Tarbert, Argyll, 26 December 1883 - James E Maclarty

JAMES E. MACLARTY, General Merchant (46)—examined.

46698. The Chairman
—What is the nature of your business; do you deal in drapery and dry goods?
—Yes, and all sorts of goods.

46699. Do you find in your trade as it stands now, compared with what it was a few years ago, evidence of increasing welfare and resources on the part of the people ?
—Most undoubtedly —very marked.

46700. Is that with reference both to food and to dress?
—Yes, with reference both to food and to dress.

46701. With regard to the matter of food, is there more wheat flour consumed, for instance, as distinguished from oats and barley ?
—Yes, there is more, and the food of the people is very much altered from what it was perhaps twenty years ago. There is still a considerable quantity of oatmeal consumed, but a t the same time they live better. The circumstances of the people have so improved that they live better. They use a better class of provisions, and have a more plentiful supply of them.

46702. More and better?
—More and better.

46703. Is there a great increase in the consumption of tea?
—There was always a good consumption of tea at Tarbert, and it still keeps up.

46704. Is there a diminution or increase in the quantity of coffee sold?
—There is a diminution in this way that there is not the same quantity used away from home. In all the boats they used to have a supply of coffee, but they do not have it now. It is principally tea and tinned meats and tinned milk. They are getting into the use of these things now.

46705. What do they take in the boats with them ?
—Tea, sugar, perhaps a little coffee, preserved milk, preserved beef, and wheaten bread.

46706. Is it common for a crew to take preserved beef with them?
—It is becoming common.

46707. Then as to those that take meat with them to sea in their boats, how many nights are they away ?
—I speak of the week's supply.

46708. But you do not know how many nights they are away from home ?
—When they are away from home it is not in our own immediate neighbourhood. They go away early on Monday morning, and return on Friday night or Saturday morning.

46709. And they would take away a week's provisions with them ?

46710. Are they in the habit of taking spirituous liquors?
—No, not as a rule. That will be an exception.

46711. In regard to dress, do they buy a better and a more substantial quality of things, or finer things ?
—The ladies buy finer things, but the gentlemen dress very much the same, only they get a more abundant supply perhaps, more than they did in former years.

46712. Do they make greater use of waterproof stuffs?
—They do—rather a wasteful use sometimes.

46713. Wasteful in what respect?
—I mean they do not grudge to buy new things. If a coat or a pair of trousers gets old, they don't grudge to buy new things. They like to keep themselves comfortable from the damp or wet —much more so than they did formerly.

46714. We understand there is nothing done in the way of truck, barter, or interchange of commodities at all?
—Nothing whatever.

46715. Did you ever hear that such a system formerly existed in this part of the country ?
—Not here.

46716. The fishing people of Loch Fyne lie under no obligation to anybody that the labouring class elsewhere do not incur ?

46717. Professor Mackinnon
—You have been connected with the trade of the place all your life ?
—Yes, except a short time I was in Glasgow.

46718. And you have known about it through your family for a long time back ?

46719. In those exceptionally bad years when the fishing was a failure in the place, although people were harder up than in a good year, they were able afterwards to pay up ?
—Yes, the people are honest, and no matter how they fell behind—though it might be for five or six years—when the time came that success attended their efforts, they always paid up. I never had a bad debt with any one, and so long as a man lived I never despaired of his debt and always got paid eventually. The people are honest, industrious, and always willing to pay.

46720. And they are able to lay by more money than they formerly did?

46721. But there is not a system of insurance against accident or loss of life ?
—That would not be of very much service here, for really there are very few accidents. In twenty years I do not think three boats have been lost. It would really be of very little service here.

46722. And since the trawling has been recognised there has been no loss of gear to speak of?
—Well, nets get torn, but these are usually made up, and at the expense of a few pounds at the outside. It might be an advantage for the people to have a mutual insurance society—that is, to insure their lives. If that could be introduced among them it might be an advantage, but so far as insurance of gear is concerned I do not think it would be of advantage.

46723. Do you remember the time when the people were engaged on land and in fishing at the same time?
—I remember one or two places on the other side of the loch, where there was a very prosperous community, but they died out and some of them emigrated.

