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The Industries of Scotland
Fisheries


FROM the earliest times, fish have constituted an important item in the food supplies and commerce of the people of Scotland. Within the last century the fisheries have been developed until they have become one of the greatest branches of industry in the country, employing upwards of 100,000 persons, and affording profitable investment for several millions of pounds of capital. As early as the ninth century, the sea fisheries were sufficiently extensive to merit special mention by historians; and in each succeeding century references to them became more frequent. The river fisheries also date from a very early period, and annually contribute a large sum to the wealth of the country.

The herring fishery is the most valuable branch of the piscatorial industry of Scotland, and as such merits precedence in this place. It would appear that the attention of the Legislature was first drawn to the importance of fostering the herring and other sea fisheries in the year 1474, when an Act of Parliament was passed, ordaining that certain Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and the authorities of burghs, should provide ships, busses, and boats, with nets and other pertinents, for fishing. In the succeeding reign this statute was confirmed by an Act setting forth "that ships and busses, with all their pertinents for fishing, be made in each burgh, in number according to the substance of the burgh, the least of them to be of twenty ton; and that all idle men be compelled by the Sheriffs in the county, and by Baffles in burghs, to pass therein for their wages, under the pain of banishment out of their bounds, and that the Sheriff or officer in burgh negligent shall pay twenty pounds to the King." By an Act of the Parliament of James V., a time for selling fish was appointed, and it was made illegal to send fish out of the kingdom; but strangers were not prohibited from coming into the country and making purchases. Every person having stocks of fish on hand was bound to sell them for "the service of the lieggs." It would appear that more fish were caught than sufficed for the supply of home consumers; for in 1573 freemen were empowered to buy, salt, and export the fish left after the demands by the lieges had been supplied. The law was re-enacted in 1584, and fishers were prohibited from selling herring to strangers, or those who were not freemen of burghs, and also from exporting. A number of other laws were laid down about that time, among others one determining that the herring and white fish barrel should contain nine gallons, and another that the barrels should be examined and officially marked by "branding." The object which the first legislators who undertook to deal with the fisheries had in view was apparently overlooked by their successors, and instead of inducements being offered to persons to engage in fishing, harassing restrictions were placed upon the trade, which had the effect of preventing its development. Several countries of Europe would have become purchasers for almost any quantity of fish that might be caught by the Scotch fishers; but the supply was denied them, probably because they were prepared to give a better price than home consumers.

[Electric Scotland Note: We have a copy of a report on the Herring Fisheries of Scotland printed in 1883 which can be download here in pdf format.]

The Dutch had long been acquainted with the mine of wealth which existed in the great swarms of fish frequenting the shores of Scotland, and devoted much attention to the working of it. Their rendezvous was Bressay Sound, in Shetland, and there their busses congregated about the beginning of June sometimes to the number of a thousand. The fishing ground is still frequented by a large number of Dutch, Danish, French, and German busses; but they must not approach within a certain distance of the coast. The Dutch mode of fishing was copied by the early Scotch fishermen, and was continued for many generations in what was known as the deep-sea herring fishing.

The author of "The Interest of Scotland Considered" thus de-scribes the manner in which the fishing was carried on before the civil wars which began in the reign of Charles I. distracted attention from the trade. He says:—"The fishing was managed by small busses, from fifteen to thirty tons burden, with close decks, and one mast that lowered. Upon this mast one of their nets lay drying in the night-time, while they rode by the other put out in head to catch herrings for bait when they were at the cod-fishing, and lay thus snug in the water, very little exposed to the violence of the winds. In the beginning of March those busses went to the northward and fished cod on the coasts of the Orkneys. The crews salted their fish in the hold, and when the weather was dry they put them ashore and dried them on the beaches in Orkney. They returned in May to the Firth [of Forth] and washed the salt out of their mud-fish and dried them on their own beaches and stages at home, and then sold them partly for home consumpt and partly for export. About the 8th or 10th June, they took in their large nets, salt, and casks, and set out to the fishing of deep-water herring, in the same seas where the Dutch and we now take them. So soon as they had catched as many as their small holds could conveniently stow, besides their fishing equipage and stores, they ran to the coast, and put them ashore, took in a fresh fleet of nets, more salt and casks, and fished on till the end of July. They then returned home, shifted their nets again, and fished across the opening of the Firth so long as the fishing season continued. Here they never failed to fish with success, and gave certain intelligence to the open boats (wherein the same persons were sharers) where to lay their nets for the herring close by the shore in shallow water. When this fishing was over, the same busses, with a fresh fleet of nets each, sailed to the northward round the coasts of Strathnaver to what we call the Lewes fishing, and there fished herring in the deep-water lochs upon the west side of Sutherland, Ross, and Inverness shires till towards Christmas. They then returned home and laid up their busses to be dressed and repaired, the crews, meantime, going to the fishing upon the coast in open boats until the month of March. By this constant practice the men became the most expert fishers in Europe."

A royal company which had been formed for carrying on the fisheries was dissolved by an Act passed in 1690, in consequence of having failed in its mission, and the restrictions which had been imposed upon fishers outside the company were removed. Three years after an "Act anent the loyal curing and packing of herring and salmond fish" was passed. The preamble set forth that the statute was devised out of consideration of "how much the true and loyal curing and packing of herring and salmon fish to be exported forth of this kingdom, contribute to the advancement of trade and the general good of the nation." It was enacted that the barrels in which salmon or herring were to be packed for exportation should be made of well-seasoned knappel or oak timber, of sound quality; that the magistrates of burghs should appoint a qualified person to inspect the barrels, who, if he found them sufficient, was to affix the seal of the burgh to each; and that a man skilled in the curing of fish should be appointed by the magistrates to examine the fish, and to put an official brand upon the barrels which he found to be filled with properly cured fish. Though the penalties attached to breaches of this Act were heavy, the fishing trade began to revive under it. In a manuscript of Sir Robert Sibbald, it is stated that before the Union 600 boats, manned by upwards of 4000 men, might have been seen fishing in the Firth of Clyde alone, and that these afforded 3750 tons of fish for exportation. A district of the Fife coast not above twelve miles in length sent out 168 boats, manned by 1120 men, and exported annually 12,000 barrels of herring. In 1695 the small town of Crail alone exported 2400 barrels. The Parliament of Queen Anne passed, in 1705, an "Act for advancing and establishing the fishing trade in and about this kingdom," which afforded some relief, and encouraged those engaged in the trade.

About the time of the Union the fisheries had a promising appearance; but the enactment of the salt-duties, and the complicated arrangements by which they were managed, had a prejudicial effect. Though the deep-sea fishing had fallen off considerably, the coast fishing of herring in shallow water was in 1733 reported upon as being a trade of "very great importance to the country, and well deserving to be taken care of" It was a good nursery for breeding seamen, and employed many persons on shore—such as carpenters, coopers, twine-spinners, and net-makers. In the Firth of Forth, from 600 to 800 boats were at that time engaged in the herring fishing; and in the Moray Firth the boats were set down at from five to seven hundred. Each boat had a crew of eight or nine men, and carried eight nets. Most of the boats were owned by fishermen who devoted their whole time to one or other branch of the fishing business; and the remainder belonged chiefly to carpenters, who built and hired them out. Usually two experienced fishermen engaged a sufficient number of landsmen to join them in manning a boat for the "drave," as the herring fishing was called Almost every fisherman owned a net, and what others were required to complete a "fleet" or "drift" were obtained from net-makers and private persons who were willing to share in the profit or loss of the trade. When the fishing was over, the accounts were made up, and the balance that remained, after paying the working expenses, was divided into eight or nine shares or " deals." The proprietor of the boat drew one deal, every man half a deal; and if there happened to be a landsman or two in the boat who had not been at the fishing before, they were entitled to draw a quarter of a deal only. In an average season the quantity of herring caught in the Firths of Forth and Moray was about 80,000 barrels, of which about seven-eighths were exported. The price paid for fish purchased for exportation was 12s. per barrel. At the time referred to the Forth fishermen were loud in their complaints against an impost known as size-duty, which was the money-equivalent of an ancient privilege of the Crown, whereby a certain proportion of the herring taken by every boat had to be set aside "for the service of the King's kitchen." That and other grievances of lesser magnitude were subsequently removed. The fishing season on the coast lasted from the 20th July till the 20th September.

In the Firth of Clyde and along the west coast, upwards of 2000 boats, manned by 14,000 men, were engaged in the herring fishing about the year 1730. The fishing began in Loch Fyne and the other deep lochs on the Argyle side in June, and continued till September. The scene of operations then shifted to the coast of Ayr, and there the fishermen continued their labours till November; by going to the northern lochs and the coasts of the Western Islands, another month's fishing was obtained; so that the west coast fishing may be said to have lasted fully six months in each year. The boats were smaller than those used in the Firths of Forth or Moray. Like their brethren on the east coast, the western fishermen were subject to grievous burdens. They had a size-duty of 16s. 8d. to pay for each boat that engaged in the herring fishing, and that sum had to be paid although the fishing failed. Another exaction was " a night's fishing in the week," taken by all the Highland chiefs and proprietors of land from each boat that landed herring to be cured on their ground. The collectors of this toll usually kept a note of the herring taken on each night of the week, and then seized the produce of the night that yielded the largest quantity. The herring caught on the west coast were chiefly sent to the continental markets, while the lean but firm fish got on the east side were exported to the sugar colonies. Loch Fyne herring were then, as now, held in great esteem, and fetched from six to eight shillings per barrel more than other kinds.

