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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleBenjamin Netanyahu trolled by group promoting two-state solution
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Sport
Husain Abdullah returns an interception off Tom Brady for a touchdown
nflLeague has rules against 'sliding to ground on knees'
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
tech
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Executive (B2C, Offline) - Wimbledon, SW London

£23000 - £25000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An established and highly...

Financial Controller

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is a busy and varied role w...

Maths Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Maths teacher require...

KS1 Teacher

£21500 - £31500 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style