Baltasound, Unst, 16 July 1883 - Donald Moar

DONALD MOAR, Crofter and Fisherman, Cullivoe (23)—examined.
(See Appendix A. LI )

19752. The Chairman.
—Do you hold land and pay rent?

19753. Was your father established there before you?
—Yes, he has been there these last fifty years.

19754. Who is your landlord?
—Major Cameron. I am in the same position as the man who has just been examined. I am in want of
scathold. It was taken away, and they put £1 upon the rent; they took away the scathold, and never took off the £1.

19755. How many sheep were kept upon the scathold belonging to your croft formerly?
—They kept sheep more or less; perhaps fifty or sixty sheep, and some maybe had fewer.

19756. Did your father in his time keep about forty sheep?
—He kept about twenty sheep, but some people had more.

19757. When the ground for those twenty sheep was taken away, he had no reduction of rent, but, on the contrary, there was £1 put upon the rent?
—There was £1 put upon the land when Mr Walker came and looked over the scathold; he raised the rent £1 on account of the stock picturing, and then he took away the scathold, and the £1 was never
taken off.

19758. On your own croft, what stock do you keep?
—Three cows and six ponies.

19759. No sheep?
—No sheep.

19760. Have you a good house?
—Yes, very good; it has just been repaired.

19761. What is your rent?
—£4 altogether.

19762. Why is your rent £4, while a neighbour who has the same stock pays £5?
—The ponies that I have I am obliged to other people for letting them go upon their land outside.

19763. When did you receive intimation that this meeting was to be held here?
—I received the intimation at the telegraph office on Saturday or Sunday sometime.

19764. Was it on Saturday or Sunday?
—I could not say which. I heard on the afternoon of yesterday that you were to be here to-day.

19765. But you think that the telegraphic intimation arrived on Saturday or Sunday?
—Yes, either Saturday or Sunday.

19766. Who was it informed you that the meeting would be here today ?
—Mr Sanderson, the postmaster, told me yesterday.

19767. How long did it take you to come here?
—About three hours.

19768. Mr Cameron.
—When were you chosen to represent the grievances of the people?
—Last Monday. It was represented then that you would not be here until the 20th.

19769. Who told you that?
—It was the directors of the place, the minister and two or three others.

19770. Did he say to you how he had heard?
—No, it was reported you were to be on the 20th at Balta Sound.

19773. How many people were at the meeting when you were elected?
—About twenty people.

19772. Were they all tenants of Major Cameron?
—Yes, and other proprietors.

19773. What others?
—Dr Paul.

19774. Who else?
—The Earl of Zetland.

19775. Are there any other proprietors in North Yell who have crofter tenants?
—Yes, there are different people, but these are the big proprietors.

19776. How many are big proprietors?
—Those who have a dozen farms, and so on.

19777. How many of those are there ?
—Three, I think —Dr Paul, Major Cameron, William Paul, and the Earl of Zetland.

19778. The two delegates from North Yell are both from the same property; do you know why there were no delegates from the property of the Earl of Zetland's and Dr Paul's property?
—I do not know.

19779. Do you think they have no grievances?
—Yes, but they are all busy at the fishing.

19780. But why are the tenants of these proprietors all fishing, and the tenants of Major Cameron at home?
—This other man who is along with me is at home, and I was at the fishing; but they let me off, so that I might come along with him.

19781. But why were not the delegates chosen from different properties, as would be most natural,—one from the Earl of Zetland's, one from Dr Paul's, and one from Major Cameron's?
—That would have been much better, but likely enough it was overlooked.

19782. What are the grievances of the other properties?
—The grievance on Dr Paul's property is that he won't repair their houses.

19783. And what is the grievance on the Earl of Zetland's property?
—I think he has come to pretty fair terms with them; there is no grievance.

