Barra, 26 May 1883 - Thomas Jenkins

THOMAS JENKINS, Curer, Burghead (45)—examined.
10678. The Chairman.—You have heard what has been stated by Mr Ross?

10679. Does your opinion correspond generally with his?

10680. Have you any additional statement to make?
—I think Mr Ross has gone over the ground pretty well. Now-a-days everything is done with expedition, and we miss the telegraph so much here that we often miss the market on the Continent. On the east coast, if we do not sell to local agents we sell by telegraph to foreign agents, and generally it is done by telegraph. I have no doubt that if we had the telegraph here we could do the same. We are placed at a great disadvantage. We are placed so that we may perhaps miss the market, or have to sell our herring at a price below what we might get if we had command of the foreign market by telegraph.

10681. Is the foreign market or the home market the more important?
—The foreign market. We do very little indeed in the home market. Looking to the capital employed, there is no other industry in Great Britain, so far as I know, that has not the facilities of telegraphic communication
in this nineteenth century, and I think we are far behind the age. The capital employed by the fishermen alone amounts to £140,000. The fish curers' capital will amount to £40,000, and the estimated income to
the country—that is the money realised for our produce—is £70,000 or £80,000. That I consider is a great industry, and a benefit to the country in general; and I think we should have facilities for conducting our
business in a proper way, as we have on the east coast

10682. Your business on the Continent seems to be, as Mr Ross stated, entirely with the North Sea and the Baltic?
—Yes, principally the German and the Russian market.

10683. Why have you no connection with the south of Europe?
—There is a prohibitory tariff in France. A few east coast herring go to Odessa, but the carriage is heavy.

10684. You have no business with Spain, Italy, or any of the Roman Catholic countries ?
—None. Germany is our principal market for the east coast fishing, and Russia takes a good deal of our west coast herring.

10685. Do you complain much of the German tariff?
—It is not very high, only about 3s.

10686. What is the reason why the east coast boats are so very superior to the boats on the west coast?—Well, the people have devoted their attention more to fishing, and they are more skilful. The east coast also is more adapted for fishing, and the summer fishing is of mors importance.

10687. If the people here possessed boats of the same class, could they find employment for them during the whole year, or is the weather in the west here so bad outside that the boats could not be used in winter ?
—Well, I believe that during the winter it is a very exposed coast, and there are a number of days and weeks, and perhaps months, when they could not prosecute the sea fishing as we do on the east coast. Another
thing is that I don't think the fishing is so important. The haddock fishing is the east coast fishing, and the winter herring fishing. Of course it has never been tried, and there is room for improvement here.

10688. Then you think that the stress of weather is much greater and more frequent on the west coast than on the east ?
—I think so, in Barra.

10689. How many years have you been connected with this place ?
—I have been more or less connected with it since 1870.

10690. Do you find the local owners of boats here improving in that period? Are they getting better boats? —It is only within the last three years that there were any native fishermen prosecuting the herring fishing. This year, I understand, there are eight boats from Castle Bay—well-equipped boats. I suppose they half got assistance to enable them to prosecute the fishing, and I think they are doing fairly well.

10691. Sheriff Nicolson.—But not so well as the east coast boats?
—Equally well. They bought them from the east coast people, perhaps two or three years old.

10692. You spoke of the weather being so very stormy ; do you know how many fishing days there have been since the fishing commenced this year?
—Very few; I suppose half a dozen days would cover it. We had two days only this week. Tuesday was the best fishing ever seen in Castle Bay, and last night was very bad.

10693. During most of the time you have been here, has the weather been so stormy that no fishing could be done?

10694. I suppose that would be stiU more the case in winter and spring ?
—I am sure it would.

10695. Do you think the natives of this place, if they had boats of a suitable sort, would be able to prosecute the fishing systematically, and live by it ?
—I believe they would.

10696. Do you know who gave them assistance to get these good boats ?
—I think Lady Cathcart and Mr M'Neill, merchant here.

10697. Some of them fish with their old-fashioned smaller boats ?
—Yes, at the white line fishing, but not at the herring fishing.

