[from Manx Notes & Queries, 1904]



The unsatisfactory prospects of the herring fishery towards the latter quarter of the 16th century are to be gathered from the Customs "ingates" of 1577, where we find the rate for

Herrings, the maze


do. the tonn .


Fish, the tonn


A very slight charge indeed, and a clear invitation to the strangers to bring their fish to the Island.

The import of salt is already mentioned, in 1523:

If it be a ship of Salt, the Merchants (in Man are to have a Barrel of Salt out of every 20 Barrels; and when all is discharged, the Clearke of the Ship is to have half with the four Merchants, how many Barrels they have taken up.

And the tariff of 1577 runs:

Salt, the Tunn, 123. Shipp with Salt, British or Portugal (bay salt), inward, shall pay a Quarter Tunn before the Mast, and another above the Mast, if it be 20 tunnes, or els the half.

It was employed principally for curing white herring. The natives were evidently unacquainted with the old process of curing red herring until late in the 18th century; *Blundell says in 1648

I suppose it will be as strange for the reader as it was for me to observe it, that these Manx people who have traded in herrings, even aborigine and the poorer sort, making them all the year long their daily and constant food, notwithstanding so respectless are they of variety of dressing them, or to give them any other gust than their own taste, that they are so far from having any red herrings that they know not what they mean, neither do they desire or learn how to make them.

On the various items concerned in the construction of the fishing boats, the rates, levied in 1577, were as follows

Oares, the 100 . 3d. or 6d. Oares of every Boat after the rate of paying, for 100 8d. Oak timber or Sparrs, the 100 3d.. of either sort, or 6d. Plancks, for shipps the 100 3d or 12d. Tarr 1d.

Pitch 1d.

Nails the 1,000 1d.

,, the last 2/6.

Hayre ropes the dozen 1d.

Ropes British the 100 6d.

The scarcity of herring, at the latter part of the 16th century, is to be inferred in addition, from "the examinations, in 1610, of fower anncyent men, viz., Mallo Caloe, Willm Kerush, John Christin, and Willm Corran, who speak of themselves as `Fishers driving for Hearring in the North of England with Mancks Boates."'

We learn from another Act of Tynwald (24th June, 1613) that the existing law of the Custom herring of 1422 (called Castle Mazes) was a very heavy and deterring burden. Lady Elizabeth, Countess of Derby, was:

Advertized that because of the great imposition not onlie Strangers (who even then flocked to the Manx fishing grounds) have refrayned to come to the late Fisshinge of the Isle, but also the Islanders themselves being thereby discouraged did not shewe their willinge Minds, nor consequentlie use their industrious Paynes in and about the Fisshinge as otherwise they would have done, being reasonablie dealt withall for the said Castle Mazes.

She directs, therefore, that

Out of every smalle boate whereof a Countriman is Owner, to be paid in Lieue of Custome Heyrings for all the Tyme of this next Fishinge, to the Lord two Maze, of the best Fish whensoever a Public Call for Payment and Delivrye thereof be given throughout the Fleete of Boates. And every of the Countrimen which have

Boates, called bcowles, to pay in the same Manner four Mazes for all their Custome during the tyme of fisshinge.

And out of everye small boate of the Stranger, one Maze for the first night that the same boate taketh any herrings; and so ever afterwards one Maze weeklie, while it continueth at the Fisshinge.

And in like Manner, out of every Scowte of the Stranger, two Mazes the first night, and then two Maze weeklie during the Fisshinge.

The time to begin to drive for heyring this present year is, by general Consent, to be upon the 15th Day of July next (1613).

Those Boates to bringe the said Custome Heyrings and deliver them, such fish

From and betwixt St. Maughal Head and Douglas... at Douglas. Between Douglas and the Calf of Man at Castletonne. Such as fish on the North Parte of the Isle ... ... . at Peeletowne. Whosoever shall use any Draw Netts or Stake Netts during the tyme of the Fisshing shall forfeit 10s.

