Visit Dornoch

The Story of Embo

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The ‘Story of Embo’ exhibition held in the Dornoch Social Club 4 – 9 July, was attended by over 100 and proved a successful launch for Rona Grigg’s book “Embo – genealogy, Uncle Sandy’s Story and a little history”.

A copy of a taped conversation between Rona’s great-uncle and Nancy Dorian, the young American researcher who came to Scotland to study East Sutherland Gaelic which she recognised was more fragile than the Gaelic of the west, started a trail to see if Sandy’s story of how the Mackays came to Embo could be proved by the records available. Thirteen years later the book is published.

Uncle Sandy was the last ferryman at the Meikle Ferry after spending much of his life in the Merchant Navy.

Using census together with birth, marriages and deaths information a picture was built up tracing back to the earliest confirmed birth in 1749. Unfortunately some of the earliest known individuals died before the introduction of the Statutory Records which give intergenerational links.

During searches in the National Archives in Edinburgh and Highland Archives in Bught Park, Inverness, Rona came across the official documentation from 1883 of The Napier Commission taking evidence from the Embo fishermen, from 1891 up to 1956 about the petitions for a pier / harbour and the numerous calls for improvements needed to the pier as completed in 1895. The reports of the Medical Officer of Health paint a picture of what life was like for ordinary people in the 1890’s.

The genealogy charts created over the years were converted to Excel charts and form the bulk of the appendices. They should give anyone wanting to draw their own family tree a head start if they have Embo connections.

The book is available for sale in the Dornoch Bookshop.

Rona will be signing copies of her book at the Book Fair in the Social Club this weekend (15 – 17 July).

The Genealogy section of the exhibition is mainly about some of the emigrants who left Embo in the early 20th C to make a new life in Canada, the USA and Australia. Unfortunately there wasn’t room to include the Africa and New Zealand emigrants. The most famous child of an Embo emigrant must be Dawn Fraser, the swimmer who won gold medals in the 1956, 1960 and 1964 Olympic Games.

The second part of the exhibition showed some of the results of the survey of the Embo fishing fleet by Scotland’s Coastal Heritage at Risk Project (SCHARP) and the North of Scotland Archaeological Society. The survey along with an Open Day and a talk to the Dornoch Heritage Society in 2013 looked at the history of fishing in Embo. This part of the exhibition also focussed on the herring boom of the 1800s when the boats called Zulus fished for herring off the North East coast of Britain and thousands of barrels of salt herring were produced. Several conversations with visitors at the exhibition suggested there is still much to be learned about this period of Embo’s history and hopefully there will be an opportunity to fill in some of the gaps in the near future.

Dornoch Area Community Interest Company
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