Fisherrow Harbour

A small harbour on the Firth of Forth at Musselburgh


Whales on the Firth of Forth

In a comment about Newhaven Road, I mentioned that it had formerly known as Whale Brae, and that I had been told that it got this name  "Because some fool tried to drag a whale up it".

This prompted Bryan Gourlay to write:

"Dragging a whale up Whale Brae on Newhaven Road is not such not a far fetched story

Fisherrow Harbour

One Saturday, around 50 years ago, my dad got a call to say they urgently needed his help on the beach just to the west of Fisherrow harbour, near Musselburgh.

When we got there, there was a sizeable, young whale stranded well up the beach - stone-cold dead, surrounded by a big crowd of locals.

The immediate task was to get it off the beach as it was stinking to high-heaven, and the local kids were about to get up to no good with the smelly carcass.

The lorry was duly reversed on to the beach, and strong planks of wood placed up against the rear, to slide the whale up on to the platform. Ropes were put round the whale's body and a number of able-bodied men were coerced into dragging the heavy whale, inch by inch, across the sand and up the plank, until it was on the back of the lorry.

Royal Museum

Once there, it was tightly roped down, so it didn't create chaos by falling off on the journey to the Royal Museum in Chambers Street that had volunteered to take it in.

Of course, there was no room for its tail which had to hang over the back.  As you can imagine, we created quite a stir on the drive through the city - pavements full of people not quite believing what they were seeing, particularly with the whale's tail flapping around vigorously.

The most startled individuals were passengers sitting downstairs on the tram. There they were, minding their own business, when a whale passed them by at eye level on the inside (wagging its tail) or even worse, drew up and parked alongside them at the traffic lights with its beady eye fixed on them.   'Gobsmacked' is the only word that comes to mind.

The whale was lifted off by crane at the back of the museum, and was last seen disappearing inside, where the boffins no doubt had plans for it.  

Maybe bits if it are still in there? After all, most of the stuffed animals and birds, in the glass cases, are the same ones that were there in the 1940s and 1950s.

It was a week, or more, before the lorry lost its 'fishy' smell . . .

Bryan Gourlay, Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland:  November 14, 2006



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