Friday photo: Barking the nets

Barking the nets

Colin has been helping the archives recently in scanning in many many photographs.  He found this image when working on a fishing collection of fishermen barking their nets.  Colin’s own words follow!

“Barking was carried out before the new season started, in the spring before the summer season, and in the autumn before the winter season. The nets and ropes were made of cotton and were very susceptible to rot if not taken care of properly. This “barking” material was extracted from oak bark (hence the term!), and I think it was called” catechu”. Not only were the nets treated, they also treated their cotton smocks and sails. The procedure was straightforward; a metal tank was filled with water and heated, the catechu came in a dried powder form and the appropriate amount was dissolved in the hot water. The nets and everything else was soaked in this solution and then laid out to dry. The leather buoys were tarred with” Archangel” tar and the wooden tops painted in bright colours. It maybe should be noted that the nets belonged to the crew individually, up to 4 nets apiece, and not to the boat. This process is how all the sails on the old sailing vessels were tan in colour.”

About David Powell

Project Manager and Archivist with Tasglann nan Eilean Siar
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