Tarbert, Argyll, 26 December 1883 - Archibald Paterson

ARCHIBALD PATERSON, Fisherman (37)—examined.

46538. Sheriff Nicolson.
—You have heard all that has been said by Mr Carmichael and Mr Macmillan ?

46539. I suppose you agree with what they said, or have you anything additional or different to state ?
—I do not think it. I think they have told near as much as they could tell you in connection with the fishing.

46540. You have been a fisherman here all your life ?
—Yes, except when there were bad seasons when I had to go away from home.

46541. To fish in another place ?
—Sometimes to fish in other places and sometimes to sea.

46542. Have there been many bad seasons here in your recollection ?
—I remember four or five since 1859.

46513. Was the fishing in Loch Fyne at that time a comparative failure ?
—Yes, a comparative failure in 1859 or 1860.

46544. Did many of your fishermen go away as you did to other places ?
—Yes, they went to Jura to fish, and some went to sea, and some, I suppose, went to work in Glasgow and different places where they could get work.

46545. Did they all go away ?
—Well, those that had not a bit of ground had to go away. I suppose those that had a bit of ground stopped at home.

46546. How many are there that have ground ?
—I cannot say how many have ground, but there are a few. I suppose there were more in olden times that had ground than there are now.

46547. But it is only very small crofts that they have?
—Very small.

46548. How many acres ?
—They vary in size. I cannot say how many acres they have.

46549. Do any of them keep more than one cow ?
—Not just now; but they used to have a great many cows about the village long ago. I was told there were so many as eighty cows about the village at one time.

46550. Belonging to the inhabitants ?

46551. Where did they get grass?
—I suppose they had the hill as grass for their cows at that time.

46552. Is that hill now joined to a large sheep farm ?
—Yes, joined to a sheep farm.

46553. And they are generally satisfied with their condition ?
—Yes, so far as I know.

46554. There is none of that great desire for additional land that exists in other parts of the Highlands?
—No, I do not think it ; but I daresay there are no fishermen but would like to have a bit garden if they
could get it.

46555. Would they be quite satisfied with that?
—Yes. Of course, everybody could not have crofts about here.

46556. But I suppose everybody would like to have a cow if possible ?
—Yes, if possible.

46557. You are well acquainted, I suppose, with most of the inhabitants of Tarbert ?

46558. Does every fisherman whom you are acquainted with make a good living by his occupation as fisherman ?
—Taking one year with another, they get through pretty well; but I know different ones that perhaps two or three seasons might go against, while the rest did well enough; and if you had a year or two of bad seasons, you had plenty to do to make both ends meet.

46559. Are there any that lay by money, or are able to do so?
—Yes, there are some that lay by money.

46560. Any considerable number ?
—I cannot say. They seem to be pretty well off in general.

46561. Have you any mutual aid society ?
—They have a branch of the Foresters' Society here.

46562. Is it composed largely of fishermen?
—They are mixed, some fishermen and some tradesmen.

46563. What are the objects of that society?
—I believe there is a benefit attached to it if they happened to get hurt.

46564. And in case of death is anything given?
—I have not read the regulations of the society, and I am not a member myself.

46565. Is there any difference between the style of fishing and boats used by the people here and those in Upper Loch Fyne ?
—Yes, there is a difference; although you were to go from Land's End to Cape Wrath you would get a difference in every port you came to.

46566. What is the difference between your boats and those at Ardrishaig?
—The Ardrishaig people generally have their boats made to suit both the drift net and the trawl. Our boats are built to suit only the trawl. They are pretty generally on the same lines, but the others have more beam, and use more sail and have taller masts.

46567. Is there a considerable number of the fishermen at Ardrishaig occupied entirely as fishermen the same as here ?
—Yes, between Ardrishaig and Lochgilphead.

46568. Are there many on the east side of the loch who are exclusively fishermen ?
—Yes, there are some small villages up the loch.

46569. And the people are constantly engaged in fishing the same as you are ?

46570. Do they make as good a living by it, so far as you know ?
—They used generally to be working drift nets, but the way the herrings were this season they had to give up the drift nets entirely and begin trawling, as there is a fleet of trawlers up there now, and they did pretty well last year and thid season, but they do not make their tobacco at the drift nets.

46571. Are their circumstances as regards land in those villages on the other side of the loch similar to yours?
—I suppose Ardrishaig and Lochgilphead are similar to us, but I don't think they have as much benefit as we have. We can draw our boats on the beach, and we are charged nothing for it. I believe they are charged for beaching their boats up there.

