The Real Cost of Fish
Roanheads is one of the four fishing villages which make up modern Peterhead – the others are Buchanhaven, Burnhaven and Peterhead itself. The settlement of Roanheads grew up on the site of the prehistoric harbour of Almanythie. For many years, it was separated from the rest of town by the railway branch line which serviced the port. Access to the shore was through a wicket gate. Many Roanhead children used this route so that they could play on the rocks. Roanheads was home to families who made their living from fishing, and danger was never far away.
On December 26th 1914, a fierce gale blew up and sea conditions were so bad that any vessel seeking shelter in the South Harbour faced a difficult and dangerous task. Around 11am, the Hull trawler “Tom Tit” was seen approaching, and a crowd of worried onlookers watched in horror as she was forced onto a rock near the harbour mouth known as the “Horseback”. With the sea now sweeping over the stranded trawler, the lives of the crew were in jeopardy. Showing immense courage, some of the onlookers risked their own lives to help. Local man James Graneham and Lt. Currie (Royal Navy) tied lines around their waists and jumped into the sea to reach the stranded sailors. Both were beaten back by the heavy seas.
A short time later, the Motor Lifeboat “Alexander Tulloch” managed to get out of the harbour and into open water. As the lifeboat approached the stricken “Tom Tit”, a sudden swell carried her westward and dashed her onto rocks near the Corporation Baths. Three of the lifeboat crew jumped clear and were rescued by men from the shore, who clambered over the rocks to help. The other nine crew members were washed into the bay and carried along towards the Smith Embankment. Lt Wells (RN) jumped into the water to try and grab David Strachan, but the unconscious lifeboat man slipped from his grasp. Amid scenes of great courage, Coxswain James Cameron and five others were eventually rescued, but three brave fishermen from Roanheads – David Murray Strachan, Thomas Adams and James Geddes (junior) – were drowned as a result of their gallant attempt to save the crew of “Tom Tit”. David Strachan and Thomas Adams both left widows and young children. James Geddes was the second son that his father, James senior, had lost to the sea.
The crew of “Tom Tit” were all eventually rescued by breeches buoy – a rope and pulley device similar to a zip line. One end of the rope was delivered to the boat by a rocket fired from shore. The crew were then brought ashore one by one, using a round life buoy and a leg harness to slide precariously down the line to safety.
The courage and heroism of the crew of “Alexander Tulloch” who launched into the teeth of a south easterly gale to go to their aid, and that of the people on land who risked their lives rescuing the rescuers, must not be forgotten. The close knit fishing community of Roanheads paid a high price with the loss of three active and well liked young men.
The Horseback was a continuing hazard to shipping until it was blown up in the 1930’s as part of continuing harbour improvements. Its removal was unmourned, as too many lives had been lost on its savage rocks.
The trail splits here. To follow the shorter red route, go along Port Henry Road to the end, and through Cooperage Square onto St Peter Street. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the award winning community art created by the tenants of Sanctuary Housing who live in the streets around Cooperage Square. The Red route finishes at the Arbuthnot Museum.
To follow the longer blue route, turn… and go to point 9 on the map.