[From Manx Soc vols 25+28 - Blundell's History]




THE principal commodity which the inhabitants of Man have in most abundance wherewith they traffick and transport to all the 4 neighbouring nations, and to ye more southward, unto France, all along its north and west parts, and where with the less sort of Manks people of both sexes, both in the town and country, do every day constantly feed upon, is herrings.

The Manksmen begin their fishing for herrings about the latter end of August, and continue the same all the month of September.

By an antient custom of theirs, all the herrings yt are taken ought to be brought to the highwater mark at yt place; the first thing they do is to cast out the tithes or 10th part, which doth belong, and they give as a duty and an acknow ledgement unto the Church, and yt portion is there given to the proctor, for so they call him, altho' I presume his true denomination as it is beyond the seias is a procurator, who there without fail will be ready to receive it. The rest of the fish in every boat they divide into S parts, whereof he yt furnisheth the nets hath 3 parts, he yt is owner of the boat one part, the other 4 parts are subdivided among the fishermen yt assisted to catch 'em, for in every boat yt goeth out to fish there be 4 fishermen, so as if the owner of ye boat be also owner of the nets, he hath the half of all ye herrings yt are taken in yt boat and in that net.

There is a certain duty paid out of these herrings which are taken by the Mauksmen in any part about the Island unto the Lord of ye Island, which is thus ordered by an antient custom there.

If 5 meazs be caught by 1 boat (note, a meaz containeth y proportion 500 herrings)

of them they give the Lord one meaze, if 10 meaz be taken by one boat, they are then to give the lord 2 meaz, yt is 1000 herrings, then the lord can de mand no more, for after yt proportion being paid, they are free to take as many as they can without paying any more to the lord, altho' they shou'd afterwards catch 1000 meazes, and except 5 meazes be caught by one boat the L~ hath not any part at all He yt brings the first in care to the Lord at his castle at Rushin, by an antient custom the Lord is to give him 3sh. 4d. The rest of the herrings remaineth above the tithes, and the Lord's meazes are divided into 8 parts, and afterwards subdivided, according as was set down before.

The Lord of the Island hath no duty paid unto him of any other fish but of herrings only, but tithes are paid both of herrings and of any fish y~ is taken, as of cod, ling, macarel, thornback, etc. It belonged to the water bailif's place, who in this Island hath the power of an admiral in all maritime cases, to order all businesses concerning this herring fishery, to see yt none do or receive any wrong during yt season, as shall be showed in the sequent 2nd Book.

I suppose it will be as strange for the reader as it was for me, to observe it that these Manks 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 respeetless are they of variety of dressing them or to give them any other gust than their own natural taste, yt they are so far from having any red herrings, that they know not what they mean, neither do they desire to know or learn how to make them. The fishermen complained much at my being there, for of late years they have not taken half the quantity of herrings which they used to take in former times, and, more over, yt within the memory of some of them until of late they failed not to have great fishing for cods, of which they were accustomed to take in such plentiful abundance, as yt theywere enforced to cut off their heads, and to cast them away upon the shore, either for the poor or for any yt would take them up, which they did, least their boat should be overloaden and sink; but now it is otherwise.

And no marvel if yt be true which Gerald Cambrensis relateth, yt those of the Island of Man were given to make mony of their fish, and wou'd not give away any in charity. And I find in a certain author yt certain inhabitants of some islands in Germany near the Holy Land, were accustomed, about the year of our Saviour's birth, 1530, to take as many herrings as would sustain 2000 p'sons ; those mariners growing wanton, took a herring and whipped it till it died. Afterwards this sort of fish became so few and scarce in those parts, as that they found not so many as to feed 100 p'sons.


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