Blundell also writes (1648)

The Lord of the Island hath no duty paid unto him of any other fish but of the herring only, but the tithes are paid both of herrings and of any other fish that is taken, as of cod, ling, macarel, thornback, &c. ; and he that brings the first herring caught in care to the Lord, at his castle at Rushen, by ancient custom, is to give him 3s. 4d.

The lord was more merciful than the Church which, more iron-handed, continued its exaction of the full old tithe and, be it noticed, it claimed fish-tithe on all descriptions of fish, both sweet water and salt water fish. We shall see how desperate the people fought, time after time, and century after century, though unsuccessfully, against this harsh and heavy infliction, a perennial grievance which was really only slowly settled at the end of the 18th century, and the cause of much misery and ill-feeling all over the Island.

* See Blundell's History of Isle of Man (1648-1656), Manx Society XXV., vol, I, p. 86.



There must have been want and disease, to quote only from the Parish Registers of Kirk Michael (1), where in 1623, 1629 and 1639, the deaths were very numerous ; in 1641 there seems to have been an increase in the indigent class, and great numbers of poor beggars were straying about the country (2) ; and things came to a climax in 1642-3, when the people carried on a tumultuous agitation, headed by Edward Christian, "newly begun betwixt the clergie and commonaltie about their matter of tythes. The counrey would pay no more tythes, and would feight and dye first." Only to enumerate some of these tithes. Besides the tithe on the fishery, of which I have already spoken, there was the tithe on corn, honey, cheese, milk, butter, lambs, purrs, calves, colts, geese, eggs, bens, wax, wool, milk sheep, milk goats, the plough groat, the clerk's silver, the smoke penny, and the Gorse presents or mortuarys, &c. ; these impositions were keenly felt, for times were then very bad. The church, however, rode triumphant, and "the principle disturbers, together with Christian, were tried, fined, and imprisoned."

That the people had cause to revolt and complain is fully borne out by Blundell (1648) (3), who writes

The fishermen complained much at my being present there, for of late years they have not taken half the quantity of herrings which they used to take in former time, and, moreover, within the memory of some of them, until of late, they have failed not to have great fishing for cods (this is the first allusion to the cod fishery) of which they were accustomed to take in such plentiful abundance, as that they were enforced to cut off their heads and to cast them away upon the shore, either for the poor or for any that would take them up, which they did, least their boat should be overladen and sink; and now this is otherwise.

As for the lord, he appears to have put the Castle maze on a new basis, and Blundell states

If 5 meaze be caught by one boat they give the lord one meaze or 500, if 10 meaze, 2 meaze or 1,000. Then the lord can demand no more, for after the proportion being paid, they are free to take as many as they can without paying anymore to the lord, although they should afterwards catch 1,000 meaze ; and except 5 meaze be caught by one boat the lord hath not any part at all.

We also learn from him how the people lived in 1648

Their diet is sparing and simple ; their drink-water and butter milk; their meat consists of herring, salt, butter and oatcakes. The meal of servants consists of two boiled herrings, one entire oatcake and butter, with milk and water to drink. Beer and ale they only take in the market.

Of " late years," then, both the herring and cod had seriously fallen off again; and to increase the misery and want, in 1649 there came " a time of great dearth and scarsitie," during which many of them died of starvation. the summers having been very wet, and to alleviate the famine to some degree the earl imported some corn from France (4). In addition to this, agriculture, all round, languished, in consequence of the precarious land tenure, and it continued in that state until the Magna Charta or new Land act of 1704 was wrung from the lord.

There was great rejoicing, however, in 1667, the annus mirabilis; an immense herring shoal, such as had never been witnessed before, arrived on the shores of Man. Bishop Wilson alluded to it in 1719 (5):

Formerly, he writes, herring were the great staple commodity, of which within the memory of some now living near 20,000 barrels have been exported in one year to France and other places.

