The town of Wick in Caithness in the north of Scotland was once Europe’s busiest herring port. There are still fishing boats in Wick harbour but when we visited the boats going to and fro were installing a large off-shore wind farm. We took an afternoon walk around Pulteneytown, on the south bank of the River Wick whose mouth the town sits on. Thomas Telford designed Pulteneytown for Sir William Pulteney, as well as working on improvements for the harbour and a bridge to improve the connection between the north and south bank of the river. The development includes as its centre piece the charming Argyle Square. From Pulteneytown our walk naturally gravitated to the activity of the harbour and there I found this interesting memorial bench.
The memorial bench to William Bain Thomson, known as Toshy, was erected by his family. Anyone who stops to read the plaque will gather that William Thomson worked on a boat called the Good Hope and lived to around 65 years of age, dying in Fort William. The words, ‘My ear will be soothed by the sound of the sea,’ suggest William Thomson lived and died a sailor and fisherman.
I wonder if William Thomson’s middle name Bain is after Alexander Bain (1810 – 1877). He was an inventor and engineer who was born in Caithness and began his working life as an apprentice clock maker in Wick. Alexander Bain was the first to patent the electric clock and installed railway telegraph lines between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
I found references to a boat registered in Wick, Good Hope WK209 that moved to Fleetwood in Lancashire and is now lying derelict near there. Today this fishing boat is celebrated in a whisky. The Pulteney Distillery in Wick, founded in 1826 at the height of Wick’s herring boom, celebrates Good Hope WK209 as it was the first boat in Wick to use echo sounder to help find the herring.