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Historic herring ship ‘The Reaper’ which starred in Outlander opens to visitors after restoration

A historic ship which once held the Shetland record for herring fishing and starred in TV drama Outlander is set to welcome visitors today after a £1million refurbishment. 

The Reaper, a Viking-inspired ‘Fifie’ ship, was built of oak and larch in 1903 in Sandhaven, near Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, and is one of the few in the UK’s prestigious National Historic Fleet still in seagoing condition. 

With its two masts, weighing in at 50 tonnes and standing at 70 feet tall, it is the last of the first-class Scottish herring luggers and is from the golden age of Scottish salt-cured herring fishing.  

The 118-year-old vessel also has a history of appearing on the screen, including most recently in historical TV drama ‘Outlander’ and the 2016 film ‘Tommy’s Honour’.

The Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther, Fife, is set to welcome visitors back onboard the Reaper today.

The Reaper – the last of the first-class Scottish herring luggers from the golden age of Scottish salt-cured herring fishing – opens to visitors again today after a £1millon restoration

The ship, a piece of living history, is also famed for its various film and television appearances, including most recently in 'Outlander' and the 2016 film 'Tommy's Honour'

 The ship, a piece of living history, is also famed for its various film and television appearances, including most recently in ‘Outlander’ and the 2016 film ‘Tommy’s Honour’

The rare fishing boat (pictured left in shot) appeared in the Outlander television show, where it was one of the vessels in season 2 found in the port of Le Havre, according to the Daily Record

The rare fishing boat (pictured left in shot) appeared in the Outlander television show, where it was one of the vessels in season 2 found in the port of Le Havre, according to the Daily Record

The iconic ship is described as a ‘rare survivor’ from a golden age of sail and is a ‘Fifie’ – inspired by the Viking longship design, which was a popular fishing vessel on Scotland’s North Sea coast from the 1850s to the mid 20th century.

This is thanks to its huge lugsails which stretch over 3,355sq feet.

In the 1930s the Reaper held the Shetland record for a catch of 223 crans – which translates to almost 250,000 herring.

The ship, a piece of living history, is also famed for its various film and television appearances. 

The rare fishing boat appeared in season 2 of the Outlander television show, where it was one of the vessels found in the port of Le Havre, according to the Daily Record.  

The Reaper’s conservation project began back in 2018 under the direction of the Scottish Fisheries Museum’s Historic Boat Expert Leonardo Bortolami and the Reaper’s Skipper Mike Barton.

The refurbishment includes a new 67-foot foremast and strengthening work which has given the Reaper the strongest hull of any ‘Fifie’ ever built.

Installation of a new air compressor to power the original steam capstan was also added by the Volunteers at the Scottish Fisheries Museum’s Boat Club, who contributed 700 hours of work to the project. 

The funding for the refurbishment of the ship was provided by the Scottish Government, Museums Galleries Scotland and Oor Bairns Charitable Trust, while the main contractor, Babcock International Group, also made a charitable donation. 

The Reaper was built of oak and larch in 1903 in Sandhaven, near Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, and is one of the few in the UK's prestigious National Historic Fleet still in seagoing condition

The Reaper was built of oak and larch in 1903 in Sandhaven, near Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, and is one of the few in the UK’s prestigious National Historic Fleet still in seagoing condition 

The refurbishment includes a new 67-foot foremast and strengthening work which has given the Reaper the strongest hull of any 'Fifie' ever built

 The refurbishment includes a new 67-foot foremast and strengthening work which has given the Reaper the strongest hull of any ‘Fifie’ ever built

Karen Seath, Chair of the Scottish Fisheries Museum Trust, said: ‘The Reaper is a stunning and extraordinary vessel and a significant part of Scotland’s rich national maritime and fishing heritage.

‘She’s a rare survivor of the golden age of sail and our booming herring industry of the past.

‘The Reaper is also unusual in that, through ongoing conservation and care, she remains seaworthy and has become a striking sight at Anstruther and ports across the UK, welcoming some 180,000 people on board to date.

‘We are grateful to our funders, skilled boat builders, Museum Boat Club volunteers, supporters and visitors, everyone who has made this conservation of the Reaper possible.

‘It has been a true labour of love and craftsmanship and we look forward to welcoming visitors onboard during what is her first full summer in Anstruther Harbour.’

Lucy Casot, CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland added: ‘We are delighted to have supported the Scottish Fisheries Museum with the conservation and interpretation for the nationally important vessel the Reaper.

‘This is an incredible example of conservation bringing history to life, allowing visitors and residents to once again experience life aboard the Reaper and explore the rich heritage of Scotland’s maritime industry.’

Tickets for a tour aboard the Reaper are available at the entrance to the pontoon at Anstruther Harbour and are priced at five pounds for adults, and it is free for children. 


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