A historic fishing boat in Moray has been restored to its prime by a squad of convicts performing community service.
Nearly four years ago the Harvest Reaper in Burghead faced being crushed after crumbling by the quayside for three decades.
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The vessel was saved by a team led by Dan Ralph, who is the village’s Clavie King and a Burghead Headland Trustee, who arranged a crane and lorry to shift the boat from where the council was planning to build workshops.
Now the 20-tonne Reaper has been restored to her best after former fishing skipper Peter Wilson, who is now senior supervisor at the local community service department, led a team to tend to the trawler, which was built in 1904.
It is hoped the boat, which has not been to sea since it ran aground in the 1980s, will now stand as a monument to Burghead’s fishing heritage.
The squad led by Mr Wilson spent several weeks scraping and sanding years of neglect from the hull before brushing three coats of paint on it.
He said: “In a place like Moray, the chances are that everybody knows about their offending behaviour. They came from all different backgrounds, some with drug and alcohol problems.
“We think of ways to help them break that behaviour because their lives are in turmoil sometimes.
“It’s not about just getting them through the community service but about supporting them with everything else to help move them on. Some have moved on to employment since being involved in the Reaper.
“I know some of them will come back in years to come, look at it, and tell their friends they painted it. It helps them take pride in their abilities.”
Mr Ralph joked that Mr Wilson was welcome to lead down another squad to the port to paint the inside of the craft.
He added: “There isn’t much of a fishing industry here anymore but it’s still important to preserve things of interest so that folk can come and see them and spread the word.
“Saving the Reaper was an opportunity to do something tangible. I had no idea community service would get involved in a project like that.”
The story of the Harvest Reaper
The Harvest Reaper is one of the most celebrated boats to have fished the Moray Firth.
Built in Fraserburgh, it was based at the port under the stewardship of John Downie Mey from the 1930s until 1965.
And it was while he was at the helm that the vessel became involved in attempts to rescue a pilot from an aircraft that ditched in the sea.
Shortly before noon on April 29, 1946 a Firefly aircraft flying out of the naval air base at Rattray, near Fraserburgh, got into difficulties about six miles off the coast.
The plane lost power and ditched in the water near the Harvest Reaper – breaking off its mast in the process.
The crew immediately rushed to the plane in an attempt to help the pilot, who was 20-year-old Kenneth Williams from Liverpool, but were sadly unable to save his life.
The vessel remained in Fraserburgh, later under the command of Mr Mey’s son Jim, before it was sold to new owners in Macduff.
The weathered hull remained on the quayside at Burghead after running aground off the coast in the 1980s – where it remained until January 2015 when Moray Council demanded it was moved in order to make way for developments at the harbour.
Now the restored boat is permanently based in the village so that more can learn about its celebrated past.