[from Manx Notes & Queries, 1904]

[241.]

CHAPTERS ON THE MANX HERRING FISHING. (1800-1897).

In 1801 the Manx fishermen and fish curers were put on the same terms as to bounties as allowed in Great Britain, and in 1808 this bounty was raised to 3 per barrel to all vessels employed in the white herring fishery on the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland (1). The number of fishing boats in 1810 amounted to 450, average 16 tons burden. There was much distress and discontent among the poorer farmers in 1816, and the ill-feeling rose considerably in consequence of Bishop Murray's attempt to revive the tithe on potatoes, turnips, &c., which bad not been demanded for many years. The insular Exchequer Court decided in 1821 in favour of the Bishop; the farmers met it by appealing to the Privy Council, who in 1825 upheld the claim of the Bishop. The opponents, however, refused payment and combined together. On an attempt to enforce collection, a fierce riot broke out in Peel and in other places, and 5,000 armed men marched to Bishop's Court, compelling the Bishop by main force to desist from his attempt for that year. The barley and oats failed the next year, the Bishop therefore wisely gave way again, nor was the claim further pressed in 1827 (2). It will be recollected that the people rose en masse under the lead of Edward Christian in 1642-3 against the heavy extortions of the tithe, but the outburst in the 19th century, this time more successful, was even of a more serious nature, the long-suffering people were in dead earnest, and at last won the day (3). Not only were there bad crops in 1826, but the Island was visited in addition by a, serious failure in 1827 of the herring. The distress was general, and great numbers of Manxmen were driven away between 1825-1840 to seek their fortunes in North America.

One would have expected that the Insular Government would have shown some practical concern about the fortures of the fisheries, that at least proper annual returns of the extent of the catches, the boats and men employed, or the capital sunk in boats and gear, the value realize! by the sale, both for home consumption or export, the price obtained for the fish, should have been ordered, as a matter of course from the beginning of the 19th century upwards, but we look for them in vain, and this incredible indifference about the progress or condition of the deep sea fishery, a question at all times of vital insular importance, shows bow little the House has been alive to its real interests It is therefore not at all surprising that for any information we desire on these points we have to fall back on casual insular guide books, and some occasional reports of Royal or Official Commissions. Consequently we know next to nothing of the state of the fisberies between 1800 to 1839.

The number of herring boats in 1811 amounted to 331 (4).

In 1840 (5) the average price for the English market was 20s. per maze. The demand then for fresh fish in the English markets had greatly diminished the business in the Island of curing for home and exportation. Messrs Holmes were the only people in the Island engaged in this trade

which they carried on at Douglas and Derbyhaven. They bad also a curing establishment at Wick. In cases of large takes they never offered less than los. or 12s. per Gran. The following return of the fishing in 1840 presents a fair average of the annual value:-

 

Maze

Value

Purchased and carried to

   

Liverpool in Manx Boats

25,000

35,000

Purchased in English and Irish boats

.10,000

12,000

Consumed in the Island, fresh and salt

.15,000

10,000

Cured in the Island for exportation in balk and barrel

30000.

15,000

 

80,000

72,000

returns, more or less oscillating from year to year between 1852 to 1864. Statistics are missing for the interim between 1865-1875, and are erratic for the following years.

We notice a sharp fall in 1886; a temporary rise in 1887; a big collapse again in 1892; a flaring up during 1896; and a heavy decline in 1897.

Taking Peel by itself, the herring boats employed in 1881 were 309, and slowly decreased till we find them reduced to one-sixth ia 1897, when the number of boats totals 55, and the fishermen were compelled during that time to sell or break them up.

It has been my object to bring out in bold relief the causes which have hampered and fettered the progress, both economic and administrative, of the Island in the past centuries, due partly to inherent natural conditions and partly to indifferent legislation, which prevented thrift and progress. The conditions have altered during our present times, and the old inane Man, void of life and aspiration and bestirring, has disappeared from the horizon, and shaken off the oppressive nightmare under which it has laboured so long. A more promising future has opened up, of larger scope, nationally and materially; and it appears even that the fisheries, on which it always so largely depended, show fresh signs of recovery, and a promise of renewed activity. It must be the great business and the duty of the Insular Government to further now this object by a proper re-consideration of its past legislation as to the fishery laws, and to undertake a careful marine survey and examination of the fishing ground, its conditions, extent, and to consider how best to foster and preserve the existing spawning beds and nurseries, both of herring, cod and flat-fish. Of the habitat of the Manx herring so little is actually known that we have everything to learn yet. The careless and inferior mode of packing and curing has been one of the points in the past which has largely interfered with gaining or attracting good markets for exportation, and it is late in the day that Mr Nicholls has to teach the fishermen and fish curers the art and mystery to make the herring acceptable and marketable abroad to the great profit of the Island.

1. See Moore pp. 957-8.

2. See Moore p. 661.

3. The tithe was commuted in 1839.

4. See Isle of Man Guide, Saml. Haining, 1834, p. 84.

5. See Laughton's Guide to Isle of Man, 1842, pp. 281/2,

[242 ].

MISCELLANEA IN CONNECTION WITH THE HERRING FISHERY.

