East Haven Village History

One of the Oldest Recorded Fishing Communities in Scotland

East Haven is one of the earliest recorded fishing communities in Scotland dating back to 1214. The port of East Haven with it’s fishing rights was gifted to the monks of Coupar Angus Abbey by Philip de Valognes where it was formally recorded. The Ha’en is  probably much older than even 1214 but this early formal record marks East Haven as a place of historical importance. 

 An extract from 'Fishing Communities in Angus and the Mearns' by David G Adams and edited by Gillian Zealand. (avilable to purchase from The Pinkfoot Press in Brechin)


East Haven was part of the barony of Panmure which constituted the largest part of the parish of Panbride. It was particularly associated with the lands of Scryne which formed the southern half of the barony. The earliest known proprietors of Panmure were the de Valognes, an Anglo-Norman family favoured by King William 1 (1165-1214). Around 1214, Philip de Valognes granted the monks of Coupar Angus Abbey an acre of land in his port of Stinchendehavene (East Haven) for a toft to build on, with a toll for fishings and a right to use the Haven.


The Lyall Family

The Lyall family are the oldest fishing family in East Haven and have been traced back to the 1750s. Craig Lyall is the last remaining part fisherman in the village. Craig and his fiancée Christina will become the first fisher couple to ever marry in the village itself. They will take their vows amongst the boats near the beach on 23rd August 2014. 

Alex Lyall

Alex Lyall was educated at Panbride Primary, and was a Salmon Fisher all his life, only breaking during his 1st World War service in the Royal Scots Guard. Alex worked several local salmon stations, namely, Elliot, Lunan Bay, Kirkside and Westhaven. He was Skipper of the East Haven Salmon Fishing Station operated by the Tay Salmon Fishing Company from 1934 to 1938.  As Salmon fishing was seasonal, Alex had to work on the land during the winter months, and this was done at Inverpeffer or Peffer, as it is known locally.

Salmon fishing was hard work, it still is, but modern methods make life easier. However, Salmon netting is declining at an alarming rate, and the future is bleak for this way of life. During the years that Alex fished, everything was done manually and was extremely hard work. The crew of a salmon coble was five. The coble had to be rowed, there were no engines in these days and they fished seven nets, three at the Trink, one at the Meg Stane and three at Duncan’s Den.  If they fished the West side, it would be three at the Stock Mire, three at the Bleachin, and one at the Brithers. At the weekend when the leaders had to be cleaned the crew got to go home and it was the job of Alex as Skipper to clean and store them ready for Monday morning. As the skipper, Alex was always the last man to be laid off at the end of the season. He mended and then stored all the nets in the old salmon bothy. Alex was a clever man; he could peg out on the ground the area for the salmon net and make a complete net from scratch.

Working the Fly nets was probably the hardest job. These nets were staked on the beach. Putting these nets up was demanding work and every pin and stake had to be hand driven into the sand using a gurl.

A gurl was a 4 foot long post with a point and had a steel cap to stop it breaking. You had to twist this using your weight back and forward to force it into the sand. Then, when you had the right depth, pull out the gurl and have another man ready with the pin or stake to drive it right into the hole before the hole filled up. When the nets were first up, one tide could see them flat, all to be done again.

The fly nets were worked at Carnoustie. The first net was down from the Station, then across the Barry Burn there were three, two nets just past the red flag and the last net and always the best was right round past the light house. Alex being the skipper took the best net, which was the farthest away. He would walk all the way from the Ha’en or sometimes used an old bike.

When there were fish to transport, there was a contract with Robinson the contractor, and Alex had to walk from the nets back into Carnoustie and come back with Robinson’s Horse and Cart.

Alex’s cousin Wull Vannet worked at the boddin near Montrose and if you compare the fishing with East Haven, using the fish money received at the end of the season, which related to fish caught. Wull Vannet would have £30 fish money and Alex Lyall was lucky to receive £6 fish money. The boddin was a good station and was still taking a good catch up to the 1990’s. Fish caught would be in the thousands where East Haven would be in the Hundreds. East Haven was always a poor station. Craig Lyall


Uncle Geordie was a clever man and made willow baskets from willow wands cut from local trees; boats in bottles; a boat in a box with a frame; lots of needles for making nets; and he made sails and full rigging for a boat that was owned by a gentleman in the Villas.

Alex Lyall also made needles for making nets; woodcarving was a pastime many Fishermen would do, as there was no TV or wireless.

