Foula, 18 July 1883 - David Henry et al

DAVID HENRY, Crofter and Fisherman (44), assisted by JAMES GRAY, Crofter and Fisherman (50); ROBERT PATERSON, Crofter and Fisherman (38); JOHN HENRY, Crofter and Fisherman (38).—examined

22559. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Are you a native of Foula?

22560. Have you anything to add to what has already been said ?
—No, I have nothing.

22561. Do you remember the paper which Messrs Garriock & Co sent round ten years ago ?
—No, I don't
—[James Gray]. It was stated then that the Foula men were dissatisfied with the price they were receiving for the green fish. Then they had the chance of salting their fish and drying them, only they had to meet the expenses, pay rent, and buy their own meal. The factor would not supply them ; and there were many years that the fishing of Foula turned out to be little or nothing, and if it had not been for Messrs Garriock & Co. we should not have been alive; and we are afraid that might turn out again, and what would we do then ? We could not live at all.

21562. You think it better that they should have the whole of the fish ?
—Yes, because when they had the fish, whether we had a fishing or not, they gave us what supply we needed, until we could pay.

21563. And you are still of the same mind?
—I suppose so; for my own part I am.

21564. Your principal complaint is about your rents being raised ?
—[David Henry]. Yes, that is our greatest grievance
—[James Gray]. I have the dearest rent in the island, £5. I have been in the place twenty-six or twenty-eight years, and there has only been one year out of that that I could bread my family without buying.

21565. You mean there was only one year in which there was enough on the croft to supply your family ?

21566. How much have you had to buy in other years?
—Some years five or six months' living. I would pay about £5 or £6 for meal
—[Another Islander]. I have paid £10.

21567. What will a fisherman make here in a year?
—[James Gray]. From £4 to £6. He must make more than that if he is to keep a family.
—[Mr Inkster]. Their earnings will range from £ 8 to £15, taking both fishings together.
—[Several Islanders]. That is their view
—[James Gray].—I never run above £10.

21568. Another man says he made £5?
—I have had as low as £3 .
—[Robert Paterson]. I have had as much a3 £20.

21569. What time of the year do you settle with Messrs Garriock & Co.?
—[James Gray]. About just now.
—[David Henry]. In the month of June generally.

21570. Are you generally in debt at the end of the year, or is there a balance to your credit?
—[James Gray]. I am always in debt; I never had money at my credit.

21571. Had you any money the year that you were able to bread your family?
—That year I did have a little, but very little. My rent is heavy, and in addition to that I have to buy bread and meal, and there is nothing to meet that, and a poor man cannot stand that.

21572. Professor Mackinnon.
—You say you remember having made £20 in one year?
—[Robert Paterson]. Yes; I was a young man, and had ill health at the time, and was fishing.

21573. Had you not some money that year?
—Yes, I had.

21574. Had the whole crew a little over that year?
—I suppose the two young men who were with me had something over.

21575. As a rule, when you have something to your credit, do you get any money?

21576. Is it occasionally the case that some people have money over at settling time?
—Perhaps a few young men may have a little; in the best years they will.

21577. But there is a greater number that don't have anything to their credit?
—Yes, a good many.

21578. And that goes right on from year to year?

21579. You are always in the books?

21580. Are the boys employed in drying fish?
—Yes, two or three boys.

21581. Do they get separate wages for that?

21582. Do they draw goods from the fish-curer on their own account?

21583. What will be the age of the youngest boy that is engaged in that sort of work?

21584. Whenever he begins to earn money his name is entered in the books, and he gets credit the same as if he were a grown man?

21585. And he remains in the books just as his father was before him?
—Very generally, if he stops here.

21586. The usual time of settling upon the mainland is November, but the time here is summer, is it not?

21587. What is the reason of the difference between the dates of settlement here and on the mainland, is it because the boat cannot come here in November?

21588. It suits you quite as well to have a settlement just now?

21589. Is it the rent due at last November, or November coming, which is collected just now?
—The rent due at last November.

21590. There is nothing here but the point of the hook to look to?
—No day's work.

21591. But are the people not remarkably fond of the place?
—They are

21592. Do any young men or women ever leave the place?
—Yes, a good many; there are some in Australia and New Zealand.

21593. How long is it since they went?
—It has been a general thing for them to go there for the last eighty years.

21594. What do the men go away to do?
—They go to sail in ships, and to the diggings, and farming, and so on.

21595. Do some of them come back now and again?
—They seldom come back.

21596. Do the young women go away from the island?
—There has been only one in my memory, and she came back.

21597. Are there more women than men in the place?
—I think they are about equal in numbers.

21598. Sheriff Nicolson.
—What price is given for fish here?
—2s. I think is the lowest, that is for saithe, and 9s. 6d. is sometimes given for ling.

21599. What is being given for ling this year?
—8s. 6d.

21600. And for cod?
—From 5s. to 7s.

21601. And tusk?
— 5s.

21602. When is the settlement made as to the price of fish?
—In spring.

21603. Do you know what you are to get before the beginning of the fishing?
—No, we are only going to settle now for the last summer, not for the present time.

