Mackay Boatbuilders of Fara, Finstown and Stromness by Michael McLaughlin


An interesting historical account of James (Jimmy) Mackay (J.W.Mackay, Stromness) builder of mahogany clinker dinghies including my own.

Mackay Boatbuilders of Fara, Finstown and Stromness by Michael McLaughlin James Stout Mackay (McKay) (1854-1900) was a boatbuilder from, Stony Quoy, later Deep Geo, on the island of Fara in Scapa Flow, Orkney. Son of a farmer Robert Mackay, he married Isabella Simpson, daughter of master carpenter/boatbuilder William Simpson of Cauldhame, Flotta. It is likely that James learned his boatbuilding skills from his father-in-law. He is known to have started boatbuilding in Fara during the late 1870s and continued until his death in 1900, age 46. James and Isabella had three sons, James, Robert and William, who all became boat carpenters. Their elder son, James Simpson Mackay (1877- until about 1925, when is last recorded in Peace’s Almanac as a boatbuilder in Fara. He is then next recorded in Peace’s Almanac as a boatbuilder at North End, Stromness, in 1929. James married Isabella Manson of Flotta in 1905 and they had two sons, James William Mackay and George Calder Mackay. James (Jimmy) William Mackay (1905-1982) became a third generation boatbuilder, working with his father in Stromness, originally at Oakdene in the North End, before taking over the business himself under the name J W Mackay. He married Ellen Corrigall from Walls in 1936, and they had a daughter, Eleanor Mackay, born in 1945. In the

Mackay Boatbuilders of Fara

Figure 1. JW Mackay’s boat yard at the Transit Shed in Stromness. Jimmy Mackay on the right

 early 1940s, Jimmy moved to building boats in a former kippering house on the harbour front below Victoria Street. After the war he discovered a lucrative export market for mahogany clinker-built dinghies, and began specialising in this area, moving to bigger premises in part of the former Thornley Binders’ factory at the North Pier.He moved south to Ayr with his family in 1963 and continued to build dinghies in Ayrshire for many years. The J W Mackay boatbuilders business in Stromness was firstly taken over by Len Wilson, and then in 1965 by Arthur Sinclair, who had served his time with Stromness boatbuilder, Pia Anderson. Arthur then built a series of lobster fishing boats, up to 36ft in length, throughout the 1970s, before the yard finally closed. James Simpson Mackay’s two younger brothers, Robert (1880-1941) and William (b1881) moved from Fara to Finstown in Mainland Orkney in 1910, setting up a boatyard at Maitland Place under the name of R & W Mackay, where they continued building boats until about 1940.

Written by Michael McLaughlin. Extracted and reproduced with permission from The Orkney Historical Boat Society Christmas Newsletter 2019

Categories: Equipment & Tackle, Uncategorized

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