MARKED “DRACULA”, the dusty old box lay in Louise Fyfe’s attic in her Ayrshire home for years.

It had been stored there unopened after the death of her father James Drummond, a teacher, historian and writer who was interested in Bram Stoker and how he came to write his famous book.

The box was almost thrown out during the clear out of the family home but although Fyfe decided to keep it, she never looked at the contents. It was only when she read about a book by Mike Shepherd on Stoker and his links to Cruden Bay in Aberdeenshire that she decided to send the box to him to investigate it further.

To Shepherd’s amazement, it was full of unpublished stories written by Fyfe’s great grandfather, a minister at Cruden Bay who came across Stoker and thought little of him, describing him as a “worthless creature” who had a “morbid preoccupation with black superstitions, death and funeral customs”.

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Stoker even features in the stories by Fyfe’s great grandfather, Adam Drummond, which Fyfe believes should be recognised as classics of Doric literature and have now been brought together by Shepherd in a book with English translations.

Shepherd said it was clear Stoker had “greatly upset” Drummond, who was minister of the Congregational Church in Cruden Bay, then known as Port Erroll, between 1891 and 1895 when Stoker paid his first three visits to the village.

Drummond said Stoker had a “peculiar fascination for ghoulish stories” and “spends altogether too much time in graveyards”.

It is not just the Dracula angle that is of interest however.

“The minister’s tales are a combination of lightly fictionalised stories and witness accounts of the fisher folk of Port Erroll, and beautifully written they are too,” said Shepherd.

“Here, the fisher folk, speaking in broad Doric, tell of life in the village, the dangers faced at sea and the anxieties this caused to everyone. The 11 stories combine to paint a picture of a tightly-knit community looking out for each other with a human closeness as close as it gets.”

The stories also reference a huge controversy that hit the Aberdeenshire fishing villages at the time – something that Stoker also commented on.

This was due to the arrival of steam trawlers which used huge nets dragged along the sea floor to catch the same fish the line fishermen sought. As a result the North Sea fishing grounds started to collapse because of overfishing.

The line fishermen in the Aberdeenshire villages, including Port Erroll, protested by any means they could, writing letters to the papers, lobbying politicians, even attending select committees in Westminster. And on January 28, 1893, 1500 fishermen took to the streets of Peterhead for a huge demonstration against trawling.

It was all to no avail as the trawler port of Aberdeen was connected by railway to the south, thus enabling the transport of fresh fish to the big English industrial cities where fish was a much cheaper source of protein than meat for the workers.

In the early 1800s there were 63 fishing villages in Aberdeenshire, many with more than 100 fisherfolk and several with more than 300, but by the end of the century they had started to shrink with some even disappearing altogether.

Shepherd said that part of the value of Drummond’s stories is that they “brilliantly” capture the ambience of a busy Aberdeenshire fishing village, not long before this world disappeared forever.

“Adam Drummond’s stories are heart-warming to read – you feel for the fisherfolk he writes about but sad too because we know what happened next,” said Shepherd. “It was the huge misfortune of these men and women to have been caught up in one of Britain’s early environmental catastrophes – the collapse of North Sea fishing stocks from the 1890s.

“Perhaps with foresight by the Westminster Government they would have deemed the preservation of the village fishing communities of Scotland as the sustainable solution to preserve stocks. But no: fishing on an industrial scale was left to expand without much hindrance because cheap labour in the northern English cities required cheap food.”

The find has prompted Fyfe to research her own family further, particularly her great grandfather. She discovered he started out as an ironmonger, a reforming town councillor in the town of Cumnock in Ayrshire and a political journalist. He was a friend and political ally of Keir Hardie, who later founded the Labour Party. Both Drummond and Hardie were members of Cumnock Congregational Church as well as being members of the Liberal Party.

They believed the Congregational movement held the key to a better world for ordinary people and that the temperance movement, which disavowed alcohol, was an important element in their fight for a better life for working people.

“During a bitter winter of unemployment they organised unemployed workers into tasks such as cleaning the streets of snow and, in direct defiance of the landlord, the Marquis of Bute, constructed a fishing pond on the River Glaisnock to give the town a clean water supply and efficient sanitation,” said Fyfe.

“They paid the workers from the street lighting fund.”

In 1889, after a congregational split on the question of discipline, Adam Drummond left politics and went to train as a minister while Keir Hardie left the church and entered national politics. Interestingly, Adam Drummond resigned as minister in August 1895 in the same month that Bram Stoker started writing Dracula in the village.

Fyfe said she was delighted to see her great grandfather’s stories come to life after all these years.

She said: “I am so glad I changed my mind and decided to store my late father’s boxes of research in my attic rather than throw them out, even though the DRACULA box languished there for years until I opened it and found the original manuscript of stories, written in Doric, by my great grandfather when he was a minister in Port Erroll, now Cruden Bay, at the same time as Bram Stoker was there gathering material for his own writing.”