21604. The price you get is regulated by what the purchaser gets in the market?
—[Several Islanders]. We get what Messrs Garriock please to give us. We don't know what they get for the fish.

21605. Is it part of your duty to spread out the fish to dry?
—No, it is the beach boys who do that.

21606. What is done with the cod-livers?
—They are thrown into a barrel, and taken home and used by us for light, or sale.

21607. They are your property ?

21608. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—When will you know the price of the fish you catch now?
—Next spring.

21609. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Do you use the cods' heads for food?

21610. But not the lings'?
—Yes, the tusks' and lings' also.

21611. Are any conger eels caught here?

21612. Do you sell them?
—No, we use them chiefly for bait.

21613. What is your ordinary bait when there are no herring?
—Small cod, turbot, and halibut.

21614. Do you actually use turbot for bait?
—Yes, there is no sale for them. We use limpet for the hand lines. There is no market for turbot.

21615. Would you like a steam boat to carry away the turbot?
—Yes, we would like that. We imagine that would do us a little service.

21616. Are you engaged in the herring fishing just now?
—No, in the ling fishing. I have never gone to the herring fishing.

21617. You have never gone in for the herring fishing here?
—No. Two crews are trying it this year.

21618. Was it never tried before?
—Only on a very small scale—two nets set across the mouth of the goe.
—[John Hendry]. Our greatest concern is the land rent. There was one year there were three of us in a family, and we laboured very hard, and we only made what would keep us alive for three months. I had then to go across to Raewick to Mr Garriock and was indebted to him for eight or nine months' living. My rent was £4, 10s. and I had between £10 and £11 for meal to answer for, making in all £16, while my fishing was only worth about £5 or £6; and that launched me into debt I have not got out of yet, and that is the general. case. We look upon Mr Garriock as a very merciful man, but we are very apt to grumble that his things are too dear. We are paying 5s. 11d. for a pound of English tobacco, and we think that rather dear.

21619. That is for twist?
—Yes, and we get no tea here below 8d. per quarter of a pound.

21620. Is it very good tea?
—The tea at 3s. 4d. per lb. is the best.

21621. What do you pay for sugar?
—For hard sugar 6d. a lb., and for soft 4½d. It is not many years since loaf sugar was 8d.

21622. Professor Mackinnon.
—You consume a lot of tea and sugar?
—Yes, we do; more than we are fit to purchase.

21623. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Is there any scarcity of milk in the island?
—It is scarce in winter.

21624. What do you give the children then?
—A little sugar and water.

21625. Do you use porridge ordinarily?

21626. I suppose you eat very much the same as your fathers did?

21627. What have you to breakfast?
—In winter bread and milk when we have it, and sometimes we have a little black bread, and a cup of tea. That is the general rule I think. Fish and potatoes for dinner; but they are not potatoes; you could wring the water out of them.

21628. You very seldom taste meat?
—Very seldom. Some years there are three cows butchered in the island, but generally none at all.

21629. Professor Mackinnon.
—What becomes of the sheep?
—We make use of them. A great many of them fall over the rocks.

21630. But those that don't you eat?

21631. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Do you keep any pigs?
—There are no pigs on the island. We are not fit to feed them.

21632. Would not the fish offal feed them ?

21633. You have no doctor in the island?

21634. Where is the nearest doctor?

21635. Do you find that a hardship?

21636. But most of you are very healthy?

21637. And you are perhaps none the worse of being without a doctor?
—That is right.

21638. And potatoes and fish make you as big and strong men as we have seen anywhere?
—If our own crofts could supply us with living, we would be satisfied.

21639. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Is there any way of improving the crofts, so that you could get more off them?
—No, I think not, our fathers did all that could be done.

21640. Professor Mackinnon.
—Do you want leases?
—[Robert Paterson]. We would work with better heart; we would have no fear of improving, and building, and repairing houses.

21641. But I suppose, as a matter of fact, no person was ever put out?
—[James Hendry]; No, I don't think it, we are not very rebellious here. We grumble much about the price of our eggs.

21642. Don't you eat them?
—No, we eat as few as we can; we have to give them for meal.

21643. What price do you get for eggs?
—4d. and 6d. per dozen.

21644. You give them to Mr Garriock?

21645. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Who builds the houses?
—The proprietor gives £10.

21646. And who finds the wood?
—The proprietor; but the tenants have to stand the cost, and what money the houses cost over the £10.

21647. Who keeps it up after that?
—The tenant.

21648. Once he has entered he looks after it himself?

21649. But if the wood gets old and rotten, the proprietor gives new wood?
—Yes, for the roof.

21650. Are the houses pretty good?
—Some of them very poor.

21651. Are they thatched?

21652. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Are the walls all built with stone and lime?
—Some of them only; some are pointed with lime, and some have no lime at all.

21653. Have the most of you fire places in your houses, or is the fire put in the middle of the floor?
—Mostly all the fires are in the middle of the floor.

21654. None of you keep cows under the same roof as yourselves?

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