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Re-assessing Shetland’s Herring Industry before the 1870s
Robert William Gear

Journal of the North Atlantic, Special Volume 4 (2013): 61–68

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61 R.W. Gear 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 Introduction One of the most important loci of the North Atlantic herring fisheries has been the seas around the Shetland Islands, an archipelago in the far north of Scotland. The established historiography on this fishery has tended to emphasize three themes: the monolithic and prolonged Dutch herring fishery, the sporadic British ventures around Shetland before 1800 (Fig. 1), and the “Great Herring Fishery” of the 1870s onwards. There has been very little discussion of the Shetland-based industry before the 1870s, and even less on any Shetland industry before 1800. Indeed, a Shetland-based herring industry before 1800 has been simply dismissed. Tudor (1883:83) wrote “until the ... nineteenth century, Shetlanders ... contented themselves with catching a few barrels of herrings” and “the year 1826 was practically the first year in which any quantity of herrings were cured Re-assessing Shetland’s Herring Industry before the 1870s Robert William Gear* Abstract - The Shetland Islands, an archipelago off the North coast of Scotland, have been a locus of the herring fishery for hundreds of years. The established historiography has tended to emphasize three themes: the prolonged Dutch fishery, the sporadic British ventures, and the “Great Herring Fishery” of the 1870s onwards. There has been very little discussion of the Shetland-based industry before the 1870s, and even less on any Shetland industry before 1800. Indeed, a Shetlandbased herring industry before 1800 has been simply dismissed. However, new research shows evidence of a continuous Shetland-based industry since at least the beginning of the seventeenth century. This paper refutes the existing historiography to show there is ample evidence of a consistent, though smaller-scale, Shetlandic industry from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. Across the Sólundarhaf: Connections between Scotland and the Nordic World Selected Papers from the Inaugural St. Magnus Conference 2011 Journal of the North Atlantic *Maritime Historical Studies Centre, University of Hull, Kingston upon Hull, UK, and NAFC Marine Centre, University Highlands and Islands, Port Arthur, Scalloway Shetland Isles, ZE1 0UN, UK; Robert.w.gear@graduate.org. 2013 Special Volume 4:61–68 Figure 1. A view of the British fishery off the south coast of Shetland. Source: Shetland Museum and Archives (SMAA) ref. no. 01241. From an illustration in the London Magazine or Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer, 1752. R.W. Gear 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 62 in Shetland for exportation”. These phrases have been oft-quoted by the likes of O’Dell (1939:131), Halcrow (1950, 1994:39), and—inaccurately—by Thowsen (1970:163). Richard Smith (1986:238) is perhaps most pithy and forthright, writing simply “there is no evidence for a continuous industry in herrings based in the islands.” H. Smith (1984:134), Donaldson (1954, 1958), and Friedland (1973, 1982) are some of the few to recognize the existence of an early Shetlandic herring industry; however, they do not ascribe proper prominence or offer a comprehensive history. Further, any discussion of the Shetland herring industry before the 1870s has tended to simply highlight the small boom in the 1830s, while downplaying the fishery on either side of this “bubble”. Reflecting on this period, Hance Smith (1984:134) wrote: In contrast to the ling and cod fisheries, which were in many ways part of the naturally evolving order of things, the ling fisheries and markets having been established since time immemorial, the herring fishery was brandnew in almost every sense of the word. In short, the Shetland herring industry before the 1870s has not been properly recognized. This paper attempts to redress the balance and refute the existing historiography to show there is ample evidence of a consistent, though admittedly smaller, Shetlandic industry in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with significant fisheries continuing throughout the nineteenth century up to the