While Colin, the former skipper for the May Princess, was over volunteering on the island we quizzed him about the local names for some of the seabirds. Having been born and bred in Anstruther and a fishing boat skipper for many years before running boats to the island, he has had daily contact with many of the seabirds that we find on the island.
So some of the Fife names are as follows (I might have got the spelling wrong):
Gull = cutsie
Fulmar = mallee
Gannets = gants
Storm petrels = stormy petrels
For some of these birds the origins of the Fife name is obvious (!) but others less so – where does cutsie come from? Apparently as you move north up the east coast of Scotland the name changes from cutsie to maws to scories. And once up in Shetland there are many different names for the seabirds.
While we were talking Colin also told us about some of the superstitions that the fishermen had when at sea, here are some:
– you must never name lobsters, even if you were a creel fisherman, this was because things that swim backwards are unlucky, so the name used for them is canaries.
– rabbits were unlucky to mention by that name so were called bobtails.
– rats were also unlucky to mention by that name and so were called longtails.
– pigs were the worst of the lot, you couldn’t say their name and had to called them, yes you guessed it, curley tails,
– whistling wasn’t allowed on the boats as it mean that you whistle up the wind.
– you should never turn the boat against the sun, it should always goes clockwise with the sun, the same applies to winding ropes.
So look out over the season for the cutsie count, some mallee ringing, some longtail trapping, not sure if we will have canaries on the menu but curly tails will definitely be after early morning puffin netting.