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new boat was always launched to a flowing tide, sometimes prow foremost and sometimes stern foremost. When it was fairly in the water, whisky in free quantity and bread with cheese were distributed among those present at the launch. The boat was then named, and a bottle containing whisky was broken on the prow or stern, according to the way the boat had been launched. The following words were at times spoken before breaking the bottle

"Fae rocks an saands
An barren lauds
An ill men's hands
Keep's free.
Weel oot, weel in,
Wi a gueede shot."

On the arrival of a new boat at its home the skipper's wife, in some of the villages, took a lapful of corn or barley, and sowed it over the boat. In one village, when a new boat was brought home, the skipper descended the moment the prow touched the beach, went for the woman last married in the village, took her arm, and marched her round the boat, no matter how far the water reached.

A horseshoe was nailed to some part of the boat--generally to the mast. A "waith-horse" shoe was most sought after.

The new boat was allowed to take the lead in leaving the harbour or shore the first time the boats of the village put to sea after its arrival. When it was fairly at sea the other boats pushed out as fast as possible; sails were spread to the full, and strong arms were strained in plying the oars to overtake and outstrip the new craft. If it kept a-head, and reached the fishing-ground first, its character was established. When the new boat

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returned from the fishing-ground, in some of the villages the owner's wife gave bread and cheese to the men of all the boats that arrived from the fishing-ground after it. It is said that at times the new boat lingered so that most of the boats might reach home before it, and thus as little bread and cheese as possible might have to be given.

A boat, that had been wrecked with the loss of life and cast ashore, was allowed to lie, and go to pieces. A fisherman of the village to which the boat belonged would not have set a foot in it to put to sea, and a board of it would not have been carried away as firewood by any of the inhabitants of the village. The boat was at times sold to a fisherman of another village, repaired, and did service for many a year.

In some of the villages a white stone would not be used as ballast. In others a stone bored by the pholas was rejected. Such a stone bore the name of the "hunger steen."

It was the custom in each village for an aged experienced man to get up in the morning, and examine the sky, and from its appearance prognosticate the weather for the day. If the weather promised to be good, he went the round of the village to awaken the inmates. In doing this great attention was paid to the "first fit." In every village there were more than one to whom was attached the stigma of having an "ill fit." Such were dreaded, and shunned, if possible, in setting out on any business.

There lived two such men in one village. Each knew his neighbour's fame, but he did not know his own. Both had got out of bed one morning to inspect the sky, and to prognosticate the weather, and to arouse the village, if the weather was thought to be favourable for going to sea. Both met, and both took fright, and returned each to his house, and the village lost a day's fishing.

'The boats belonging to two villages were one afternoon during the herring fishing season lying at anchor to the west of the larger village waiting till the time arrived for going to the fishing-ground. One of the boats outside belonged to a man who was reputed to have an "ill fit." When he came to go on

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board his boat, he had to step across another boat or two. When he put his foot on the boat nearest the shore he was met with an oath and the words, "Keep aff o’ ma boat, ye hiv an ill fit." The man drew back quietly, and turned to the master of the next boat, and, addressing him by his "tee name," said, "F------, a’m sure ye'll lat me our your boat." Permission was readily granted. The boats put to sea. The only herrings brought ashore were in F------'s boat; it was the man with the "ill fit" that gave them.

In many of the villages there were no harbours, and the boats had to be drawn up on the beach. They had to be pushed into the water stern foremost. The prow was always turned seaward in the direction of the sun's course.

A fisherman, on proceeding to sea, if asked where he was going, would have put out with the thought that he would have few or no fish that day, or that some disaster would befall him. He might have returned under fear of being drowned if he went to sea. Sometimes such an answer was given as, "Deel cut oot yer ill tongue." When at sea the words, "minister," "kirk," "swine," "salmon," "trout," "dog," and certain family names, were never pronounced by the inhabitants of some of the villages, each village having an aversion to one or more of the words. When the word "kirk" had to be used, and there was often occasion to do so, from several of the churches being used as land-marks, the word "bell-hoose" or "bell-’oose" was substituted. The minister was called "the man wi’ the black quyte." A minister in a boat at sea was looked upon with much misgiving. 1 He might be another Jonah.

As it was the belief among the agricultural population that cows' milk could be taken away, so among the fishing population it was believed the fish could be taken away. This power of taking away the fish was in the eye, and such as had the power "glowrt the fish oot o’ the boat" merely by a look.

When it was suspected that the boat had been forespoken, or the fish "glowrt oot o’ the boat," the boat was put through the halyards. This was done by making a noose or "bicht" on the

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halyards large enough to allow the boat to pass through. The halyard with this noose was put over the prow of the boat, and pushed under the keel, and the boat sailed through the noose. The evil was taken off the boat.

It was not lawful in some of the villages to point with the finger to the boats when at sea; if such a thing had to be done, the whole hand had to be used.

