[from Manx Notes & Queries, 1904]
HERRING FISHING IN PEEL A HUNDRED YEARS AGO.
The following extremely interesting and valuable account is due to a worthy old resident, who has passed the seventies. He went to sea since he was twelve. When for a boy on board first, most of the crew were men between 60 and 70 years of ,age, and as he can well remember the "yarns" they told him, it may be said that his memory .of the fishing goes back over a hundred years. I think it is, in all respects, the best portraiture of the ways, habits, old customs, and manner of life of the genuine Manx fisherman of yore we possess, and I am sure these reminiscence will be highly appreciated.
Of all the fishes in the sea,
The herring is the king;
And all the sellers of the grog
Rejoice when he comes in. -(Old Manx Ballad.)
" In old times we used to build our boats in the country anywhere near trees; timber, where the fairies were taking was right lucky to build them with. The boats we built then were not so big as they are now, nor so fancy. They would be about the size of the small nobbies now, and could carry about 100 mease of herring. There would be four or five of a crew going on them. A silver piece, or a bit of iron, would be put under the stern post for luck sometimes, same as they put money under foundation stones. When the boat was ready to be caulked, we would have to turn her over with the sun-a boat, must always go with the sun, going out to sea, specially, if you can came at it in the world, go out with the sun ; if we were. lying in the harbour with her bows up, we always turned her with the sun; it would be unlucky to go out any other way. There used to be a law that you were not allowed to go to sea before midsummer. The old song that we would be singing on board often will tell you that, and all about the fishing, true enough it is, too
Barley sown and potatoes down,
We'll get our boats in order;
Midsummer Day and we are away,
In earnest seeking herrings.
Each family had a croft of ground. The first thing on Monday morning, if you had forgotten no ,matter what at home, you must not turn back; if you turned back for a thing after once leaving the house, things would go against you all the week. But if you met a parson or a woman, you might as will turn back at once and stay at `home for that day. Nobody can be more unlucky to meet than a parson. We were not allowed to mention his name on board-I always called them -'blackcoats.' Roman Catholic priests would be thought lucky enough, as they were supposed to have some sort of power over things of darkness, spirits and the like. It wasn't right, too, to say on sea the name of any land animal. We always had our own names on them at sea,.
A cat would be called a ' scrabeyder' (a scratcher), a hare 'yn fer lesh cleaysh liauyr' (the fellow with the long lugs) ; but I disremember the names mostly now, as these sort of things were nearly gone out in my time. It you did happen to call unthinkingly anything by its shore name, ' Cold iron' must be said and touched at once. A rat was a very bad thing to talk about. It is thought to be lucky enough, though, to talk about fairies at sea.
If your boat was doing well at the fishing, men on other boats would try to steal some thing of yours, so as to get some of the luck from you. If they could steal one of your herring baskets they were almost bound to be lucky; but the best and surest of all things to steal from you was the tally-stick. Some of the boys were right debejagh' ('cussed') for this sort of thing They would be coming after you, too, asking for a match, may be, but you must on no account give fire or salt out. of the boat-them two things in particular.
In the season we would be coming ashore early every morning for breakfast, carrying about half a hundred of fresh herrings with us. There was no fire in the boats in those days. We used to go too a public house for breakfast, and the woman there would take the herrings from us and scrape them as clean as clean, and then she would boil a potful for us. When they were done, we would shake the herring from the bone, into little brown dishes with yellow edges. These dishes were not as big as soup plates, more like the saucers you see under flower-pots now. We would fill them up with the herring broth, supping it with the herrings. Some of us, to make it more tasty, would sometimes put a scallion in the broth. We would have our own bread and abutter 'to eat with us. Afterwards some would, may be, have a pint or two of 'jough' (ale), and sometimes we would carry a jar of it on board with us There was then no tea or coffee. Every Monday morning we would carry the week's grub from home with us in a wallet slung round our necks-something after the shape of a shepherd's purse. We would have about a pound of butter in a round wooden screw-capped box. Some would take oatcakes made in very thick quarters, and baked as hard as hard over the fire. My another would he giving me little ' bonnags' made of barley meal and potatoes, kneaded well together. They would be about two inches high and from four to six inches across; she would clap two of these together to keep them moist, and they would be going a-baking in a pot oven. A pot oven baked as well on the top, as under it; the lid was made flat so as to hold fire on the top. Nothing in these days can cook a bit of meat so well and sweet. For 'kitchen' (relish) fresh fish could be had in plenty on board. We would also carry from home with us a piece of cheese), or beef, or stockfish.
