[From Train's History and Account, 1844]



"To all the King's and Queen's Majesties' officers. Know yr — that A..B., master — and merchant of the ship called the C. D, belonging to the Isle of Man, whereof the Right Honourable the Earl of Derby and E. F. Knight, Lieutenant to the said Earl, of the said Isle, are owners, bath well and truly laden aboard the said ship in the port of Douglas, in the said Isle, to and for the use of the said owners, five hundred and twenty barrels of wheat, every hundred five score ; twenty dickers of. rough, salt hides; and ten hundred rendered tallow, every hundred six score pounds weight, to be transported in the said ship, from the said Isle of Man, unto the Isle of Bion,.im Galicia, or where the said ship may best make sale of her loading,. and bath well and truly paid all duties and customs due for the same. In witness whereof, unto these presents, we, the Water Bayliff and Customer of the said Isle, have put our seal of office, the first day of February, in the twenty-fourth year (A.D. 1581) of the reign of our sovereign Lady Elizabeth, by the grace of God, Queen of England,. France, and Ireland. "-Mills's Laws, pp. 45, 46.


" As the Herring Fishing is as great a Blessing as this poor Island receives, lie enabling the Tenants for the better and speedier. Payment of their Rents, and other Impositions, and have wherewithal to supply their other Wants and Occasions, when as all other their Endeavours and Husbandry would scarce advance any such Advantages and Gains unto them: So it bath been the incessant Care and Regard of the Government of this Isle always, when the Season of such Fishing falls out, and rather before, upon the Tynwald holden in June every Year, to make open and publick Proclamation to the whole Assembly of the Island, to remind them to be careful in providing their Boats and Netts to be in Readiness, whensoever it pleaseth God to send them that Blessing : And for the great Furtherance and Means to obtain such, it was the Care of the then Government, in the Year 1610,

" That every Farmer or Tenant within: this Island, whether Lord's or Baron', Tenants, should provide eight Fathoms of Netts, (when as then there was not so many that kept Boats and Netts as now) furnished with Buoys and Corks ready for Fishing, out of every Quarter of Ground, containing three Deepings of nine Score Mashes upon the Rope, to be as an Imposition upon the Tenants for the more effectual obtaining of a Blessing as aforesaid.

" And lest that some Persons should be too forward to fish before the Fish should well ground about the Land, and so might frighten it away, it was also provided that no Person or Persons whatsoever should attempt to shoot for the Fish till after the sixteenth of July, which then was apprehended to be the Season for such Fishing.

" And no Man is to shoot his Netts till the Admiral or Vice-Admiral have first taken in their Flags, or to give a Watchword if the Night be dark, that they may know when to shoot their Netts ; and whosoever is found to offend herein, forfeiteth Ten Shillings to the Lord and Twenty Days' Imprisonment.

'° And whosoever shall wilfully shoot his Netts across, over the Netts of another, or shall use any Draw-Netts or Stake-Netts during the Time of the Fishing, shall forfeit Ten Shillings.

" And if any shall cut any Buoys or Corks off any Man's Netts, or shake or take any Herrings out of the same, and it sufficiently proved, shall be proceeded against by a Jury as in the Nature of Felony.

"And if any of the Fleet do, by God's Blessing, meet with the Scul of Fish, or get good Store thereof, and reveal not the same to the next Boat to him, that so the same might be discovered from Boat to Boat throughout the whole Fleet, to the End every of them might be Partakers of that Blessing, that every One so offending is to be fined Forty Shillings besides Imprisonment.

" Also, that if any shall lay violent Hands upon or strike any of his Fellows, or give him uncharitable Language on Sea-board, or under the full-sea Mark, such Person to be punished by Forty Days' Imprisonment, and to be fined besides, at the Water Bailiff's Discretion.

" And if any draw Blood by violent Strokes on Sea-board, or under full-sea Mark, he shall forfeit his Goods to the Lord's Pleasure.

" Also, the Water Bailiff shall have out of every Boat, as oft as they Fish, a certain measure called a Sybbon full of Herrings; and whosoever refuseth to give the same, or Twelve Pence in Money in lieu thereof, shall be excluded from the Fleet.

"And that upon every Saturday, by Two o'Clock in the Afternoon, during the Fishing Time, the Water Bailiff is to sit and hold an Admiral Court, as well to inflict Punishments upon all Offenders, as to reform all Wrongs committed through the Fleet.