19784. The principal grievance is what you and your neighbour have stated?
—Yes, the want of scathold.

19785. Professor Mackinnon.
—What about the blowing away of the land, of which the other witness spoke about to-day?
—That is the northwest wind, which brings the sand in and made the place all waste, and the sea has got possession of what was fertile land.

19786. Why don't you sow it with bent?
—The people may not be up to that.

19787. Is there no bent at all?
—Maybe a very little.

19788. Does that keep down the blowing?
—Yes, but the sea has got possession; it runs in over the land more than it did formerly.

19789. What fishing do you chiefly engage in at Cullivoe?
—Herring fishing now.

19790. Have you a good harbour?
—Very good. But there is no season there; we fish here at Unst, at Uyea Sound.

19791. Do you fish at the mouth of the Blue Mull Sound?
—Yes, at the west side of the island.

19792. Have you big boats?
—Yes, we have got none of our own, but we hire them and fish on the half-catch system.

19793. You are one of a number who have a boat?

19794. What is the crew?
—Seven of us.

19795. And you work upon the half-catch system?

19796. Who is the curer?
—William Paul.

19797. Is that the proprietor you spoke of?

19798. You give the fish to him?
—Yes, he owns the boat, and we give him the fish, and we get half the fish for our trouble.

19799. And he keeps the boat in working order?
—Yes, he keeps the boat in working order, and gets half the fish

19800. How long does the fishing last?
—Till September.

19801. Have you given up the cod and ling fishing?
—Yes, we gave it up on 12th June.

19802. But you were at that fishing before that date?
—Yes, from the month of March.

19803. What do you do from September to March?
—Just work at the land through the winter, and repair the fishing material; and when it is weather good enough to enable us to go off to the fishing, we go in four-oared boats round the shore.

19804. You cannot go to the deep sea fishing in winter?
—No, the farthest is a mile.

19805. What fish do you get there?
—Cod principally.

19806. But not in large quantities?
—No, about 1 or 1½ cwt. in a day.

19807. Does the curer supply you with stores?
—Yes, we have dealt with him this while back; but now the Scotch curers are coming into the place, they are getting their eyes opened.

19808. Do the Scotch curers bring stores?

19809. And when you have a Scotch curer you get stores from him?
—If you have no money, your curer has to supply you.

19810. How often do you settle with the curer?
—Once a year, when the fishing is done—about Martinmas.

19811. And how do you settle the price about the herring?
—We get £1 a cran from the 1st of August—for 250 crans we get £1 a cran, and for any over that we get 14s. a cran.

19812. Up to the 1st August your arrangement is that you have £1 a cran?
—We have from the start 150 crans at 15s., then for any above that 14s. to 1st August; and then we get £1 for 250 crans; and for any beyond that quantity 14s. if we get that many.

19813. When is this arrangement made—before you commence the fishing?
—Yes, before.

19814. Is there any bounty?
—No, not for us, because we are not able to buy a boat.

19815. It is a long fishing season?

19816. What do you consider a good fishing in the season with one of these big boats and seven of a crew?
—300 crans is considered a very good fishing, but of course they sometimes make more than that.

19817. Do you expect to make more than that this year?
—We cannot tell. We have got 100 crans already, and we may get 300 or 400 or 500 more, and perhaps not 100.

19818. And the arrangement is made before the fishing season begins?
—Before it commences we get a written agreement to that effect, so that it cannot be broken.

19819. And does that carry with it also the obligation to purchase from the curer—- that you are to procure your stores from him?
—No, you don't require to take stores from the curer unless you like.

19820. But, unless you have money, you must?
—Yes, and of course at his price.

19821. Because you could not get them anywhere else?

19822. So that to the one who has no money it is virtually an obligation?

19823. And the settlement is made at the Martinmas term every year?

19824. What is the arrangement about the cod and ling fishing; how are the prices fixed?
—At the same time as the herring fishing —the new year before the season begins.

19825. And what price is fixed for them?
—We get 7s. 6d. for cod, 8s. 6d. for ling, 5s. for tusk, and 10s. for halibut, per cwt.