A big ' mollag' (buoy) blown up tight would be made to do for a pillow, but we did not got much sleep on board in those days, for we would be pulling the nets with the mast up, a far harder job than pulling them in with it down, like they do now.
When the nets were being pulled up, no man was allowed to look over the side of the boats but the man who was pulling up. I have got many a ' polt' in the head, when a lump, for keeking over.
On sea we would be watching for signs of herrings, such as gannets, perkins, and such like. But gulls were our best friends
The crews that would by fishing thrive,
Steer to the spot where gulls and gannets dive.
That is why there is a law in that they must not be shot. The signs of the gulls were always minded. The best sign is to see them lying in a flock upon the waters, making a noise, and turning their heads about; then rising, flying, and settling down again. Young gulls are far keener for fish than old gulls.
Of your approach if fishers want a test,
They scale the rocks to seek the eagle's nest;
There, if your fins, or scales,, or bones appear,
The signal's certain-all pronounce you near.
We would be watching the signs of the gulls on land, too, on Monday morning when coming down from the country to our boats. For the gulls would be going higher or lower on the hill as the fish shifted out off. But when they went up the river we knew it was time to go round for Douglas 'back' (back fishing). Some of the men were putting these signs down making an almanck of them for the week. We could tell where to look for fish, and when to got it for, from the slitting of the gulls on the land. But the best of all the signs is to see the 'lil silver felllas' themselves. On a dark night if you came over a body of herrings, the water would be all lit up with them, and you will see them shining and glittering underneath the waves quite plainly. We had a lot of fishing marks on sea, too; if we caught nothing off one mark, we would say let us try ' Thie Jack' now, or 'Gob-ny-clieau,' as the case might be.
The first herring on board the first night out at sea would be boiled, whole. The other herrings in the pot would have their heads and tails cut off. We called the first herring 'yr. eirey' (first son). When it was cooked every man on board would have to come and take a pick of 'yn eirey.' When putting nets on board, it is right to brush up off the quay any bits of roughness that may come off them. Nets are apt to gather bits of straw or leaves when out drying on the fields, and you must on no account leave so much as a leaf of this on the quay.
These were the times the good fishings were in. But sometimes, if we were not doing ,as well as the rest of the boats, I would be sent to old Charles Ballawhane for herbs. We would have to boil them in a pot, and every one of the crew would have to drink a drink out of itmighty bitter stuff it was, too; then the rest of the liquor with the herbs in it would be thrown over the nets. Sometimes the luck (the herbs) would be tied to the tail net. Hemp cables were used at sea then, chain ones being unknown. Oilskins came into vogue only recently, and we wore at sea coat and trousers made of canvas. Some would tar their suits and others paint them to make them waterproof. which made them as hard as a coat of mail. If it was a fine morning the wherries would be out among us buying the fish, when:
Now Phoebus ushers in the cheerful day,
Now commences bustle in the busy quay;
The cooper's adze, the carts' discordant Crones,
And herring barrels rolling on the stones.
Now busy factors cure, and smoke, and dry;
To distant chimes export the scaly fry.
Hail, mystic myriads! Mona's pride and boast,
From Arctic regions pour'd upon her coast,
Whose annual visits since the world began
Have cherished and enriched the sons of Man. ,
Herring's the toast, through all the happy Isle;
And when you meet a face-you meet a smile."