10698. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.—You said that though you did not think the fishing on the west coast could be prosecuted all the year round, still it could be developed and improved a good deal In what form do you think it could be improved ?
—By a larger class of boats than they use in the winter time. They have only been using the smaller class of boats. The fishing might also be improved by the use of better gear and better lines, and by the men becoming more skilful and more persevering. In that way I believe they would come to develop the fishing in this part of
the world.

10699. Do you concur with what Mr Ross said, that you and the other fish-curers would be disposed to join in giving a guarantee to the Government to make up the interest on the capital required to lay the telegraphic
lines ?
—I believe the curers would be inclined to give a small item, but I maintain that the importance of our industry demands it.

10700. You spoke of £70,000 as the probable income coming into this country from abroad. That is the produce of your herrings ?

10701. Have you any idea how many miles of telegraph it will take to go on to Loch Boisdale ?
—About twenty miles.

10702. Have you any idea of the expense of the telegraph per mile ?
—I cannot say. I think the Government should not make it a matter of expense at all. It is a great source of wealth to the country, and other parts of the country are benefited by us being here.

10703. Do you think that if you had the benefit of the telegraph you would be able, having a proper command of the market, to leave more money behind you ?
—I believe we would take more money out of the business, and hence we would give the more for our article.

10701. You would leave more behind you?
—I believe we would. The more we get the more we spend—that is generally the result. The more
we get on the east coast the more we give to our fishermen, and the more all hands are paid. I cure over 6000 barrels on the east coast, and I could not manage the business without telegraph and telephone.

10705. Mr Cameron. The petitions which Mr Ross spoke of were not signed exclusively by east coast fish-curers ?
—No, but by residents in Barra as welL

10706. And I suppose the guarantees demanded by the Government have generally been demanded from private individuals ?

10707. It is generally considered that a public interest of such importance as has been described to us should be considered by the Government without any guarantee?
—I think so.

10708. How long have you been connected with the fishing business ?
—I have been curing on my own account for the last twenty-three years.

10709. Here?
—Since 1870.

10710. Do you consider that the people are likely to make better fishermen with large crofts or with small ones?
—My belief is that the fishermen here are partly dependent on the fishing and partly dependent on the land
—that they should have grazing ground to keep a couple of cows and a score of sheep or so, with the fishing combined.

10711. You think that the time of year when they would be occupied by the fishing would not interfere with the time that would be required for the land ?
—No, the cultivation is nothing here ; it is the grazing.

10712. Why is it that the east coast herrings are chiefly in demand in Germany and the west coast herrings in Russia?
—I don't know, but the Russians seem to like a herring that is oilier and fatter in its nature.

10713. They don't take the salt so well as the east coast herring ?
—They take the salt, but we don't cure them so salt.

10714. Do they stand a long time?
—Yes, if you keep them away from the sun. They will not stand the sun along with our east coast herrings.

10715. So it is a matter of curing?

10716. And if the Germans chose to buy your west coast herrings, you could salt them ?
—Yes. In Germany it is the poorest class in the country who eat the east coast herring, and in Russia it is the richest class who eat the west coast herring.

10717. But you could cure the west coast herring if you had a market for them ?

10718. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.—It has been alleged that the west coast herring, being fatter and oilier, don't take the salt so well as the east coast ones ?
—That is nonsense. You can cure them quite well, if you keep them away from the sun.

10719. Your answer is, that by keeping them from the sun, they can be salted as effectively as the east coast herring ?

10720. Mr Cameron.—And if people chose to buy them; you could convey them as easily to the interior of Germany ?
—Yes, but if you cure them too salt, people will not buy them.

10721. That applies to the east coast?
—No; there is a certain degree of salt that you must use for the east coast, and if we used the same amount
of salt for the west coast herring, we would make them uneatable.

10722. That was my impression, but your former answer rather removed that impression?
—They will take the same quantity of salt, but it will make them not of the same value.

10723. There is a difference in the character of the two kinds of herring which makes them require different treatment in regard to salt ?

10724. Professor Mackinnon.—Do you get a greater price for the west coast herring from the Russians than you do for the east coast herring from the Germans ?
—Yes, double.

