Cultural Heritage and Boatbuilding

With Ben Wilde, Archipelago Folkschool / January – December 2017.

What is the state of traditional boatbuilding in Scotland today? How does it relate to cultures past and future? How might education and skills training tap in to emerging appetites? And what might be creatively done to support traditional wooden boatbuilding across its full cultural heritage?

Anchor and Sail boat launch, 2015. (credit: Sean Campbell)

Since the eighth century the practices and products of traditional wooden boatbuilding have been eminently recognisable within Scotland’s cultural, social and economic landscapes. Scottish boatbuilders have long worked to hone their collective skills, all the while continuing to refine the forms and methods of their craft, right into the heydays of the country’s fishing trade in the 1800s. In more recent times, however, Scotland has witnessed a sharp decline in the practice of boatbuilding by traditional methods, and with it, a deepening fear that the forms, skills and methods which endured for so many years are now in grave danger of being disregarded, forgotten and lost forever.

Commissioned by Historic and Environment Scotland and GalGael in 2016, ‘Traditional Boatbuilding in Scotland: Preserving a past, conserving a future’ conducted a scoping study into the trade, training and cultural roots of traditional boatbuilding in Scotland. The mixed-methods approach included historical and contemporary statistical mapping of training provisions, oral history interviews with crafts/trades people and case studies with current projects. Its aim was to enquire into the current state of boatbuilding in today, and to articulate a possible response for safeguarding the craft for a contemporary Scotland. You can read the report below, or follow the link to download: