Isleornsay Inn


Sleat At Sea

Testimony to the Napier Commission 1883

When the Royal Commission into the State of Crofting (usually known as the Napier Commission) sat at Isle Ornsay, a number of those called to give their testimony mentioned the problems encountered in fishing, amongst them were Alexander Macgillivray from Aird; Donald Robertson from Sasaig; and John Martin from Camuscross.

Alexander Macgillivray said " There is another thing that is troubling us very much - trawling for herring in our northern lochs. I believe it is keeping down the people of this island as much as anything else that they are suffering. ........ They take the small fish along with the big fish. The young are killed while they are useless, the young fish being what we put to the fishing next year."

Donald Robertson said the same. - "I have seen, last year, in Loch Hourn, thousands of crans of herring go to the bottom, useless for any purpose, owing to the trawling. The loch is narrow and shallow, and when the trawl is out it will almost sweep the loch of herring from side to side. By these trawling operations the herring were so disturbed that they could not be got with our nets. I know that there would have been ample fishing last year for everybody to satisfy them, as I have seen in previous years, were it not for the trawling. ...... I saw them last winter in Loch Hourn picking the biggest herrings out of the take, and throwing the small ones overboard, by thousands of crans. There are plenty here who can bear evidence, and support me in saying that."

Donald Martin talks about people going to work for others and bringing home ‘wages’ or ‘money’. He said - "It was at the fishing that people made the most money, and now the fishing has gone slack. They only fish on ‘shares’ and some, in that way, may only incur debts. Shares mean the Master giving half the fishing to the crew and they are paid according to the amount of fish. If they don’t make a good fishing, they get nothing.

A number of people mentioned that -many go to the east coast fishing and the Irish fishing.