The vessel in the image above is the Largo Bay, registration number KY 376. This 51-feet long fishing boat was built for George Wood and Alexander Simpson of Largo in 1885 at James Miller's boatyard in St Monans. Below is the report of her launch, from the 1 January 1886 East of Fife Record. The other boat referred to in the newspaper piece, which Mr Miller had on order from two other Largo fishermen, was the 55-feet Jane and Minnie (KY 400). George Wood had previously had another fishing boat named Welcome which was 44-feet in length but he sold this shortly after taking delivery of the Largo Bay (see advert further below from the Kirkcaldy Times of 5 May 1886).
George Wood was born in Largo in 1850, the son of tailor Robert Wood and his wife Janet Ritchie. He married Ann Simpson (who was a net worker) in 1872. She was the daughter of fisherman James Simpson and his wife Hannah Lawrie and was the sister of Alexander Simpson (born 1855). So, co-owners of the Largo Bay, George Wood and Alexander Simpson, were brothers-in-law.
The extract below from 'The Scottish Fishermen's Nautical Almanac and Tide Tables for 1889', includes Largo Bay within the list of fourteen Largo-based fishing boats. Five of those boats were "2nd class boats" meaning that they were smaller in size. These shorter boats were used for line fishing, as opposed to deep sea fishing. Note that George Wood has a small boat named Welcome, the same name as the larger vessel that he had sold in 1886. Among the large vessels are the Ocean Bride, Chance, Jane and Minnie, Osprey, Fortunatus and Forget-me-not.
In 1891 George Wood, his wife and four children were living at what is now 34 Main Street, Lower Largo at the 1891 census. Meanwhile Alexander Simpson was also in Lower Largo with wife Helen (who we had married in 1875) and six children. By 1895 nine boats, including Largo Bay, were listed in the Nautical Almanac (see above). However, the size of Largo's fishing fleet was set to reduce and, by 1902, only the Ocean Bride would remain.
The 26-ton Largo Bay went to Aberdeen in 1898 and was re-registered as A 869. Ultimately, in 1907 she was broken up. Wood and SImpson continued to fish but on a different scale. At the time of the 1901 census, Alexander Simpson, living at Kincraig View on Main Street was described as a 'salmon fisherman' rather than a 'fisherman'. George Wood's occupation had altered from 'fisherman' to 'line fisherman'. His 14-year-old son George was working as a grocer's message boy (likely for John Nicoll whose grocer shop was just two doors along). The 1901 issue of the Nautical Almanac (below) lists five large Largo vessels and ten line fishing boats. Neither Wood not Simpson were among the owners.
George Wood had a complete change in occupation in 1906, when he was appointed to the position of 'chaplain, caretaker and gardener' at Wood's Hospital (see note below from the 7 December East of Fife Record). The 1911 census finds George, Ann and two of their children, living in the caretaker's quarters at Wood's Hospital. This census also reveals that the couple had had ten children but that only five were living at that time.
Meanwhile Alexander Simpson continued working as a line fisherman. His wife Helen died in 1903. On 6 October 1905, he remarried. The bride was fisherman's daughter Margaret Laurie Melville. Interestingly on the very same day, also in Largo, the daughter of George Wood, Catherine was married - to fisherman Thomas Gillies (son of Robert Gillies one of the twin brothers who owned the Ocean Bride who themselves were related to Alexander Selkirk, of Robinson Crusoe fame). This provides an insight into just how tight-knit and interconnected the fishing community was.
Alexander Simpson died in 1928 aged 72 at Sunnyside, Lower Largo. George Wood lived to the age of 89, passing away in 1940 at Horne's Buildings. In 1932 his wife, Ann Simpson Wood had died at Wood's Hospital. Wood and Simpson had lived through the transitional period when Largo's links with the large-scale, long distance fishing trips died out and smaller scale line fishing and salmon fishing offered an alternative for those that chose to continue to earn a living from the sea.