[from D. Robertson, Tour, 1794]



THE exports of the Island are not adequate to its imports; although Government, to promote a spirit of commercial industry among the Manks, has exempted from every fee and impost in Britain and Ireland, their produce and manufactures; and the importation of every article requisite for the culture of the lands, and the advancement of their manufactures and fisheries. Besides this indulgence, Government has granted a bounty of 1s. a barrel on herrings designed for British consumption, and an additional 2s.6d. when exported to a foreign market.

As herrings are at present the staple commodity of the country, I shall here give a sketch of this trade. During the fishery the price fluctuates from 2s. to 3s. a hundred; but near the close, the foreign smacks and red herring houses being supplied, it rapidly decreases to 1s.6d. and sometimes even to 1s. They are then cured by the white herring merchants. The process is simple; and women are chiefly employed on this occasion. By girls, from nine to thirteen years of age, the herrings are carried in baskets from the boats; and on being conveyed to the herring houses are, by the more robust women, rubbed thoroughly with salt; after which they leave them to purify till next morning, when, with a layer of salt between each row of fish, they are barrelled (1).

The trade is lucrative; but it ought to be considered, that a certain degree of risque is incurred: from a scarcity of fish, should the price exceed as. a hundred, almost all the expensive preparations for, and sanguine expectations from, the fishery are frustrated.

Those designed for red herrings are first regularly piled up with a layer of salt between each row, and for some days remain to purify. They are then washed; and, when the water is sufficiently drained from them, are fixed by the mouth on small rods, and hung up in extensive houses built for the purpose. The houses are very high: in length exceeding thirty yards, and in width about twenty. The length is divided into several spaces; and here the herring-rods are hung, reaching in rows from the roof of the house till within eight feet of the floor The regularity of the ranks, and the lustre of the herrings, when newly hung up, make a very beautiful appearance.

Underneath, are kindled several fires of the dried roots of oak, which are kept continually smoking for four or five weeks: when the herrings, being sufficiently reddened, are barrelled, and shipped for some of the Mediterranean ports; from whence the vessels return with a cargo to Liverpool, and sometimes with a part of it for the Island. The master of the vessel is generally ignorant of the port for which he is destined, till he is a few leagues from Douglas. He then opens his orders; and it not unfrequently happens, that to one port many of the Manks cargoes are consigned.

Besides the herring-trade, the Island exports some quantities of grain, cattle, butter, bacon, lead, kelp, coarse linen, and spun cotton. But notwithstanding the amount of these, and the annual influx of wealth from the fishery, the balance of trade is against the Island: and should the fishery considerably decline, from the present languishing state of manufactures, and the too great neglect of agriculture, this country would be almost ruined.

Many circumstances unite to favour the establishment of manufactures, and the further increase of agriculture in the Island. The land is exempt from taxation; the necessaries and comforts of life are abundant; the country would supply several manufacturing materials: while for the greater part of the produce of the land, and many of the manufactures, there would be an immediate demand at home; and for the residue an easy conveyance (from the centrical situation of the Island) to various markets abroad.

Thus, the balance of trade, which is now against the country, would be in its favour; and a permanent fountain of wealth opened in its centre, which, from the influx of the fishery, would annually over flow. But this demands a spirit of enterprize and activity, hostile to the native indolence of the Manks: many of whom sacrifice every consideration to the pursuit of the fishery; and when this terminates, retire to their clay-built cottages; where, surrounded by a squalid and tattered family, they slumber out the residue of the year in sloth and misery (2).

Providence has given a liberal supply of the wealth of the sea to this Island, and the acquisition of this, during the season, ought to be prosecuted with avidity; but the remainder of the year should not be consumed in indolence. A society for establishing manufactures, and promoting a more general culture of the lands, would in this country be a most benevolent institution. The Manksman would then be roused from his lethargy; he and his family amply participate of the comforts of life; the blessings of society increase; and, although the fishery should decline, these new channels of wealth would remain unexhausted.


1: A barrel contains about 600, which, including every expence, does not cost the curer, when landed in the English market, more than 12s. while the lowest sum it will command there is 1l 2s, and frequently 1l. 5s.

2: The fishery commences in July, and usually terminates with the Autumnal equinox. Consequently nine months of the year are by many of the Manks passed in inactivity.


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