The steel steam trawler Aberdeenshire was launched from the yard of Mackie and Thomson in Glasgow on 27th November 1900. She measured 120.6′ x 21.5′ x 12.2′ and weighed 213 gross tons, 51 net tons. She was powered by a triple expansion steam engine by W Lidgerwood, Coatbridge delivering 50 net horse power. She was purchased by the Shire Steam Fishing Co of Aberdeen and registered with fishing number A234.
She left Aberdeen for the fishing grounds off Shetland at around 2pm on 21st October, 1909 under the command of Fred Palay with a crew of nine men aboard. At 2:30 the pier head was passed and a NE course set to pass Buchan Head which was visible in the clear autumn air. There was a light breeze and a moderate swell from the south east. Shortly after passing the pierhead the watch was set with second fisherman Joseph Watt and his cousin, deck hand Joseph Watt, in charge. The skipper gave instructions to keep the set course and keep them off the land. The skipper then went below although he regularly checked on deck to ascertain their progress and course. One of the crew later reported that at one point the ship took a decided lurch to port and when he questioned the deckhand who was at the wheel at them time he was told by the deckhand that his mind had wandered but that they were now back on course. In addition the easterly direction wind and swell was certainly pushing the trawler towards the land. Even as they passed Cruden Sgeir buoy the ship was probably already too close to shore but the skipper again returned below leaving the vessel in the charge of the second fisherman and the deck hand. What happened from this point onwards is not clear as the testimonies of the two crewmen left in charge of the vessel are vague but it would appear that the second fisherman also went below leaving his young cousin at the wheel and then, incredibly, the deckhand lashed the ship’s wheel to go to look for his uncle to take over the wheel and, with no-one at the wheel for some time, she ran ashore at full speed.
As the crew rushed on deck the vessel crashed among the rocks shattering the propeller and then settled back into a deep gulley between two rocky outcrops. The weather was calm and clear so the crew were in no danger. The lifeboat arrived at the scene but couldn‘t approach the ship due to the position of the wreck among the rocks. Two of the crew managed to scramble ashore safely before the rocket brigade arrived and successfully transferred the remaining crewmen ashore. The Aberdeenshire became a total wreck.
The wreckage of the Aberdeenshire lies where she ran aground between the rocky outcrops of Craig Snow and Dundonnie in position 57° 27.713’N, 001° 46.818’W in 13 metres of water. The propeller shaft, engine and boiler are still visible amid scattered broken wreckage lying approximately north/south. The site in only approachable by boat.
We would like to acknowledge the assistance of Buchan Divers – www.buchandivers.com in the preparation of this article.