Uncle Geordie also had a tame Jackdaw. The Jackdaw would go to the sea with him but when it was fed up would fly home, go down the lum and sit on the sway. The Jackdaw liked silver things and would pinch anything silver. There was an artist painting on the braes and the Jackdaw pinched the brushes because parts of them were bright and silvery.

Uncle Geordie once caught a very large lobster around the Dulse Craig. It was at a time when ships had been sunk in the Orkney Islands and were being towed down the coast. It was thought that there must have been fish and shellfish living inside these wrecks which had fallen out during the move. The lobster was a monster of 14 pounds in weight. Craig Lyall

John Lyall

John Lyall was very strict about Sunday. The Sabbath day being a day of rest and he would not allow anyone to read papers, or do any sort of household chores. As poor as the fishermen were they still put on their Sunday best and went to church (they only had one suit). When John Lyall had had a drink he used to come up the pend singing “Bonny Mary O’ Argyle”.





The Duncan Family

Eric Duncan as a little boy with his grandfather John

The Life and Times of Easthaven Residents

The Duncan Family

John Duncan (1862 – 1956) lived in the original cottage at No 1 Shore Row with his  wife Betsy Vannett Herd (1860 -1916). John was a fisherman and  also a keen gardener. However, as many of us have found to our cost, cultivating gardens at the shore is a challenge. John therefore created a garden on the site of what is now No 7 Tankerville. Grandson, Eric Duncan can remember being sent up to the garden with a rifle to shoot rabbits which were apparently just as much of a problem then as they are today.


Ernest Duncan (1896 - 1952)

Ernest was one of eight children and grew up in Easthaven. Ernest died when he was only 55 years of age but he lived a very full life and made an enormous contribution to the communities of Easthaven, Carnoustie and Arbroath. As a young man he joined the  Blackwatch and fought in World

War 1 when he was wounded. Following the war he went on to become a boot and shoe operative with Messrs John Winter & Son, Carnoustie. It was perhaps here that he developed  his interest in employment rights  as he became chairman of the Arbroath branch of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives and also the Arbroath District  committee of the Trades Council. A well known figure in Labour circles, Ernest chaired the South Angus Divisional Labour Party and the Carnoustie Labour Party from 1948 to1951. During this time, Ernest was a member of the Arbroath District Education committee, a member of the Insurance Tribunal and a member of the board of the Carnoustie Co-operative Association. Ernest married Bella in April 1924 and had seven sons and one daughter, John, Ernest, Eric, Alfred, Robert, George, Edwin and Sheila.


Ernest successfully contested Angus County Council and Carnoustie Town Council elections, was a Justice of the Peace and took a keen interest in the Old Age Pensioners Association.  Ernest died at home in Easthaven on Sunday 17 August 1952.

Eric Duncan held a Tay Fishing Salmon licence in the mid 1980's

The Hoche Nantes

On the 1st November 1915, The Telegraph reported the mystery of the Hoche Nantes, a 3 masted ship that disappeared in a great storm on the 28th October. It was feared wrecked off East Haven and hundreds of people came down to the beach in Carnoustie, West and East Haven to look for remains of the ship and it's crew. In late December, two bodies were washed ashore at the Bleachfield, confirming that the crew were not saved and that the Hoche was indeed lost.

Up She Rises - A fictional book set in East Haven

Up She Rises by David Garnett

This book written by David Garnett in 1977 is a fictionalised account of the hard life of the author's great-grandmother Clementina Carey, daughter of a crofter who lived in Easthaven. Her father was also a smuggler and friend of the gipsies and Clementina learned Romany. This historical novel chronicles the rise in her fortunes and the adventures that befell her as she walked from Easthaven to Portsmouth to see her naval husband.  It is a story whose main features can be paralleled in many families whose Scottish forebears rose from poverty owing to their enterprise and faith in education. The facts have inspired a rich and eventful narrative which is also a study of a courageous and feisty woman. But, though the basic facts are true, this is a novel, not a family history.

A.S Neill 1883—1973

A.S.Neill with his daughter Zoe

Did you know that the writer and educationalist A.S.Neill spent holidays at East Haven from around 1895. He stayed with old Mrs Lyall at No7 Long Row.  A.S Neill always remembered his holidays in the area and corresponded with Colin Gibson of the Courier who wrote the 'nature diaries'.  

Gillian Zealand, Colin's daughter has kindly sent us copies of several of the nature diaries whcih provide a unique insight into life in the Ha'en during the early part of the last century.

One of Neill's first comic novels was the “The Booming of Bunkie” published in 1919 and set in an imaginary seaside resort clearly inspired by East Haven.