Sacheverell (6) refers likewise to the prosperity of that year

Formerly (1667) they had such quantities that 500 have been sold for a groat, and yet the fishing worth 3,000 per annum.

According to Haining (7) there were 2,531 men between the ages of 16 to 60, and the total population was estimated 7,000 souls. By this time the ale-houses had already much increased, and in this year of great plenty (1667) (8) Bishop Barrow called the clergy to account for disgracing "their callinge. . . . by vendinge ayle and beer and keeping victuallinge houses." The money and earnings went to the public houses for the jough, "many of the people became not only tipplers, but also infamous for sottishness and drunkenness," and so the profits of a good season were squandered away.

In 1670 (9) when a good fishing doeth fall, each boat paid to the lord

Per 20 maze-2 maze, or 10s If 5 1 or 5s

If 22 2 '~ or 2s 6d There were then 200 boats employed in the fishing.

A sea disaster seems to have befallen the herring fleet in 1672, for we read that " this year the men was cast away at ye herring fishing Sept. 2nd"; in 1675 many died of flux.

By 1681 Douglas had become the place of " the greatest resort in the whole Island, because the haven is commodious-into which the ffrench men and other fforaigners use to repair with their bay salt, having traffic again with the Islanders and buying of them leather, coarse wool, and powdered beefe."

There was a severe epidemic in Kirk Michael in 1684, and the smallpox which had broken out in Ramsey in 1685, carried many people away; about that time another serious herring famine, which lasted for 30 years, visited the Island. We cannot fix the exact year when the fish began to fail. Sacheverell says in 1693-4.

Since their herring fails so that this want has reduced the Island to great extremitie.

It was just when these clouds hung over the Island, and when revenues, and the earnings of the fishermen and farmers had sunk to a very low ebb, that the Island became involved in the smuggling trade.

In 1681 the King (Charles II,) "threatened the earl with a quo warranto, and sent custom-house officers out of Dublin to inspect their importation of merchandises," and in 1682 the Island is described " a magazine of all sorts of foreign goods as might thence be transported clandestinely into any pert of the three kingdoms." The governors were only lukewarm in their endeavours to extirpate this new pest. It grew and prospered, and although it temporarily filled the exchequer of the Stanleys and Atholls, it reacted perniciously on the healthy development of the Island; it not only proved the death blow of the regime of the Atholls, but it also deteriorated the entire moral stamina of the population, and checked the growth of its agricultural resources, while the sea fishery, or what was left of it, was only followed in a half-hearted way. The smuggler and publican hold the field.

(1) See Lhioar Vanninagh, vol. 1, 1889, p.5.
(2) See Moore's History of the Isle of Man vol. 1, pp. 237-241-260-282.
(3) See Blundell, vol. xxv., vol. 1 Manx Society, pp. 86 and 87.
(4) Moore's History of the Isle of Man, p, 283.
(5) See Bishop Wilson's History of the Isle of man, vol. xviii. Manx Society, p. 104.
(6) See Manx Society, vol. 1, p. 14.
(7) Haining, Isle of Man Guide, 1834, p. 81.
(8) Moore's History of the Isle of Man, p 405, vol. 1, footnote.
(9) Moore's History of the Isle of Man, vol. 2., p.942.
(10) Lhioar Vanninagh, 1889, vol. 1., p. 5.




