WMS functionality added to Digimap Roam

We are very pleased to announce that we we recently added WMS (Web Map Service) functionality to all Digimap Roam applications. This new facility allows you to pull in map data from a whole host of publicly accessible services allowing you to visualise a wealth of data in the familiar Digimap Roam interface. This is […]

Updated OS Mastermap in Digimap for Schools

Over the summer we’ve taken the opportunity to update some of the maps used in Digimap for Schools. The Ordnance Survey have been working with their Mastermap collection and had a slight rejig of some of their classifications and added some new data schema’s. (at this stage you can tell I’m not a professional cartographer ;-))

As a result there have been some additional classifications added to their data which allows for better cartographic representation of the data itself (i.e. they can put more information on the maps). To the casual observer who maybe doesn’t have a forensic eye for detail many of these changes may not be glaringly obvious but we have found a few examples of how the data has changed the maps for the better! We found that some of the best examples of this tend to be in the coastal regions and below is an example of a before and after:

As you can see form the top image the area is simply classified as shingle and rock, whereas the image below is much more refined in giving better classification of the areas.

Anyhow this was just a quick update to let you know that some of the maps may have changed slightly (for the better ;-))

SUNCAT updated

SUNCAT has been updated. Updates from the following libraries were loaded into the service in the last week. The dates displayed indicate when files were received by SUNCAT.

  • Bradford University (18 Aug 18)
  • British Library (23 Aug 18)
  • CONSER (Not UK Holdings) (22 Aug 18)
  • Cranfield University (20 Aug 18)
  • Directory of Open Access Journals (20 Aug 18)
  • Oxford University (23 Aug 18)
  • Royal College of Music (16 Aug 18)
  • Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (15 Aug 18)
  • Royal Veterinary College (22 Aug 18)
  • Southampton University (19 Aug 18)
  • Wellcome Library (21 Aug 18)

To check on the currency of other libraries on SUNCAT please check the updates page for further details.

Women in Scotland: Servants and Miners

We continue our series on women in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland, with a particular focus on employment. The existence of women servants is not a surprise, but women miners may well be! We also look at some of the other jobs women undertook which have not already be mentioned.

Servants

In our previous post on women in Scotland, we mentioned the fact that it was hard to employ people as servants during the summer months because they earned more working on the land. However, there were still those who were not willing or able to work in agriculture. In Cross and Burness, County of Orkney, “women-servants receive from L. 2, 1Os. to L. 3 per annum ; but as they are much engaged at home in the plaiting of rye-straw for bonnets, they are unwilling to work in the field, and are generally employed, only in the care of cattle or as house-servants.” (NSA, Vol. XV, 1845, p. 100)

Conversely, farmers in Kinnell, County of Forfar, found it hard to employ women who were working in the weaving industry. “For the farmers, finding it difficult to induce women to leave the loom for the working of the green crop, have been constrained to bring workers from the northern counties. The engagement of these workers is generally for a certain period, at about 8d. or 9d. a day till harvest, when higher wages are necessarily given.” (NSA, Vol. XI, 1845, p. 404)

A painting called 'A Lady's Maid Soaping Linen', c.1765-82, by Henry Robert Morland.

Morland, Henry Robert; A Lady’s Maid Soaping Linen, c.1765-82. Picture credit: Tate.

Many women had to move away from their parishes to work as servants, such as those in Kirkinner, County of Wigton. “Many of the young women go out as servants to Edinburgh, but particularly to Glasgow and Paisley.” (NSA, Vol. IV, 1845, p. 17) In Walls and Sandness, County of Shetland, “many of the young women, in the character of servants, go to London, Edinburgh, Etc. in the Greenland ships.” (OSA, Vol. XX, 1798, p. 106)

As an aside, in Stornoway, County of Ross and Cromarty, there was a very interesting custom involving women servants! “The people of the town seldom have menservants engaged for the year; and it is a curious circumstance that, time out of remembrance, their maidservants were in the habit of drinking, every morning, a wine glass full of whisky, which their mistress gave them; this barbarous custom became so well established by length of time, that if the practice of it should happen to be neglected or forgotten in a family, even once, discontent and idleness throughout the day, on the part of the maid or maids, would be the sure consequence. However, since the stoppage of the distilleries took place, the people of the town found it necessary to unite in the resolution of abolishing the practice, by withholding the dear cordial from their female domestics, but not without the precaution of making a compensation to them in money for their grievous loss; and it is said, that even this is not satisfactory, and that, in some families, the dram is still given privately, to preserve peace and good order.” (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, p. 258)