* See "The Herring Fishery," a poem by a Manks lady, July, 1798; given in Feltham's History of the Isle of Man.
MANX SEA FISHING IN EARLY TIMES.
In my notes on sea-lore, I have attempted, a general outline of the prevailing customs peculiar to the fisherman when Gut on sea, followed up in my last by a short sketch of his habits and style of life towards the end of the 18th century; and to-day I propose to discuss and trace the beginning and gradual growth of the sea fishery in general. There is indeed no subject equal in intrinsic interest or importance to a Manxman, or so directly interwoven with the fortunes and welfare of Man, as the exploitation of the deep sea, whose treasures piscatorial, for centuries untold, have been the very life of the Island, by contributing to its chief wealth and sustenance.
In prehistoric times, when the aborigines seem to have confined themselves more or less to the occupation of the literal fringe, of the Island, we meet with numerous distinct settlements pitched on the brooghs of the shore line, indicated by the remains of kitchen middens on the beach of Port St. Mary, where, amongst other objects, we have accumulated beds of shells of the limpet (baarnagh) interspersed with flint knives, scrapers, etc. The presence of the coast dwellers is seen again at Ronaldsway, the Sound, at Peel, Kirk Michael, Jurby, and Ramsey. Here, on the Mooragh, the great stores of flint implements of all kinds, fire-holes and pottery, attest their activity and local occupation. But so far, to my knowledge, no remains of bones of any sea fish such as the herring, mackerel, cod, plaice, -etc. have been discovered, as found in the kitchen-middens at Hastings.
The fishing was then, in all probability, carried on close to the shore, in the estuaries, the inlets and river courses where plenty of salmon, trout, and eel was to be had. They also fished, no doubt, the extensive lakes which were scattered broadcast over the Island, and particularly in the northern parts, such as the Lhen, the Curragh. Mirescough, and Lough Cranstall. Manufactories of flint implements have been found on the margins of all these lakes, and canoes of bog oak at Seafield (Sa.nton), Tosaby (Malew), Ballajora (Maughold), and in German, a few miles off Peel. There is an absence of bronze or iron fish hooks in the finds, and the hooks (clooan, or dubhan) consisted probably of pointed chips of bog oak and flint which were attached to the line (darragh ; later made of black hair, snooids), while the salmon (braddan) was caught with the fishing spear (shleiy eastee), as practised within recent times at Tromode, Port Skilliion, Glen Maye, etc. When at last the early Manx more boldly ventured out into the open main it was in the frail wicker boat or currach. peculiar to the ancient Britons and Gauls. I may allude first to the testimony or the Greek and Roman writers :
Timaeus (352-256 A.C.) tells us : The Britons visited an island Mictis, at the distance of six days' sail for tin. They went there in osier-made boats, lined all round with hide.
Caesar (100-44 A.C.) : The keels and kelsons of their long boats were formed of slight material, and the hull made of wicker, covered with raw hide.
Pliny the Elder (23-79 P.C.) : The Britons make wicker boats, stitched round with leather, which they handle with great dexterity.
Solinus (about 238 P.C.) : The commerce between Britain and Ireland, kept up on both sides, is by means of boats made of wattle and covered with skins, each end of the vessel terminated in a sharp beak, and it was rowed indiscriminately either way.
Piocopius (beginning of the 6th century): they used oars for the most part, though they were not unacquainted with the sail.
Isidorus Hispaliensis (570-640) gives as the Latinized name for the boat : Carabus a little skiff made of wicker and raw bullock hides.
It was in one of these tiny boats that all the end of the 5th century St. Maughold crossed from Ireland, and was cast up in the creek of Maughold Head. Aubrey, in 1696, makes mention of the boats on the Avon, which 'he describes as baskets of twigs, covered with an ox skin.