climactic 1870s. To this end, the following paper will examine the Shetland- based herring industry before 1870, and will be split into three sections. The first will examine the early period when local merchants organized fisheries while external merchants took away the product. The second examines the 18th century, when a new class of merchant lairds dominated the local herring industry. The third looks at the 19th century and especially the fisheries on either side of the 1830s “bubble”. Local Producers, External Merchants: 1400–1700 Dominating this period in Shetland’s history were merchants from the German Hanseatic towns, primarily Hamburg, Bremen, and Lübeck. These German merchants carried on “a lively trade with the Shetlands ... out of all proportion to the size of the islands” (Baasch in Friedland 1973:95). It is unclear when this trade with Shetland began. Friedland (1982:88) cited the first documentary evidence from 1415, but also stated that the trade already going on with Norway would have linked Shetland into the Hanseatic trade sphere earlier. The trade was based on the demersal fisheries; cod and ling were the species most readily associated with it. It is less well known that herring played a major role in the Hanseatic trade (Hardy 1959:39). Shetlanders naturally also traded herring with the German ship merchants (Friedland 1982, Goodlad 1971:91). Indeed, drawing on the German records, Friedland (1973:24) in a surprising statement wrote “... the upswing of the Shetland trade in the early seventeenth century was caused by the herring which gradually pushed the stockfish [dried cod and ling] into second place.” This “upswing” coincides with the first time we have any significant body of written evidence on Shetland’s history, and there is a cache of sources that indicate a domestic herring fishery. Around this time, a small number of wealthy Scottish incomers were exploiting the herring stock. They probably facilitated the fishery with their tenants, providing drift-nets, barrels, and salt. In the first decades of the seventeenth century, there were at least eight Shetland landowners doing so. The first evidence comes from 1601, when Thomas Cheyne of Vaila organized a fishery (Donaldson 1954:52). The inventory of Hugh Sinclair, a local baron who died two years later, lists “16 hering nettis” and a total of 10 boats (Ballantyne and Smith 1994:193–195). The first evidence of a definite sale in herring comes from five years later in 1609. The Court Book of Shetland (Donaldson 1954:26) mentions the sale of herrings and oil, and is doubly significant as the seller is a woman. This same year, William Bruce of Sumburgh and Robert Bruce of Symbister were also prosecuting the herring fishery, as a dispute is recorded in which the former complains that the Earl of Shetland destroyed 20 “double herring nets” and other gear and boats (Ballantyne and Smith 1994:231–232). This gear he used for both herring and salmon, “thairby wrangulie, violentlie and maisterfullie ejecting ... the said William Bruce furth of his said fisheing and commoditie thairof” (Ballantyne and Smith 1994:231–232, Smith 1984:31). The fishery was thus obviously of some importance to Bruce. In 1612 when Robert Swinton, the minister of Walls, died, he left four herring nets and three boats. (Donaldson 1958:52). Also that year, Ninian Neven writes of his own “ventour to the hering fishing in 1619”, mentioning boats and nets (Ballantyne and Smith, in press). Gilbert Mouat, Neven’s rival and the minister of Northmavine, also prosecuted the fishery in 1623. He imported “sex gude sufficient and wiell barkit hering nettis with their blak ropis” (NAS, RD1/358, ff.17-8). One of the more unusual references sees James Mouat of Ollaberry stealing a mare and “leading his herring upon her”(Donaldson 1954:84). 