Outlander boat Reaper needs another £25k to keep seaworthy

Reaper, far left, plays a key role in time-shift drama Outlander.
Reaper, far left, plays a key role in time-shift drama Outlander.
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An appeal has been launched to complete the restoration of a unique century-old fishing boat that played a star role in time-shift drama Outlander.

Reaper is the last surviving Scottish herring lugger, or Fifie, and one of the few National Historic Ships fleet that has been kept in a seagoing condition.

Reaper, with its distinctive red sail, is emblematic of the east coast herring industry.

Reaper, with its distinctive red sail, is emblematic of the east coast herring industry.

Built around 1901-03, the 70ft vessel has been the flagship of the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Fife for more than 40 years.

The vessel has itself served as a floating museum, touring more than 50 ports across the UK and hosting more than 180,000 visitors.

But despite a series of repairs and refits over the years, major work has been required to keep Reaper seaworthy and its condition has been found to be worse than anticipated. And despite a £500,000 grant from the Scottish Government last year, an extra £25,000 is required to finish the job at the Babcock yard in Rosyth that started last November.

It is hoped this will be completed next June so Reaper can make a triumphant return home to mark the Anstruther museum’s 50th birthday by leading a flotilla of historic boats down the Forth.

Museum director of operations Ian Goodyear said: “Reaper is hugely significant boat for the nation. In 2015, it was realised the boat required an extensive renovation to preserve it for the next 30 years and continue its outreach programme.

Due to the nature of the vessel, it now requires even more work than was first surveyed and further funds are required to complete phase one.”

Work will include renewing the hull timbers and replacing those on the deck, using larch from the same north-east forest whose wood was used in its construction at Sandhaven, near Fraserburgh.

Reaper, with its distinctive red sail, played a key role in Outlander as the boat used by central characters Claire and Jamie to escape to France.

Chris Oliver, a retired surgeon who has become a volunteer at the museum’s boatyard that will complete phase two, said: “Reaper is sorely missed and we are always asked when it is coming back.

“These historic boats were such an important part of the local fishing communities.”

Phase two will include painting and fitting out a new cabin. Some 10-20 per cent of the original boat will be retained.

Donations can be made via donr.com

Fifies were the most common fishing boat on the east coast of Scotland for most of the last two centuries.

Reaper switched to Shetland in 1908 and in the late 1930s held the islands record for a herring catch, of 223 crans, or almost 250,000 fish.

The boat was requisitioned by the Royal Navy during the Second World War, initially serving on the Clyde in 1941 before being deployed on harbour protection duties in the south east of England.

Reaper then resumed fishing from Shetland until 1957 before being bought by Zetland Council as a flit boat to transfer cargo between ship and shore, being renamed Shetlander.

The museum bought the vessel in 1975 after it was decommissioned by the council when roll-on roll-off ferries were introduced, and restored to its original condition.

The Museum Boats Club was formed to maintain and operate Reaper, which it continues to do.

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said last year: “It has brought to life Scotland’s fishing heritage for thousands of tourists from home and abroad, as well as becoming a key asset as part of the museum’s excellent educational outreach work.”