Ness, Lewis, 7 June 1883 - John Macleod

JOHN MACLEOD, Boat-Builder, Ness (35)—examined.

15887. The Chairman.
—How long have you been established here?
—I have been here all my days.

15888. Are you a native of Ness?

15889. Mr Cameron
—Have you any dealings with the people besides those in your immediate neighbourhood?
—No, I am just a boat-builder, and supply fishermen with boats.

15890. How many do you build in a year?
—Sometimes I used to build six or seven.

15891. Has your trade been getting better or falling off?
—It has been something about the same for a good while back.

15892. Do you build these boats for the fishermen ?

15893. Then I gather from that that they all use their own boats?
—Yes ; they all use boats that are built at the port or at Stornoway.

15894. You do not build for Stornoway people?

15895. Are those included in the six or seven?
—That depends on the number of boat-builders that are together. It will give enough to one man to build these.

15S96. But as a rule the boats are built for the fishermen and not for the curers ?
—For both.

15897. Do you build as many for the curers as for the fishermen?
—More for the curers.

15898. Then the custom is that the fish-curers own the boats?
—Yes; they buy the boats of us.

15899. What are the terms between the fish-curers and the crews of the boats ?
—They give them the boats on three years' shares. The boat comes to £30, and that is £10 a year for three seasons. If the crew can clear it off in three seasons, the boat is theirs ; but if not, it is the property of the curer.

15900. Do they get a chance again?
—Yes, if they are engaged to fish for the curer.

15901. Is that agreement independent of any agreement between the curer and the crew as to catching fish?

15902. There are separate agreements?
—Yes, that is a separate agreement. They have another agreement for the ling.

15903. What is that agreement?
—That the curer shall pay so much per hug from this date until 6th July or whatever it is, and the settlement will be in November.

15904. Are the crews of the boats expected to take provisions from the fish-curers, or do they get the price in money ?
—They are independent of that if they like. They need not go to the curer if they don't like. The curer is bound to pay them.

15905. We saw three boats on the shore here; are these the boats that cost only £30 each?
—Yes, the shell of them and the ropes and mast, but not including the sail.

15906. What would the sail cost?

15907. And the tackle necessary for fishing?
—The boat cannot go out without lines. The total cost is about £42 or £43.

15908. You are talking of the ling fishing ?

15909. They do not require nets for the ling fishing ?

15910. You have had a good deal to do with the movement which resulted in the construction of the port here ?

15911. How many boats of that size will that port contain when it is completed ?
—Not more than twenty-five or thirty. The excavation is too small.

15912. They are to excavate to the depth of about ten feet ?
—It will be thirteen feet nine inches, but it is only a small boat that it can accommodate.

15913. What are they going to do with the boulders and rocks that are in the way ?
—There are no rocks in the way.

15914. But the harbour will embrace some rocks?
—Yes. The breakwater is going up on them. They are going to run the pier on the top of them,

15915. Are they going to blast away any of the rocks?
—Yes, they must blast when they are excavating to that depth.

15916. And you think it will be a considerable benefit to the fishing population ?
—I know it will.

15917. Would it have been better if it had been larger?
—A great deal. If I had £40,000 to-day I would put it into it, and I would be sure of it being paid back very soon. That is how I would build it, for the locality is too poor to expect anything out of it. I would lay out the money in that way and charge dues. They could go east or west from such a harbour—from Carloway to Cape Wrath.

15918. How many boats are going round there?
—A good many hundreds at this time of the year.

15919. Are many of the boats there now?
—I don't know how many are at Stornoway now.

15920. Are the most of the people in this place fishermen?
—Yes. These are the ling fishermen—the men who are depending on this harbour.

15921. Do the Stornoway boats intend to come into this harbour when it is made ?
—Yes, it would do for them to come into if it was larger. It could be made larger. I was round the place with the engineer, and I know the route well enough.

15922. At any future time, if they found the harbour not large enough, could they extend it and make it larger according to the plan ?
—Yes, and they could have a deep-water harbour.

15923. In fact they could extend the present harbour in case they wanted to do so?

15924. I suppose there are hundreds of boats at Stornoway?

15925. Would a large portion of these boats like to use this harbour when the fishing happens to be here ?
—Yes, I believe they would.

15926. Do you think the people here are as well off as they were some years ago?
—No, I do not. When I remember first they would take notice of a man whom they saw on the street that was in debt to the curers, and now you cannot see a man without that, except very very few.

15927. And when they see a man not in debt do they point him out now ?
—They can put their finger on every one to-day. It is due to the bad seasons and bad fishing and the system of working they have in the ling fishing. They have to go out and set their lines, and they have a big stone at the end of the lines and a rope up to the top of the water with a buoy. So when the herring boats come they are setting their own nets, and these are drifted and they carry away the lines.