63 R.W. Gear 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 The fruits of these ventures were sold to both German and Scottish merchants (Smith 1984:22). There is evidence of some competition between the two groups, as James Moncrieff, a merchant from Craill, petitioned the Scottish Parliament in 1661 that buying “from the inhabitants of the aforesaid isles herring and fish … should be preferred to all strangers … until we be first served and our boats fully loaded” (RPS, 1661/1/149). This request was duly granted. The actual amount of herring exported is difficult to quantify consistently. There is a snapshot of Shetland trade for the period November 1618 to November 1619, which details the customs demanded on goods in and out of the isles (NAS, DI85/3, ff. 7-9). A total of 128 barrels, probably with 800–1000 herring in each, were exported by three different merchants, two bound for Bergen and one for Hamburg. This total is not to be assumed to be the whole year’s catch, however. From the opposite end of the trade route, Friedland has identified the Hamburg records for 1629 and 1633 as some of the only extant records which can illustrate the extent of the Shetland herring trade. He cites exports of 270 tons per year to Hamburg, meaning Shetland was “ranked third or fourth behind Schleswig-Holstein, North West Germany and the overwhelming leadership of the Dutch” (Frieldland 1973:24). This statistic can be placed in the Scottish context. Coull (2008:210) cites 6000 barrels going yearly from Scotland to the Baltic ports during the early 17th century. Considering the 270 tons of herring going from Shetland to just one port—Hamburg—was equivalent to around 1890 barrels, the importance of the Shetland trade is clear.1 It seems that the trade was still going strong in the late seventeenth century. Around 1680, herring is stated as a “product of the port” of Walls on the west side of Shetland, and in Unst, herrings are recorded as being sold to the Bremen and Hamburg merchants.2 The final two decades of the seventeenth century brought significant changes to Shetland. Brian Smith (1976) writes that by 1700 “most of these Scottish lairds were bankrupt and landless”. It can be safely assumed that the commercial herring fishery declined with them. In summation, as Donaldson (1958:52) asserts, the “natives of Shetland, or at least residents, engaged in the herring fishery on a considerable scale” in the seventeenth century. The early part of the century seems to have seen a number of small commercial enterprises emerging. Local landowners acted as middle-men, supplying the extractors of the resource with nets, barrels, and salt and in turn supplying the merchants, both from Germany and other nations, with the finished product. For most of the century, herring was an important commodity, and during this period and due to the landowners’ efforts, herring had (probably briefly) overtaken stockfish in terms of importance. Shetland was remarkably, according to Friedland, the third or fourth biggest exporter of herring to Hamburg, from whence it would have been exported over the continent. Merchant-Laird Production: 1700–1800 In practical terms, there was little change in the herring fishery during this period; the fishery again came to be facilitated by the landowners, but, for the first time, they exported it too. The turn of the eighteenth century was a very complex time in Shetland’s history (Smith 1976). This was the era in which the German merchants finally withdrew from the islands, for reasons treated fully elsewhere (Smith 1984, 2003:38, 39), leaving a trade vacuum. The Hollander herring fishers also came in fewer numbers after 1703 due to a devastating attack on their busses in Lerwick. There was a resultant drop in the trade of goods, which adversely affected the lower classes, and in turn reduced landlords rents. In response, the remaining local lairds “were obliged to turn merchants and export the country produce”. (Gifford 1786 in Smith 1976). This century thus saw the rise to prominence of a new class of merchantlairds. The key figure in this change was Thomas Gifford of Busta (Fig. 2), a “pioneer” in the “small revolution”. He instigated the far haaf fishery3 based on demersal fish, and the system of fishing tenures which dominated Shetland’s socio-economic landscape for over one hundred and fifty years thereafter. It is less well known that Gifford exploited herring as well. Gifford, spurred by the decline of the Dutch fishery and eager to “share somewhat in those profits”, designed a “tryall of hering fishing upon the cost of Zettland,” which he described in 1718 (Bruce 1913:194). In the same year, he was actually already trading in herring, suggesting the trial was simply a bigger-scale version of what he was already doing. There is little evidence of Gifford’s herring fishery after this