Book: Last Pearl Fisher of Scotland by Julia Stewart

Last Pearl Fisher of Scotland (photo:

Last Pearl Fisher of Scotland (photo:

Last Pearl Fisher of Scotland (photo:
Bill Abernethy, pearl fisherman in April 1989 (photo:
Little Willie (Photo by

WHEN one of Barack Obama’s favourite writers unearthed a tiny pearl while scuba diving off Bahrain, she had no idea such a special jewel could once have been found much closer to home.

Julia Stuart, whose dad is from Dunblane, was shocked to discover some of the world’s most stunning pearls had been found in rivers not far from her family’s former house.

She started to research what had happened to Scotland’s once booming freshwater pearl mussel population and the people who had made their living fishing for pearls.

She used what she discovered as the inspiration for her latest novel, The Last Pearl Fisher of Scotland.

And she has thrown her support behind a Scottish Natural Heritage project, Pearls In Peril, which aims to protect Scotland’s few remaining freshwater pearl mussels.

“Bill told me he used to stand in freezing rivers day in, day out, with this tin jug with a glass bottom and he would look through it while pushing the water away searching for pearl mussels. I’ve based a lot of my main character on how Bill used to work.”

Julia, who is based in London, said: “I found out about Little Willie, a large pearl – recently reported to be worth around £100,000 – that was found in the River Tay by a fisherman called Bill Abernethy in 1967.

“It is still thought to be the largest high-quality Scottish pearl found in living memory.

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