We thought we’d seen a ghost. It was an oyster shell on a Fife beach.
We quite often come across them – they must be some age because the Forth oyster has been considered extinct for many years.
The Forth oyster fishery once produced more than 30 million oysters a year – they were exported widely and were a cheap food. “Dreg songs” were sung by the fishermen as they rowed or sailed over the oyster beds towing dredges.
Indeed the history of oysters and man on the Forth is a long one – there are records of shell middens around the Forth from the Stone Age up to when the Romans tramped these shores.
Not far from this beach you can see oyster shells in the mortar of the walls of Aberdour Castle.
Overfishing spelled the end of the fishery. The collapse began in the 1870s and fishing stopped completely in 1920. In 1957 native oysters in the Firth were thought to be extinct.
In 2009, decades later, live oysters were found in the Firth. This has led to speculation over recovery of the stocks and possible future commercial production.
Maybe hold back on the tabasco and lemon juice for now though. For the time being the only wild oyster fishery in Scotland is in Loch Ryan.
It’s early days for a recovery of the Forth oyster but it is nice to hear a positive story for a change. And maybe some day we’ll be eating local oysters once again.
We used to spend holidays on the East coast where the A1 road and the mainline railway cross a burn in a deep valley – a dean as it is called.
It’s been a crossing point for centuries – there is a succession of historical bridges spanning the centuries.
In WW2 it was seen as strategically important – it was thought German commandos might attack from the sea. The area was heavily fortified and a military camp built beside the bridges.
The defences included landmines on the beaches and around the burn mouth.
Someone told us that there might still be uncleared mines on the shore and in the dunes. Bear in mind that this was the late sixties -so less than 25 years after the war.
Clearly we interpreted this as a challenge rather than a warning. We therefore set out to find our very own land mine.
One day we thought we were in luck – unearthing a rusty metal disc which looked to us to be a land mine. Not that we’d ever seen one – bar in war films and in Commando comics.
Just in case it was one we did the logical thing. We threw rocks at it.
Well, maybe it wasn’t a mine, or maybe it was a dud but there was no huge explosion. No small boys ripped to pieces by the merciless blast. No dripping shreds of human flesh hanging from the alder branches.
A bit of a let down really.
Thinking about Forth islands, I found these pictures from 2005 when we went to Inchcolm.
There was a mass in the abbey but my younger son and myself spent most of the time watching birds.
One end of the island was very much the herring and lesser black backed gulls’ territory – they looked a bit scary.
We saw puffins from the boat which was a result.
It is interesting seeing an island up close when it is often in the background viewed from the land. The kids have grown up seeing it from their primary school.
This seems like yesterday but I can see how small the kids were and for them it probably seems a lifetime ago. I haven’t got any younger looking since then either! Just the one of them at primary now – and he goes to high school next year.
Named after Saint Columba, the Abbey was founded in the 12th century.