until 1726. That year a bounty was introduced on all Scottish cured fish, and Gifford tested new markets in the Baltic, receiving good returns (Goodlad 1971:93). This positive result seems to have stimulated the trade, as from 1727 until 1745 there are numerous records which illustrate a fairly constant exportation of herring. Perhaps surprisingly, herring were actually worth more than ling per barrel at one point in 1732 (SMAA, D17/6/10). Thomas Gifford was not the only landlord in the early eighteenth century dealing in herring. Fenton (1997:604) is one of the few to recognize that herring fishing was organized by landlords during this period, probably mostly outside the main whitefish R.W. Gear 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 64 season. Arthur Nicolson of Bullister and Lochend exported herring, possibly as early as 1724, in collaboration with Gifford (SMAA, D24/109/11). Smith (1986:241) cites four examples of this herring fishery. In the 1740s, Nicolson’s tenants in Papa Stour are recorded as fishing for herring and whitefish, although they caught only small amounts of the former. As the century progressed and mostly new landlords came to prominence, William Hay of Unst was exporting his tenants’ herrings via a Lerwick merchant in the 1760s. At the same time, Gifford’s grandson-successor Gideon Gifford carried on the fishery, owning at least one boat for herring as well as buying them from his tenants. In the next decade, John Bruce of Sumburgh was exporting herring from Scalloway direct to Hamburg. For the first time, there are some details of the actual process of catching and processing by Shetlanders. John Bruce, a local laird, described one method of fishing in 1785: The netts indeed are lashed together, and the whole of them fixed to a bauk rope with buoys, the same as in the open sea. But for fear of the current in these narrow inlets dragging their nets, on the rocks or out to sea, they have heavy sinkers which go to the bottom … so as to keep them fixed on the spot they intend. They set at night, perhaps across the mouth of a small bay or cove, so as to catch the herring going out or coming in; they then go home to their beds till the morning when they return and haul them. (OLAA, D11/24) On the processing side, a description of Northmavine from the last decade notes “many of our small boats are ... employed during the night in catching herrings, and old men and boys in the day in curing them.” In Aithsting and Sandsting, Delting, and Walls and Sandness, herring is recorded as being caught and—crucially—sold, either “to the laird or their tacksman” (Withrington and Grant 1978:362,408). Out with Shetland, the British herring fishery was growing. Between 1771 and 1776, the number of British busses increased tenfold from 29 to 294 after the re-establishment of a bounty (Goodlad 1971:167). It was during this period that larger-scale local enterprises began to emerge, using new larger vessels. The first reference to a local buss comes from 1774 and is recorded as “belonging to the town”, that is, Lerwick (Low 1774, 1978:66). Assuming this informant was correct, it is unclear who may have owned the craft. Thirteen years later, in 1787, there is better-documented evidence of four busses belonging to Shetland; these were operated by James Hay (son of the aforementioned William) and a number of Yarmouth merchants. This enterprise was termed the “North Sea Fishery Adventure” and one particular shipment landed the coveted first barrels to the Continental market, beating the Dutch (something Gifford had hoped to do 70 years earlier). This shipment earned some £194 12/4 for just 21 barrels. Despite this apparent success, the company dissolved in 1791 (Smith 1986:248). Other lairds were not averse to trying larger-scale ventures either; sometime before 1781, “in an attempt to introduce the summer herring fishing upon the coasts of Shetland”, Bruce bought a sloop that he himself helped crew for several weeks (OLAA, D11/24). It is possible for the first time to Figure 2. Thomas Gifford of Busta ca. 1680–1760. Source: Photographed by attempt to quantify the total Shetland author; original in Busta House Hotel, Brae, Shetland. 