19826. Do they salt the halibut?
—They ice them. We get 10s. for them up to the 6th May.

19827. What market are they sent to?
—Birmingham and Leeds and London.

19828. Halibut and turbot are different fish?
—Scotch people call them halibut, but we call them turbot.

19829. Is it a round fish or a longish fish?
—It is long.

19830. Do you get very heavy halibut?
—Yes, pretty heavy —upwards of a cwt.

19831. And ling is 8s. 6d. a cwt, cod 7s. 6d., tusk 5s., and halibut 10s. ?

19832. Halibut goes in ice and the others are salted?

19833. You just give the fish to the curer?
—Yes; we have nothing to do but take off the heads, and in the case of turbot we don't even do that.
We do not split up the fish.

19834. What do you do with the heads?
—We use them for our own purposes. We get the fish, and take off the head.

19835. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Who gets the liver?
—We keep that for our own purposes, or the curers buy them.

19836. And the sound?
—They buy the sound.

19837. Professor Mackinnon.
—The whole of that belongs to you?
—Yes, the liver and head, but not the sound

19838. You take nothing to do with the cleaning and drying?
—Nothing whatever.

19839. And is that arrangement all over the country with respect to the fixing of the prices ?
—I believe it is; of course, I could not say as to Scotch curers. They give better prices to a man who has a boat of his own. Perhaps they have a better advantage. But I can only speak from my own experience, and I have told you what our curer gives.

19840. Would you prefer to have a boat of your own?
—Oh yes.

19841. Are there many of the crews in the place who are able to have a boat of their own?
—No, not many; there is just one crew who have been able to get a boat of their own.

19842. Do you consider the big boat better than the old sixern of the country?
—Yes; they may be mere expensive, but there would not be so much loss of life as with the old boats.

19843. Are they better able to live in a wilder sea?
—Yes, very much; the small boats were merely skiffs.

19844. But they were good sea boats?
—Yes, but there is no mistake a big boat would live where a small boat would not.

19845. Is the price you mentioned for herring about the usual price going in the place?

19846. You fix the price of the herring and you fix the price of the cod and ling; and the price of herring is 15s?
—From the 6th of June to the 1st of August.

19847. And after that £1 for 250 crans?
—Yes; and perhaps you might get that in two weeks; and if you got more you got 14s. a cran.

19848. For the over-catch before or after the 1st August, 14s.?

19849. After the 1st August you got 20s. for 250 crans, and the overcatch after that is 14s.?

19850. If you got the 250 crans in two or three weeks, you would get 14s. as long as you fished after that?

19851. The over-catch is always the same, 14s.?

19852. And that price is settled in the beginning of the year?

19553. Is the fish after the 1st August considered more valuable or less?
—They are more valuable —they are full; they are considered to be in their prime.

19554. And cure better?

19555. The season gets colder?
—They are considered better anyhow.

19856. Is that the best period of the fishing after the 1st of August?
—Generally the best; they consider the herring at their best.

19857. Do you look for a good fishing this year?
—We expect so.

19858. There is plenty of fish about?

19859. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Have you got any lease from Major Cameron?

19860. Is it a thing quite unknown for small crofters?
—No; some of them have them; two of Dr Paul's tenants have.

19861. Are there any leases on Major Cameron's property among the crofters?
—I could not tell you; none that I know of.

19862. I asked the previous witness how many crofters —heads of families —had the same cause of complaint as himself, and he said, perhaps between twenty or thirty —can you tell me?
—No; I do not think there are that many in North Yell.

19863. Are some of these upon other estates, or are they all upon the Cameron property?
—No, they are upon other estates.

19864. Have there been any small tenants or crofters removed altogether out of North Yell within the last twenty or thirty years?
—Yes, whole towns have been laid in sheep pasture.

