[From 1911 MacDonnell Inquiry]
STATEMENT BY MR. W. A. KELLY ON THE STATE OF THE FISHING INDOSTRY
IN THE ISLAND.
Peel, Isle of Man,
May 25th, 1911.
I beg to enclose some interesting particulars re
the Fishing Industry, which you kindly suggested I
should send to you, seeing I could not get to Douglas
on Tuesday to give evidence. If not too presumptuous
I would urge that these particulars should be printed
along with the other evidence, and that for two
reasons. First, because it is the only evidence directly
bearing on fishing, and second, because every town
was represented by witnesses except Peel. In this
connection I might mention that Castletown was represented
by the Brewery Company, a concern which
employs directly and indirectly only 2 per cent. of
people as compared with the fishing industry. Might
I also suggest that you would draw Lord Macdonnell's
special attention to the enclosed, as when his lordship
was Under Secretary for Ireland he was brought into
very close touch with fishing matters. Should your
Commission desire any more particulars, if you indicate
in what direction they are required, I shall be glad to
On behalf of the working people of the Island and
myself allow me to endorse all that has been said of
your Commissioners and yourself in your conduct of
the recent Inquiry. Whatever the result, your visit
will always be remembered as the first occasion in
our memory when Manx people were permitted and
encouraged to state their grievances.
Believe me, Sir,
Yours very faithfully,
W. A. KELLY.
FRANK ELLIOTT, Esq.
MANX CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION.
Statement re Fishing.
W. A. KELLY, of Peel.
For the past twelve years I have been Secretary and
Manager of the Peel Fishing Company, and also the
Peel Fish Sales Company, the latter being allied particularly
to the herring fishery. As no coal has been
found in Manxland, it is impossible to sustain, or even
commence manufactures of any kind. An instance of
this was the case of Mr. W. H. Lever, of Sunlight Soap
fame, who intended starting a large branch soap
works. The cost of importing coal, with the extra
freight on exports, however, more than neutralised the
cheaper labour promised, and the idea was abandoned.
This shows that our natural resources must be revived
and conserved. Hitherto the fishing industry has
been completely ignored, and the Fishery Board,
which is supposed to look after its interests, has confined
its attention to paying a man to inform on those
who fish for salmon and salmon trout in the little
Manx rivers, and conveniently forget to pay for a
Manx fishermen are good sailors, good sailors make
good men for the navy, thus from the point of view of
protecting the Empire it would pay to revive the
herring fishing. During the last five years, previous to
the removal of the R. N. R. Battery from Peel, it was not
uncommon at one period of the year to see 400 Manx
fishermen at drill.
I would like to compare the apathy of the Manx
Government on this question with the splendid and
magnificent work done by the Congested Districts
Board of Ireland. Any Irish fisherman of good
character and energy (provided he can get two bails)
can borrow money to build a boat completely fitted
out ready for sea, The money is borrowed at 2½ per
cent. per annum, and the repayments of principal and
interest are spread over a term of from six to ten
years, in half-yearly or quarterly payments. This is
common knowledge in Peel, as within the past fifteen
or twenty years scores of these boats have been built
and fitted out in Peel. Knowing these facts, our
fishermen are naturally envious of their Irish brethren,
and complaints are loud and deep that our Government
takes so little interest in the fishing industry.
I have to complain, too, that while both visiting and
agriculture receive grants yearly, fishing is entirely
ignored. Visiting gets 750l. for advertising, besides
1,000l. yearly from a rate levied over the whole Island;
agriculture 250l., as premiums for bulls and stallions;
but fishing nil every year from the Insular revenue.