The new century was ushered in in sable garb - the failure of the herring lasted on to 1711; to make the situation more acute, there was an epidemic in 1704, and Bishop Wilson had a petition inserted in the Litany in 1705 (1) to be read in all the churches within the Isle, viz. : " That it may please God to restore and continue to us the blessings of the sea " (As dy char erash as dy hannaghty dooin bannaghtyn ny marry). The people were plunged in want and penury; in these hard times they turned their eyes to the Fylde district, with which they kept up an active smuggling intercourse. The potato had been cultivated there, at North Meols, Ormskirk, Kirkham, &c, as far back as the latter part of the 17th century, and from there was introduced into the Island, between 1706-7 [see fpc note], and Waldron tells us in 1710 that oats and potatoes were the chief produce of the Manx, and Manx Earlys were early known for their good qualities. By some ingenious definition of a convocation held 1712 at Kirk Michael the clergy soon made them tithable. The people mainly subsisted then on fish and potatoes. In 1710, Lord Derby had an assessment of the commons made, and began enclosing some of the common lands and selling them, which caused another soreness. There was a fresh appeal in 1711 against the fish tithe, but it availed nothing. Smuggling became more rampant than ever, and the prevailing conditions made people still more desperate. At this time the fishery began to revive a little; the lord's receipts from the herring fishing, which between 1702-10 were nil, rose in 1711 to 34. The smallpox was raging again in the Island in 1714, and the clergy for once made a surrender of the tithe in the next year. The revenues of the herring fishery are missing in 1717 and 1719, another indication of a bad sea-harvest, and about this time Bishop Wilson writes that the lord commuted the Castle maze for a money payment of 10s for every Manx boat (that took 10 maze, and with a smaller payment when the quantity was less). There was a fresh failure of herring between 1721-8, and in the Book of Common Prayer, in Manx, published 1727, the litany has the petition " to renew and continue the blessings of the sea," inserted anew. During that time, in 1724-5, there was another fierce outbreak of the smallpox, which killed one-tenth of the population of Ramsey, Maughold, German, and Peel. Disease and starvation went closely hand in hand. The fishing between 1729-1734 was only fair and fluctuating, during 1732-3 and 1737-40 many died of flux; there was a great scarcity of corn in 1734, and the new edition of the Common Prayer (1738) renews the old petition, for there was another bad fishing from 1735-1737, when the lord's receipts are likewise missing again. The Statutes (see Mills, p. 238-9), 1736, allude to this period

Whereas the herring fishery in this Isle has for many years past been very uncertain, and yet severell strangers as well as natives have bought and transported fresh herrings before the country was supplied . . . and obliged to buy herrings from abroad at high prices, no persons be permitted, or suffer to buy up any herring for exportation from this Isle, or the coast thereof, before the country or communally be supplied, that is to say, as long as the herrings may be bought and sold at is 2d per 100 (7s a maze) or above, and the fishermen have a vent for the same at that price in the Island.

Drinking and smuggling meanwhile had increased at the same rapid pace, and the number of alehouses, which in 1734 was limited to 200, soon afterwards leapt up to 300; the statutes (see Mills, p. 226, 1734) say, " the great consumption in these houses often occasions a scarcity of corn and other provisions, necessitating the Island to supply it from abroad," nor was the drinking confined to beer and ale alone, but there was an alarming rise in the consumption of brandy, rum, gin, geneva, etc.

For many years the Island did not produce sufficient corn for supporting the population, and the scarcity was such, in 1740, that they had to procure it from Holland. To add to this confusion the smallpox and a contagious fever, equally deadly, visited the Island in 1741 and 1743. In 1740 lobster tithe wasordered to be paid (2). There is a steady growth in the lord's receipts from the herring fishery, for while in 1734 it had been 44, it climbs up gradually in 1738 to 69 (3), then

1739-40 to £86; or 43 average per year.
1741 92 (rising from thence)
1742-5 452, or 113 average, per year.
1746 114.
1747-8 222, or 111 average, per year.
1749 £108.
1750 109.

This return gives us, of course, only a vague idea, for we don't know at all the number of boats employed; we have seen that since 1719 every boat paid 10s, instead of the former castle maze, and those which caught less than 10 maze paid a lesser sum, nor do we know the yearly value, extent, or price per maze of the catches made. But if we assume the number of boats to have been pretty constant during that time, the return gives us a fair general measure of the prevailing state of the fishery for the above period.


(1) Fargher's Annals of the Isle of Man.
(2) Fargher's Annals of the Isle of Man.
(3) Moore's History of the Isle of Man.