" And every Master of a Boat, and all others his Fishermen, are to attend the same Court, to serve upon Jurors or other necessary Occasions, as they shall be required unto, upon Pain of Fineing."-Mills's Laws, pp. 502, 503.

Great difficulties arise from the disputes of the Manksmen with the English and Irish fishermen, who do not acknowledge the authority of the admirals, and submit only to the laws of the realm. There are at present belonging to the former, one hundred vessels ; those of the latter are also numerous. The chief subject of contention, between the Manks and. Englishmen, is the period of their commencing the fishery, and of shooting the nets. The former never fish before the 5th July, and shoot their nets invariably after dark, to avoid alarming the fish — a deviation of this rule being permitted only on special liberty from the officers or water bailiff ; whereas the latter break through both these customs, taking the sea in June and shooting their nets when the sun is up.

The Manksmen complained on the subject to the House of Keys, by whom their representations were submitted to the Board of Northern Fisheries, who decided in favour of the right claimed by the English, as being authorized by the Act of Parliament to fish at all seasons on the British coast.

Notwithstanding the jealousy excited by the difference, the English fishermen are in estimation for their orderly conduct and skill in the fishery. The old Manks statutes, prohibiting fishing from Saturday morning till Sunday at night, after sunset, on pain of forfeiting the boats and nets, are observed; and the take of Monday is generally superior to that of other days, in consequence of the less previous disturbance of the fish.

The Manksmen had an old quarrel with the Irish respecting the side of the vessel from which the net should be cast, originating in the direction given by our Saviour to St. Peter, which produced the miraculous draught. This was determined by the act of 1793, which decided in conformity with the above precept, that the net should be shot from the starboard side. Lord Teignmouth's Sketches, cap. xx.


To George Quirk, Esq., receiver-general and water-bailiff of the Island, I am indebted for the following interesting communication, exhibiting a view of the Marks fisheries to the end of the year 1840. Mr. Quirk's statements are based on an intimate knowledge of the subject, and form an additional evidence of the great value of the fisheries to the Island.

" The natural history of the migration of the herring, is a subject not entirely free from controversy.

" Several scientific works have affirmed that the large shoals which annually visit the coast of Scotland and Ireland, and the western shores of England, come from the arctic circle, beginning their migration in the spring, and appearing off the Shetland Isles in the months of April and May; but the stomachs of the common whale and the narwal inhabitants of the northern regions have been examined, and their food has been found to entirely consist of the floating sapiae, medusae, or sea blubber never of herrings. The gullet of these animals, enormous as they themselves are, being so narrow, as scarcely to admit the passage of a single herring."

The-gullet of a whale washed ashore on the coast of Scotland some years ago, and of the extraordinary length of ninety-six feet, was only one inch and a half in diameter.-Laughton's Guide, p. 178.

" From evidence taken before a committee of the legislature of the Isle of Man, in the year 1827, it would appear that, contrary to the received opinion, a shoal or shoals of herrings entered St. George's Channel from the south, in the month of May, when the fishing commences at Arklow, on the coast of Ireland. That;tthe progress of the fish to the northward is slow-Arklow, Dublin bay, Ardglass, and the Isle of Man being the successive fishing grounds — and that the body of fish seldom. reaches the Isle of Man before the middle of June or later; that two coral banks, situated to the west and east of that Island, and chiefly the latter, would seem to be their ultimate annual destination, these places being frequented by them for the purpose of depositing therein their spawn ; that after the completion of this pro. gress, in the month of October, the fish again return southward, retiring to the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and furnish a second or winter fishing at Arklow in November. The separate facts connecting this course of migration, seem to be distinctly shown in the evidence taken before a committee of the Manks legislature in 1827 ; and an Arklow fisherman states the very conclusive circumstance, ' that in the summer fishery, the herrings always mesh with their heads to the north ; and in the winter fishery, with their heads to the south; or in other words, that in summer they are caught to the south of the net, and in winter to the north of it.' Large bodies may, however, occasionally approach direct from the north to the coasts of the Isle of Man, one example of which, it is said, occurred in the great fishery of 1802.

" It is an interesting probable fact, that the fish, which annually visit the shores of the Isle of Man, always belong to the same families : they are of the finest quality and have ever been esteemed a great luxury, being of peculiar excellence during the months of June and July.