When, under the grievances and restrictions referred to, the herring fishery threatened to become extinct, an effort was made by the State to encourage the public to revive and cultivate the trade. In. his speech at the opening of Parliament in 1749, King George IL re-commended the adoption of means whereby people might be induced to prosecute the fisheries with increased vigour, to their own profit and the good of the nation. A committee of the House of Commons was appointed to inquire into the matter, and, on their recommendation, L.500,000 was subscribed for carrying on the fisheries under a corporation designated "The Society of Free British Fishery." The Society embraced in its membership the leading men in the country, and the Prince of Wales was elected Governor. The duties on salt used in the fisheries were remitted, and a high tonnage bounty was granted upon every vessel fitted out for the deep-sea fishery. One of the first effects of this order of things was that many vessels were fitted out, not to catch herring, but (as Adam Smith puts it) " to catch the bounty." The bounty amounted to 50s. a ton, and in 1759 the sum of L.159, 7s. 6d. was paid as bounty upon every barrel of herring fit for market that was produced. The Society died of bad management, and in 1786 a new company was established under the patronage of George III. This company did not achieve much, and its history has thus been written—"For a season or two, busses were fitted out by the Society; but if every herring caught had a ducat in its mouth, the expense of capture would scarcely have been repaid. The bubble ended by the Society for Fishing in the Deep Sea becoming a kind of building society for purchasing ground in situations where curers and fishermen find it convenient to settle; and selling it or letting it in small lots to them at such advance of price as yields something better than fishing profits." This Society is still in existence; but beyond building harbours at several places in connection with their own property, the directors have done little to encourage or extend the fisheries—indeed, the designation of British Fishery Society is a misnomer.

Finding that little or no good resulted from the operations of the corporate bodies referred to, the appointment of a distinct set of com-missioners for superintending all matters connected with the fisheries was authorised by an Act passed in 1808. The commissioners were empowered to appoint officers to be stationed at the different ports where fishing was prosecuted, for the purpose of seeing that the regulations with respect to the gutting, packing, &c., of the herring, and the branding of the barrels, were duly carried into effect. Bounties appeared to be considered indispensable in any attempt to extend the fisheries, and the commissioners began in 1809 by giving a bounty of L.3 a ton for all vessels above sixty tons burden, fitted up for the deep-sea herring fishery. In 1820 a bounty of 20s. a ton was granted on all vessels of from fifteen to sixty tons, fitted out for the shore herring fishery. In addition to the bounties on tonnage, 2s. a barrel was allowed on all herring gutted, packed, and cured in the six years ending 1815, and an additional bounty of 2s. 8d. on exportation. From 1815 till 1826 the bounty on cured herring was 4s. a barrel, and not until the bounty had been fixed at that high rate was there any indication that the commissioners were to prove more successful than the societies which they had superseded. In the year ending 5th April 1811 the total quantity of herring cured was 91,827 barrels; in 1815 it was 160,139 barrels, and thenceforward there was an increase, until the returns for 1826 showed 379,233 barrels cured. A reduction of the bounty was then made by ls. a-year until, in 1830, it ceased; and since then no premium has been necessary to induce people to engage in fishing. The figures given above relate to England and the Isle of Man as well as to Scotland. Since 1850 no returns relating to England have been obtained. In that year the quantity cured was 770,698 barrels; and next year, when England was excluded, it was 544,009 barrels. The year in which the greatest quantity was cured in Scotland and the Isle of Man was 1862, when 830,904 barrels were produced. The four succeeding years showed a falling off to the extent of a fourth; but in 1867 there was a recovery to 825,589 barrels. The fishing of 1868 failed to a serious extent at nearly all the east-coast stations, and in some cases the public were called upon to afford relief to those whose winter bread was curtailed by the want of success.

The detailed returns for the year 1868 had not been made up at the time of writing; but the following, relating to 1867, will be sufficient to convey an idea of the extent and importance of the Scotch herring fishery:—

It is necessary to explain that the totals given above exceed the actual number of boats and persons employed in the herring fishery. The discrepancy arises from the fact that considerable numbers of boats and men move from one station to another. Thus, the Lewis fishery, which is the earliest, attracts many boats from the east coast, which return in time to attend to the fishery off the parts of the coast to which they belong. In like manner coopers and others shift about, so that a number of them come to be doubly reckoned. A deduction of 10 per cent. from the boats, fishermen, and coopers would probably give something nearer the real numbers. Taking the marketable value of the herring at 25s. a-barrel, and including the quantity of fish sold for immediate consumption, the produce of the fishing of 1867 would be fully L.1,500,000-five-sixths of which sum goes for labour and profit on capital, and one-sixth for salt, wood for barrels, &c. Here, then, is a great contribution to the material wealth of the country, leaving out of view the by no means unimportant fact that the herring fishery affords a cheap and wholesome article of food for the masses.