In the Western Islands of Scotland they were much in use, even long after the art of building boats of wood was introduced in these parts by the Norwegians. (1) Brewer (2) informs us that in Ireland an the western coast., in a great part of the district, no other boats in comparatively recent times were used by the fishermen than the ancient canoes, of the Celtic tribes, consisting of a rude frame, covered with the hide of the horse or bullock, and that sea fishing was consequently restrained to a small distance from the land; and again in 1840 (3) we learn that the Irish in the south-west and went coast, especially in Valencia and Kenmore had for their boats the curragh, made of wicker and covered with a horse-skin or pitched canvas. And ,going to Wales, Richards (4) tells us that the natives availed themselves of the cwriog or cwragh, which was of oval form, made of split rods or twigs interwoven, and on the part next to the water covered with pitched flannel, canvas, or horse skin, in which one man, being seated in the middle, will row himself with one hand, while with the other hand he manages his net or fishing tackle, and coming off the water he will take the light vessel on his back and carry it home. These wicker boats were plied on the Avon, Wye, Severn, Dee, etc.
In Gaul they were also used on the Garonne ; and the caraba, or carabela in Galicia. (Spain) I i, a long and narrow skiff wtih tbreae sails, and also the name for the basket the women carry on their heads.
We see, then, that the ancient Celts hard two kinds of wicker boats-a round or oval one, occupied and rowed by one man only, which was used on the rivers and estuaries, and particularly on the west side of Britain and Ireland; and a long wicker boat, each end terminating in a sharp beak, and rowed either way, and that they used also the sail. The latter type was run in the traffic between Ireland and Britain, and on the east and south-west of Britain, and along the sea borders.
The currach or carabus in its original form was nothing else but an enlarged wicker basket, which is thus the prototype of the wicker boat. To follow the steps of its evolution is highly interesting. The most ancient form was round, and then oval, until in course of time it was drawn out gradually into the long wicker boat which served for the reception of a small number of hands, and was fitted up with a sail. We can trace the root. Etymologically we have it again in the Latin form corbis, a pannier, a basket; in the German korb; the Scottish corban (a small wicker basket) ; in the French corbeille (from corbicula) ; and the Spanish caraba and carabela. The Manx word for the wicker boat has long since gone out of date, but a dim allusion is contained in the Manx word currag or corrag (see C'regeen) which means a bundle of osiers.
The habitat of the osier is in marshy, low lying, and fenny flat lands and lacustrine regions, and along the river courses, or lochs, with an outlet into the sea, inhabited by litoral tribes, who made fishing their chief occupation. The osier grew abundantly at band and was easily obtained and worked up into wicker boats, baskets, and traps (5) ; and the absence of forests of fir and timber, in the first instance, determined its prevalent use among the Celtic Britons. They chiefly fished the rivers, lakes, and estuaries. It also, as a natural consequence, kept them backwards possessed alone; as they were of the frail wicker boats, from making any real progress in navigation, or following the sea fishery of any large scale. It was due to quite another set of natural surroundings, which places Scandinavia early in the forefront of powerful and daring navigators. The wonderful an inexhaustible wealth of their primeval pin and fir forests that descended and crept down to their fiords, glens. and lochs, and occupying their very sea rim, gave them the ready means and skill for building and launching their stout hulls and fleets, and, as a corollary, the early command of the sea. They naturally quickly developed into mighty sea-farers, great sea fishers and rulers. In very early times they sailed in vessels of a large size and substantial construction. The Suiones, or ancient Scandinavians, had their fleets in the days of Tacitus, before the time of the elder Pliny ; they not only ventured out into the tempestuous sea of Norway, but even passed over to Thule. The British Celts were thus placed physically and economically at a great competitive disadvantage, and sea. fishing to any large extent made but slow advance.
