ROSKA YACHT JERSEY
The yachtsmen of the Lochside tell a unique story of the highlands where, fishermen and crofters would be employed by the lowland upper classes to man the racing yachts in the summer months. Each crew man was issued a jumper with the name of the yacht on the jumper. These have became iconic in the communities from which the men came. They almost became a sort of CV as a record of the yachts that the men had served on.
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A ‘ROSKA’ YACHT JERSEY
Between the 1870s and 1930s, men from Lochside on the shores of Loch Broom found a working life in the wealthy world of big yacht racing. Sailing and yacht racing were favourite pastimes of Britain’s richest families. Wealthy owners employed men from this area because of their excellent seamanship skills. The most popular waters for racing were the waters of the Solent in the south of England, and the Clyde on the west coast of Scotland. Although World War One interrupted yacht cruising and racing, it was revived in 1919 when King George V ordered the refit of his royal racing yacht Britannia.
Lochside was a close-knit community and extended family members often worked on the same yachts. Crewing was a great opportunity for a community whose income from crofting and fishing could be uncertain. Every man was issued a jumper embroidered the name of their yacht. The jumpers became part of everyday clothing at home and served as a knitted record of the yachts that the men served on.
This jumper belonged to John ‘Onorach’ Mackenzie and was found by family in the loft of his son Duncan ‘Tor’ MacKenzie. John was born in 1886 to John MacKenzie and Janet Munro. He married local woman Robina MacKenzie and together they had four sons, Iain, Roderick and Finlay and Duncan. The three eldest boys all died in service during World War Two. The family byname ‘Onorach’ is Gaelic meaning ‘honest or honourable’. John and his sons were noted for their meticulous approach to life, and the house and croft at Letters were kept extremely tidy.
John sailed on the Thendara with Robina’s brothers, and then skippered the Malista and the Vida. Latterly he was also skipper on the Roska prior to World War Two. The yachting season began in May and lasted until autumn. The men would leave in the Spring after the crops had been planted and would return in the late summer for harvest. This made the summer months difficult for the women who had to undertake all the work on the croft. However, the other wives and men who remained would help anyone who needed assistance. The Lochside became a very close-knit community with an atmosphere that remains to this day.
MacGregor, James and Robbie MacKenzie. On The Yachts. Ullapool: JRM Publishing, 2018.
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