In dealing with such a mass of information. as Mr Roeder is now doing, it is not to be wondered at that he should occasionally be led into error by some of his authorities. In the note above mentioned, relating to the herring fishery of the Island, he states that Bishop Wilson had a petition inserted in the Litany, in 1705, to be read in the churches of the Isle of Man, for the restoration of the blessings of the sea. This point he uses, and correctly so, in connection with the scarcity of herrings at the time. But later on in the same note, when dealing with recurring failures of herrings, he makes use of the same point, and, I submit, incorrectly. he says: " In the Book of Common Prayer in Manx, published in 1727, the Litany has the (same) petition inserted anew." And again: "The new edition of the Common Prayer (1738) renews the old petition."

For the sake of accuracy, I should wish to point out that the first printed edition of the Manx Prayer Book did not appear until 1765, so that the editions of 1727 and 1738, quoted by Mr Roeder, are (unfortuately for his argument) myths. When the first printed edition was prepared, under the direction of Bishop Hildesley, the petition in question was incorporated, and so in the subsequent editions of 1777 and 1808; and even in the still later editions of almost our own time, 1840 and 1842. The petition had evidently come to be considered an integral part of the Manx version, and had no specific reference to the failure of herrings at any particular date (as claimed by Mr Roeder) after that of 1705, when first inserted by Bishop Wilson.

Streatham. G. W. WOOD.

In reply to Mr Wood's note, Fargher in his Annals of the Isle of Man clearly speaks of an edition, published in 1727, wits the insertion in question. It is strange he should mention such an edition, except he had seen it. But I do not rely simply for my argument of the scarcity of the herring at the periods alluded to (1721-28, and 1735-37), nor do I insist particularly on this collateral reference of the Prayer Books: its failure for that purpose does not in any way affect the validity of my main point as to the herring famine in those years. The lord's revenues are quite conclusive, and enough for fully establishing that point, and my position remains the same.


[fpc] - re potatoes there is an entry dated 22 Jan 1704/5 in the accounts included in will of Samuel Prescott (steward of Abbey lands, d Oct 1704) in episcopal wills - Caesar Wattleworth noted for 3 bushels of Puttatoes value 4s



The return of the receipts for 1751 amounted to 109, or equal to the preceding year, while the total for 1752-9 was 1,080, or .135 average per year, indicating a further steady rise. We read that the herring fishery, in 1752, at Haverford West (Cardiganshire), consisting of 18 busses, caught 9,000 barrels, or 500 barrels each (1), and the Manx fishery in the same year must have been very good, too. The same paper informs us, in a letter dated October 2nd, 1754, from Douglas.to a Manchester correspondent:

Every body here (Douglas) is busy curing herrings, more having been taken here within 6 weeks last past than in 6 years before. There has upwards of 500 tons been salted in bulk in this town and shipped off for Ireland, etc., besides some thousands of barrels packed and cured for the West Indies. The weather has been the finest that ever was seen, which has occasioned this vast trade. 'Tis a charming sight to see the Whitehaven busses, about 50 Irish wherries, and 300 boats all upon the sea at one view.

It is a pretty picture.

In another letter, in the "Mercury," dated October 1st, a little sidelight is thrown on frail human nature

The Shannon, Lowther, Stephenson, and Despatch busses, under the command of Commodore Copeland, were returning from the Shetland fishery, and in returning have taken 210 barrels of herring in one night off the Isle of Man, where there appears an uncommon quantity of fish. They were to return thither on the 16th (September), and have taken proper precaution to prevent the people of the Island for cutting and destroying their nets, as some evil-minded persons did before.

It evidently was a splendid year, and the catches were made during the "back" fishing at Douglas.

It may also be of interest to mention that August 18, 1752, British pickled Shetland herrings were sold in Manchester at 2d per piece in retail, according to the Manchester paper.

