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Skerries ‘Boathouse’ to be Restored

Published: 11 March 2013

The boat shed at Shetland Museum and Archives is a place where the traditional craft of boatbuilding and repair is expertly undertaken by Robbie Tait and Jack Duncan.  Under their care, many boats have been given a new lease of life, and their next project will be no different.


A lifeboat from the Ugie Brae, which has served as a lambie-hoose in Skerries for many years will be restored in the coming months. The small, clinker built boat, saved the lives of ten men and a dog when the Peterhead registered steam drifter  was sunk on Zoom 23rd June 1915 by the German submarine U-38, some 35 miles East North East of Skerries.


A group of around 20 UK based fishing drifters were attacked, with 16 being lost that day. The German U-boats allowed time for the men to take to lifeboats. Only one man perished, several days later, from a shrapnel wound.  Two lifeboats from these vessels made it to Skerries that day – with local men putting off in a boat of their own to assist the men of the Ugie Brae when they were spotted around 6 miles from the shore. The men were struggling with fatigue and needed assistance to land.  Both crews were taken to Whalsay, where they set off for Lerwick on the weekly Earl of Zetland run.


The lifeboats were left in Skerries and put to good use by local folk. The Uffa’s boat became a grice stye, which was demolished many years ago, but the Ugie Brae’s boat became a shelter for lambs at Skeo Houll and has remained a local landmark.


In later years, a floor was added to the lambie-hoose and the building was used to recharge the accumulator batteries used to power a wireless.

Time and the weather have, however, taken its toll and the condition of the boat had deteriorated badly.  Shetland Amenity Trust was therefore approached by the Skerries community to see if ways could be found to save this historic part of Skerries heritage.  It was agreed that if the Skerries folk arranged for the boat to be transported to Lerwick then the Shetland Museum and Archives carpenters would undertake the restoration work.


Once restored, the lifeboat will be returned to Skerries and it will be reinstated in its landmark position as a boatie-hoose again.