Fishing Lines: Hey there, Georgie girl – you've just landed a stupendous salmon

An unseemly row erupted in a village quiz when I disputed a question beloved by puzzle setters. It was the classic: "What is the largest fish caught on rod and line in the British Isles?"

The correct answer should have been the 851lb tunny taken off Whitby by Laurie Mitchell-Henry in 1933, though these days, you should really reply: "Adrian Molloy's 968lb fish, taken off Donegal in 2001." But there are generally no extra points for being a smartass.

However, the quizmaster insisted the correct response should have been a 64lbsalmon from the River Tay, caught in 1922 by the 32-year-old Georgina Ballantine. (I'm such a sad noodle that I could even tell you the second-largest salmon caught by a woman). Personally, I'd prefer the Ballantine answer to becorrect, because it's such a wonderful story.

Her father, James, was the local ferryman. He looked after fishing on the local Glendelvine stretch of the Tay, close to Dunkeld. Just below the town is the famous Birnam Wood,which starred in 'Macbeth'.

When the water was not booked by aristocracy or businessmen, James and his daughter would go fishing. On the day in question (7 October), she had already caught salmon of 25lb, 22lb and 17lb. After such a catch they would normally have packed up, but with the clocks going back that very night, they decided tocontinue fishing.

At 6.15pm, she hooked what she later said seemed "an ordinary sized fish". Having caught salmon to 25lb that day, her idea of "ordinary" may have been somewhat different to ours. When it started to get dark and the fish had still not been sighted, she revised her view.

Her father, clearly a sensitive soul, decided to use reverse psychology when it looked like they would be out all night. "Man, if only the laird or the major had ta'en him, I wouldna' ha' been sae ill aboot it," hetold her.

She retorted by asking him if he would buy her a new frock if she landed the fish. He replied: "Get ye the fish landed first and syne we'll see aboot the frock." (He never bought it.)

Eventually, the fish was landed. It was 4ft 6in long, and was eventually given to the patients and staff of Perth Hospital, though it was put on display at Mallochs, the local tackle shop, first.

One onlooker observed:"Nae woman ever took a fishlike that oot of the watter, mon. It would need a horse, a block and tackle. A woman! That's a lee [lie], anyway."

Great story, huh? But not the largest fish.

Even inserting the word "freshwater" between "largest" and "fish" in the pub quiz question would not have solved the problem. I'd always thought that the largest was actually a 67lb 8oz salmon caught in 1812 from the River Nith in Ayrshire by Jock Wallace, a renowned local poacher.

And I was wrong, too, as a stunning new book* reveals. 'The Domesday Book of Giant Salmon' records 469 Atlantic salmon over 50lb, including one of 103lb from Scotland.

I'll tell you some of the yarns that accompany those fishnext week.

* 'The Domesday Book of Giant Salmon', by Fred Buller, ispublished next week by Constable and Robinson at £50

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea