The Story of Reaper

Reaper in a breeze in Loch Linnhe

Reaper is a Fifie Sailing Herring Drifter, the most popular design of fishing boat on the East Coast of Scotland for the greater part of the 19th and early 20th Centuries. 

Built by J & G Forbes at their yard at Sandhaven near Fraserburgh in 1902 for the Buchan family who lived in St. Combs, she began life as a two masted sailing lugger. With a length of 70' she was rigged with a dipping lug foresail and a standing lug mizzen.

First registered in Fraserburgh in 1902 (FR 958) and used for drift net and great line fishing she was sold to new owners in Shetland in 1908.  Re-registered at Lerwick (LK 707) she continued to have great success at the summer herring fishing.

In the late 1930's she held the record catch of herring in Shetland, some 223 crans - almost a quarter of a million fish.

Reaper under sail in Moray FirthOriginally built as a sailing lugger, she had an engine installed for the first time in 1916.

Reaper continued fishing until the outbreak of the Second World War when she was requisitioned by the Admiralty and saw service in the South of England. After the war she returned to fishing in Shetland until 1957.

For most of her time there she fished out of Scalloway in the county of Zetland.

In 1959 she was purchased by Zetland Council for use as a 'flit boat' carrying general cargoes and her name was changed to Shetlander.

The Council stopped using Shetlander in 1974 and shortly afterwards she was bought by The Scottish Fisheries Museum in Fife.

The Restoration

The boat was then moved from Shetland to Anstruther. A restoration plan was agreed and over the next few years the boat was painstakingly restored to her original 1902 two-masted lugsail rig.

She was renamed Reaper and was registered again under her original Fraserburgh number, FR 958.

In 1985 a group of volunteers was formed, known as the Museum Boats Club, to take responsibility for the maintenance and operation of the boat which they continue to do to the present day.

Between October 2004 and April 2005 Reaper underwent an extensive refit. This work was done with financial support provided by:-

The Heritage Lottery Fund .

East Fife Leader+ 2000-2006 Programme.

The Board of the Scottish Fisheries Museum and the Museum Boats Club gratefully acknowledge their contribution to the preservation of this historic vessel.

Reaper is now part of the Core Collection of the National Historic Ships Fleet and one of the few boats in the collection which are kept in seagoing condition.

Visits and activities

As the flagship of the Scottish Fisheries Museum, Reaper is berthed in Anstruther harbour outside the Museum. She is now equipped as a floating museum of the herring industry.

Crewed by the volunteer members of the Museum Boats Club she visits ports around Scotland and Northern England on cultural tours and as an outreach for the Museum at Harbour Events.Gala Day in Cockenzie Harbour

In recent years Reaper has visited over 50 separate venues as far apart as Portsmouth, Glasgow, Stornoway and Lerwick and during these visits has taken aboard over 180,000 visitors from 120 countries in addition to those from the UK.

Reaper has appeared in several films and television programmes including the BBC's  'Coast' and 'The Boats that built Britain'. She has also become a popular venue for hosting corporate events in her home port of Anstruther and elsewhere.

When Reaper is open to the public admission is free. The very considerable annual cost of maintaining her is, to a large extent, met by the generous donations made by visiting members of the public and other supporters.

Go to:-

Reaper 'Facts & Figures'           Parts of Reaper

Close up of Reaper number, FR958