"The fishery, from the earliest times, has been a subject of deep interest to the inhabitants, and has occupied the attention of the local legislature from the remotest period of its history. The Statute Book contains, from 1610 down to a very late period, some of those concise gems of legislation, on the subject of the fisheries, that may be well contrasted with many of those verbose and often unintelligible productions that may be found coming from quarters said to be more civilized.

"The period for commencing the herring fishery is fixed, by the Manks law of 1610, at the 16th of July, or the 4th or 5th new style, that having been the period, from time immemorial, the shoals of herrings were believed not to have settled and embodied in the channel. This established custom continued to be generally observed until the summer of 1823, when the Cornish fishermen commenced fishing on the Manks coasts, disregarded the local regulations, and not allowing the shoals to settle, they took them in their progress.

"The arrival and embodying of the shoal is, however, far from being sufficiently uniform to be registered by dates, and as the commissioners of the Scotch fisheries have expressed an opinion, that to attempt to prescribe a time either for the commencement or termination of the fishery would be impolitic and attended with more harm than good, the old regulation, of late years, has not been enforced. It is, however, the opinion of many intelligent and disinterested persons, and the same opinion prevails among the fishermen themselves, that the practice of premature fishing is very injurious, and combined with the destruction of the coral banks on the east coast of the Island by the modern introduction of trawling, is a sufficient cause for what the fishermen consider a declining state of the fishery on the Irish as well as on the Manks coast.

"The Manks herring fishing fleet now consists of two hundred and twenty vessels, and is manned by fifteen hundred men. Of late years, great improvement has taken place in the construction of the vessels and in the babits of the fishermen themselves. They are chiefly genuine fishermen, are better clothed and better fed, and are more industrious and temperate than formerly.

" The boats are half-decked, measuring from twelve to eighteen tons, smack rigged, with an out-rigger sail abaft. The nets are also better equipped than those formerly used, being longer and deeper, of which each boat is provided with fifteen or twenty pieces: each piece measures in length about one hundred and seventy feet, and in depth twenty-one feet. In these respects, the Manks fishermen appear to have successfully imitated, if not excelled, the Cornish fishermen.

" Captain Quilliam, of the Royal Navy, a native of the Isle of Man, who had always shown a desire to raise the condition and multiply the comforts of the fishermen, was among the first to suggest the advantage of equipping a boat with nets on the present improved plan. He had no difficulty to induce two gentlemen, his friends, to embark in the undertaking; and a boat was accordingly fitted out in 1827, which fished successfully for several years. This example had the happy effect of inducing their countrymen to abandon a prejudice, which they had entertained for their own laborious mode of fishing.

" In each boat there are six or seven men. The shares are generally divided thus — For the boat, two shares; for the nets, six ; for the crew, six. The crews are also allowed ten shillings to fourteen shillings per week for diet, which is taken out of the common stock.

"The cost of a boat and nets, completely fitted out, may be estimated at two hundred and fifty pounds. The average annual expense of barking the nets of each boat is ten pounds. Of English and Irish boats, there are usually from seventy to one hundred engaged in the fishery on the Manks coast.

" In the fishing season of 1840, eighteen fast-sailing smacks belonging to the Island and one hundred and twenty men were employed in the carrying trade; that is, in the transport of fresh fish to the Liverpool markets, whence Manchester and the adjacent towns are abundantly supplied. These vessels cost from three hundred to four hundred pounds each. Owing to the difficulty, however, of maintaining a proper ratio between demand and supply, the market varies between the extreme points of glut and scarcity, and the necessary consequence sometimes is a low average profit to those engaged in this trade. Sudden fluctuations in the quantity taken, materially affect the price. The average price of fish, so purchased for the English market, was about twenty shillings per mease, or four shillings per hundred, (a hundred herrings contains one hundred and twenty-four) where it may realise from six shillings to nine shillings per hundred. Fifteen vessels from England and Ireland were also engaged in the same trade.

" The increased demand and high price of fish in afresh state, produced, it is considered, from the facilities of railroad carriage and the general improvement of the country, have tended very much to diminish the business of curing for the home and foreign markets, and this business has ceased, of late years, to be an object of much commercial speculation.

"Messrs. Henry Holmes and Sons, bankers and merchants, are the only persons extensively engaged in this trade. They have curing and drying houses at Douglas and Derbyhaven, in this Island, and at Wick, in Scotland.

" It is proper here to notice that it has frequently occurred when there is an abundant take, and the demand for the English market checked, the price is fixed not by the vender, but by the buyer ; and Messrs. Holmes never offer on those occasions less than ten shillings to twelve shillings per crap, justly considering that a lower price would not afford the fishermen a living profit.

