Making waves - Museums Association

Making waves

Eleanor Mills talks to Ian Goodyear, the managing director of the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther, about steering the venue into new waters
Ian Goodyear has been managing director of the Scottish Fisheries Museum since 2018
Ian Goodyear has been managing director of the Scottish Fisheries Museum since 2018 Photography by Philip Sayer

“Reaper, our 118-year-old herring lugger, was in one of the harbours up on the east coast of Scotland and a freak gust of wind caught the sails and tipped her on her side,” says Ian Goodyear, the managing director of the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther, Fife.

“It destroyed one side of Reaper’s hull, which forced the decision that something drastic had to be done,” he says. “And when they started surveying the vessel they realised the extent of refurbishment that was required.”

The restoration took nearly three years (with the interruption of Covid) and £1m, but it has rescued a valuable vessel, made it seaworthy once more, and the project even won the National Historic Ships UK 2020 Excellence in Maritime Conservation Award.

The conservation of such a rare boat was made possible with funding from the Scottish Government, Museums Galleries Scotland, Oor Bairns Charitable Trust, and the restoration’s main contractor, Babcock International Group, which also made a charitable donation.

The Scottish Fisheries Museum

The Scottish Fisheries Museum opened in Anstruther in 1969 and tells the story of the fishing industry. Ways of life, skills, customs, dress, creativity and resilience all feature in the museum’s collections of historic fishing boats and gear.

The museum also has its own fleet of boats. Twenty are static, but two are historic and sea-going – the century-old, eight-man herring lugger, Reaper, and the slightly smaller, four-man herring lugger, White Wing.

The museum has about 370,000 visitors a year and is run by 17 full-time staff. The museum has secured funding from the Digital Innovation and Engagement Fund, a collaboration between UKRI-AHRC and the Museums Association, for a year-long digital archive project, titled Fish Net.

The 70-foot-long, 50-tonne vessel would have played an integral part in Scotland’s 1907 Herring Boom, when “Fifie” boats like Reaper would have been able to catch huge amounts of herring relatively easily and sell the fish on to European countries where cured herring was, and still is, a delicacy.


The nature of the work informed the shape of the boat, so herring luggers were streamlined like Viking longships so that fishermen could sail out, catch, gut and salt the herring – it’s a fatty fish so has to be cured fast – all in the space of 24 hours, and be ready to go again at the end.

Reaper is now open to the public moored on a pontoon in Anstruther Harbour. This was once Scotland’s busiest fishing port, but today there are few sightings of the shoals that once populated these waters. “There are some signs of herring shoals coming back in the far north, near Shetland, and over towards Norway, but nothing substantial,” says Goodyear. “The traditional fishing grounds have been destroyed.”

The museum's fleet of static boats demonstrate the different aspects of life at sea

The shift and loss of ecosystems is something Goodyear keenly wants to build into the Scottish Fisheries Museum’s programme going forward. “One of our principal stories is very much going to be about the environment and climate change,” he says. “And we partner with the Seabird Centre over at North Berwick, where they track the movement of bird colonies and liaise with various experts to see what the impact of changes in fish stocks and climate are.”

Changing tack

Goodyear joined the museum as head of operations and finance in 2018 and was promoted to become the museum’s first managing director last September.


“I love my new role – and we’re at the start of a very exciting period for the museum,” says Goodyear. “We’ve just finalised a new strategic plan for the next few years, which involves substantially developing the museum in the physical sense as well as the exhibition and events programmes.”

The redevelopment, which will cost an estimated £12m, will upgrade all the museum’s facilities – the galleries and entrance will be remodelled, more events space added and all-weather undercover catered space (important in Fife) will be created. Goodyear will need to raise substantial funds to support the project.

“That’s part of the reason my role’s changed – to really focus more on the strategic direction of the museum as opposed to the day-to-day operation on the finance side of things,” he says.

Another aspect of the project will be rehoming the 60,000 artefacts in its storerooms. Goodyear says the museum owns a separate building, a former cinema, that is a perfect space to develop a collection centre.

Goodyear has an optimistic and entrepreneurial nature, having started out in the hospitality sector with a job at Forte. He began overseeing catering across airports, then moved to restaurants, hotels, on to contract catering and motorways. “I got a real cross section of experience,” he says.

Displays of historic fishing gear reveal the skills and way of life in what was once Scotland's busiest fishing port
Sailing into new territory

After stints at Edinburgh University and Nottingham Trent University he began working with catering outfit Compass where he went on to manage a defence division in Scotland, where he looked after all the army barracks in Scotland. Goodyear then moved from that job, where he oversaw 600 staff, to one managing a team of 17 at the Scottish Fisheries Museum. It sounds like it should have been plain sailing.


“Very quickly in the first couple of months I realised what a major project it was,” he says. “I was totally comfortable with the catering, events and retail side of things, but the steep learning curve for me was really looking at the galleries, the collection, how we actually take care of the collection itself.”

Goodyear admits it hasn’t been easy throughout the pandemic, but with a little help from the herrings, the museum has pulled through.

“We’ve had a major funded programme called Knitting the Herring, which tells the story of ‘gansies’, which are fishermen’s jumpers that have been developed over years and years,” he says. “And during the pandemic, we ran a phenomenally successful online exhibition. Linda, our curator, has said that one of the sessions had more than 1,000 people dial in for it.”

A blue gansey from the museum's collection

The session took in learning how to knit a gansey as well as talking about the fishing and local communities.

“There are many communities around Scotland that knit these gansey sweaters and they’re all done to a set design,” Goodyear says. “So we developed packs that we could send out.” The project triumphed in the 2021 Association for Heritage Interpretation’s Engaging People Awards in the Lockdown Response category. Goodyear says they will repeat the project this March, with a slightly revised exhibition in the galleries.

But the outreach project that really sparks Goodyear’s imagination is centred on the eight-man vessel Reaper. “It is a really exciting prospect that Reaper, now that she’s restored and seaworthy again, can be an outreach for the museum,” he says.

Ian Goodyear

Ian Goodyear became the Scottish Fisheries Museum’s first managing director last September having been director of operations and finance since 2018.

Goodyear studied for a BA in hospitality management, after which he joined the catering firm Forte as a district manager and then a general manager, overseeing airport catering, high street brands and contract catering.

After a stint at Center Parcs, he returned to Forte as business development manager, where he stayed for 10 years. From there he joined Edinburgh University to be a central area manager and then moved to Nottingham Trent University to develop its trading services.

In 2010, Goodyear joined Compass UK and Ireland where he
went on to look after a range of venues in Edinburgh.

“What I find invigorating is the opportunity to inspire visitors and the younger population about boat-building and climate change. There are probably a dozen harbours around the Forth estuary, so Reaper can go to each for two or three days, let’s say, as an extension of the museum and actually be accessible to a far greater number of people.”

Goodyear and the museum-hired volunteer crew are aiming to launch the vessel out to sea in May or June. He’s excited at the prospect of being on board.

“She’s done the full Scotland trip in the past, all the way up the east coast and down the west. And with a new, full annual programme, the reach of it is just phenomenal.”

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