Tributes have been paid following the sudden death of one of the north-east’s most passionate and well-respected fishermen.
James West, a father-of-five, was born, raised and married into fishing families, leaving little surprise that he went straight to sea aged 15, so beginning a career which was to span his lifetime and onwards to his own children’s children.
Mr West, who died suddenly aged 70, will be remembered for his wealth of knowledge and passion for the North Sea and its fishing industry and for his dedication to his family.
The youngest son of Alex and Elsie West, of Gamrie, he was born with fishing in his blood as his father was skipper of Be Ready then Golden Sceptre, making it little surprise that he too began a career at sea after leaving Bracoden School, aged 15.
Mr West’s son James Jnr, said: “He left school and said there was only ever one choice of work for him and that was to sea to be a fisherman.
“Following on in his father’s and older brothers’ careers.
“His dad was quite old by time dad left school so he was no longer going to sea. His older brothers Alexander and George were skippering the family boats at that time.
“George skippered Golden Sceptre and Alexander skippered a new vessel to the family called Majestic. My dad started sea with Alexander on Majestic and it pair trawled with George’s boat.”
Mr West married Margaret, daughter of Peterhead skipper William Buchan, in 1973.
Their first son Alexander war born in 1974, followed by James two years later, Robert in 1980 and Andrew four years after that.
Mr West soon left Majestic and became skipper, for the first time and aged just 24, of his father-in-law’s seine net fishing boat Fruitful Bough PD109.
Another first followed in 1985 when Mr West ordered his own new fishing vessel, a 75-foot boat built at Macduff shipyards and also named Fruitful Bough, which was launched in 1986.
His time at sea came to an abrupt halt in 1995, though, following the sudden death of his wife Margaret, aged 45.
“Life changed dramatically and disastrously for our family,” Mr West said. “Dad never went back to sea on Fruitful Bough after that as his priority became his young family of four boys.”
Those four boys became five a few years later when, though a second marriage failed to work out, it blessed Mr West with the birth of a final son Stephen, in 1999.
Though he didn’t return to fishing in the same way, some of his boys followed in the family footsteps to forge fishing careers and boats from onshore. They’ve launched their own vessels, with Fruitful Bough in 2004 and Golden Sceptre in 2010 carrying on the family names, and Forever Faithful and Westro joining the fleet in 2016 and 2019, respectively.
The family appeared on the BBC hit series Trawlermen in 2006 and Fish Town in 2020, with Mr West always there to see his sons safely in and out.
“Dad would support and help out with anything his boys needed. Making their nets or any sort of running about,” his son James added. “He had a super eye for detail and was an amazing help in watching and improving design details on these new boats built.”
Mr West’s passion for fishing was surpassed only by that for his for his children, grandchildren and his Christian faith.
“It wasn’t just his boys and on their boats he helped,” Mr West added. “My dad would freely offer support and great encouragement to anyone in the wider fishing community.
“His own main sea going career might have been cut short but you would find it hard to find anyone with a much higher passion and interest in the job.
“He was also a much-loved granddad and even though he loved fishing, it could and would be dropped at any point to help family.”
In his later years Mr West, of Roanheads, brought back another family boat name, when he bought a small creel boat and named it after his father’s first boat Be Ready.
“This brought out a nice side in him and a side we never got to see in him…as a skipper,” his son added. “It was just more for a hobby but there was a lot of ex-skippers like him who did the small boats and its brought out some nice competitiveness.”
Mr West enjoyed good health and was down amongst his boat stuff days before taking ill suddenly with severe pancreatitis. He died in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary with his family by his side.
Mr West’s funeral will be streamed online tomorrow, Tuesday, February 2, at 11am using the following link https://youtu.be/m3qgdD-ckEs