A yohl, yahl, yowl, yole but not a yawl

Confused? Being born in Ireland, brought up in England, but now living in Australia, I’m obviously (not) qualified to bring some clarity to these Scottish terms.

Luckily Rob Malton, enthusiast and volunteer boatbuilder with Peter Matheson at Clydeside Traditional Boatbuilders, has come to my rescue, drawing on ‘Stroma Yoles: their construction and development’. According to Rob, yohl, yahl, yowl, and yole, are all variations derived from the Norse ‘golle’ with the ‘g’ being pronounced soft like a ‘y’. A yole is defined as a small double-ended open boat, full-bodied, for carrying loads, sometimes described as a knorr.

Not to be confused with yawl, an English word possibly derived from the Dutch jol from the 16th century. In England, a yawl is a two-masted fore-and-aft-rigged sailing boat with the mizzenmast stepped far aft, usually aft of the steering post, so the mizzen boom overhangs the stern. And then there’s a yawly, a small ship’s boat, but we won’t go there. Have y’all got that? (Sorry)

But back to Scottish yoles; within the category, there are many variants, such as the Stroma yole. To be regarded as a Stroma yole, the vessel must have been built on the island of Stroma in the Pentland Firth.

The Sroma yole Hope was owned by Dodie Gunn who maintained she was one of the best boats ever built on the island of Stroma According to Peter Matheson Dodie was regarded as by far the most knowledgeable fisherman on the Pentland Firth
Stroma Yoles by Alistair R Walker in the International Journal of Nautical Archeology Volume 35 Issue 1 p179 180 March 2006

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