The chief seat of the herring fishery is on the east coast of Caithness, and Wick is known as the "herring metropolis." The trade was not introduced into that quarter, however, until a date which may be called recent in comparison with the duration of the fisheries on parts of the coast further south. In 1768 an incipient attempt was made, under the inducement of the Government bounty, to fish for herring at Wick, but the effort was attended with little success. Even fourteen years afterwards, the season's catch amounted to only 363 barrels. Between the years 1782 and 1790 the trade came to be better understood, and the prospects grew more cheering. In the latter year upwards of 13,000 barrels were got. Encouraged by this promising state of matters, the British Fishery Society acquired a large space of ground on the south side of the bay of Wick, on which, about the year 1808, they laid out feus, and offered inducements for the foundation of a colony of fishers. It was found that this scheme could not be successfully carried out unless the harbour accommodation of the place were extended. The Society received some aid from Government; and in 1810 built, at a cost of L.10,000, a harbour in the neighbourhood of their property. The trade of the port increased so rapidly that this harbour soon came to be considered too small; and in 1831 a larger space was enclosed, the expense in this case, which was L.40,000, being also defrayed jointly by the Society and the Government. A number of the more convenient creeks along the coast were, about the same time, made safe and commodious by local enterprise. The coast is much exposed, and the operations of the fishermen are frequently interrupted by storms, which burst forth suddenly, and rage with a fury peculiarly violent. With a view to afford against such emergencies a shelter that may be gained in any state of the tide—the old harbours being tidal—a large portion of Wick Bay is being enclosed by a gigantic break-water. The force of the storms in the bay may be judged from the fact that, though the breakwater is of extraordinary dimensions, and stands fully thirty feet above the sea at low water, the waves often dash right over it, and on more than one occasion have threatened to destroy the entire fabric. It is expected that, when the work is completed, the fishing interest will be much benefited, as the certainty of having a safe port to run to will make the fishermen more confident, and enable them to put to sea on many nights when, with no shelter save the old harbours, their boats would be lying aground.

Except during about three months of the year, Wick is a dull enough place, its trade, apart from the fishing, being of very small extent. Indeed, it may be said that the people depend entirely upon the herring harvest; and when that fails, everybody suffers more or less. The depression following on a bad fishing is ob-servable on everything; for no fish means no money. There being no inducement to build new boats, the carpenters go idle; and the stores being filled with unused barrels, the coopers' occupation is gone for a time. Everybody practises retrenchment, and those who manage to make ends meet consider themselves fortunate. On the other hand, when success attends the efforts of the fishermen, a cheerful spirit prevails all through the year. The uncertain nature of the staple industry is a source of constant anxiety to the people, and some additional branches of trade would be most advantageous to the district.

During the fishing season, Wick presents one of the most interesting scenes to be witnessed in the whole range of industry. In the course of the afternoon, the crews of the boats moored in the harbours or anchored in the bay prepare to start for the night's fishing. The nets are got on board, the masts are hoisted, the sails set, and soon the bay becomes shrouded in dark brown canvas. With a breeze from the south-east, the departure of the boats is a splendid sight, for then they have to tack out; and the spectators are favoured by beholding a regatta on a grander scale than any to be witnessed elsewhere. Racing is no part of the fishermen's intentions, but now and again a dozen boats or so draw into a line, and the landsmen may choose a favourite, and become interested in her fortunes until she disappears from view. The movement seaward is simultaneous along the coast, and by the time the last of the fleet get outside the heads of Wick Bay, a dark line of boats extends continuously from Duncansbay Head to the Head of Clyth, a stretch of a dozen miles. Large numbers of persons nightly proceed to the cliffs to see the boats go out, and to watch their dispersion over the fishing ground. Generally those in the boats have no fixed intention as to what spot they shall select for casting out their nets, and taking their draw from Neptune's lottery. If a good haul was previously got at a certain part, those who get it endeavour to return to that part; but in most cases the boats which were successful on the previous night are watched and followed, notwithstanding the fact that it is an exceedingly rare thing for a boat to have two exceptionally successful nights following each other. Having chosen their water, the crew of each boat begin to "shoot" their nets, which, while being "laid" in the boats, were united in a continuous train or drift, by knotting together the "back ropes." Each boat has a train of nets about half-a-mile in length and ten yards in depth. By corks attached at the top and weights at the bottom, the nets are made to float perpendicularly in the water. This wall of netting is suspended from buoys which allow it to sink twenty or thirty feet below the surface. The nets are put into the sea immediately after sunset, and most of the crew then endeavour to snatch "forty winks" of sleep. In the course of an hour or two some of the nets are hauled up and examined to see whether the fish have been "striking." If there should be good signs of fish in the locality, the nets are allowed to lie for some time. The herring are caught by getting fixed in the meshes while trying to pass through. The captain decides the proper time for taking in the nets, and when he gives the word, all hands fall to work. As the nets are got on board, the fish are shaken out of them, and fall into the hold, where, after a gasp or two, they expire. If the night's labour has yielded 20 or 30 barrels of fish, the men think themselves fortunate; but it is no unusual thing for a boat to bring ashore 80 and even 100 "crans."