The Manx did not make any headway for many centuries. Their slight nutshells were too primitive to face the perils of the sea ; the political conditions too precarious to venture much abroad, and, furthermore, the litoral population too poor and scanty for any maritime co-operation. When at last the Norwegians appeared on their shores, with the Goddards firmly settled as Kings of Man, in the 11th century, things, under Goddard Crovan, assumed a brighter view, and material: progress was made. The Norse, who were the great herring fishers-in the Edda they live on herring and porridge as their national food-introduced to and taught the Manx the art of boat building and sea fishing. The herring abounded on their favoured shore. and we soon see busy coast settlements springing up from Jurby, St. Michael, down to Dalby, the Calf, and Castletown. Peel formed then, as it always has been since, the great centre of the Manx herring fishery
The Norse blood and strain is in greatest evidence on this side of the Island, facing the Irish Sea, where the great wealth of the sea spread out before them. The names of the hundreds of headlands, creeks, rocks, cleats, and bogs bear all the imprint of the Norse tongue, and tell us -even after a lapse of almost 900 years the silent tale of their journeys in their fishing smacks, along the indented heights of the ,southwest of the Island. It was the Norwegians who helped the Manx to become the brave sailors 'and ,fine herring fishers for which they are justly renowned.
(1) Gaelic-English Dictionary by Armstrong, 1525• (2) "The Beauties of Ireland." by J. N. Brewer; vol. I., c. lxiii. ; London, 1825,
(3, "Irish Penny Journal," vol. L, p. 391, v. 40. (4) Welsh-English Dictionary, by the Rev Thomas Richards, 1753.
(5) The Britons were famous in antiquity for their basket wicker work; the bascuda of the Romans (the Celtic basgaid).
Man, let us recollect, formed but a small part of the greater group of the Nordreys and Sudreys, ruled by the powerful earls of the Orkneys and Shetlands, long before Goddard Crovan possessed himself of the Island; the Gaels of the mainland of Scotland, the Hebrides, and the Southern Islands which had fallen under the sway of the Vikings, had already undergone then the process of a closer fusion and intermingling of blood with their foreign masters. There grew up, therefore, in course of time, amongst the Scandio-Gaelic coast population, a more uniform system of fishing; their fishing boats were built and managed much in the same fashion in Man, as by the men of Lewis, Ronaldsway, Wick, or Moray Firth.
On the west side we had a coast that rivalled in wealth of fish with the fiords and lochs of Norway; such as Loch Roag, Urn, Broom, Torridon, Carvon, Oaroy, Loch Fyne-stretching from Lewis to Solway Firth and Man, rich in salmon and herring, and boasting of fishing grounds inexhaustible. Soliuns (240 P.C.) speaks already of the early inhabitants of the Hebrides (five in number) who lived on fish and milk. We have no positive knowledge of the style of wooden boats in use among the fishermen during the dominion of the Scandinavians, but some light is thrown on the subject in the Manx Statutes of 1610, which make us acquainted with two kinds of boats used for the herring fishery. It speaks of the (Manx) "countrimen which have small boates, and those which have scowtes" (1). --
Vigfusson, in speaking of the Scandinavian war-vessels, the skeids, swift ships of the class lanq skip (= long ship), mentions the skuta, a small cutter, a number of which used to accompany a fleet for use in rivers or the coast; these were of a large build, high prows and stems, and 80 feet long; but for the fishing, apparently a much smaller size was adopted; the Manx scowte is the same as the obsolete Scottish scout or skoutt (= the Swedish and Icelandic skuta, Danish skude, Dutch Schuit, and the equivalent Irish and Gaelic sgoth, or scouh, translated: a small boat or skiff) which were also used for salmon fishing.
Another and similar boat was the scow or skow (2), a small, flat-bottomed boat of shallow draught. In Moray, it was a small boat made of willows, covered with skin (practically still a wicker-boat), while in Aberdeenshire we, hear of " an auld herring scow."
