Parish of Stornoway (1831-1845) - Industry

The number of acres in tillage is, - - - - 2700
The number of acres which have never been cultivated. - - 15 782
The number of acres that might with capital be cultivated, - - 10,000
The number of acres in a state of undivided common, none.

One acre would contain all the trees in the parish.

Rent of Land.-The average rent per acre is 15s.; some land near Stornoway brings L. 3 per acre. Grazing for a cow in the year is 15s.; for a full-grown sheep, 3s.

Rate of Wages.- Male farm-servants are hired at from L. 1, 10s. to L. 6 and females, from L. 1, 10s. to L. 2, with perquisites, clothes, and shoes male day-labourers in summer get from ls. to ls. 6d. without victuals; males and females get from 6d. to 10s. with two meals per day. Very little work is carried on during winter,-the day being extremely short.

Prices.- Country cloths, called kelt, sell from 1s. 6d. to 4s. per yard of four feet. Blankets per pair from 10s. 6d. to L. 1, Is. Hides 3d. per 1b.; tallow 6d. per lb. Carpenters, joiners, and masons get from 25. 6d. to 3s. 6d. per day.

Live-stock There are a few black-faced sheep in the parish. The black-cattle are small in general, but of the true Highland stamp, though the breed is low at present. There are 18 Ayrshire cows in the parish. Number of cattle, 8000.

Husbandry.-There are a dozen good farms in the parish. On these, the south country implements of husbandry may be seen, as iron ploughs and barrows; but small tenants and cottars generally till the ground by the Chinese plough, of one stilt or handle, and the cas-chrom, a clumsy instrument like a large club, shod with iron at the point, and a pin at the ancle for tile labourer’s foot. It is a disgrace to see women working with it. This antediluvian implement will soon be superseded by the spade, which has now come into almost general use in this parish.

The most common mode of turning the ground is by teeming, Forming a kind of lazy-beds. At this work two persons are employed, one on each side the ridge, which is seldom in a straight line, collecting the earth and the earth borrowed in this way makes a proper bed for the seed. Hence the scarcity of manure is not so much felt; and this kind of tillage is found to be more productive than any other. The ground being prepared, as soon as the season permits, the seed is sprinkled from the hand in small quantities; the plots of ground being so small, narrow, and crooked, should the seed be cast as in large long fields, much of it would be lost. After sowing the seed, a harrow with a heather brush at the tail of it is used, which men and women drag; after them, by means of a rope across which men and women drag after them, by means of a rope across their breast and shoulders. The women are miserable slaves; they do the work of brutes, carry the manure in creels on their backs from the byre to the field, and use their fingers as a five-pronged grape to fill them.

In harvest, when the crop is ripe, no sickle is used for the barley, among the small tenants. The stalk is plucked, the ground is left bare, and consequently the soil is injured. When no stubble is left, the earth loses its winter clothing, and one-third of the manure. When the sheaves are thoroughly dry, the whole is conveyed to the barn-yard. The sickle is then used to purpose. The sheet is seized by the left hand, the right foot is placed on the black roots of the culm, and the sickle in the right hand is applied to within six inches of the grain or barley ear. After this guillotine operation, all the heads are formed into a little stack, covered with the roots of the sheaf which had been so cut one layer of straw is piled above another like slates on the roof of a house, from the bottom to the top of the stack, which is in shape like a cone. The whole convex surface of the stack is tightly laced round, by heather ropes, and made as tight as a bottle. The residue of the roots is for thatch.

Though this method of husbandry common in the island may appear absurd, laborious, and tedious to strangers, the climate and necessity have hitherto obliged the people to adopt it. If the natives had the means to purchase proper implements of husbandry, and were ordered by those in authority to pursue a different plan of tillage, the island would have, in a few years, a very different aspect; and without doubt the climate would change to the better.

A great deal has been done, during the last ten years, and much more might still be done, in reclaiming waste land, if there were men of capital in the island. There is a large field; and moss mixed with shelly sand and sea-ware, would give a good crop, and be no bad subject to work upon; for were the moss consumed till within nine inches, and the clay subsoil properly mixed with it, in a few years it would make good mould, if well manured.