The return of the boats in the morning is an event of much more importance and interest to people on shore, and from an early hour anxious inquiries are made respecting the fortunes of the night, while those who have leisure go to make observations from the piers and cliffs. As the boats crowd into the harbours, an opportunity is afforded for judging of the uncertainty of the fisherman's fortunes. A score or two of boats sail swiftly in, with barely as many fish on board as will suffice for the breakfasts of the crews, then at a toilsome pace come one or two boats filled to the thwarts with herring. In one case, the night's labour of six men, and the use and risk of property worth from L.100 to L.200, has produced a return of about 6d.; in the other, of L60 or L.80. The average catch at Wick in 1868 was 411 crans, drawn from returns of individual boats which ranged from one to upwards of 200 crans. When all the boats are in, the harbours are quite crowded; but by mutual arrangement the boats having large quantities of fish to land are allowed to get near the quays. The fish are shovelled into wicker baskets, and then carried to the " station," where they are measured and emptied into the "boxes," or enclosures of wood from twenty to thirty feet square, the sides of which are about thirty inches in height. As soon as a convenient quantity of fish has been deposited in the box, a troop of women, arrayed in canvas and oil-cloth approach, and the "gutting" and "packing" processes begin. The gutters, each armed with a small knife, surround the box, and, taking a herring up in the left hand, operate upon it with the knife held in the right hand. The rapidity of their movements is surprising, a good worker being able to dispose of one thousand fish in an hour. As the fish are gutted, they are dropped into baskets, and handed over to the "packers," who "rouse" them with salt in a large tub, and then arrange them in layers in the barrels. A free use of salt is made, the herrings being first coated with it separately in the rousing process, and the layers in the barrels afterwards thickly overlaid with it. The barrels are temporarily covered and allowed to stand for ten days, during which time the fish settle down considerably. Additional fish are then put in until the barrels are quite full. After being examined and approved by an officer of the Fishery Board, the barrels receive the official brand, which is accepted in the market as a guarantee that the fish are of a certain standard of quality. A large number of coopers and labourers are engaged in preparing and heading up the barrels, and removing them from one place to another.

The above is a brief outline of the operations which may be witnessed at any of the fishing ports. When the fishing is successful, the coopers are kept busy during the winter in making barrels, and the carpenters in building boats. The coopers usually make five barrels a-day, for which they receive about 14s. a-week. In the fishing season they are paid extra, as the work they have to do is heavy and protracted. The fishing at Wick employs a large number of men and women from the inland districts of the county, and from the West Highlands, so that the profits of the trade are spread over a considerable area. About three-fourths of the crews of the boats are composed of Highlanders, who receive about L.1 a-week with board and lodging for the season of eight weeks. The herring fishery gives employment to a large amount of shipping. In 1867 the vessels employed in carrying wood and salt to Wick, and herring from that to other ports, measured in the aggregate 18,000 tons, and their crews numbered 1300 men.

Connected with the herring fishery there are many debatable points. The natural history of the fish is very imperfectly under-stood; the system of sales in advance, engagements, bounties, and the like, is open to serious objection; but on none of these questions is it considered advisable to touch in this place. It has been said, with more truth than will be readily admitted by the trade, that our herring fishery is a blunder from beginning to end, and that herring commerce is throughout a mistake. A recent writer in the "Spectator" asks the following questions, which will press for answers some day:—"How is it a merit to capture herring when they are full of roe and milt, while it is a crime to capture salmon at the same period of their lives? What is the difference in the chemistry of these two fishes, that at the time of spawning a gravid salmon should not be esteemed fit for food, whilst only gravid herring can obtain that Government certificate which enables the curer to sell them at the highest price? Further, why is it that Government is asked to certify the proper cure of herring, any more than the proper weaving of cotton or the proper making of cheese I" In criticising the commercial relations of the herring trade, the same writer says:—"Hundreds of thousands of barrels are annually bought and sold long before it is known that a single fish will be taken. Capitalists advance money to curers in order to enable men to build boats and buy nets, and a spirit of gambling generally prevails. Men are engaged to fish, and a bounty is given for their services ten months before they are required. The fishery is throughout a lottery; a few men succeed, and a large number fail. Some day we shall find out that we have been proceeding on a bad system, and that the herring fishery cannot last in the face of our ignorance of the natural history of the fish, and the blunders that are continually being made in regulating its capture. We do not know at what age that fish becomes reproductive, and on some parts of the coast we have kept up a close-time, whilst we have left other parts open. We have prescribed the kind of nets to be used in this particular fishery. In sober earnest, we have done innumerable things in connection with this and our other fisheries that we ought not to have done, while at the same time we have left undone many of those things that it would have been wise to do."

