Object of the Month, November 2018  

Fishing Net Buoy (LISDD:2017. 236).


Radius of leather buoy (distorted) around 15cm.

Wooden disc radius 9cm, thickness 3.6cm. 

This object is one of many from Lismore, looked after by the Balnagown/ Balimakillichan MacColls, and generously given by the family to CELM. Donated by John Norris, Aberchirder, it was described by his brother-in-law Archie MacColl as a fishing float. It consists of a dry and very distorted leather bag whose mouth could be closed by a wooden disc (no doubt tied tightly with twine or wire). 

Until the ‘60s it was common to find spherical green or brown glass floats on the shore in Scotland, and cork was widely used, for example for salmon nets. Home-made wooden floats were also common in the past. Without the information from Archie MacColl, the curators would not have had any idea of the use of the object, but a call to the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther revealed that they had two leather versions from the Aberdeen area, described as Fishing Net Buoys. 

Two leather fishing net buoys held by the Scottish Fisheries Museum (images used with permission).

Floats were used to keep the top or neck of a net near the surface, and metal or stone weights to keep the bottom or the bag of the net down. Buoys were used to mark the position of the net, which, in the case of the Lismore buoy would have been tied to the wooden loop on the disc. Below are examples of a more familiar style of fishing net buoy, used traditionally across maritime Europe. Floats and buoys are now universally made of hard plastic or polystyrene.

Above: (to the right of the image) In the mariners’ chapel in Saint Mary the Virgin parish church, Lindisfarne.

Below: Luarca, N Spain.

The curators would welcome any further information on buoys of this kind, and their use on Lismore.

Tags: fishing, net, float, buoy, leather, glass, cork, wood, plastic