Remembering that much of the fishing was done in the lochs and firths in very early times, exclusively, it is not surprising that both the scowtes and the cobles, of which I shall speak directly, were flat-bottomed, and have maintained this conservative feature up to our times in the north-eastern coast.
The other boat was the coble, so well known in Scotland, Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire, and used in the salmon fishery, and for crossing rivers and lakes; it is a short flatbottomed rowing boat. Another sort of coble for sea-fishing, also with a flat battom, open, or deckless, used in Scotland, Aberdeen, Kirkcudbright, Fife, Northumberland, etc., having sharp prows and a flat sloping stern, without keel, but two bilge clogs in addition, and a very deep cut-water, is used for herring fishing (3) ; it was the herring coble proper. It is apparently of Scandinavian origin, even were we to argue on topographical grounds alone, and the word has been taken up by the Welsh and Bretons, who have it as ceubal, ceubol, caubal.
The construction with flat bottoms, let me repeat, clearly points back to a period when the fishing was confined to the lochs and estuarine rivers.
These Manx scowtes of which we have spoken, -as the statute says: "ought every of them to be of the bnrthen of 4 tons," but in reality they were not more than of 2 tons even in the time of Bishop Wilson, in the beginning of the 17th century, and cost 30/- to 40/-, and therefore similar to the boats of the Orkney farmers, which are, in general, miserable cables between 1 and 2 tons burden, with four or five men in each bort, whereas the oo-l and ling fishery would require boats of at least 5 or six tons burden (4).
We read in the Saga of St. Olav that Sigurd Sir (about the year 1,000) used to lend boats and fishing apparatus for catching herrings to his traelle, or slaves, to purchase their freedom from him, and he settled them upon his seaters, or uncleared waste lands, for which they after a time paid him yearly rents. Probably in Man it was not much different at the in-coming of their new tack-masters.
(1) See the Antient Ordinances and Statute Laws of the Isle of Man, Mills' Edition, 1841, p. 501.
(2) See Prof. Wright's English Dialect Dictionary, sub nomen.
(3) See Prof. Wright's English Dialect Dictionary and Murray's English Dictionary, sub nomen.
(4) See " A tour through the Orkneys and Shetlands" by Patrick Neill, A.M., Edinbro', 1806, p. 61.
Who'll buy my caller herrin?
They're no brought here without brave daring;
Buy my caller herrin !
Ye little ken their worth.
Who'll buy my caller herrin?
O ye may ca' them vulgar farin',
Wives and mithers maist despairing
Ca' them lives of men
The Island presents a melancholy picture in the 10th century, it was literally weltering in blood, and the natives were groaning under the ceaseless ravages that went in columns of smoke through the length and breadth of the desolated land, It was plunged in the deepest misery and poverty, and its population seemed to ebb fast away. Vigfusson estimates it then between 4,000 and 5,000 souls, but that number must have contracted yet considerably in the next century. The battle on Scacafell (Sky Hill), in 1079, the internecine strife between the Northern and Southern Manx, which culminated in the engagement of Santwat in 1098, added another crimson chapter to the reduction of its native population. Goddard Crovan, and, after him, Olave I, in order to check this appalling depopulation, were obliged " to equip a great number from Ireland, and out of the islands were brought the greatest number." During these times the ruthless destruction of life and farmsteads, and the consequent neglect of the cultivation of the soil, left the country almost destitute, and it required some generations before the wretched conditions of life began to mend, and before things assumed a more favourable turn.