19865. Can you mention any large sheep farms that were once occupied by crofters?
—Yes, Westa Firth.

19866. To whom does that belong?
—Major Cameron.

19867. Any other?
—Kirkabusta, on the Cameron property also.

19868. Any other?
—Windhouse, in Mid Yell.

19869. Any others in North Yell?
—Granister and Garth. That is all in one enclosure now ; there are fences dividing it.

19870. How many people may have been upon these four places?
—There were a good lot; pretty nearly twenty houses on Westa Firth alone.

19871. You are not sure about the others?
—No, but that is the biggest place.

19872. Did you know any of the people yourself?
—No, I was too young.

19873. Did you hear your father or other people speaking about them as people pretty well off?
—Yes, they were well off; they had plenty of scathold and sheep.[see Appendix A. LI]

19874. What became of them?
—They all removed; some went to other countries and some removed to other farms. They had to go one here and one there. 1 could not say where they went to.

19875. But some of them had to leave North Yell altogether?

19876. Who is the tenant of that big sheep farm just now?
—There is no tenant but the shepherd.

19877. Is it in the proprietor's hands?
—Yes, so far as I know.

19878. And there is only one shepherd?

19879. Were there pretty good houses upon these farms?
—Yes, they are very good; Major Cameron has very good houses upon his property.

19880. The houses belonged to those people who were put away?
—I believe so; but they are all down now.

19881. Were they all built of stone?
—Yes, all built of stone.

19882. Do you agree with the preceding witness, that the loss of the sheep was a great loss to the crofters?
—Yes, it was a considerable loss.

19883. What use did you make of the sheep —what purposes were they devoted to?
—They made clothes at home; they spun wool with yarn, and it was woven with machines which they had for the purpose in Shetland.

19884. Was the carcase made use of?
—It was eaten.

19885. At what age?
—Three or four years of age; the wethers were generally used at that age and the ewes older.

19886. Were these sheep generally eaten by the crofters themselves, or were they sold?
—Generally eaten, because the prices were low, and they thought it better to eat them than to sell them.

19887. What have the crofters now for food instead of these sheep?
—Nothing, unless a pig.

19888. Is there anything to prevent your getting some of that scathold as before?
—I don't see any reason why they should not give us a little of it

19889. Are you willing to pay a fair rent for it?

19890. Mr Cameron.
—You stated that some grievances, of which you or your neighbour complained, existed upon other estates; but, as I understood you before, you said there was no grievance upon other properties except that Dr Paul did not keep the houses in proper order. Which of the two statements is correct?
—The correct one is that the tenants upon Dr Paul's property have a little scathold, and Major Cameron's tenants have none.

19891. Does the grievance of which you and your neighbour complain on Major Cameron's property extend to the estates of auy of the other proprietors?
—No, they all have a little scathold.

19892 Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—The other proprietors have given them a little scathold, whereas Major Cameron has given none?
—That is it

19893. Mr Cameron.
—But you stated that the other tenants had no grievance except that of the houses on Dr Paul's property?
—Yes; undoubtedly they do require more scathold, if they would only give it to ' them.

19894. The Chairman.
—When you settle with the fish-curer, if the balance is in your favour, are you in the habit of getting the balance paid to you in money?

19895. It does not remain on his books to your credit?
—No; the cash is paid the night you settle.

19896. Is money frequently paid—is it often the case that there is a balance due to the fishermen ?
—In general, the fishermen are due money to the curers.

19897. But, still, in some cases they have money to get?
—Yes, in a good many cases they have a little to get. They are getting better on now; the big boats get more money. Twenty years ago Shetland was very poor.

19898. Is there any complaint among the fishermen an account of the prices charged by the fish-curers, or is it believed that the prices are generally fair?
—The prices have been fair within the last five or six years. Before that the curers did not give fair prices, because the people could not make a better of it.