10725. And you would spoil the west coast herring by putting more salt upon them?

10726. So they are more valuable in that way ?

10727. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.—We were told by Mr Ross that last year there were 490 boats. You have been here twelve years; have you known a season when there were 490 boats here, averaging over eighty crans ?
—No, not in my experience.

10728. What is the highest fishing you have known here?
—In 1870, 150 crans was the average.

10729. How many boats were fishing that year?
—I cannot say; I think they were in North Bay, Castle Bay, and Vatersay.

10730. Might there have been 450 boats that year?
—Yes, and the average was 150 crans.

10731. Would the price be 50s. per barrel?
—That year it was not so high. It was the year of the Franco-German war, and the blockade was put on, and our herrings were excluded. We had to rush them into the Russian market or get them in by way of Denmark. We lost a pound per barrel in that way.

10732. But it is quite possible that in some seasons you would draw more than £70,000 ?
—Yes, we get encouragement to take double that quantity.

10733. I have heard it said that if a fisherman does not fish the whole year regularly, it will not pay to have those large boats with expensive tackle: is that your opinion ?
—Well, I don't know that. £400 at 20 percent, is good value. I think they are well able to pay that, supposing they only fished six months.

10734. To whom do the boats belong ?
—On the east coast they belong to the fishermen alone.

10735. They are not the property of capitalists, who embark capital in the construction of boats and let them to the fishermen ?

10736. They are a joint stock in the hands of the fishermen?

10737. How many partners are there in a boat?
—Generally two on the east coast, and they hire the others.

10738. Each boat proprietor, then, puts in £150 or £200. Are there a considerable number of men able and willing to do that ?
—Well, all our east coast men do that.

10739. Do they borrow much money upon the boat?
—Generally, when they are building a new boat, they get assistance. I have given them £100 to assist them.

10740. The class of boat has improved very much?
—Yes, very much, especially during the last five years.

10741. Is that both with reference to tonnage and construction?
—Both tonnage and construction.

10742. What is the change that has taken place?
—The change is to a boat of a longer keel, with a greater draught of water and greater sea-going ability. The model of the boat has also changed within the last five years from the round, scarfed boat to the type known by the name of the Zulu.

10743. Were the boats always decked as they are now ?
—No ; it is about fifteen years'since the first deck was used.

10744. What is your opinion about the introduction of a deck?
—A very great safety.

10745. Is it in all respects better, or are there disadvantages attached to the decking ?
—Well, it is in every respect better, and I don't see any disadvantage. Some people say there is greater danger of life being lost; but take the number of hands employed in that industry, and see the number of boats lost every year. Of course when a boat founders in rough weather, that is a different thing; but there are only two or three lost in a season out of the thousands employed. There is no other industry in which there are fewer accidents. Take quarrying, for instance ; there is scarcely a newspaper but contains accidents to quarriers. I consider the deck a great improvement, and I have nothing to say against it.

10746. Is there any change on the rig ?
—There have been changes on the sails within the last two years.

10747. Do you think that is an improvement'?
—I think it is.

10748. Do you think there is any further development or improvement to be made in that class of boats?
—Well, I don't know, unless you come to steam.

10749. Are there any herring boats actually furnished with steam ?
—There are two or three on the east coast. I think there were two at Aberdeen belonging to Leith, and one belonging to Wick; but they belong to capitalists, and not to fishermen. It requires too much money for a
fisherman to invest in these.

10750. Sheriff Nicolson.—Does the herring fishing here begin before the Stornoway fishing?
—About the same time; about the 1st of May.

10751. We had a statement made to us by a fisherman on the west coast of Skye. In accounting for the decline of the cod and ling fishing, he said that the cod fed on the broken herring at the Barra fishery, and
were getting so well fed there that they left the shores of Scotland. Is there any ground for that opinion ?
—I should think that was a very fanciful reason. But fish are very erratic creatures; they change their localities.

10752. Is the herring got here of the same quality as the Stomoway herring ?
—They are considered superior.

10753-4. I suppose the further south you go the finer the herrings are?
—I think that the Castle Bay herring are the finest in Scotland.

10755. Finer than the Loch Fyne herring?
—You cannot compare loch herring with sea herring. I believe the Loch Fyne herring are the finest for the table. They are fleshier and more plump. The Loch Fyne herring would not cure for the Continent.

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