What’s with the Fishbox?

The more curious of you might have thought: “What’s with the stupid FishBox thing?”.  If you did, then this is where you get an answer – well, sort of.  If you didn’t then move on, there’s nothing to see here.

As with all good things in life, it started off as a way of annoying my daughter.  Being a teenager she is very sensitive and doesn’t like being embarrassed in front of her friends.  A weakness to exploit.  So, to start with I wear shorts as soon as the temperature allows 1 (and who wouldn’t with legs as attractive as mine?).  Next, extend the loony credentials with something a bit more idiosyncratic: fish-boxes naturally spring to mind. It started with me taking photos of fish-boxes washed up on Ayrshire beaches and showing them to anyone who would listen (or not). A good start, but we could do better.

Fishbox from 1979 on Largs beach in 2009

I started making detours to see and photograph them.  I noticed them cropping up in unusual places.  And I started to appreciate their qualities.  The first thing about them is that they are obvious: big, indestructible and colourful.  They also usually have their provenance stamped on the side. 2  You either get a company name, or a port, or a phone number and this lets you track it down.  And it turns out they travel widely.

Fishbox in Wanlockhead at 460m - that was a high tide!

Back in 2007 (i.e. BJ = Before Jazz) I walked the length of the Ayrshire coast from Wemyss Bay in the north to Loch Ryan in the south. 3 It was then that I started noticing fish-boxes everywhere.

So I started photographing them and recording where they came from. I had plans on developing an ecological presentation reflecting our attitudes to waste, exploitation of the oceans, and the inter-connectedness of coastal communities. But it turned out to be much more fun to freak out my daughter and her mates with photos of fish-boxes.

I realise that they come from some careless fishing boat working in the Clyde and didn’t fall off the quayside in some distant land and were swept by fickle currents all the way to Ayrshire’s beaches.  But it sounds nicer. So, here’s the Provenance List for boxes found on Ayrshire’s beaches:

  • Thyborøn, Denmark
  • Den Helder, The Netherlands
  • Shetland
  • Fraserburgh
  • Waterford, Ireland
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Kilkeel, Northern Ireland
  • Wexford, Ireland
  • Grimsby
  • Pittenweem
  • County Cork, Ireland
  • Mallaig


  1. In this part of the world this means shorts are the dress code from May to October.
  2. I know “where it came from” is simpler but nowadays everything has “provenance” – even the bag of coriander I stuffed in tonight’s salsa.  Argentina, as it happens; obviously too cold in Invergowrie at this time of year.
  3. This was before the Ayrshire Coastal Path came into being, and takes a longer and slightly different route – i.e. mine sticks to the coast.