The Ocean Bride, registration KY 4, was built by John Alexander Millar at West Anstruther in September 1882 for the Gillies brothers of Largo. The clip below from the 7 October Fife News reports on the carvel-built boat's launch in Anstruther and subsequent arrival in Largo. Her appearance as a brand new vessel in Largo must have caused great interest. At 51 feet and 8 inches long she became Largo's biggest boat. A piece in the Fife Herald at the time suggested that she could be considered "old school" in design, given the trend for "fore and aft sails". Nevertheless the writer concluded that this was a vessel with "all the qualities of a swift and trusty sea boat". Her first voyage was to be to Yarmouth for the herring fishing.
In the image above you can see the central hatch is open. Crew members would stand on boards in the hold to haul the fish-laden nets through the hatches. In challenging sea conditions this could be a risky procedure. When similar boat, the Brothers of Largo, was lost in 1886, it was concluded that she had been swamped by a heavy sea while her hatches were off and the crew were hauling their lines. The wider image below shows the full height of the Ocean Bride, dominating the mid-1880s Erskine Beveridge photograph.
William and Robert Gillies were the owners of the Ocean Bride. Born about 1845, they were twins and the brothers of both Samuel Gillies (skipper of the ill-fated Brothers) and of David Gillies (owner of the Violet). Their parents were fisherman John Gillies and his wife Grace Sharp. They are not to be confused with another pair of brothers also named William and Robert Gillies, who built the Semiquaver yacht. The namesakes were in fact cousins. Their respective fathers were brothers John and James Gillies, two of the sons of David Gillies (1782-1846) and Catherine Selkirk or Selcraig (1779-1862). Catherine was the great-grand-niece of Alexander Selkirk of Robinson Crusoe fame and was, until her death, keeper of many of his artefacts.
Ocean Bride owners William and Robert were life-long fishermen. In 1869, William married Margaret Methven, daughter of Lundin Mill stone mason Andrew Methven. They were married by Reverend David Malloch and went on to have twelve children. Robert married Mary Scott, who had been a housemaid at Lahill House, in 1877. The twin brothers were aged around 37 years old when they had Ocean Bride built. Four years later the incident described below took place at St Monans (2 April 1886 East of Fife Record).
The vessel was regularly mentioned in the local press over the years, as it took part in the regular annual fishing events such as the Lammas Drave (which took place through late July, August and early September) and the Winter Herrin'. While offering the hope of rich reward, these trips could be risky and variable in terms of success. In 1889 for example, the Ocean Bride and the Osprey had to return to Largo from Shetland when their herring fishing was scuppered by waters "swarming with dog fish which cut the nets to pieces". The two boats were refitted before heading up to Aberdeen to join other Largo crews. Later the same year, the Ocean Bride made a trip to Yarmouth where a very successful fishing was had.
In 1890 the trip to Yarmouth yielded some very heavy catches but some proved so large that Ocean Bride had to cut away several of her nets. Worse came later in the same trip when two of her crew were washed overboard. They were recovered "with much difficulty" (see 13 November Fifeshire Journal below). Folks back home in Largo would eagerly await news from such trips, which came via letter or telegraph. The fish would not be brought back to Largo of course. Catches were sold at markets close to the fishing grounds and the money brought back home to the fishermen's' families.
In 1897, the worst kind of news came. Robert Gillies had lost his life on 17 August, drowned in the North Sea, 38 miles off Aberdeen, when he was accidentally knocked overboard by the tiller. The article from 26 August Leven Advertiser details the circumstances of the accident, which happened when "a nasty sea was running". The impact of his loss back in Largo can only be imagined. His wife Mary was left with five children. And twin brother William was devastated to lose his twin, having been "inseparable from infancy" and "seldom seen the one without the other".
The short piece below from 28 August 1897 Fife Free Press notes the arrival of the Ocean Bride back into Largo with the remainder of the crew. This was a gloomy occasion which raised questions about the safety of the tiller on such a boat.
However, the Ocean Bride would continue to operate under surviving brother William Gillies. In fact, within a few years, it was only only large deep sea fishing boat left in Largo. From upwards of twenty large boats in 1875, the Ocean Bride was the last one remaining 25 years later. The 12 September 1901 Leven Advertiser describes how she fared at the Lammas drave. By this time, other local fishermen were sailing with St Monans boats. This had become the new pattern - Largo fishermen, who no longer had a share in a boat, were carried by other East Fife fishing-boats as "half-dealsmen". This was the term used for men from another town who had no share in a boat and were paid a weekly wage to be part of the crew.
In 1902, Ocean Bride was described as "the sole survivor of Largo's fleet" and the only locally owned craft due to take part in the Lammas drave. The 19 June Leven Advertiser noted that "Skipper Gillies is busy fitting her out and by the first of next month the Ocean Bride will be heading for Aberdeen". The piece continued "Largo is gradually losing touch with the great fishings of the year....Even the yawl crews are fewer this summer than heretofore, only three or four small boats plying the lines". Ocean Bride features in the postcard image below, in the foreground. The sail partially down, she appears to be in the process of either being loaded or unloaded.
The Leven Advertiser of 30 August 1906 reported a successful drave for Skipper Gillies and the half dealsmen on St Monans and Cellardyke boats, who were also doing well and would "have a handsome share to lift at the final parting". However, the following year the same newspaper on 11 September 1907 described the Ocean Bride's return to Largo, after seven weeks work at Aberdeen at the summer drave, as having only modest returns.
A number of factors were converging to spell the end of the Ocean Bride's days as a stalwart fishing vessel. There was a shift towards motor powered boats, which could reach the best fishing grounds faster. The toiling away for weeks with uncertain and variable return was becoming more of a challenge for the ageing William Gillies. Plus other experienced Largo hands were finding employment with crews in other villages. In a poignant update, the 3 June 1908 Leven Advertiser below tells of how William Gillies could not get a crew together for his summer drave.
Finally, in 1909, William Gillies disposed of the Ocean Bride. Below the 4 August 1909 Leven Advertiser recognises this as the final link with the deep-sea fishing for Largo. At this time William Gillies would have been aged around 64 years old and the Ocean Bride had provided almost three decades service. By the time of the 1911 census William was described as a 'line fishermen'. He was living in 'Twin House' with his wife Margaret - the other half of the building being occupied by Robert's widow Mary. These semi-detached homes (pictured below) are now 111 and 113 Main Street. William died in 1918 aged 73.