Donald Shaw


ullapool and the klondykers, donald shaw (2011)

Location: Ullapool, Gairloch and Lochinver
fishing, ships and boats, travel by sea

Klondykers in Ullapool

Between the 1970s and the mid 1990s Ullapool had a huge number of visitors, but they weren’t tourists – they were Klondykers. For international fishermen, particularly from Europe, including former eastern bloc countries and Africa, the northwest Highlands had plenty of 'gold' in its waters, in the form of mackerel. The herring stocks were in virtual collapse by the 1970s, which led to a ban on herring fishing. Scottish trawlers were quick to capitalise on a different species in place of the herring – the humble mackerel – which was already popular overseas. Klondykers would sail into the Ullapool harbour in factory to receive and process the catch.

The Klondyker season was autumn and winter, so by the time the last of the tourists had left in October, the village would be flooded with visiting crews. Relations between the Klondykers and villagers was largely positive, with welcome trade for businesses over the winter months and the occasional bottle of brandy or vodka shared with locals in appreciation for their hospitality.

At its height in 1985, over 150,000 metric tonnes of mackerel was landed in Ullapool. The era began to see its twilight in the late 1980s – a time when major political changes were happening in the Klondykers’ home countries, which led to economic downfall. It was not just political upheavel that led the departure of the Klondykers - the fish were leaving as well. Shoals were moving further and further from Lochbroom into more northern waters. Today the occasional Klondyker can be seen in the port which brings back happy memories for many in the village.

More information on visiting the area can be found here.