The Mourne Lass – William John McBride Senior had this vessel built in Bangor around 1946. By not fishing on a Sunday but leaving at midnight, he became known as one of the ‘Half Eleven men’.

1908 – Present Day

William John Mc Bride Senior was the eldest son in his family. They owned an extensive farm and raised a variety of livestock. His son Willie John Junior described him as a ‘Full time farmer and a part-time fisherman!’ William John Senior and Junior worked on the farm together, until a cruel twist of fate led them to lose their farm and their livelihood, when the Council placed a vesting order on the land. Located on the site of the modern day Mourne Esplanade, the farm was sold, and William’s sons were drawn towards the harbour, always a tempting sight from their homestead.

Being the eldest son often meant more responsibility in a rural setting, and so it would prove when his father passed away, William John Senior was charged with the running of the farm.

However, William John Senior was always a lover of the sea, and always looked forward to the skiff fishing season in the summer months. He was part of a group that would not have fished on a Sunday, but would have left at midnight. As they were down for a while before making preparations, they earned the nickname ‘The Half Eleven Men’.

William’s first boat was the ‘St Peter’ which had been built by Harry Mackintosh for Peter Kearney. It was a 27ft carvel built boat which when fully loaded held 28 Crans, (about 4.5 Tonnes) six nets and four men. In a departure from normal procedure, William dispensed with superstition and renamed the boat – ‘Florence’, for his daughter. He eventually sold the ‘Florence’ to Artie Mc Cullough.

William then invested in a 60ft trawler the ‘Mourne Lass’ built in Bangor which was skippered by various local men including Louis Campbell. It was working until very recently as a crab boat in Brixham when William John Junior went to see her.
William John Junior bore the same duty as his father as eldest son and was put to work on the farm as soon as he left school. He remembers a half crown every Saturday evening was his pay packet ‘You don’t pick up too many bad habits with that!’ Willie would fish with one of Mourne’s better known skippers Howard Forsythe, before going on to own trawlers. Willie’s brother Charles Mc Bride also went on to own his own vessels, and is still the only seine net Skipper in Northern Ireland. Charlie also founded a fish selling business in Kilkeel, and has a son fishing with him and another in the Royal Navy as a radio operator in a submarine.

The progression from farming to fishing was hardly seamless and was enforced upon the Mc Brides. Nevertheless, even today a strong family bond is evident and proof of the enduring affinity that the people of Mourne have for the sea.