46724. Did they take more of their livelihood from the land or from the sea ?
—They did not prosecute the fishing with the same rigour that we do now-a-days. They went during the summer mouths when the weather was fine, and returned to work their crofts in harvest, and they were also engaged on the crofts in spring. They did not follow the fishing in the systematic manner in which we do now, because we have reduced it to a trade and science. Our men are east, west, north, and south; if the fishing is not prosperous at home, they go wherever it is to be had.

46725. As the conditions of fishing now are, you do not think it would be an advantage to have land?
—No; I do not think that land would be an advantage to the fishing.

46726. They could not work the fishing so successfully as they do if they had land ?

46727. So even if it were possible it would not be desirable that they should have it ?
—I do not think so.

46728. That of course has reference to this particular place ?
—Yes. I think the same remark will apply to Ardrishaig.

46729. I mean the whole of Loch Fyne ?

46730. The great development of the fishing is partly due to the ready market ?
—Yes, and better prices.

46731. And partly to the more energetic prosecution of it by the people themselves ?
—Yes, we are very much indebted to the system of sending fish to Glasgow so early in the morning by these screw steamers, which enables them to get much better prices than they formerly got.

46732. With respect to a close time, what would be your own opinion about that—whether it would not be desirable that there should be a close time ?
—Most assuredly it would be desirable to have a close time. So far as I am aware there is a law at present, but it is not enforced, prohibiting fishing during the twenty-four hours of the Sabbath. Certainly we find it to be our experience here, that the Monday night's fishing is the best of the week, showing that the rest from Saturday till Monday night brings the fish in close to the shore where they are more accessible.

46733. I suppose there is not much Saturday night fishing, because there is not a Sunday market ?
—I think there is a Sunday market. They do not scruple to buy. They take the fish up on the Monday morning, and have the chance of the two days. But our men have not done anything for years on the Sunday, and what we complain of is that other men come and take advantage of the Sabbath rest.

46734. I suppose you consider it a grievance that the people here are injured by their own supply being made less, and the prices being spoiled for the Monday market ?
—What we wish is that we should all be put on an equal footing, that the law as it stands should be enforced, and that we have the rest on the Sabbath carried out and secured to us. We have a cruiser on the coast, and one or two boats have been seized, but the law has not been rigorously enough enforced to have a complete observance of the Sabbath rest.

46735. You obey it voluntarily, and you wish that others should be compelled to obey it ?
—We find it to be our advantage to do so.

46736. And I suppose that is quite the feeling of the whole of the people of this place ?
—I believe it is the feeling of the community.

46737. The Chairman.
—And there would be no great inconvenience to the great markets either in Glasgow or the north of England?
—Not the slightest.

46738. Professor Mackinnon,
—They would get the fish at least by the Monday afternoon ?
—There might be no fish upon Monday. There might be on Monday afternoon. If all observed the law there would be no fish sent in practically till late on the Monday, and then there would be an increased take on the Tuesday, as it is invariably the case that the Tuesday's take is the best of the week.

46739. The Chairman
—But one of the previous witnesses said that the fish could be delivered in Glasgow on Monday afternoon ?
—After a certain season—we shall say after 20th September.

46740. But not in summer?
—Not in summer.

46741. Professor Mackinnon.
—It would be daylight in summer by the time you could get a chance of getting at the fish ?
—Yes, till about the 20th September.

46742. After that date there would be sufficient darkness to catch some fish on the Monday morning, and send it up to Glasgow that day ?

46743. The Chairman.
— Can they not catch herring by daylight ?
—They do it at certain seasons, and in certain circumstances, but not as a rule. The best fishing is got at night.

46744. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Is the population of Tarbert increasing considerably within your recollection ?
—Yes, very much so.

46745. Is it steadily increasing ?
—It has increased about two hundred in the last decade.

46746. What do the additional inhabitants do—do the men follow their fathers in the profession of fishermen?
—Yes, always.

46747. Do any of them migrate to other places, or do they stay at home ?
—The boys stay at home as a rule.

46748. Do they continue to live with their fathers, or do they set up house for themselves ?
—Some of them do remain at home, but the bulk of the boys make settlements for themselves as soon as possible. Fishermen, as a rule, are blest with large families, and the boys get out as soon as they can.

46749. Are any considerable number of them employed as sailors ?
—No. The fishing is much more profitable than going to sea.

46750. Are any of them enlisted in the Royal Naval Reserve ?
—Not at present. We had a number at one time, but we have a Volunteer corps here.

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