The "white fishery"—which term embraces the capture of cod, ling, haddock, hake, torsk, and the like—ranks next in importance to the herring fishery. For many years after the people of Scotland set about developing the sea and river fisheries, salmon and herring received almost exclusive attention, and up till the beginning of last century few persons were engaged in the white fishery, which was first practised on a large scale by the people of Orkney and Shetland, who early discovered the excellent fishing grounds on their own coasts and in the vicinity of Iceland. In 1820 Government, realising the importance of fostering this branch of the fisheries, granted bounties which were administered by the Fishery Board; at the same time an official brand was granted, and the fish were cured under inspection of the officers of the Board. The large vessels received bounty at the rate of L.2, 10s. a-ton from 10th October 1820 till 5th July 1826; L.2, 5s. a-ton from thence till 5th July 1827; L.2 a-ton till 5th July 1828; and L.1, 15s. a-ton till 5th April 1830, when the system of bounty ceased. On fish taken by vessels and boats not on the tonnage bounty, 4s. per cwt. was paid on all cured by drying, and 2s. 6d. per barrel on all cured in pickle. These rates continued unaltered from 1820 till 1830, when the payments were stopped. The statistics of the trade show that the bounties had a most beneficial effect. The statements published by the Board prior to 1826 gave only the quantity of cod, ling, and hake punched or branded, and not the total quantity cured. In subsequent years they gave the quantity cured, "in so far as brought under the cognizance of the officers of the Fishery." In the year ended 5th April 1826 the quantity cured of the kinds of fish specified was 69,136-1- cwt. cured dried, anti 3634 cwts. and 5621 barrels cured in pickle. The figures of 1830, the last year of the bounties, show a great increase, 101,914 cwt. having been cured dried, and 56522 cwt. and 88362 barrels cured in pickle. Those engaged in fishing do not seem to have considered their occupation to be sufficiently remunerative without the bounty, as the year ending 5th April 1831 produced only 37,674 cwt. cured dried, and 29502 barrels cured in pickle. A gradual recovery took place, however; though up till 1850, when the returns from England (which, along with those from Scotland and the Isle of Man, are included in the figures given above) ceased, the quantity of fish caught was considerably less than in the last year of the bounties, being 98,903 cwt. cured dried, and 6588 barrels pickled. In 1852 Scotland and the Isle of Man cured 102,975 cwt. by drying and 7019 barrels by pickling. For the year 1867 the figures were respectively 119,537 cwt. and 10,819 barrels, representing 3,602,117 fish. Though the Isle of Man is associated with Scotland in the returns, its contribution to the above figures was insignificant—the total quantity cured in 1867 being only 10 tons. From 1820 till 1850 the quantity of cured cod, ling, and hake exported from Britain averaged about 2000 tons a-year. In 1867 Scotland alone exported 46,225 cwt., of which 18,849 cwt. went to Ireland, 23,642 cwt. to the Continent, and 3734 to places out of Europe. Taking the value of the dried fish at L.15 a ton, and the pickled at L.1 a barrel, the fish cured in Scotland in 1867 would fetch L.100,474. It is difficult to arrive at even an approximation of the quantity of fish which goes into market in a fresh state; but if it be taken at three times the quantity cured—which is certain to fall under the mark—the aggregate production would appear to be about 14,000,000 fish, which, at 9d. each, 'represents a value of L.525,000. This enumeration does not include haddocks, whitings, soles, skate, floun¬ders, mackerel, and the smaller sea fish used for food in great quantities along the coast. In the various branches of white fishing, from 4000 to 5000 boats, manned by from 20,000 to 30,000 men, and carrying L.90,000 worth of lines, are engaged. The fish caught by all the boats within convenient distance of the great centres of population are disposed of in a fresh state. The places most extensively engaged in curing white fish are the Orkney and Shetland Islands, Stornoway, Fraserburgh, Buckie, Lochbroom, Campbelltown, Montrose, and Wick.