The establishment of the herring fishery, during the rule of Goddards, must, therefore, have come as a great national boon. Its prosperity and importance is vividly brought home to us by the peculiar wording of the oath imposed upon the Deemster and Water-Bailiff on the installation into office. They are : ;'To execute the laws of the Isle so indifferently as the herring back-bone does lie in the midst of the fish." This curious, time-honoured phrase, is still in full force in our own times, and forms one of the landmarks the Goddard dynasty has left on the statutes. The next glimpse we get is in 1291, when the church claimed tithe on all fish caught. The period occupied by the Scottish usurpers forms one of the blackest spots in the annals of the Island. Their particular business seem; to have been confined to wholesale plunder, extortion and killing. The sea fishery, instead of gaining increased stability and encouragement, must have fallen altogether into rein and decay. Insecurity of life and property became a general and chronic diseaseWe read that in 1228 " all the South of Man was wasted by Alan, Lord of Galloway, who spoiled the churches and slew all the men he could lay hold of, so as the South of Man was laid in a manner desolate " ; in 1275, King Alexander (Ollister) improved upon Alan, it made Manxmen more groan and cry out in distress in their old precious ballad-that golden heirloom:
Oh ! Scotchman, if thou were worthy,
Why did'st thou not rule as did
The son of Norway's King?
-there were greater taxes, rents, and confiscation than ever.
In the battle at Ronaldsway he slew 527 Manx. When the Scotch vanished, came the Waldeboeufs, Montacutes, Scropes, and the Percies from 1344-1406; their only merit was an end of slaying, but the confusion continued the same with the various change of masters. The people only breathed up again with the advent of the Lancashire Stanleys, when, for one good thing, insular peace and order took the place of anarchy and chaos.
The Goddards, it must be granted, exerted a beneficial influence upon the Island on the whole, and during their reign the economical and political status underwent considerable improvement. The farmers again dared to stock their crops of oats, and to rear their cattle and sheep, which, more extensively introduced by the Scandinavians into the Island, formed the great part of the staple and wealth of the Manx. The salmon and trout fishing was as diligently followed as the herring and sea fishery. The Laxey river was one of the rivers particularly rich in salmon (lax= salmon), and at its embouchure the Norse settlers founded a little stad that bears its name.
A new and more conspicuous era begins with the investment of Sir John Stanley " as King and Lord of the same Land of Mann," in 1406, who, along with his successors, exercised all his great feudal powers. One of his first laws has reference to the herring fishery, it says.
Alsoe we give for Law that a Castle Maze be paid out of five Maze of Herrings in a Boate taken and Halfe a Maze out of two Maze and a halfe in a Boate gotten, as oft as they go to Sea and gotten soe ; and that is our Law by Custome and Usage; and the Lord to pay VId. for a Maze thereof, provided that the Bringers of the first Maze shall for the same have IIIs. IIIId." (3s. 4d).
He claimed therefore 20 per cent. of all the herrings caught.
There is also an old Statute of 22 Edward IV. (1483), which I may quote here
That no herring be sold in any vessel but the barrel (=600 herrings, or a maze) contains 32 gallons which must be well packed, and as good at the middle as the ends on pain of forfeiting 3s 4d. a barrel."
In 1561 (see Mills' Statutes, p. 39) it is further ordered :
At every Herring Fishery upon the Coast of Mann all Manner of Person, whether they be Barrons, Officers, or Soldiers, to pay the Castle Maze and Customes as hath been heretofore used.'
We come now to the" Spiritual Lewes and customes belonging to the Isle of Mann " (see Mills, pp. 46-50-51), and the additional privileges and exactions of the church:First that the Bishops shall have their Herring Scoute and their fishing Boate, freely and franckly, without any Tythes paying, wheresoever they Land in the Isle. In like manner had the Abbot, the Priors, the Archdeacons. Alsoe, all Parsons, Viccars, of the Thirds or Pention instituted, shall always choose their Fishing Boate at Easter Time, and their Scoute at Herring Fishing Time, whether their Fishing be about this Land or elsewhere. Alsoe, every Master of every Fishing Boat shall cau-e all the Fish to be brought above the full Sea Mark, and there pay truely the Tyth. And if they will not truely pay, then the Master shall make five Shares of all his Fish and the Proctor shall appoint to be divided what share he will ; the Master must divide : the Proctor shall choose in that Order, because it has no life.
