The fishing boat pictured above is the Fortunatus of Largo. This 39-feet vessel belonged to William Davidson Hutton. The image dates to before the fisherman's bothy was built on the pier in 1888. A man can be seen on board in the centre of the boat and there is a huddle of several men on the pier behind the boat. Note also the planks of wood propped up against the wall and what look like wooden crates stacked up to the right. This could well be a scene of the preparations for a fishing trip.
In 1880 the Fortunatus experienced a tragic event when crew member William Kidd was lost overboard while bound for the herring fishing in Aberdeen. Kidd had been hauling in a rope when the handle he was holding came loose causing him to be thrown into the water. The 1 July Fifeshire Journal report below tells of how attempts to save him proved unsuccessful. William had been married for 3 years to Agnes Smith and they had a two-year-old son Alexander and a younger child, of only three weeks old, named William.
In the following year's census, William's widow Agnes was working as a herring net guarder. This work involved putting heavy guarding at the tops and bottoms of the herring nets woven at David Gillies's net factory. This stopped the nets fraying and were put on by hand by the 'guarders' in their own homes. It was common for this role to be given to widows and mothers with young children, enabling them to earn a living while being at home. As well as mothers, census data also shows that many net guarders were teenage girls, with one as young as 12 years old. Perhaps the job was suited to nimble fingers and good eyesight too.
At the time of the 1881 census, the Cardy Net Factory (pictured below) employed 65 women and 3 men. So it must have been a blow to the womenfolk of Largo when the enterprise effectively closed in 1886. By 1891, Agnes Kidd was a 'net mender', which implies a less lucrative occupation. Agnes died in 1898, aged 41 years from tuberculosis.
While the above newspaper report notes the registration of the Fortunatus as KY 1513, other records have it registered as KY 1848. Either the newspaper report is incorrect or there were in fact two boats with the same name both owned by William Hutton, with one perhaps replacing the other. The Fortunatus was one of the fleet of larger Largo fishing boats that made the long trips up north and down south to Yarmouth each year. The 13 July 1893 Fifeshire Journal below reports on its herring fishing trip to Peterhead and Aberdeen, along with the Osprey, Ocean Bride, Sultan, Annie Johnston, Largo Bay, British Queen and Forget-Me-Not. William Hutton was also joint owner, with James Kidd, of the Jane and Minnie, which was built in 1886. James Kidd was the elder brother of the William Kidd mentioned above, who died in 1880 after falling from the Fortunatus.
The name 'Fortunatus' is the Latin for happy, lucky, rich, blessed - an appropriate choice of name for the unpredictable life of the fisherman. William Davidson Hutton was born in 1851 and was one of the more fortunate fishermen, leading a long life. He married Margaret Guthrie in 1874. They had eleven children and celebrated their Golden Wedding in 1924 (see 30 September Leven Advertiser piece below). William died five years later in 1929, at 5 Defoe Place, aged 78. William was a member of Largo Parish Council and the School Board, as well as President of the Largo Harbour Committee.