By Gordon Hay

One of the projects supported by The Doric Board’s New Year Awards 2020 was Buchanhaven Heritage Society’s “The Peterhead Ganjey Project”.

A ganjey is a traditional fisherman’s jersey and Buchanhaven Heritage Society is the proud owner of a historic collection of ganjeys dating from the 1950s and 60s.

Generally, called a ganzie in most other fishing communities, the Peterhead pronunciation has a hard “j” (as in banjo) rather than the more widespread “z”.

The funding from the Doric Board enabled the Society to acquire tables and stands for the display which is on show in the Society’s premises in Buchanhaven Peterhead.

Most of the ganjeys on display were knitted by Mary Watt and Lizzie Gatt – two of the renowned knitters of the last century. The ganjey has a particularly fine close knit, giving a garment which was able to repel water and keep its wearer dry.

The ganjeys are intricately patterned and each one is a work of art, incorporating various sea-related designs. Lizzie’s can be identified by the seam at the top while Mary incorporated her pattern into the seam.

From the photographs there can be seen a green ganjey. Although over 60 years old, it has never been worn and green is held to be an unlucky colour amongst the fishing community.

The original owner was given it as a gift, but never wore it in case it brought ill fortune. He donated it on the understanding his identity would not be disclosed as he was ashamed to be in possession of such an ill-omened garment and he had confided that he was a Rangers supporter.

Two of the ganjeys have buttons at the neck, but latterly they were all knitted without buttons, following an accident where a young fisherman was killed when the buttons caught in a net and he suffered a broken neck.

Another interesting feature of the ganjeys is their particularly short sleeves, so that they did not become entangled in any of the fishing gear while being worn.

If the cuffs became worn, the ganjey was knitted in such a way as half the sleeve could be picked out and reknitted, making the
sleeve look like new again.

The Peterhead Ganjey project is well worth a visit and is open on Tuesdays from 10.30am-3.00pm. Margie Davidson, collection organiser, will guide you through this wonderful display.