Since 1866 the only grant given was 250l. in 1894, by
the then Governor, Sir West Ridgeway. In 1904 a representative
deputation, which included fishermen, boat
owners from M. H. K.'s and others (of whom I had the
honour to be one) waited on His Excellency Lord
Raglan asking for a guarantee of 480l. The case was
very ably stated by Mr. T. H. Cormode, member for
Peel. The facts are as follows :-Every year, from the
middle of August to the middle of October, a splendid
quality of herring come to within five or ten miles of
the east of the Island (extending from Laxey to and
past Douglas to Port Soderick) to spawn on the
coral beds. What we wished to find out was the
direction from which the fish came, and to obtain
some of them before they got so close in. For this
purpose it was decided to engage a dozen boats to fish
between Douglas and Holyhead for the month, from
the middle of July to the middle of August. It was
decided that the crews of the boats should have a wage
of 1l. a week and their provisions, the owners of the
boats being agreeable not to charge anything for the
use of gear and boat. The nett cost was 10l. per week
per boat, and for twelve boats for four weeks was 480l.
If a boat should earn over 40l., say 50l. or 60l., no
guarantee was required, and the owner would partici-
pate in any amount over 40l. If a boat should earn
35l. a guarantee of 5l. was required, if 30l. a guarantee
of 10l., and so on. In addition we had thousands of
boxes at Holyhead in case the boats could not get to
Douglas on account of calm or stress of weather.
Men were also to be stationed at Holyhead to ship the
fish to the English markets. His Excellency was very
sympathetic, but stated there were no funds at his
disposal, and yet within twelve months extensive
repairs to Government House were executed and a
small farm bought out of the revenue at a cost of
nearly 15,000l. I might state that in the financial
year ending March 31st, 1905, over 8,000l. surplus
revenue was added to the Accumulated Fund.
Another point in favour of the revival of the fishing
industry is that it provides proportionately from 75 to
100 per cent. more employment in the winter than
visiting. A concrete example will prove this. If
Mr. A. builds a house costing 800l., the amount of
repairs and renewals for ten years will not exceed 5l.
yearly for labour and material. On the other hand, if
Mr. B. builds and equips a fishing boat costing 800l., at
the beginning of the second year and every succeeding
one, it will cost him 100l. yearly in labour and material,
at least 80 per cent. being for labour.
The question of providing curing stations with all
their appliances at Peel and Port St. Mary (and this
would be a profitable investment), should also engage
the attention of our Government.
Another item to be considered in conjunction with
the Imperial authorities is the question of extending
the three-mile limit for trawling purposes. In the
spring of the year it is a common occurrence for our
sailing boats, which fish cod, etc., with lines, for the
fish to be taken off their lines, or in addition, often-
times for the lines to be cut to pieces and rendered
useless by steam trawlers trawling off the coast of the
Isle of Man.
Another point in connection with this industry. I
wish to refer to the urgent necessity for a through rate
for exporting purposes. For a number of seasons in the
discharge of my duties I shipped thousands of boxes of
Irish mackerel from Fenit, co. Kerry, Ireland, to Liverpool
and Manchester. The distance was over 400
miles, the fish was transhipped at Dublin and
Holyhead, and thence to Liverpool and Manchester.
There were two distinct lines of carriers, and the
through rate was 2s. 6d. per box, nominally 1 cwt.,
with a rebate of 3d. per box on three-ton lots. Just
compare this with the Isle of Man. The distance from
Peel to Liverpool is under 100 miles. I admit the
goods have to be carted from Douglas railway station
to the steamer. Yet the cost is 2s. 8d. per box or cwt.,
and to Manchester, which is only 40 miles further, the
cost is 4s. per cwt. With a through rate the rates for,
fish would be greatly reduced, and the result would be
that scores of tons of fish would be sent to the English
markets every summer, which would mean an increased
value for the fish caught.
Finally, I wish to refer to the kippering industry.
For half a century, the cause of which I will not state
here, Manx kippers were celebrated all over the north
and west of England. So much so is this the case,
that although the Manx kipper season does not commence
until the 1st of June and finishes about the
second week in October, people residing in the principal
towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire can obtain
alleged Manx kippers from 1st January to 31st
December. And the evil has extended to Douglas.
Thousands of boxes of cheap kippers are imported
from Liverpool and resold as Manx. This tends to
ruin the trade, which is a very extensive one. It is
calculated that over three million Manx kippers, valued
at over 15,000l., are eaten and sent by post to all parts
of the British Isles. Such a trade you will see must be
safeguarded, and an alert and energetic fishery board
could well attend to this and the others matters I have