All the leases in the parish have nearly expired; but they will be renewed. The parish being entailed, leases cannot properly be for more than nineteen years. All the farm-buildings require repairs, except Sandwich, Gress, and Laxdale cottage. The farm houses of Agnish Coll, Goat-hill, Holm shades, and Tolsta, would require a considerable sum to make them habitable and comfortable. Some dikes lately built are very good, and many others somewhat decayed.

Quarries.-The best quarry in the parish is between Garrabost and Port-na-guiran; but the greater part of the stone used in building rubble work in Stornoway, is imported either from the mainland or the parish of Lochs. There is no freestone in the island.

Fisheries.-The fishing of cod, ling and her-rings, is the principal employment of the male population in the country: every farm and hamlet have their boats, except a few on Melbost. The season is divided between fishing, farming, and kelping; and most families have a share of a boat and a lot of land. One hundred and twenty tons of cod and ling are annually caught and cured in the parish, and shipped for Ireland and the Clyde, &c. The average price per ton for cod is L. 12, and for ling L. 15. Herrings have not been abundant for several years. They are on the coast; but the people are not acquainted with the deep sea fishing, and their boats and nets are not fit for the operation.

The Broad-bay flounder is the finest in the world. The laithe far surpasses the whiting, in delicacy and sweetness. Hake is a strong coarse fish, but when salted, in spring is not disagreeable food. Soles, tusk, and conger-eels are caught; whales, grampus, and porpoise run ashore, and are often driven ashore by the fishers, in numbers amounting to 150 or more, and varying from 5 to 30 feet in length. The haddock is the general favourite, and is to be had, at all seasons, in the Broad-bay. There is always a ready sale for it, in Stornoway, in spring, when the salt-beef becomes tough. Haddocks fetch 1s. per dozen; at other seasons, they are sold for halfpence a-piece. The country people smoke them; and putting salt into their eyes, the brine runs down the bone and keeps the fish from corrupting; it gives the fish a peculiar, but no unpleasant taste.-. Cured in this way, they are little inferior to Finnan haddocks. This plan was resorted to, when the salt was scarce and dear, and it is still adhered to. In the harvest season, about the end of October, the natives, in calm weather, repair at night to the shore, with blankets sowed end to end; and at the mouths of the rivers, where the ford is shallow, they cross and drag with them one end of the chain of blankets. They beat the water to frighten the young fry, which are very numerous; and hauling the blankets like a net against the stream, they drive the cuddie fish to the sandy beach. In one night, by two hauls of six blankets, twenty-four barrels of caddies have been caught. Immense quantities come up the friths In one night, by two hauls of six blankets, twenty-four barrels of cuddies have been caught. Immense quantities come up the friths and shallows about the end of harvest. The fish is sweet and fat. From their livers, a great quantity of oil is obtained, which is some- times sold at ls. 3d. per pint when scarce; at present it fetches no more than 7d. When fresh the caddies are sold at 4d. per peck. Very few salmon are caught in this parish. The gentlemen in Stornoway give 5d. and 6d. for each cod and ling to the fishers.

Produce.- The gross amount of raw produce raised in the parish is as follows

Barley or bear. 2000 quarters, at L. 1, - - - L. 2000 0 0
Black oats, 1000 quarters, at 10s. - - - - 500 0 0
White oats, 500 do. 15s. - - 370 0 0
Pntatoes, 20,000 barrels, at 2s. - - - 2000 0. 0
Turnips, 20 acres, at L. 9, -. - 180 0 0
Hay. meadow 20.000 stones, at 6d. - - - ~ 500 0 0
Fish. cod and ling, 120 tons, at L. 13 - - - 1560 0 0
40 do. at L. 3 for manufacturing, - 126 0 0
Pasture, at 15s. per cow per annum. 8000 head, L._6000
do. at 3s. per ewe or sheep, do. 3000 do. L. 455, 10s.
L6455 10 0

