but anyone wishing to visit is most welcome and a key may be borrowed from the following sources :-
Buckie Fishing Heritage (open — April-to-October)
Cottage Flowers (West Cathcart Street)
Buckie Library(Cluny Place)
Memorial Committee Members