The salmon has been an article of food and subject for legislation with the people of Scotland from the earliest historical periods. The more remote references to the fish concur in stating it to have been most abundant in the Scotch rivers; and it is beyond doubt that, in the fourteenth century, a considerable quantity of pickled salmon was exported to France and Flanders. No trustworthy statistics exist relating to the salmon fishery, so that the extent to which it was practised a century or two ago can be gleaned only from the general statements of travellers and others who have put their observations on record.

The author of "The Salmon" thus sets forth the most reliable evidence on the point:—"Among the oldest statements of what was to be learned of the extent of the salmon fisheries by travelling in Scotland, are those given about 200 years ago in the curious book of the Cromwellian trooper, Captain Francks. Francks (from whose descriptions, by-the-bye, it is clear that the art of salmon-angling was practised then almost precisely as it is now takes occasion at most of his halting-places to make a short descant on the abundance of the salmon in Scotland. Thus, of Stirling, he writes—' The Forth relieves the country with her great plenty of salmon, where the burgomasters, as in many other parts of Scotland, are compelled to reinforce an ancient statute, that commands all masters and others not to force or compel any servant, or an apprentice, to feed upon salmon more than thrice a-week. . . . The abundance of salmon hereabouts in these parts is hardly to be credited. And the reader, I fancy, will be of my persuasion, when he comes to consider that the price of a salmon formerly exceeded not the value of sixpence sterling.' And a hundred years later, the English Engineer Officer, Captain Burt, writing from Inverness, says that the price of salmon there was a penny a-pound, and that the 'meanest servants who are not on board wages will not make a meal upon salmon if they can get anything else to eat.' In partial corroboration of these statements about the Ness, it may be mentioned that there is a person still living who held a lease of a fishing in that river, under which he was bound to supply the inhabitants of Inverness, during a considerable portion of the year, with salmon at 2d. a-pound. Indeed, till the present century, almost every traveller that entered Scotland made the great plenty of salmon' a subject of remark. Thus Defoe, as soon as he enters the kingdom at Kirkcudbright, writes down—`There is a fine salmon fishing in this river;' and when he reached Aberdeen, he says The rivers Dee and Don afford salmon in the greatest plenty that can be imagined, to that degree that in some of the summer months the servants won't eat them but twice a-week, they are so fat and ful-some; it 's almost incredible how they spread; in autumn they en-gender, and in shallow pools of the river they cast their spawn, and cover it with sand, and then they are so poor and lean that they are only skin and bone; of that spawn, in the spring, comes a fry of tender little fishes, who make directly to the sea, and, growing to their full progress, return to the river where they were spawned.' Defoe wrote this about the same time as Burt wrote; and another traveller, of nearly the same period, describing himself as A Gentleman,' begins his book—' The salmon fishery is particularly the delight and the boast of the Scotch, insomuch that for it they too much neglect all the rest.' Speaking of Perth, the same writer says¬' The salmon taken here, and all over the Tay, are extremely good, and the quantity prodigious. They convey them to Edinburgh, and to all the towns where they have no salmon, and barrel-up great quantities for exportation.' Of Aberdeen The quantity of salmon and perches (7) taken in both rivers is a kind of prodigy; the profits are very considerable, the salmon being sent abroad into different parts of the world, particularly into England, France, the Baltic, and several other places.' Of the Ness, he says—`Here is a great salmon fishery;' and he was more interested than gratified by the sight of the cruives,' then used by the corporation of the town. These statements—and they might easily be multiplied— are of course good evidences of local plenty, and also of a very considerable export of the fish in a salted state, though it must not be forgotten that at that period, when travellers assigned such great commercial importance to our salmon fisheries, they must be held as speaking in some degree by comparison with other industries, which were then insignificant."

Towards the beginning of the present century various causes tending to lessen the abundance of salmon in the Scotch rivers began to operate; and until the passing a few years ago of some acts bearing on the subject, the work of extermination went steadily on. The chief of the causes referred to were the increase of land drainage, obstructions and pollutions consequent on the rise of population and industry on the banks of rivers, the killing of spawning fish, the brevity or mistiming of the close-season, and over-fishing. As regards the larger rivers, statistics exist which show that the decrease in returns and rental was very serious. The authority above quoted gives a minute analysis of the returns, but makes no attempt to reduce his conclusions to figures. He states generally that, "with the single and partial exception of the Tay, the decline in the Scottish fisheries was, till the legislation of the last three or four years, unusual and alarming, extending over almost every river and district, from the south-western Doon to the north-western Dee; although in one or two cases, such as the Spey and the rivers of Sutherland, where the fisheries are in the hands of one great proprietor, who had resorted to a wise moderation, a great difference for the better was discernible." Tinder the influence of the recent legislation referred to, the fisheries are improving, though, as some of the prejudicial causes stated above are irremovable, it is not probable that the fish will ever become so abundant as they were before those causes came into operation. The difficulty of ascertaining the number of men employed in the salmon fishery is as great as that of obtaining reliable figures of the produce. The fishers and others connected with the business in one way or other must number several thousands; for the net-fishing of the Tay alone employs 700 men, who receive in wages about L.9000 a-year; and that of the Tweed 350 men, who receive about L.4500. The salmon-fishers are a hardy race; but a serious drawback of their occupation is that it lasts half through the year only, and unfortunately it is available only during the months in which other kinds of out-door labour are abundant, and is suspended during those months when the other kinds of work also fail.

