Kinlochbervie, Sutherland, 26 July 1883 - William Hugh Mackay

WILLIAM HUGH MACKAY, Tailor, formerly Fisherman, Insheigra (61)—examined.

26671. The Chairman.
—Have you got any statement to make?
—I would like to speak of the condition of the poor fishermen in the district. In the first place they have bad boats; and they have no lines nor herring nets, so as to pursue the fishing with success. The harbour is bad and the land is bad. Many a time the people could work perfectly at sea when they could not come ashore, the coast is so rocky. If we had a ready market for the fish, the people could get a little money, which they cannot get at the present time, for their families and themselves. If the railway was extended to the head of Loch Laxford, it would form an admirable centre for the districts of Durness, and this parish of Eddriachillis, and so the people would be able to send their fresh fish to the market. That is about all I have got to say.

26672. If some fish-curer from the east country would send a good decked boat over here, would you be able to supply a crew?
—Yes, as good a crew as is to be had in the north of Scotland.

26673. Have your ever thought of sending one of your own number over to ask one of the fish-curers to begin a business here of that kind?
—There was a curer who came here different times, but because there was no suitable landing place and no suitable boats that could pursue the fishing with success, the scheme did not succeed.

26674. But do the crew themselves not hire the boats?
—Some do. I tried myself the fishing in that way, but when I got into the curer's debt, then the price of the fish was reduced, and having to get supplies all the same, that put an end to that state of matters.

26675. If a curer brought round a large decked boat to this country, would it not be able to lie quite safely in this place?
—Yes it would, within the loch; but the loch is very far inshore and distant from the fishing grounds.

26676. Where would you propose to make a shelter for such a boat on the coast here?
—At Old Shore; but it would be very expensive. A very suitable place could be erected at Kinlochbervie for a moderate amount of money.

26677. Who were your partners in the boat when you were in debt to the curer?
—-Three or four of my neighbours.

26678. What size of boat was it?
—A boat of thirty feet keel.

26679. Was she a decked boat ?

26680. What was the number of her crew?

26681. Was she fit to go outside to the banks?
—At times she was ; but of course a decked boat could go oftener to the banks than she was
able to go.

26682. You said that when you were in debt to the curer the prices fell. Do you mean that the curer made his prices lower than the market price?
—He used to give less for fish to those who were in his debt than to those who were not.

26683. Was he an east coast curer?
—Yes, from Wick and Stornoway.

26684. Is it not common for the men on the east coast and the Orkney and Shetland Islands to start as fishermen in debt to the curer?
—Yes, but herein is the difference; the people upon the east coast get their supplies for perhaps about half the price that we pay for them.

26685. What supplies do you refer to?
—Our lines and nets and every thing we need; it is so difficult to bring things here.

26686. But when the boat would go to Stornoway and Wick fishing? could they not supply themselves?
—Yes. It was there we used to buy them, but we only bought them upon the curer's line
—by the curer giving us an order—and so advantage was taken of us by means of this line that the curer cave us.

26687. Does not the same difficulty meet the east country man who has to get his supplies by means of the curer's line?
—No, because there is a moderate number of wealthy people round about him, who would give him
assistance to buy his boat and material may be with ready cash.

26688. But is it not the case that the east coast people succeed who do not pay with ready cash, but start in debt to the curer?
—Yes; but we have not the boats. They were not fishing with the same kind of boats when I went to the east coast fishing that they have now; they are much larger now. Again, they go further out fishing, and they require a bigger class of boat.

26689. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Are you the only tailor named Mackay in this district?
—There is one in Scourie, but none in this place.

26690. You live in Kinlochbervie?
—Between here and the end of the loch.

26691. Have you been here all your days'?
—No, not altogether.

26692. Where have you been?

26693. Carrying on your business?
—At times.

26694. Did you know that a great number of people from Kinlochbervie district were sent away by a former Duke of Sutherland after the potato famine?
—I could not say if they were sent away, but I knew they went away.

26695. Were their passages paid for them?
—I believe they were.

26696. What became of the lands from which they went; who got them?
—I could not say exactly; I do not wish to interfere with the like of that.

26697. Do you wish to speak upon the fishing alone?
—Nothing else but the fishing.

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