Wheat, 20 quarters, at L. l, 10s. - - - - 80 0 0

Total yearly value of raw produce, - - L. 13,721 10 0

Manufactures.-Mrs S. M‘Kenzie attempted to instruct the natives in straw-plaiting; and for that purpose brought two strangers to the island, and gave them a salary, for a considerable time. Several young girls were taught; but the work is discontinued at present. The Craggans, formerly mentioned, are made by the natives. The red clay is kneaded as smooth as glazier’s putty, the vessel is fashioned by one hand inside, the other on the outside, till it is brought to the size and shape required. After hardening in the sun for a time, a peat fire is kindled around it, till it becomes red. Warm milk is then poured into it, and as the milk boils, the outside is bathed with it. This gives ita polish or gloss. If it does not crack, it is considered a good dish; and the boiled milk is drunk by the potters.

Kelp is the principal manufacture in the parish. It is almost impossible to tell how many are employed in the work,-for young and old, male and female, all who are able to carry a creel of ware, or help to fill it, are engaged in manufacturing it at different times, for three months, from the time of -cutting the ware till the solid mass is weighed on board the vessel. The price of kelp varies
from L. l, 10s. to L. 3, 3s. per ton; at L. 3. 3s. per ton, the sum may be as much as the man and wife in one family could earn in three months, by any other work; but the toil in cutting, drying, burning the ware, and watching the pot night and day, till the ware is converted to boiling lava, is terrible, and would require extraordinary wages. This process, if not injurious to health, is ruinous to the eyes. How this manufacture affects their morals, farther experience will disclose.

I add the following remarks upon the kelping system. It is true, that proprietors of land and kelp shores got a good round sum for kelp, when the price was high,-nearly L. 20 clear profit per ton; but they know from experience, that this commodity is very fluctuating in price, especially since barilla has been substituted for kelp. The price of kelp is not now worth the trouble of manufacturing it; but had the ware burned and exported been given to fields in culture, or put upon new tilled land, to stimulate and feed it, the profits though not so large, would be annual, yes perennial, and in the course of a nineteen years lease, the old arable land would retain: its stamina, and the new land would be pulverizing; the rents would then be certain and easily secured. Besides, at the end of the lease, the lots or farms would be worth at least double the former rent. But when thousands are engaged, all the summer season, making kelp, their crofts and lots are neglected, potato fields are overrun with weeds, consequently the return is small, and part of the gain by kelping is lost in their potato crop; their cattle are much neglected; corn fields are destroyed; and the tenants distressed for their rents. Many of the herd boys that should attend the cattle during the summer heats, are kelping; many beasts are lost in mossy veins, and fall from rocks, when they run wild during an excessively hot day,-so that in this way, the gain by kelp becomes a loss. The kelping system is thus a great obstacle to agricultural improvement. It is the opinion of many, that the manufacture of kelp has injured the fishing trade on the Lewis coast, because the smoke is injurious to the fish because the ware from which the kelp is manufactured, is supposed to be a great part of the food of the fish and because the kelp ware is supposed to be a shelter or covert to the tinny fry from their numerous voracious enemies.

Whatever be the cause, it is very evident that herrings and dogfish do not visit the shores of Lewis, in such large bodies, as before the kelping system began for, by dog-fish oil alone, the tenants in Ness, parish of Barvas, paid their rents; and the take of herrings is trifling compared to what had been formerly. In the fifty miles of coast in this parish, 3000 barrels have not been caught and
sent to market, for the last five years. Though the manufacture of kelp should entirely cease, years may elapse before the fish visit the friths and lochs, in such immense bodies as formerly.

Navigation..-The number of vessels belonging to the port is 67, the whole tonnage 3059. The smallest is 15 tons, the largest 142 tons. The number of boats, in the district of the port, registered, amounts to 1500.

A very considerable number of foreign vessels, and British vessels from and to foreign parts, put into the harbour of Stornoway but the number of foreign vessels importing cargoes, does not, on an average, exceed one each year.

In Stornoway, there is a well-regulated custom-house a collector, comptroller, and tide-waiter.

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