On no account must the boats be counted when at sea, neither must any gathering of men or women or children be numbered. Nothing aroused the indignation of a company of fishwomen trudging along the road to sell their fish more than to point towards them with the finger, and begin to number them aloud:--

"Ane, twa, three,
Faht a fishers I see
Gyain our the brigg o’ Dee,
Deel pick their muckle greethy ee."

When a boat was leaving home for another fishing station, as during the herring season, some had the habit of borrowing an article of trifling value from a neighbour, but with the intention of not returning it. The luck of the fishing went along with the article; those who were aware of the fact refused to lend.

In Buckie there are certain family names fishermen will not pronounce. The bann lies particularly heavy on Ross. Coull also bears it, but not to such a degree. The folks of that village speak of "spitting out the bad name." If such a name is mentioned in their bearing they spit, or, in the vernacular, "chiff." One bearing the dreaded name is called a "chifferoot." If there is occasion to speak of one bearing such a name a circumlocution is used, as:--"The man it diz so in so," or "The laad it lives at such and such a place," or the "Tee-name" is used. If possible the men bearing these names of reprobation are not taken as hired men in the boats during the herring-fishing season. Men with the reprobated names, who have been hired before their names were known, have been refused their wages, when the fishing season closed, because the fishing was unsuccessful with the boats in which they sailed, and because the want of success was ascribed to their presence in the boat.

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[paragraph continues] Neither would lodgings be rented during the herring season from a man that bore one of the names that were under the bann. "Ye hinna hid sic a fishin this year is ye hid the last," said a woman to the daughter of a famous fisher who had just returned from Peterhead from the herring fishing. "Na, na; faht wye cud we?" was the answer. "Oh faht hinert ye this year mair nor afore?" asked the woman. "Oh faht wye cud we? Ye needna speer faht wye we cudna. We wiz in a 'chiffer-oot’s' ’oose; we cudna hae a fushing." The house in which the family lived during the fishing belonged to a man named Ross.

In some of the villages on the east coast of Aberdeenshire it was accounted unlucky to meet one of the name of Whyte when going to sea. Lines would be lost, or the catch of fish would be poor. When a child was being carried to be baptised it was unlucky to meet one who bore the name of Whyte.

It was accounted unlucky to utter the word "sow" or "swine" or "pig," particularly during the time when the line was being baited; it was sure to be lost if any one was unwise enough to speak the banned word. In some of the villages on the coast of Fife, if the word is mentioned in the hearing of a fisherman, he cries out "Cold iron." Even in church the same words are uttered when the clergyman reads the miracle about the Gadarene swinery.

Haddocks were cleaned, split, and put in salt for a short time. They were then hung up in the chimney, over a fire of wood, and smoked or "yellowed." In later times the smoking of the haddocks was done in small houses erected for the purpose. In the early part of summer, when the haddocks are still somewhat lean after spawning, many of them are sun-dried, and go by the name of "speldanes" or "spellans." Much of the skate is prepared by being pressed under heavy stones, and dried in the sun; this forms "blaain skate." Cod, ling, and tusk are split, salted, and sun-dried, and in many parts still carried in creels. The haddocks were carried over the country for sale by the women. The creel was, and is yet, carried on the back by a strap round the shoulders in front. Below the creel is worn a plaid; and the women of different villages have different

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coloured plaids. Some have them white, some red with a black cheek, others blue with a black cheek. They left home by a very early hour in companies of tens and scores. As they proceeded, one went off here, and another there, each to supply her own customers. The bulk of them went to the country villages, at which they commonly arrived at an early hour, in time to supply newly cured fish for breakfast. They often beguiled their long way--10, 12, 15, and 20 miles--with song. In the villages the fish was sold for money, but in the country districts they were exchanged for meal, potatoes, sids, turnips, and, even if money were given, something in the way of barter had to be added. The creel was often carried home heavier than it was carried out.

In the outward journey, if the weather was stormy, companies of the women took possession of the houses by the wayside, if the doors had been left unbarred. After the male inmates left for the barn to thresh, it was usual for one of the females of the family to get up, and secure the doors against their entrance. The railway has modified all this.

The greater part of the cod and ling and other larger cured fish was taken by the fishermen in their large boats to the markets in the south of Scotland. On their return they brought mussels for bait, soap, and other family necessaries, and often a quantity of stoneware, of which each house generally possessed a large stock. Sometimes they brought such articles for friends and customers in the country.

Among the fishermen of each village there was a strong contest on New Year's Day which boat should first reach the fishing-ground, "shot" the lines, and draw them, as it was thought that he who first "drew blood" on that day enjoyed more than all ordinary share of the luck of the village during the year. If the weather was such as to prevent the boats from putting to sea, those who had guns were out along the beach long before dawn on the watch for the first living creature they could wound or kill, so that they might have blood shed.


199:1 Choice Notes, p. 60.

Next: Chapter XXVII. Death