In 1670 the Island employed 200 boats, and in 1754, or 84 years later, the number of the Manx boats had slowly increased to 300 boats, ranging from 3 to 8 ton burden, and consisting of scowtes and (the smaller) of " yawls."

The "Mercury" also gives us a regular weekly return, in its column, of the fresh herring shipments from the Island to Liverpool. I have made an analysis from 1756-1760.

In 1756, 38 boats were despatched to Liverpool with fresh herring cargoes, plying between 27th July to 19th October; some of them went from Douglas every fortnight. The boats were the Dreadnought, Francis, John, Ellen, Endeavour, Two Brothers, Alice, Alexander, Swallow, Providence, Bull, Young Tom, Dolphin, Success, the Douglas Packet, Molly, Experiment.

1757-12 boats were sent off from 26th July to 21st September.
1758-25 boats were sent off from loth August to 6th October.
1759-12 boats were sent off from 6th July to 25th September.
1760-5 boats were sent off from 8th August to 3rd September.

This, of course, is to Liverpool alone, and the export of fresh fish to Dublin, etc., has to be added; these exports argue good seasons. Feltham (2) gives us the lord's receipts for the next five years

It shows for 1760 121 19s, against an average of 135 for 1759, or a tangible decrease, which may also account for the slight shipments of fresh fish in 1760 to Liverpool. There is a quick drop in

1761, 92 4s. 1762, 90 19s.
1763, 81 is ; the boats of Kirk Michael Parish already built are few in number(3).
1764, 60 9s (there was a fresh epidemic in the Island, which seems to explain the drop).
1765, the return is omitted for this year" none paid to his Grace's family" (the Island passing into the hands of the British Government).
1765 is, however, a " red letter" year, for the " Universal Magazine" says

They write from the Isle of Man that they had on those coasts the greatest take of herring that has been known for many years past, so that upwards of 20,000 barrels have been exported to foreign parts.

The same year the Keys petitioned George III. to grant them "the liberty and privilege" of curing fish on the coasts of Great Britain, together with a bounty. It was about this time that the Manx began to attempt rather late in the day-to cure red herrings, the presentation to the world of the famous Manx kippers, I am anticipating a little, occurring five years later (1772).

I have to descend now again to the early fifties.

Notwithstanding constant threats and remonstrances from the British Government, the smuggling had assumed gigantic strides, to the great injury of its fiscal revenues. Practically the Island had usurped the prerogatives and jurisdiction of the mare clausum. In 1753:

The captain of an English cruiser followed a valuable Dutch dogger into port and seized her; but the man found himself mistaken. Five of his men who had taken possession of the dogger were thrown into jail. The captain himself, with two men and a boy, narrowly escaped to Whitehaven. The loss to the revenues is calculated at least 200,000 a year (4).

This was a time when Captain Dick Hatterack, of the Youngfrauw of Hagenslaapen, could roar out in Guy Mannering

I am all in the way of fair trade. Just loaded yonder at Douglas, in the Isle of Man, neat cognac, real byson, and sonchoug, and Mechlin laces, if you want any; we bumped ashore a hundred kegs last night.

Look at the inflow to the Island in the earlier smuggling times. The people of Douglas in 1730 (4) consisted of

111 Manx families, headed by 14 Kellys (Hoy Kelly !), 13 Moores, 11 Christians, 8 Cannels, 7 Corlets, 64 English, and a few Irish families, representing 1050 souls, with 6 people to a family.

The population of the ports, such as

  Peel Castlet'n D'glas R'sey
in 1757 805 915 1814 882
had grown from 1726 475 785 810 460
in 32 years 330 130 1004 422

* (depleted and attracted to Douglas).

demonstrating the excessive and abnormal influx of aliens that had flocked to the principal ports of the Island for mere purposes of smuggling and illegal trading. We read again in 1761

The Isle of Man creates a prodigious expense to the British Government in maintaining so many officers and citizens to guard against the illicit and pernicious trade, not to mention the notorious frauds committed in the Customs.

