“Kelpie” Another halv yoal, Sandwick

“Kelpie” minus her keel and boddamrunner (garboard) missing


“Kelpie” is a four-oared boat, but, is the same size as the “Phar-Lapp” and so could be easily converted to a six-oared boat.


The outboard bracket to take a seagull outboard which was added by John Irvine. The folk in the background are: Dr Ian Tait, Davy Johnson & Brian Wishart.

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky to be shown a lovely halv yoal called “Kelpie”. The boat belongs to Davy Johnson. “Kelpie” originally was the Laird’s boat and the boat was given by Mrs Valmai Bruce to Malcolm Smith. Davy acquired “Kelpie” when it seemed the boat was about to be burned.

Davy says:

“I have a sentimental attachment to her as I frequently rowed her in my teenage years around 1960-62. However the original keel was missing and she has been in my shed for the last 10 years now not knowing how to get going. Last New Year I discovered Malcolm had the keel in the roof of his garage and he gave it to me”.

Duncan Smith has kindly provided Davy with information about “Kelpie” and some other boats which he has passed onto me. So, the remaining text is written by Davy following a discussion he had with Duncan.

“Kelpie” a very old boat belonging to Sandlodge all his minding. She was a good boat to row and he (Duncan Smith) and other boys used to row her in the 30’s. He remembers “Rumlie” Captain Peter Malcolmson rigging up sails on her (fore and aft gunter rig) when home on leave between voyages and sailing against “Betty” Captain Jack Irvine.  This was after regattas were abandoned following the drowning of 23 year old Eric Duncan his cousin in 1931. For a time they had rowing races and water sports only with equipment being brought from Lerwick. They were always keen to get the “Kelpie” for the rowing races, as she was much faster. In the late 50’s John Irvine from Skerries came to live in Leebitton and obtained the use of the “ Green Store” a wartime hut to repair and build boats one of these being the “Lively Lady” for Bruce Irvine. John carried out some major repairs to the “Kelpie” including fitting the plate to the after stem for mounting a Seagull outboard engine. The “Kelpie” was light to draw up and down a beach and was used by the shepherd on Mousa at lambing time when two men would live on the Island for about 3 weeks.

The Bruces also had another Shetland Model the “Tender” but she was shorter and not nearly so good to row. The “Tender” was given to Simon Smith apparently to the annoyance of the Bruce’s gardener William Smith and when Simon asked for the spars and sails that went with her he was told where to go! At this time there was no ferry service to Mousa and most visitors went there courtesy of the Bruces. However Simon would row them across with the “Tender” for a sixpence.

“Wilhelmina” a second class racer competed in Sandwick in 1900 and won many races over the years both in Sandwick and Lerwick (See “Sailing at Sandwick”). Duncan remembers the launch towing the “Wilhelmina” and “Kelpie”around Noness head the day prior to the 1931 regatta at Brooniestaing and anchoring overnight in Hoswick bay as arranged with Lowrie Harper. He remembers being sent home with his brothers and walking over Hillside after capsizing of the “Wilhelmina” in the first race of the day and knew their father was on her. They were aware something had happened but didn’t know about Eric Duncan’s loss until their father came home later with the news”.  (Johnson: 2015).



Johnson, D. (2015) Notes from a conversation with Duncan Smith. (email) to Chivers, M. [7th December].




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