"From returns that have been made, and from inquiry and observation, the following account may be presented of the productive state . of the fishery, for the year ending October, 1840


Purchased and carried to the Liverpool markets in Manx boats .. 25,000 -35,000

Do, do. by English and Irish boats.. .. .. .. • • . 10,000 12,000

Used and consumed in the island, fresh and salt .. . .. .. .. 15,000 10,000

Cured in the island for exportation in bulk and barrel .. . . • • 30,000 15,000 Total .. .. 60,000 je72,000

"The cod fishery, an important branch of the fisheries, commences in February, and continues during the months of March and April. It requires no expensive outlay ; but the season is perilous, and the risk therefore great.

"The same boats that are used in the herring fishery are employed in this fishery. Fifteen Manks boats and one hundred and twenty men were engaged in the season of 1840. They fish with long lines, each man furnishing four hundred and eighty fathoms of line and two hundred and forty hooks, which cost about thirty shillings.

" In the above season, which was a successful one, three thousand five hundred cod were taken by one boat, and produced to the fishermen one hundred and forty-five pounds. They were sold at teupenee each, and were carried to the Liverpool market, where the usual price is from a penny to threepence per pound.

" There is only one trawl boat belonging to the Island, which was fitted out last year. The coast is, however, frequented by trawl boats from Liverpool. They trawl throughout the channel, between Maughold Head, in the Isle of Man, and the light ship, stationed off Liverpool. They commence on the Manks coast about October. In the months of March, April, and May, the fish shift to the south-east; towards the end of May they are found further east, and approach the sands and muddy bottoms off the coast of Lancaster; there they are of inferior quality, and are preparing to deposit their spawn. The average earnings of each man may be about twenty shillings per week.

" The turbot fishery is uncertain and unproductive.

" From a comparative view of the expenses of outfit and capital employed in the herring and cod fisheries, with the prices and moneys realised, it may be estimated that a profit from sixty to eighty per cent. was obtained in the year to which the foregoing statement refers. And finally, it may be stated that these fisheries give employment annually to four hundred vessels decked, half-decked, and yawls, and to four thousand men and boys ; and there is no question but that the Manks fisheries afford, and are capable of affording, a most abundant and profitable source of productive employment, and that their encouragement and improvement ought to be recognised as an object of essential importance to the wealth of the Island."

The report of the committee of the Insular Legislature, before referred to, is a very valuable document; it directs public attention to a number of circumstances of great interest. It had been found that several practices prevailed among the fishermen which were injurious to the general trade, and as it was undeniable that the fishery in late years had much diminished, it became important to enquire into, and, as far as possible, prohibit these practices. The practices which had formed the chief ground of complaint were —

1. Commencing " the fishery at too early a period of the season, thereby scaring and dispersing the fish before they had embodied and settled on or near their annual destination."

2. " Shooting the nets at too early an hour of the evening," from which the same evil consequences ensued.

On these points the report observes . —

" It is of no less importance, however, to discover the origin, than to prevent the continuance, of the abuse; and your committee have no doubt whatever that the prohibition of these two practices ought to be most rigidly enforced.

" The injurious practice of tarring the nets, or boiling them in a mixture of bark or tar; and there is still a more recent practice of soaking them in oil or other nauseous mixtures, probably offensive to the fish, certainly so to its consumer, and seriously affecting its commercial value. It were superfluous to insist on the absolute necessity of effective measures for the abolition of this practice."

The committee in conclusion recommend the following regulations : —

" 1st. — To regulate the commencement of the fishery by the verdict of a jury of fishermen as hereinbefore suggested, or to fix a date not earlier than the fifth of July.

" 2nd. — To prohibit shooting the nets before the lighthouses are lighted, or a signal be made by the admiral of the fishery, according to ancient law and practice.

" 3rd. — To prohibit strictly the use of tar, oil, or any other material than bark alone, in preparing the nets.

" 4th. — That all suitable encouragement be given to the reduction in size, and reform in rigging and equipment of the boats, and the reduction of the crew.

" 5th. — That one uniform mode of shooting the nets be enforced, either from the starboard or the larboard side of the boat.

" 6th. — It is submitted for consideration whether it be not an advisable precaution against the danger arising from the track of so many steam vessels passing so near the fishing grounds, that each boat be obliged to carry a distinguishing light after


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