The cup was brim full; and so we read in the Gentlemen's Magazine, Saturday, June 1st, 1765

The English colours were hoisted on the Castle in the Isle of Man, the sovereignity of that island being now annexed to the Crown of Great Britain, and the inhabitants in every respect subjected to the laws, customs and privileges of their fellow subjects.

The independence of the Island, the little kingdom of yore of the old Stanleys, so full of stirring ups and downs, had crumbled to dust, and the Atholls packed, and sadly said good-bye.

It retained its curious insular flag, joined on the Union Jack, its Tynwald, and its House of Keys, and a new political era began for Man.

(1) See Manchester Mercury, November 14th, 1752
(2) See Feltham's History of the Isle of Man, 1798, p. 89.
(3) See Fargher's Annals of the Isle of Man, May 7th, 1762.
(4) See Postlewaite's Commercial Dictionary, London, 1753, vol. 2, p. 67.
(5) See Transactions of Manx Society.




By an act of Parliament bounties were granted, in 1767, for the encouragement of the herring fishery, and the judgment of the Manx spiritual court in the same year, by which the fishermen were liable to pay full tithes for fish, even though sold at sea many leagues from the island, was confirmed by the Privy Council, in 1769. The fishermen, nevertheless, remained obstinate, and John Cannell, of Kerrooglass, Kirk Michael, boatmaster, to quote an instance, refused payment of the herring tithe, in arrear for 1768 to 1770, and therefore was ordered to be committed in 1771, "until he submits to law" (1). The clergy, at a convocation held 1772, resolved to vigorously defend the rights of the church with respect to the tithe of herring and other fish, but the fishermen showed fight, and the clergymen renewed their complaint in the following year. It was enforced to the end of the century, when all mention disappears from the records (2). The bounties were repealed in 1771, and the next year the government gave permission to export herring caught bona fide off the Island to Great Britain, and a payment per barrel of 3s 4d for white herring, and of 1s 8d per 1,000 red herring, was made. Herring could be exported to British colonies free, and salt loaded, provided it was only used for curing herring. In the same year, instead of the immemorial lord's maze, the payment was fixed at 10s per boat, and the revenue arising from it handed over to the Harbour Commissioners to expend on the harbours.

It was about 1772 that " red herring houses for the cure of the Manx kippers were first erected at Peel and Douglas." The process is described in 1797 by Feltham, which I give for its interest:

The red herrings are first regularly piled up, he says, with a layer of salt between each row, and remain to purify some days; they are then washed, when dried sufficiently they are fixed by the mouth on small hazel rods, and hung up in large houses for the purpose, in length about 90 feet by 60 feet broad. Here the herring rods are hung as close as admissible, and reach from the roof till within 8 feet of the floor. Their regularity and lustre make a very beautiful appearance ; fires are kept under them continually for four or five weeks, made of the dried roots of oak ; when being sufficiently reddened, they are shipped for the Mediterranean ports.

There were five herring houses in Douglas in 1797, one of them costing £1,200, and a capital one in Peel.

In 1777 the Island boasted of 415 fishing boats, from 3-10 tons, employing 2,905 men and boys ; in 1781 that number had sunk to 315 (3), which seems to point. to a decline of the fishery; an act passed in 1785 prohibited the exportation of herring caught off the Isle of Man, unless actually caught there, while in 1786 the duties of 1772 were abolished and bounties granted of is per barrel on white cured herring, and 2s 8d per barrel if exported direct, or via Great Britain to foreign parts Red cured ones received a bounty of is 9d only when exported, the 1s bounty having been omitted by error (4).