65 R.W. Gear 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 herring catches of these various ventures due to customs records being extant for the latter half of the century. Hance Smith has compiled a graph showing the percentage of the herring that Shetland exported in comparison to the Scottish export. Shetland herring constitutes usually between 5% and 20% of the total Scottish export between 1750 and 1770 (Smith 1984, 2003:70). As shown, the new merchant-laird class exploited the herring during the eighteenth century by both buying fish from their tenants and latterly organizing larger-scale enterprises themselves. The total catches were growing, and Shetland’s place in the Scottish context of herring exportation was not inconsiderable. A Stalling Start: 1800–1870 The nineteenth-century herring industry in Shetland is generally much better recognized. Two periods of intense activity, in the 1830s and 1870s onwards, saw herring become the most important commodity in the isles by far. This was the period that immediately preceded the immense herring fishery of the late Victorian and Edwardian era. In 1809, the Hay family once more come to the fore with a new herring business. Their ship, the Don, was the biggest Shetland “buss” so far: 80 4/94 tons burden (Smith 1986:250). The venture seems to have made a profit in its first few years, and by 1813, the Hays had four busses (Smith 1984, 2003:251). How much of this success was actually due to smuggling is uncertain, however. In 1821, there was also a venture attempted by Mouat of Gardie, with three herring vessels, which was relatively successful (see Manson’s Almanac 1903). In 1820, the Shetland Herring Co. was founded by the partnership of Hay and Ogilvy (Smith 1986:250). This company, with their remarkable local bank, the first and only in Shetland, kick-started the local herring fishery and ushered in a new concentrated and large-scale Shetland-based herring fishery. This period is sometimes referred to as “the first boom”. After gradually building in the 1820s, the 1830s herring fishery had an air of a speculative bubble. There was “fluidity of capital”, and Smith claims some £60,000 was invested in the industry as a whole during the boom years (Goodlad 1971:274, Smith 1986:258). It began due to a combination of international and domestic factors. Restored peace after the end of the Napoleonic wars allowed more shipping and general stability. Also, a new working class began to emerge (including West Indian slaves) who were dependant on cheap food. Locally, a spirit of enterprise led by Hay and Ogilvy encouraged investment in fishing ventures. Finally, a major factor in the boom was the appearance of a new type of boat: the half-decker (Fig. 3). The coming of the first half-deckers to Shetland marked a move away from the traditional aspirations of large Dutch-style busses for the herring fishing. Hay and Ogilvy began buying, and later building, these vessels. Half-deckers were smaller, cheaper, and more manuverable craft than busses, but safer and with greater capacity—principally for nets— than sixareens: [They] were half decked in the fore part, while a small locker for food, etc. was placed aft. Planks ran round the sides of the boat, so that the crew need not tread on the fish in the bottom of their vessel. Usually each boat carried a crew of five men. (Hardy 1910:184) These years saw various herring ventures arise, including some Scottish curing firms that promoted the fishery and established curing yards in Shetland. That said, Hay and Ogilvy remained the principal force in the Shetland herring fishery, owning around 100 half-deckers by the end of the 1830s and supplying an additional 120 or so. The peak year was 1834 when some 43,000 barrels were cured, which constituted 10% of the total Scottish catch (Smith 1986:253). However, the boom was short lived. A terrible storm in 1840, herring failures, sub-standard curing, and the effect of the emancipation of the West Indian slaves played significant roles, and the Shetland Bank—sometimes known as the “fisherman’s bank”—folded as a direct result in 1842. Figure 3. One of the only depictions of a half-decker in Shetland, painted by Charles McGowan. Source: SMAA, ref.no. ART 1991.330. R.W. Gear 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 66 it [the fishery] on just now at a heavy sacrifice, year after year, in the expectation that the herring will come” (Smith 1986:265). The 1870s saw prolific herring