The Old Fish Mart in Stornoway opened for business in 1894. The architect was the civil engineer Alexander MacDonald and the structure was erected by the old Stornoway firm of Ross & MacKenzie at a cost of £1,200.
During the planning process, an objection was raised from Lady Matheson, who believed the new building would interfere with the Castle’s view across the harbour. The site was shifted a little to the north, a move which involved further negotiations with the occupant of Tolmie’s Store, Alex MacKenzie, Steamboat Agent, and Messrs. J. M. Morrison and John MacKenzie, Fish Curers.
The Old Fish Mart was the hub of the island’s booming fishing industry in 1894.
The upper floor of the Fish Mart was designed to accommodate 250 people, with a total of 14 offices. It was proposed that eight offices in the new mart be set aside for use by fish salesmen and that the remaining offices be let by auction. The proposal that a small office be used by telegraph boys, at an annual rental of £2 was blocked by the General Post Office on the grounds that the services of telegraph boys would only be permitted if the office were granted free of charge.
In May of 1894,The Fish Mart was officially opened by the auctioneer, a Mr.Thomson from Buckie. A handsome, double-faced clock, procured by public subscription, was presented to the Pier & Harbour Commission in July 1895 and, in September of that year, Angus MacRitchie, lamplighter, was offered the salary of 10s. 6d. a year to attend to the winding of the Fish Mart clock.
In 1939, the Mart was scheduled for demolition, but due to a lack of funds, the Commission delayed the work. At a meeting of the Commissioners in April 1970, the final decision was taken to demolish the building.
Strangely, when Lord Leverhulme proposed to change the face of Stornoway with an ambitious plan to cut a swathe from South Beach to Goathill Crescent, the Fish Mart was to be left alone as a special ‘feature’.
Frank G Thompson