The first vessel sent to the whale fishery from Scotland sailed in 1750, in which year the bounty previously paid to induce British vessels to embark in the trade was increased to 40s. a-ton. This pioneer Scotch ship was of 333 tons burthen, so that she earned L.666 in addition to the value of the fish caught. In 1751 six vessels were despatched, and the number went on increasing till 1756, when sixteen ships sailed for the whale fishing. The aggregate tonnage was 4964, and the bounty L.9315. By the year 1760 the number of ships had decreased to fourteen, and in 1765 there were only eight. The number rose to ten in 1773; but from that date a gradual decline took place, until in 1779 only three vessels remained. The bounty was lowered in 1777 to 30s. a ton; but the falling off in the number of ships was so great that in 1781 the old rate of 40s. a ton was restored. In 1784 the Scotch ships numbered seven, but three years afterwards they had increased to thirty-one. A reduction of the, bounty again brought down the numbers, but from 1811 to 1818 there was a steady increase of Scotch ships from twenty-two to fifty-three. The ports to which the ships belonged were Aberdeen, Leith, Dundee, Peterhead, Montrose, Banff, Greenock, Kirkcaldy, and Kirkwall. In the four years ending 1817 the Scotch whaling fleet—consisting on the average of forty-eight and a-half ships annually—captured 1682 whales, which yielded 18,684 tuns of oil. The yearly average for each ship was 81 whales, 96.3 tuns oil, and 4.6 tons bone. Other ports were subsequently engaged in the trade, but the ships never exceeded fifty-three in one year. In 1834 forty vessels were despatched to the fishing. Of these eleven belonged to Peterhead, eight to Dundee, six to Aberdeen, five to Kirkcaldy, five to Leith, three to Montrose, and two to Burntisland. They captured 475 whales, which yielded 4515 tuns of oil and 240 tons of bone, the gross value of which was about L.250,000. Peterhead was for many years the principal port engaged in the whale fishery. The first vessel was despatched thence in 1788; but though she met with fair success—averaging about five fish each season, up till 1804—a second vessel was not started until that year. In the six following seasons the two vessels captured a total of 225 whales, which yielded 1537 tuns of oil. Seven vessels were sent out in 1814, and one of these, the Resolution, returned with the largest cargo ever brought to Britain by a whaling ship. The cargo consisted of 44 whales, which produced 299 tuns of oil; value— reckoned at L.32 per tun, the average price at the time—L.9568; and when to that sum is added the value of the whalebone and the bounty, the whole would appear to have reached L.11,000. At the present price of oil the cargo would be worth L.3836 additional. In 1821 the Peterhead whaling fleet numbered sixteen ships. The port enjoyed a long run of prosperity, arising from the whale fishery; and though the trade was decaying in several other places, it remained vigorous and increasing at Peterhead up till 1857, when a fleet of thirty-two vessels was despatched to the seal and whale fishery. The provisioning of this fleet alone cost nearly L.16,500. During the past ten years the number of ships has fallen off very much, owing to the scarcity of fish and the diversion of local enterprise to the herring fishery. In 1868 Peterhead sent twelve vessels to the whale and seal fishery. Though Aberdeen was about the first of the Scotch ports engaged in the trade, no whaling vessel has been despatched from that port for several years. Dundee now occupies the foremost place in the whale and seal fishing business, and sent out in 1868 a fleet of eleven steamers. The trade at best is a hazardous one, and can now be prosecuted with any prospect of success only in steam-vessels. The returns from it do not add much to the industrial revenue of the country, and it provides constant employment for little over a thousand persons. The substitution of coal-gas for oil as an illuminator tended to deprive the whale fishery of much of its importance to the country generally; and though whale oil is of great value in some branches of manufacture, the stoppage of the supply would in all probability be only a temporary inconvenience.

In addition to the fisheries already noticed may be mentioned the lobster fishery, which is carried on to a considerable extent in Orkney, Shetland, and some other places; the oyster fishery, which is prosecuted by the fishermen of Leith and Newhaven; and the pearl fishery, which has at various times drawn attention to some of the northern rivers.

[Electric Scotland Note: We also have on the site a book by David Thomson on "Our Fishing Heritage".]


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