15928. Then you agree with what was said by the previous witnesses that the ling fishing has been considerably damaged by the herring boats ?
—I agree with that. I believe that the herring fishing and ling fishing cannot be done in the same place. It ought to be done in the way of winter ling fishing and summer herring fishing.

15929. To what other cause do you attribute the poverty among the fishermen ?
—That seems the great cause. It is a very good boat that takes 1000 ling this year. I remember when they were taking 6000.

15930. Do you think there are as many fish on the coast now as there used to be ?
—I cannot go into that at all

15931. There is nothing else you can suggest, except that the herring boats should do less damage to the ling fishers, and that the harbour should be larger?
—My suggestion is that a large harbour should be built here, and that they should get large boats as their neighbours do from the east coast. All these men have to go to the east coast, and must be under masters who can do with them as they like, engaging them at such a price as they can give them, and they have not even one net of their own.

15932. What do these men generally bring home in a fair year from the east coast ?
—I have seen them coming home with from £5 to £20; and some of them with less than £5 some years.

15933. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Last year was a bad year, I suppose?
—Yes, according to the fishing. They are just taking them at so much per cran.

15934. Mr Cameron.
—Do you think the people here are suited more for fishermen than for farmers ?
—I think they are more suitable for fishermen than for farmers. They cannot do both, and it is at the same time that both things should be prosecuted.

15935. And you would like to see them stick more at home rather than go to the east coast ?
—Yes, for I see all these fishermen on the east coast, and I know a few of them.

15936. There are none of them farmers on the east coast?
—No; they may just have an acre or so as a garden.

15937. The Chairman.
—Do you mean to say that you think the fishermen ought to have no land at all or that they ought to have land enough for one or two cows ?
—That is my idea. I am sure that fishing and farming cannot be done together.

15938. But ought they to have land for one or two cows, or do you think.they should have no land at all?
—Well, I should like them to have a garden.

15939. But not a cow's grass?
—If they could keep one cow it would be a great benefit to them.

15940. From what funds is the work at the harbour being carried on?
—Lady Matheson gave £1500 and the Fishery Board gave £4500.

15941. Do you know whether any application was made to the Board in London for funds ?
—Yes ; I know there was.

15942. You made an application to the Public Wrorks Loans Commission?
—No, but I wrote a letter to Mr Gladstone for it.

15943. But you are aware there is a Board which advances money for public improvements, called the Public Works Loans Board?
—I know there is a Loans Board.

15944. Was there any application made to it?
—I don't think so.

15945. You say it would have been better to make the harbour much larger, and to make it a deep-water harbour. In case the harbour was ever enlarged thereafter, would the present work be useless and thrown away, or could the present work be made useful towards a larger harbour ?
—The present work need not be thrown away at all, and I was very much pleased when I saw from the plans that they could make a continuation of a large harbour.

15946. Do you think that the present work will stand; is it substantial ?
—Well I do not know. I doubt it very much—this piece they are making just now,—for it is just a piece they are running on the front out to the sea, and there is not a back to it. That is the worst I saw about the plan, and I objected to it the moment I saw it.

15947. You mean that the present wall at right angles to the shore is not sufficiently supported ?
—I think not.

15948. How ought it to be supported?
—If there was another one at the back of it, and a hearting, and a parapet the same as the rest of it, it would be sufficient to stand the waves ; for the out-sweep of the sea here is stronger than at any place the Stevensons saw in their life, and I am afraid it will take the corner of the outer pier out.

15949. At all tides the boats will not be able to get in?
—No; not with the present wall.

15950. Would they be able to come in under your plan for a larger harbour?
—Yes there is five feet of water at lowest spring water according to my plan.

15951. What do these big boats draw?
—I do not know very well, but I think eight feet will do well enough.

15952. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Who is looking after this part of the Matheson property ?
—Not any one.

15953. Who is responsible for the place being so very dirty down about here?
—I suppose it is the sanitary inspector.

15954. When this pier is erected will there not be some authority to look after it?
—There is a sanitary inspector paid to do it, and he ought to look after it.

15955. The Chairman.
—Who is the sanitary inspector?
—The sanitary inspector for the parish of Barvas. He lives in Stornoway.

15956. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Don't you think the state of matters there is disgraceful?
—I am very much disgusted with it, but I cannot help it, I would like to see it clean.

15957. There is no reason why it should not be clean?
—No reason. They could keep it as clean as any town in Scotland, for there is a burn there, and they could clean everything down to it. We are fifty feet
higher than the level of the sea, and there is always running water.

15958. Sheriff Nicolson
—Has any complaint been made to the inspector ?
—I don't suppose there has; I do not know.

15959. The Chairman.
—What is his name?
—Hector Ross; he is the parochial inspector too.

15960. Does he often come here?
—Yes ; I have seen him often come over here.

15961. Does he ever give any order about cleaning?
—I never heard it.

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