46572. Who charges them?
—The proprietor.

40573. Who is the proprietor?
—Campbell of Auchendarroch, and Sir John Orde.

46571. What have they to pay for the privilege of hauling up their boats ?
—They have to pay 2s. 6d.

46575. For the season?

46576. They only pay it once ?

46577. They have no other dues to pay there ?
—They have dues to pay if they take their boats into the canal basin.

46578. What do they pay?
—I think Is. every time they take them in.

46579. You have no dues to pay here ?
—Only Is. 3d. a year for harbour dues.

46580. And your harbour is a very good one ?
—It is a very safe one.

46581. Your piers also are quite satisfactory and well built, are they not ?
—Yes, they could be improved.

46582. What improvement!
—There could be better quays built and the harbour improved a little, to make work for men when they are going idle.

46583. Would it be a very costly thing ?
—No, I do not think so.

46584. What do you propose?
—I would propose deepening this end of the harbour and making more room for fishing boats, as the fishing fleet is increasing very greatly on this coast, and in the summer when steamers and herring boats are in the harbour you cannot move; sometimes you get boats smashed.

46585. At whose expense do you think that should be done ?
—I suppose the Government and the proprietor.

46586. But I suppose if that were done you would not object to pay something for it ?
—No, I do not suppose we would object to pay a little extra.

46587. For the benefit you would receive through it ?

46588. The Chairman.
—We were told there is no truck system here —that you were under no obligation to buy at any place, but that you have perfect freedom in that way ?

46589. Has it never been the custom at all for people to keep an account with a shop, and to receive goods on credit, and to pay any debts in fish or in any other way ?
—No, that is not a customary way here. We begin to fish say at the beginning of the week. Well, on Saturday the cash is made up between the eight men, and we divide it. Perhaps we may keep a share out to pay debt for boats or nets, and then go and settle with the merchant.

46590. But you always settle with the merchant in money ?

46591. You never deliver fish to the merchant ?

46592. So there is no barter ?

46593. Did you ever hear of that system in old times ?
—Not in my recollection, and I never heard of it.

46594. You mentioned that in former times there were a number of cows kept here, and that they went out on the hill ?

46595. Which hill?
—The village was divided, and I believe some went to each side of the harbour.

46596. The pasture is not very good, I suppose?
—I think they were thriving pretty well at that time.

46597. How many acres would it take to keep a cow upon these hills ?
—I cannot give you any right idea, as I was never in the line of keeping them.

46598. Is there anybody here who can tell me how many acres it takes to keep a cow on the pasture here ?
—[Mr Hugh Maclean]. About three acres.

46599. Do you mean the hill ?

46600. But upon the wild heather pasture, how many acres would it take ?
—It is not on the heather pasture that the common is.

46601. But I do not see anything else?
—There are twenty-one cows upon the pasture.

46602. About these cows, when the cows were kept how was it managed; was there a common herd for all the cows, who drove them out and brought them home ?
—[Mr Paterson]. Yes ; there was a herd during my time, and I was speaking to one of the old herds who used to herd fifty or sixty years ago, and he told me that he used to have like a foghorn which he blew to drive the cattle away on each side of the village.

46603. Is there anything of that sort now ?
—No ; I think every one looks after his own cow.

46604. So there is still common on which the cows go ?

46605. How many cows would there be now ?
—I cannot say how many there are in the village now, but some have bits of fields of their own.

46606. Are there any small proprietors that have their own fields ?
—No, I do not think so. There is no proprietor except Stonefield.

46607. How much will a man pay to the proprietor for the grazing of a cow ?
—I think it is £ 1 .

46608. For the summer grazing ?

46609. Or for the grazing of all the year round ?

46610. How does he keep his cow in winter ?
—I suppose he has a little hay, and if he has not, I suppose he just purchases it.

46611. How long is it since the hill was withdrawn and given to the farm ?
—I cannot answer that.
—[Mr Macmillan]. About forty-two years.

46612. If the proprietor gave you back the hill would the people consider it a benefit, or would they consider it a trouble to have the cows ?
Mr Paterson. I think those that are able to work with a cow would consider it a benefit. There are a considerable number that would not be better with it, but for those who are acquainted with it I suppose it would be a great boon to get it.

46613. Is there anybody in the neighbourhood who keeps a number of cows for the supply of the place ?
—There is a dairy about one and a half miles, and another about six miles, and another about half a mile away, and they supply the village with milk.

46614. Does the milk come in every morning ?
—Every morning.

46615. Is it getting dearer, or is it the same price that it used to be?
—Pretty much about the same price, only the supply is scarce for the use of the village in winter.

46616. We heard that the proprietor is willing to give ground to feuing, but that the people consider the price high. When a fisherman saves a little money here, would he generally wish to put his money into a piece of ground and a house, or would he rather put it into the bank ?
—Well, there are some of them who generally build when they save up what will manage to build a house.