shoals being found off Shetland. Simultaneously the whole British herring fleet became more mobile, following the herring in its migratory journey. Shetlanders fully participated too, and especially did so after 1886 and the Crofters Act. In 1874, 1200 barrels were caught by 50 boats; by 1881, 59,586 barrels were caught by 276 boats. After a depression between 1886 and 1895, the growth began again, surpassing everything that had gone before (see Riddell 2007). As the 1905 Report on the Fisheries of Scotland said: The rapid development of the herring fishing industry in Shetland is without a parallel in the whole of the history of the industry in Scotland. This was the “Great Herring Fishery”, as depicted in Figure 4. It is a central fact of Shetland’s history and the phenomenon that overshadowed all the preceding herring fisheries. In summation, the end of the nineteenth century saw a remarkable period Elsewhere in Scotland, it was in the next few decades that the Scottish herring fishery expanded in places like Wick and Fraserburgh; that Shetland didn’t develop apace is termed by Coull (1996:104– 125, 2008:208–235) an “anomaly”. The period between the two recognized “herring booms” unquestionably saw reduced landings, but significant fisheries were ongoing throughout the period. This was the start of a phase identified by Hance Smith (1984, 2003:135,136) as lasting from 1842–1875, during which time Baltic ports became the primary export destination for Shetland herring, and production levels fluctuated between 5 and 20,000 barrels a year. Small vessels fitted out with drift nets in many areas such as the Isle of Papa, and sold their fish to local merchants (Coull 2008:26–33). Halcrow (1950, 1994:134,135) highlights these merchants as entrepreneurs who developed the herring fishery in this period. These were people like James Smith, Thomas Tulloch, G. Harrison, Robert Irvine, and the indomitable Hay family. Rather than a lack of effort or investment, the limiting factor for at least part of this period seems to have been environmental factors. It was said at the time that they “are carrying Figure 4. Typical curing station in Shetland in the late nineteenth centur y. Source: SMAA, ref. no. JJ00088. 67 R.W. Gear 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 go to the funders of my Ph.D.: Shetland Catch Ltd. and the Lerwick Port Authority, and to the project partners NAFC Marine Centre and Shetland Amenity Trust. Literature Cited Ballantyne, J.H., and B. Smith. 1994. Shetland Documents 1580–1611. Shetland Times Ltd., Lerwick, UK. 352 pp Ballantyne, J.H., and B. Smith. In press. Shetland Documents 1612–1637.Shetland Times Ltd., Lerwick, UK. Bruce, R.S. 1913. A Memorial Anent a trial of fishing upon the coast of Zetland, T. Gifford. Pp. 193–201, In A.W. Johnston (Ed.). Old Lore Miscellany Vol. 6. University of London, London, UK. Coull, J.R. 1996. The Sea Fisheries of Scotland. John Donald Publishers Ltd., Edinburgh, UK. 308 pp. Coull, J.R. 2008. The herring fishery. Pp. 208–235, In J.R. Coull, A. Fenton, and K. Vaitch (Eds.). Boats, Fishing, and the Sea. John Donald Publishers Ltd., Edinburgh, UK. 621 pp. Donaldson, G. 1954. Court Book of Shetland: 1602–1604. Scottish Record Society, Edinburgh, UK. 176 pp. Donaldson, G., 1958. Life under Earl Patrick. Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh, UK. 149 pp. Fenton, A. 1997. The Northern Isles: Orkney and Shetland. 2nd Edition. Tuckwell Press Ltd., Edinburgh, UK. 722 pp. Fishery Board for Scotland. 1905. Annual report. Edinburgh, UK. Friedland, K. 1973. Der Hansische Shetlandhandel. Pp. 66–79, In Stadt und Land in der Gerschichte des Osteeraums. Schmidt-Roemhild. Lubeck, Germany. [English translation, SMAA SA.2/97.] Friedland, K. 1982. Hanseatic merchants and their trade with Shetland. Pp. 86–95, In D.J. Withrington (Ed.). Shetland and the Outside World 1469–1969. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. Goodlad, C.A. 1971. Shetland Fishing Saga. Shetland Times Ltd, Lerwick, UK. 343 pp. Halcrow, A. 1950, 1994. The Sail Fishermen of Shetland. Shetland Times Ltd., Lerwick, UK. 188 pp Hardy, A. 1959. The Open Sea II: Fish and Fisheries. Collins, London, UK. 322 pp. Hardy, E.W. 1910. Life and Customs in the Shetland Isles. Charles H. Kelly, London, UK. 247 pp. Low, G. 1774, 1978. Orkney and Schetland. Melven Press, Inverness, UK. 223 pp. Mansons Almanac. 