Gareth Jones of the redoubtable Port Seton rowers made the trek over to Anstruther to visit the Scottish Fisheries Museum in search of an oyster dredge. Here is the photo he sent of a large dredge that matches the one drawn by a student at the School of Scottish Studies back in the 1960s – the only image of a Scottish dredge I’d seen until now. See how the dredge is leaning against the wall to keep its mouth open – lying flat on the bottom there would be no way to get oysters into the net. This illustrates the purpose of the rowing songs: to maintain a steady speed while towing the dredge to keep that the frame at the correct angle so the mouth stays open to gather oysters into the net.
The second photo includes an interesting detail: the dredge appears to be lying on its back and you can see the angle of the cutter bar which suggests that the frame was intended to lie at something like a 30 to 45 degree angle from the bottom in order for the edge of the cutter to work properly. There’s your challenge, rowers!
Thanks, Gareth, for making the trek and for sharing the photos.