Buckie (Gaelic: Bucaidh) is a burgh town on the Moray Firth coast of Scotland in Moray. Buckie was the largest town in Banffshire by some thousands of inhabitants before regionalisation in 1975 removed that political division from the map of Scotland. The town is the third largest in the Moray Council area after Elgin and Forres and within the definitions of statistics published by the General Register Office for Scotland was ranked at number 75 in the list of population estimates for settlements in Scotland mid-year 2006. Buckie lies virtually equidistant to Banff to the east and Elgin to the west with both communities being approximately 17 miles distant whilst Keith lies 12 miles to the south by road.
Cluny Harbour is probably still the true heart of Buckie and this project was built by the Cluny family in 1877 to replace the town’s first stone harbour in Nether Buckie which was constructed in 1857 a mere mile or so to the west but had a tendency to silt up and become unusable. The Laird of Letterfourie had contributed £5,000 of the construction costs at Nether Buckie but the main investor with the balance of £10,000 was the Board of Fisheries. The engineers were D.&T. Stevenson of Edinburgh, the family firm of the author Robert Louis Stevenson. It was and remains a very sturdily built edifice with the main walls of considerable thickness being built of quartzite, quarried locally at Strathlene, capped with a very hard type of sandstone which was also used to form the walls at the entrance and of the harbour proper. As regards stability the harbour has remained a monument to engineering science with very little maintenance ever being necessary. It had a design fault, however, in that the entrance opened to the north east and was subject to infill with shingle, moving westwards by longshore drift. Later known as Buckpool Harbour this earlier port became something of an eyesore and eventually the silted basin became overgrown and dangerously swampy. The decision was taken to fill in the basin and this work was undertaken in the 1970s. The resulting park includes a pebble beach and the original quartzite harbour walls remain completely intact.
Once a thriving fishing and shipbuilding port, these industries have declined. Indeed, although Peterhead and Aberdeen are more readily associated with the fishing industry in Northeast Scotland, by 1913 Buckie had the largest steam drifter fleet in Scotland. Food processing remains important, with large fish factories and smoke houses found around the harbour. Buckie can properly be regarded as one of the main points of origin of the modern Scottish shellfish industry. A Mancunian, Charles Eckersley, who moved to Buckie in the 1950s and started trading as a fish merchant noticed that many of the varieties of shellfish that were regarded as economically useless by Buckie fishing vessels (prawns, scallops, etc.) were in fact the same species that he had enjoyed whilst completing his National Service in Palestine. He seized the opportunity to exploit this gap in the market and he built a thriving processing and packing business which eventually expanded to include factories as far afield as Barcelona and Alicante in Spain.
Until recent years there were three quite separate boatyards building traditional wooden clinker fishing vessels. Leaving Cluny Square and heading down North High Street, also locally known as the Bowling Green Brae, the view of the sea would have been interrupted by a huge grey corrugated iron shed. This was Thompsons and vessels were launched directly into the Moray Firth from a slipway. Heading east to Cluny Harbour it would have been impossible to miss Herd and Mackenzie on the fourth or lifeboat basin of the harbour. Directly behind their large sheds and across Blantyre Terrace was Jones with their private harbour into which they launched their vessels. Thompsons is gone but the premises of Herd and McKenzie and Jones are part of the modern day Buckie Shipyard. It was Herd and McKenzie, a firm with its roots in Dunbartonshire from where Messrs. Herd and Mackenzie sortied north, which built and launched the training schooner “Captain Scott” in 1972.
At the time of its launch this vessel was the largest of its type in the world. In earlier years there were further boat construction operations dotted along the shoreline from The Yardie to Ianstown and on to Portessie but these had mostly been amalgamated into the three main firms or had gone out of business by the interwar period.
Buckie was home to a specialist electric lamp factory of Thorn EMI until 1987 when it was closed and production moved to a new plant in Leicestershire. All of the predominantly female staff were offered jobs at the new facility in the East Midlands but, as the vast majority of the labour force were second wage earners in families, this offer was almost universally rejected.
Buckie is home to the Inchgower Distillery which sits a mile or so inland from the town and is best known for the Inchgower Single Malt.