1903. Lerwick, UK. O’Dell, A.C. 1939. The Historical Geography of the Shetland Islands. T. and J. Manson, Lerwick, UK. 328 pp. Riddell, L. 2007. When herring was king: Boom and recession in Shetland’s herring industry, 1880–1893. M.Sc. Thesis. University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK. 63 pp. Smith, B. 1976. Introduction to Gifford, T. An Historical Description of the Shetland Islands Thuleprint, Sandwick, UK. unpaginated. Smith, H.D. 1984, 2003. Shetland Life and Trade, 1550– 1914. John Donald Publishers Ltd., Edinburgh, UK. 378 pp. of growth in the Shetland herring fishery, but it should be recognized that the fishery was continuous throughout the preceding decades. Conclusion “There is no evidence for a continuous industry in herrings based in the islands.” (Smith 1986:238) Richard Smith’s quote is typical of the historiographical milieu described at the outset. However, the weight of evidence suggests the reverse is true. We know that the merchants from Hanseatic towns bought herring from the Shetlanders, and can safely assume this practice pre-dates the first written evidence. The first confirmation of this trade in herring comes from the beginning of the seventeenth century, a time when a cache of sources indicate a domestic herring industry, facilitated by landowners among their tenants. This fishery appears to have been continuous throughout the seventeenth century. Around this time, herring was even more important than stockfish, and Shetland became the third or fourth most important area for herring exportation into Hamburg at least. There may have been a brief hiatus in the fishery at the turn of the century during a period of depression, but Gifford had restarted it by the 1710s. This century was marked by the new merchant-lairds both organizing the fishery and exporting the finished product. Later in the century, larger-scale attempts were made, using sloops and busses to prosecute the herring fishery. Indeed, as has been shown, Shetland herring constituted 20% of the total Scottish export in the fish at one point in the 1750s. The new century saw more domestic buss fisheries arise, and the domestic fishery took off for a decade in the 1830s. In the decades before the “Great Herring Fishery” began, the fishery was continuous, probably limited to some extent by the failure of the stocks. The fishery in these years was mostly facilitated by the merchants, and the landings were not insignificant. Thus, in the period 1600–1870—at the very least— there is evidence of a continuous herring industry, with the main economic actors consistently aspiring to expand it. In short, it is questionable if Shetlanders at any time in the period were “contented … with catching a few barrels of herring.” Acknowledgments With thanks to Brian Smith and Ian Tait for helpful advice, Jenny Murray and John Hunter for help with illustrations, the Shetland Archives staff and to Busta House hotel for allowing access for photography. My thanks also R.W. Gear 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 68 Smith, R. 1986. Shetland in the World Economy: A sociological History of the 18th and 19th Centuries. Ph.D. Dissertation. University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK. 381 pp. Thowsen, A. 1970. The Norwegian export of boats to Shetland, and its influence upon Shetland boatbuilding and usage. Pp. 145–208, In L. Pettersen and A. Thowsen (Eds.). Sjofarts-historisk Årbok. Bergen Sjofartsmuseum, Bergen, Norway. Tudor, J.R. 1883. The Orkneys and Shetland; Their past and present state. E. Stanford London, UK. 703 pp. Various authors. 1680, 1908. Description of Ye Countrey of Zetland. J. Skinner and Co. Edinburgh, UK. 99 pp. Withrington, D.J., and I.R. Grant. 1978. The Statistical account of Scotland Vol. XIX Orkney and Shetland (1791–1799). The Scolar Press, Ilkley, Yorkshire, UK. 561 pp. Endnotes 1Based on a herring barrel being roughly the same size as 1722 when a royal convention specified its size. This contained 66 Scots pints, and was roughly equal to 320 pounds.. 2Various authors (1680, 1908: 67 and 77) 3The haaf (Old Norse, Håv meaning sea) fishery was the term applied to a deep sea fishery, primarily for cod and ling, prosecuted from four-oared vessels (fourareens) and latterly six-oared vessels (sixareens).