In making a start for the fishing, care is taken not to go out on Friday for the first time, or go out of the harbour third boat for the first fishing of the season. In the fishing fleet, Manx is a constant means of conversation among the older men; the compass is generally boxed in Manx by them. The only variation is that some box it from N. to E., others from N. to W. The men say they could box the compass in Manx before they could box in English. A list is given at the end. Even when Anglo-Manx is spoken, distinct Manx names are used by all the crew for the various qualities of herrings. For instance, if down in the cabin at dinner and one man wanted a roe herring, or perhaps a milt herring, he would say, as the case might be, to the cook: "Ta mish laccal skeddan lesh oghyr aynjee," or " lesh molg ayn."

The following names are some, amongst others, which are in general use:Herring= skeddan; mast. molg; fem. oghyr. Young herring = skeddan beg aeg, or skeddan beg, or skeddan aeg.

Grown herring, skeddan mie.

Spent herring, skeddan spendit (an English loan word).

Fry, no particular name for herring fry, generalized as fray.

skeddan fray are herring which chase and feed upon fray. Skeddan fray are big enough fish, but are of poor quality, as fray feeding makes herrings soft, and causes black gut.

Black gut is a little black round bag in the herring filled with small fray, which causes the herring to become bad almost directly after being caught. Some herrings will not touch this fray, or animalculæ, which floats in red patches on the water, but generally where it may be found, there too may the herring be found underneath, for some herrings always follow and feed greedily on this fray.

Sometimes they speak of the herring as the "lil bright fellas," but skeddan is the word generally used at sea or on land. The coral reef, banks, beds, or grounds, as the fishermen indiscriminately call the spawning grounds off Douglas, are of white and red colour. Many of the houses in Peel have a bit of this "coral" stuck on their mantlepi

'tee for an ornament, taken out of the nets when at Douglas. When the boats "fish low" (close to land) or " drive over the banks," the nets invariably become studded with broken bits of " coral," which tangle the meshes and do injury both to hands and net in being got out. When a "let" (hindrance) is felt in the nets one hears: Ta'n snaa to goaill grunt lane crossan (the net is taking a groundful of coral). When nets come on board full of coral the exclamation will be: Ogh ! snaa lane crossan (a net full of coral).

ENGLISH DIALECT WORDS.

Herring pool-the English Channel (so called in Cornwall).

Herring dub-the Irish Sea (so called in Cumberland)

Herring dub-North Sea (so called in Aberdeen).

Herring drew=a drove of herring. Herring bairn=sprat.

Herring gyte=herring spawn.

Herring siles=swarm of herring shoals. Herring soam=the fat of a herring. Herring tack=a shoal of herring.

I Herring sile. East Yorkshire (white bait is nothing but herring sile.)

The name Herring occurs in Donegal (herren), Northumberland (harrin), Scotland (herren), Galloway, Aberdeen, Cumberland (Solway), Kent, East, West, and North Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Devonshire, Norfolk, Cornwall, Dorsetshire.

THE COMPASS IN MANX.

N. Twoaie.

rwoaie as lesh y shiar. N.N.E. Twoaie-shiar hwoaie. Shiar-hwoaie as lesh y hwoaie. N.E. Shiar-hwoaie. Shiar-hwoaie as lesh y shiar. E.N.E. Shiar-shiar hwoaie. Shiar as lesh y hwoaie.

1 E. Shiar.

Shiar as lesh y jiass. E.S.E. Shiar-shiar ass. Shiar-ass as lesh v shiar. S.E. Shiar-ass. Shiar-ass as lesh y jiass. S.S.E. Jiass shiar-ass. Jiass as lesh y shiar. S. Jiass.

Jims as lesh y sheear. S.S.W. Jiass-sheear-ass Sheear-ass as lesh y jiass. S.W. Sheear-ass.

Sheear-ass as lesh y sheear. W.S.W. Sheear-sheear ass.

Sheear as lesh y jiass. W. Sheear.

Sheear as lesh y hwoaie. W.N.W. Sheear sheear hwoaie.

Sheear hwoaie as lesh y sheear. N.W. Sheear hwoaie.

Sheear hwoaie as lesh y hwoaie. N.N.W. Twoaie sheear hwoaie.

Twoaie as lesh v Sheear. N. Twoaie.

MISCELLANEA.

[243. ]

THE JEWS IN THE ISLE OF MAN.

There is some interesting information about them at an early time. Fargher states in his Annals:

1740. Bernard Frank, a Jew, presented fox blasphemy against our blessed Saviour.

In the Manchester Chronicle and Anderton's Universal Advertizer, we read sub. 5th October, 1762 ; in its Liverpool letter:

On the 29th ulto., Joseph Levi a consider. able Jew merchant (of Liverpool), renounced the errors of his religion, and was baptized by the name of Robert Joseph Levi, by the Rev. Philip Moore, Rector of St. Andrew's, and Vicar of Douglas, in the Isle of Man, and we are informed that many more Jews intend following his example.

LOSS OF A SMUGGLING SLOOP. In the same number it says:

The Betty, sloop, Edward McCann, a smuggler from Isle of Man, lost on the Iron Wharf, and all hands on board perished, except one.


 

Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2004