1787 proved to be a disastrous year for Douglas; 84 yards of the lowest end of the old pier, with a light-house there, was destroyed by a violent gale, and great havoc was inflicted on the herring fleet, which was in full activity at Douglas; the "Mercury" writes 2nd October, 1787:

A few days since the most dreadful scene presented itself that ever was known at Douglas, 23 fishing boats out of the fleet were lost coming into this harbour, and many people perished, the wrecks are washed up from the rocks, and dead bodies taken up every hour ; no less than four this afternoon, and 16 boats run on shore near Ramsey, but no lives lost.

The loss of life, viz., some 161 people (23 boats with a crew of seven each) was appalling!

Feltham gives us the statistics of the exportation of red and white cured herring during 1787 to 1790, which I have grouped.

Red cured with a bounty of 1/9

1787- 2,636 for Italy .. 2,074 Gt. Britain
1788- 5.468 & D'blin 4,435
1789-12,559 ... 3,015
1790- 6,866 ... 2,747

White at 1/-, a 2/8 bounty

1787-1,935 -
1788- 861 -
1789-2.616 315 Cork, 10 Leghorn
1790-1,878 125 Dublin

Or total exportation in barrels


* This low return is, of course, principally due to the destruction of the fleet yet the Douglas back fishing in 1787, and may also have affected the return for 1788, owing to the loss of so many boats.

The prices varying from 3/- to 1/- per 100; a barrel (600) costing the curer 12/-, and selling in England 25/- for white herring. The quantity of red herring used for home consumption was also very lilrge. 1789 was an exceptionally good year, and so was 1793. On September 22nd

5,000 worth of herring were brought into Douglas harbour aloue, independent of what was carried to other markets. Following night the fishing quite as good, price twelve pence (Tanks) per hundred (5).

Laughton's guide (6) also alludes to this remarkable catch

The memory of persons still living recalls a season when the herring were so abundant that they were caught with the hand on the beach after being sold at 4d. a hundred, until purchasers could not be found they were carted off for manure.

At that period, writes Feltham

Every village and parish is provided with public-houses, and the little huts thus privileged have mostly a small empty barrel outside the door to indicate their nature; if you venture in you will be gratified with excellent wine, plenty of rum, and improveable ale, and herrings and potatoes, of course.

The smuggling, in consequence of its lucrativeness, was still vigorously carried on, although followed under much greater risk, and gave the Government no little trouble. In 1791 large quantities of French brandy and Geneva were carried both into and out of the island; not one pound of tea nor a gallon of British spirits had paid duty for many years, though largely consumed. Tobacco was largely smuggled in, and so was salt for illicit re-exportation (7). The English gentility and half-pay officers and captains, who came in shoals to the Island, lived in clover, and one could get "drunk like a lord" for a mere trifle. Townley relates many stirring sea captures in his diary, during his stay in the Island

15th February, 1790: Captain Cook has fallen in with the Laxey sloop and carried her to Kirkcudbright.

On the other hand

1st February, 1790: The Swift, of Port Glasgow, a fine cutter-built brig, is come into the harbour on her return from Scotland to the French coast for another cargo of brandy, and other articles in the illicit trade. We were thought to expect a total suppression of the smuggling business, but I fear it is recovering much upon the coasts of Scotland and Ireland, as well as upon the east coast of England.

After 1798 smuggling still continued out of, not into, the Island; till about 1846, brandy, and tobacco between 1819 and 1826, were objects of smuggling (8).

In 1795 an additional bounty of 1/- for every barrel of herring landed in the Island was granted, and in 1799-1800 the same was taken out of the surplusage of the Manx customs (9).

In 1797, according to Feltham, 400 herring boats were employed in the fishery.

(1) See Fargher's Isle of Man Annals, 1771.
(2) See Moore's History, p. 660.
(3) See Isle of Man Guide, 1834, p. 84.
(4) See Moore, p. 957.
(5) See Fargher's Annals; pub. 1793.
(6) Johnson's Isle of Man Guide, by J. B. Laughton, Douglas, 1852, 6th edition.
(7) See Moore, p. 598-599.
(8) See Moore, p. 601.
(9) See Moore, p. 957.


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