Alsoe, when Herring Fishing is, the Proctor shall take his Tyth where the Boat doth ground and land; if the Boates land in another Parish than their own, they pay half Tyth there for the landing, except it be such Boates as are in the first article specified.
And if there be any Salmon Fishes taken, either in Salt Water or Fresh Water, the Tyth thereof is to be paid.
Alsoe, all those Boates that Fish, either in England or Ireland, either for Herring or Gray Fish, is to agree for half the Tyth at their coming home, with their own Parson. Viccar, or Proctor and in case they bring any Fresh Herrings, not having paid half Tyth there, they must pay whole Tyth here.
And we read in an Act of Tynwald, 1610 (see Mills, p. 503)
Also, the Water Bailiff shall have out of every Boat, as oft as they fish, a certain measure called a Kybbon full of Herring (provably from Keep -a large basket, or Kibble*-a bucket, or tub), and whosoever ref useth to give the same, or Twelve Pence in Money in lieu thereof, shall be excluded from the Fleet (the price of a maze in 1678 was 5s, so that a Kybbon-full must have been a good hundred).
Besides this, if the fishermen went about rock fishing in their little skiffs round the coast, the parsons exacted their due share on the rock fishing, and these rocks were ill-known under the denomination Creggyn Yaghee, or tithe rocks, and the fishermen gave them a wide berth.
Now as to the scoutes. These were little boats of generally not more than two tons burden, with a short mast, and one sail of coarse cloth, built of Norway fir, and a keel of oak ; only few had a proper rudder, and a short oar, or stuiri (as the Norwegians called it), was used instead by the master, when necessary. The seams were caulked with wool, dipped in tar. The crew consisted of four men, and the share was proportioned out (in 1648) into eight parts:
3 to the owner of the nets (who suffering great and serious damage, done by
the gobbags and the bock, were well entitled to it).
1 to the owner of the boat.
4 to the men, viz., 1 share each.
The supply of the nets for the herring fishery was compulsory by Statute, and "every farmer or tenant within the Island, whether Lord's or Barron's tenant, had to provide eight fathoms of netts furnished with buoys and corks ready for fishing, out of every quarter of ground, containing three deepings of nine score mashes upon the rope " (see Mills' Acts of Tynwald, 1610, p. 502).
The number of boats in 1670 was 200, with but an indifferent population; what it was in the 15th and 16th Century, with a much inferior density of population, it is impossible to say, but certainly not above that number. Blundell (1648) says neither now, nor at any time heretofore, was it found to abound with numerous natives. We see, therefore, that both the King and the Church, either in natures or money value, had their good pound of flesh out of the crofter-fishermen of Man: 20 per cent. had to go for the Lord, 20 per cent. to the Bishop, Abbot, the Priors, and the rest; the Water Bailiff had his modest share into the bargain, and there must have been little crumbs for official hangers-on, who now and then had to close an eye; and so fishermen, farmers and wives and daughters had to make their nets and build their boats and toil, good times or bad times, and 40-45 per cent. went like a flash in a frying pan before they could touch a single fish.
But there is already a black cloud which lurks threatening on the horizon: the periodical disappearance of the herring itself-the effect of which (with all their main strength bent and concentrated on one single point, to the exclusion of an equal and proportional attention to the cultivation of the soil) brought on the Island a long train of misfortunes which ripened into fuller fruit in the course of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The herring "famines" which were yet to break over the land in full force are already slightly foretold in the Spiritual Statutes, quoted : All those Boates that fish either in England or Ireland, either for Herring or Gray Fish, is to agree for half the Tyth on their coming home"; and we can read it again between the lines without great difficulty in " The rates of the Customs at every Port within the Isle of Mann, given this 28th day of June, Anno Domini, 1577" (see Mills, p. 43), but of this I shall speak in my next note.
* The German: Kobel.