The concept of a museum was first spoken about at a meeting of the S.W.F.P.A. in December 1979 when a small steering committee was formed consisting of John Thomson as chairman, Jack Scott, Secretary along with Willie Stewart and Jimmy Gault.
This Committee was soon expanded to include The late councillors James Taylor, Marion Hancock, Regional Councillor Roma Hossack and Joe Gray from the Community Council.
A meeting was held in January 1980 and it was decided that the first criteria was to find a premises. After looking at several old houses even considering the availability of Ramsay McDonald’s birth place it became apparent that the solution was on our doorstep. With the decline in the fishing fleet and industry in the town several stores in which fishing gear had been kept now lay empty and would not be used again. After getting permission from the fishermen who had used these stores the Committee approached the Elgin and Lossiemouth Harbour Board and permission was freely given to take over and convert the stores into what is now the museum building you see today
The Harbour Board at that time under the Chairmanship of William Wittet were keen on the idea and soon transferred occupancy to the trustees of the Museum for a nominal rent of £20 pound per annum the term to be for the next fifty yearsand in perpetuity there after was agreed.
With the advent of the premises all that was thought had to be done (wrongly) was to raise funds , but it soon became apparent that the project was too large and that Professional help would be required.
After a few months delay which was due to the clearing out of the stores the architects moved in and made a very comprehensive report which convinced the committee that they had a very good building to set up a museum. The initial cost was to be £9000’. Meanwhile William Wittet and co. carried out a full survey and report and permission for change of use and the application went in to the planning authorities on the 5th of September 1980 and it was more than a year later 10th October 1981 that warrant was given to proceed. In June 1982 after studying several tenders the contract was awarded to Stewart Souter and Son.
The cost of the project had now risen to £24,000 this quickly rose to £30,782 and finally the grand sum of £35,300. This was concerning the committee so approaches were made to local and district councils and various trust organisations to try and raise the money. To this end they were successful receiving from
1. Moray district and Grampian Council £6,500 each
2. Scottish tourist board £13,000
3. S.W.F.P.A. £9,000
4 The Arthur Duthie Organisation , R.A.F, Community Council and various others too numerous to mention . Further funds were raised with coffee evenings and cake and candy stalls at three different raft races. Which made over £500 on each occasion.
Work started January 1983 and was completed in September of that year. It was decided that they would try and open for the summer season 1984.
As well as raising funds the committee had to start finding Exhibits and the public response was overwhelming offering all sorts of items for display.
One of the conditions of the Tourist Board grant was the museum must carry out a storyline or theme and this was not too easy , because you require a lot of connected exhibits which are not lying around. This caused another problem which they decided needed more professional help so Brian Hayton a Moray District Curator suggested that they should sponsor a man power services scheme whereby people could be employed using Government funding. Six people were duly employed on the 2nd of February 1984 under the guidance of Mrs. Hazel Sanderson they gathered, researched, repaired and documented all the exhibits and material which were available. This work was carried out to the satisfaction of the Tourist Board .
The first theme was revolved around safety, and includes the housing gears and lenses of the Covesea Lighthouse given by the Northern Lighthouse Board
Lighthouse Lense Under Construction
The second theme was around boatbuilding and various models from the yard of Herd and McKenzies of Buckie and various other models from local fishermen were donated
Model of Yukon Star
The third theme was based on the community and perhaps the most prestigious exhibit was the reconstruction of the study of the late Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald donated by his family.