MacPhail – 02.05.19

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The Mull Music Festival is over for another year and by the time this goes to print, even the most dedicated and enthusiastic of attendees will have regained their health after what is famous for being a weekend of vigorous celebration with non-stop music and accompanying refreshments.

It’s been a few years since I’ve been to the Mull festival and although I thought I might make it this year, a combination of a few approaching deadlines and getting too sensible in my old age kept me on the straight and narrow.

With the ever present pull of Facebook on our phones and computers there were plenty of photos and videos reaching out from the various centres of activity which made me feel that staying at home had been a huge mistake and that I should immediately jump in the car with the accordion, drive to Oban, fire over on the ferry, head straight for Tobermory, moor the car and get in amongst it all.   Abstinence prevailed though and on Monday morning I was very grateful it did.

Tobermory is a picturesque town and apart form the natural beauty of the bay, there are a few other aesthetic features that create its unique appeal – the multi-coloured houses on the Main Street, the town clock by the pier and the two varnished fishing boats, the Dawn Treader and the Jacobite.  For me these boats symbolise Tobermory and the Mull Music Festival most powerfully.

They are probably the two most photographed fishing boats on the West Coast due to the beauty of their construction by John Gaff of Girvan, and the pristine condition in which the owners maintain them.  The Dawn Treader is now 30 years old and she still looks brand new.

During festivals over the years these boats were always tied up at the Fishermen’s Pier as their respective owners Alasdair ‘Steptoe’ MacLean and his twin brother, Calum ‘Cally’ MacLean, would be joining in the music and celebrations.  Due to ill health Cally no longer fishes but the Jacobite is still maintained in ‘as new’ condition as his son Calum skippers the boat and continues the family tradition.

I am very proud that this year, Steptoe has been nominated to the final of Shellfish Fisherman of the Year at the Fishing News Awards, which take place in Aberdeen on May 16.  With a lifetime of successful fishing, and continued commitment to his job even after turning 60, the award could not go to a more deserving recipient.

As far back as I can remember on trips to Tobermory on my father’s fishing boats, and later to music festivals, Steptoe, Cally and their brothers were always around.  We either stayed with them or they would be down about the pier and on board chatting with Dad. They were always held up by him as bastions of strong work ethic, of how to progress in life and of being top fishermen.

Many years on, they still maintain that mantle and although industry awards are never to be taken too seriously, I, and many others would very much like to see Steptoe receive the trophy in Aberdeen.  My fingers are crossed!