19899. Supposing one of your neighbours or yourself was able to buy a boat, and did not require the assistance of the fish-curer; would you then be allowed to fish as you pleased, and to sell the fish to anybody you liked?
—Oh, yes; they would not hold you to fish to them if you could purchase a boat for yourself. You could go to any curer you liked and get privilege and bounty too.

19900. And the proprietor would not molest you on account of that, but would allow you to remain in your croft?
—Yes; at any rate none of Major Cameron's tenants would be disturbed on that account. He has let them fish wherever they liked.

19901. What bait do you use for the long line deep sea fishing?

19902. Can the herring be caught all the year round for bait?
—-Yes; when you don't catch herring you don't set lines.

19903. Is there any artificial bait used?
—The small boats use musselbait but the large boats don't.

19904. You have no complaint to make about the bait?
—No; they always get some bait if they want it.

19905. When the proprietor himself—-like Dr Paul—is also a fish-curer, the tenants are expected to fish for him?

19906. And do they actually fish for him?
—I think he does not compel them, if they have a boat of their own.

19907. If they had a boat of their own they could go where they liked, and he would not complain?
—No, because he has no fishing boats, but merely the boat of another proprietor. If you have a boat of your own, you can go where you get the best price for the fish.

19908. On the whole, as matters stand now, is there any great complaint about the system of supplying goods, or as to the relations between the fishermen and curer—are there complaints, or are they all pretty well off?
—I think they are all pretty well satisfied. The curers give their goods pretty cheap, supposing you don't have money to pay for them until the fishing is out.

19909. Are things better now than they used to be?
—Considerably better. Even twenty years back, in my mind, the people were very poor; and within the last half-dozen years they have got considerably up. People from the South, and curers, have come and given good prices for fish, and of course the curers in Shetland have to give the same as the Scotch curers.

19910. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Is there considerable competition amongst curers themselves?
—No; I believe every one just gives what he thinks he can pay; generally, however, they have some such agreement as we have.

19911. Have you ever received money from a curer?

19912. At the settlement, when a balance was due, you got the cash?
—Yes, on the night of the settlement.

19913. You stated that some of the crofters had leases on Dr Paul's property?
—Yes, these are the ones I know, and there may be some of whom I don't know.

19914. Are those who have leases more inclined to improve their land than those who have no leases?
—Yes, they are, because if they improved the land, perhaps, when they had no leases, they might be turned out next day and the croft taken from them; indeed, if they improved the ground, the ground was taken from them.

19915. Do you know the length of lease on Dr Paul's ground?
—No, I do not know.

19916. Professor Mackinnon.
—You mentioned one proprietor who is a curer—Dr Paul—is it the case that the tenants there fish for that curer only?
—Yes, they fish for him, but if they had a boat he would not hinder them from going to any other curer they liked.

19917. How many of them are there under that curer?
—Not many; he has not many tenants.

19918. Are there any who do not fish to him?
—No, they all fish to him.

19919. And is that a general practice when the proprietor is a curer
—Yes, if he gives them as good a bargain as others.

19920. When the boat is their own they can go to where they please?
—Yes, where they can make the best bargain.

19921. But very few have boats of their own?
—Yes, very few; just two in North Yell.

19922. So that, as a matter of fact, people just fish to the proprietor?

19923. Supposing the proprietor to be a curer, and that you were working on the half-catch system, how would the price of the fish be settled?
—Just the same.

19924. Who would settle it?
—The proprietor; and if you had any money to get he would give it to you.

19925. You would have no voice in settling it?

19926. Unless the boat is your own, you have no voice in settling the price?
—No, they give the general price of the country.

19927. And it is growing more and more the practice that fishermen are clear at settling time than they were in the past?
—Yes, they are improving greatly.

19928. Are there beach boys for drying cod and ling?

19929. Is it the practice for them, when they are of tender age, to open au account with the curer and take supplies?
—Yes; their parents are poor, and they have to go and work for themselves.

19930. They have a separate account for themselves, no matter how young?
—Yes, if they can only work.

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