46617. They like to build ?

46618. Is the desire to possess a house increasing in the place'?
—It has been increasing this few years.

46619. When they build do they do it more for the convenience of their own families and for their own satisfaction, or do they do it as a speculation to let it to others ?
—I think they do it for their own benefit, and also to let it. Their money will draw more interest than lying in the bank.
46620. So they would build a house bigger than they require for their own families ?
—Generally they do.

46621. Would they let it to strangers, or would they let it to people of their own condition—other fishermen?
—Some let them to fishermen, and some keep them for letting to visitors in summer.

46622. Do they often sell houses ; is there a good deal of sale and purchase going on ?
—I know of only one house that was built by a fisherman and was sold.

46623. There is no society or association which builds houses on the principle of the members gradually paying up the price ?

46624. When a man builds a house does he generally have money enough to build and finish it, or does he have to borrow money or partly borrow money ?
—I suppose they generally start with the intention of finishing it ; but if they have not enough they generally borrow from the nearest bank.

46625. Would they borrow from a neighbour or friend, or from the bank ?
—Well, the bank is very good to the natives of the village in advancing money.

46626. Suppose a man wanted money advanced upon his house, what interest would he pay ?
—I suppose about 4 or 5 per cent.

46627. Not more than five ?
—I cannot say.

46628. Are you proprietor of your own house ?

46629. Or your father ?

46630. Professor Mackinnon.
—During the bad years you had to go away to the fishing, what parts of Scotland were you fishing in ?
—We were fishing in Jura in 1859 and 1860, and four or five years ago we had to go to Loch Seaforth in Harris and Loch Hourn.

46631. You took your own boats along with you?

46632. Then, of course, the boats you met with in these places were different from yours?

46633. Bigger ?
—In some of the lochs they had boats as small as ours, only built on a different principle, to suit drift nets.

46634. Your boats are built to suit Loch Fyne and trawling?

46635. And for that purpose you think they are perfectly suited ?
—They are suited for trawling.

46636. During all the time you have been a fisherman yourself have any strangers from the outside come in and settled here as fishermen ?

46637. From where ?
—Some from round about Kintyre, and perhaps Knapdaleside.

46638. But I may take it that all the fishermen of Tarbert are really natives of this country?

46639. And the children of people of this country ?

46640. So that they have grown up to be fishermen here by their own training ?

46641. Of late years there has been more building going on. I suppose that has been the result of the successful fishing of the last few years ?
—Yes. The village depends entirely on the fishing.

46642. And you think there are a greater number every year who are able to lay by some money?
—Yes, I think so, because we have improved both in nets and boats, and we have a better market.

46643. Of course, your memory does not go very far back, but do you think that the practice is growing of laying by some money when people can lay it by?
—I think it is more so now than it was formerly. I think people are more saving now than they used to be in former times.

46644. So in two ways their condition is being improved; they are getting more thrifty, and they are getting more of an income from year to year ?

46645. A favourite way of investing the money seems to be in building a house ?
—It seems to be so.

46646. When one is able to lay by money, or his family is able to lay by money, he likes to build a house, and be generally builds it better and larger than if it were for himself alone ?

46647. In those places, Loch Seaforth, Loch Hourn, and so on, the people are not nearly so well off as they are here?
—Well, I saw some people who were very well off away down about Scalpa Island, at Loch Tarbert in Harris.

46648. But take them all over, the people on the west coast are not so well off as they are here?
—Of course, they are not; but there are people away up towards Stornoway that are very well off, with large boats, and working on an extensive scale.

46649. Those that have big boats, and are able to go anywhere, will be quite as well off as the fishermen here?

46650. But in those places they do not have boats except in comparatively small numbers. Everybody here has generally a share of a boat ?
—Anybody that works here can only work in a company of four, so that the boats and nets are among the four, and Jack is as good as his master.

46651. While in other places the master has hired men and pays them wages ?

46652. And then the master is usually better off?

46653. I suppose in fair average years the condition of a fisherman here is better than that of a common sailor?
—Yes, unless a man was perhaps on some part of the coast where he got high wages.

46654. But taking it generally, and comparing the condition of a fisherman living here from year to year and that of a man sailing from Greenock, with his family living there,—you would consider the condition of the Tarbert fisherman quite superior?
—Quite superior—quite different altogether.—because we are our own masters; and when we are working it is for ourselves, and we do our best to make a living.

46655. And as a rule, one year with another since you began to fish, you do well—you are very much better off than a man sailing from Glasgow or Greenock?

46656. The Chairman.
—If a fisherman makes a good deal of money and saves it, is he inclined to embark in trade or in some other occupation, or does he generally keep his money and go on with his own proper business?
—They very seldom go to any other business, except that an odd one may take a shop or the like of that, but they have been very scarce that have done that. Some have gone to the fish buying.

46656*. But generally they would just put the money into a house, or keep it in bank and live on the interest of it ?

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