[From Manx Quarterly #8 April 1910]

THE MANX HERRING FISHERY.

(COMMUNICATED)

If the minutes of the proceedings of Mr Noble's Trustees should ever be published, it would be seen that at a meeting held sometime in May, 1909, a letter was read from Mr T. H. Cormode, H.K., appealing for a sum of money to assist a scheme for establishing hearing curing stations in Peel and Port St. Mary. The sum asked for was voted. The appeal came to be made in this way : A few gentlemen happened to meet in a restaurant in Douglas, and the conversation, over the tea cups, turned to the question of reviving the herring fishing industry. Mr Henry James Qualtrough, of Port St. Mary, was one of the company, and he strongly advocated the establishment of herring curing stations. The Clerk of the Rolls, who has been for years desirous of finding some way of making the industry prosperous once more, and who had turned the conversation to the subject, was deeply impressed with Mr Qualtrough's arguments, and meeting Mr T. C. Kermode and Mr T. H. Cormode shortly afterwards, he suggested that they should consult with fishing boat owners and fishermen on the subject, and encouraged them to believe that if money were needed to launch a scheme an appeal to Noble's Trustees would probably bring assistance. Merrs Kermode and Commode let no grass grow under their feet; but the story of all their doings would be too long to tell here. Suffice it to say that they gained the support of the majority of persons interested in the industry to certain proposals, which were embodied in the letter above referred to. Immediately after Noble's Trustees bad signified their decision to grant the money, a number of fish curers were approached; but, with the exception of Mr Matthew Nicol, of Londonderry, they refused to entertain the proposal that they should commence business in the Isle of Man. Mr Nicol, however, at once promised to consider the suggestion, and later on came to the Island, and at oom-ferences of representatives of Noble's Trustees, boat owners, fishermen, together with Mews J. D. Clucas, H.K.. T. H. Cormode. H.K. , and T. C. Kermode, H.K, it was decided to establish a curing station at Port St. Mary, on ground let for the purpose at a nominal rent by the Harbour Board. We are not at liberty to state the precise terms of the agree merit entered into by the various parties, but its main features were that Noble's Trustees were to pay Mr Nicol a sum of money as soon as the scheme should be put into Operation, and a further sum on its satisfactory completion; that the boats entering into the scheme should let Mr Nicol have all the fish caught by them; and that Mr Nicol should pay fixed prices, according to quality, for all the fish supplied A committee was appointed to settle any disputes which might arise. Operations commenced on July 13th and were continued to September 28th. At the start 24 boats were employed, and later the number increased to 30. Six thousands five hundred and seventy-eight crans of herrings were landed, and for these Mr Nicol paid on the average 16s per cran, the total sum paid amounting exactly to 5,289 6s 7d. The boats thus carried on the average 176 each. It must be remembered, however, that a few of them were employed only part of the time; and the average for those employed the whole time was close upon 190. It is, of course, impossible to say what amount would have been earned by the herring fleet if the scheme had not been in operation, but, judging by the experience of recent years, it is doubtful whether it would have reached 2,500 at the outside; and bearing in mind that the working expenses are practically the same whether the prices for fish are high or low, it seems a fair inference that the wages of the fishermen, and the nett profits of the boat-owners were more than doubled. The boats which did not enter into the scheme also benefitted very considerably, owing to the fact that through Mr Nicol taking such large quantities of fish, the ordinary market was over glutted, and average prices were, therefore, much better than for years past

It must also be remembered that from sixty to eighty persons were engaged in cleaning and curing the fish, and as these received good wages and spent freely, Port St. Mary tradesmen reaped a nice harvest. In fact, we have been assured by several residents in the village that trade was better while the scheme was in operation than at any time within the last twenty-five years.

The best thing in connection with the matter is, however, that it has advertised the fact far and Wide that herrings abound around our coasts during July, August, and September, and that consequently a great development of the fishing industry may be reasonably anticipated. We have it on reliable authority that the Harbour Board have applications from leading firms for ground next year for fish-curing stations in Peel as well ad in Port St. Mary. Moreover, the Clerk of the Rolls is interesting himself in the whole subject most keenly, and has made several suggestions to Messrs Kermode and Cormode, which, if found practicable, will in all probability bear good fruit. There can be, we think, little doubt that this important industry has entered upon a new era of prosperity.

 


 

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