Mining

Women of all ages, even during the time of the Old Statistical Accounts of Scotland, worked in the mines, carrying the coal up to the surface on their backs! This was particularly prevalent in Alloa, County of Clackmannan and Tranent, County of Haddington. “The depth of a bearing pit cannot well exceed 18 fathom, or 108 feet. There are traps, or stairs, down to these pits, with a hand rail to assist the women and children, who carry up the coals on their backs.” (OSA, Vol. VIII, 1793, p. 615) The women were called “bearers”, who carried about 1 1/2 cwt. on their backs, and ascended the pit by a bad wooden stair. In the deeper pits, the coals were carried to the bottom of the shaft by women, and then raised in wooden tubs by means of a “gin” moved by horses.” (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 287) In Liberton, County of Edinburgh, “the stones from the mine or quarry were formerly carried to the bank-head by women with creels fastened on their backs, and when the works were in full operation, probably fifty women were thus employed.”  (NSA, Vol. I, 1845, p. 19) As reported in Hamilton, County of Lanark, “at Quarter, the first bed worth working is the 10 feet or woman’s coal, so called because it was once wrought by females. This is a soft coal, which burns rapidly; and although called the 10 feet coal, is in reality from 7 to 14 feet in thickness.” (NSA, Vol. VI, 1845, p. 258)

For the actual numbers who worked in the colliery of Alloa in 1780 you can take a look here: OSA, Vol. VIII, 1793, p. 619. There are also figures given for those working at the coal mines in the parish of Dunfermline, County of Fife. (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 476) In Lasswade, County of Edinburgh, “there are from 90 to 100 colliers, (pickmen). Women are still employed as bearers below ground; their number may be from 130 to 150.” (OSA, Vol. X, 1794, p. 281)

In the later Alloa parish report, found in the New Statistical Accounts of Scotland, mining was equated to slavery. It was reported that the condition of colliers had, in the last thirty years, improved “since the women were relieved from the most disgraceful slavery of bearing the coals, and the workman from all charge of the coals, the instant they are weighed at the pit. From, the circumstance of the wives remaining at home to attend to the domestic economy, the houses are much more comfortable and better furnished than they formerly were, and the whole style of living has been improved.” (NSA, Vol. VIII, 1845, p. 33) It was felt that not having women working down the pits improved both the character and habits of the people. In the parish report of Tranent, County of Haddington, it was noted that “among a population of colliers, it cannot be expected that the habits of the people should be cleanly; and the injurious practice of women working in the pits as bearers, (now happily on the decline with the married females,) tends to render the houses of colliers most uncomfortable on their return from their labours, and to foster many evils which a neat cleanly home would go far to lessen.” (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 295)

Other jobs!

Here are some other jobs undertaken by women found in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland.

  • Boot-binding

Linlithgow, County of Linlithgow – “Thirty women are also employed as women’s boot-binders, whose weekly wages average 4s. 6d.” (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 180)

  • Fuel manufacture

Rathven, County of Banff – “It is the province of the women to bait the lines; collect furze, heath, or the gleanings of the mosses, which, in surprising quantity, they carry home in their creels for fuel, to make the scanty stock of peats and turfs prepared in summer, last till the returning season.” (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 424)

Kirkinner, County of Wigton – “The day-light, during the winter, is spent by many of the women and children in gathering elding, as they call it, that is, sticks, furze, or broom, for fuel, and the evening in warming their shivering limbs before the scanty fire which this produces.” (OSA, Vol. IV, 1792, p. 147)

Appendix for Kincardine, County of Perth – “The women declare they can make more by working at the moss than at their wheel and such is their general attachment to that employment, that they have frequently been discovered working by moon-light.” (OSA, Vol. XXI, 1799, p. 175)

Snizort, County of Inverness – “The fuel is peats, which the women carry home in creels on their backs, from a very great distance.” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 295)

Lismore and Appin, County of Argyle – “Peats are the only fuel in both parishes. The process of making them in Lismore is difficult beyond conception, as they are first tramped and wrought with men’s feet, and then formed by the women’s hands. There is a necessity for this; because the substance of which they are made contains no fibres to enable them to cohere or stick together. This tedious operation consumes much of the farmer’s time, which, in a grain country, might be employed to much better advantage; and affords serious cause of regret that the coal-duty is not taken off, or lessened, which would remove the everlasting bar to the success of the fishing villages, and to improvements in general over all the coasts of Scotland.” (OSA, Vol. I, 1791, p. 490)

  • Varnishing wooden boxes

Old Cumnock, County of Ayrshire – “One set of artists make the boxes, another paint those beautiful designs that embellish the lids, while women and children are employed in varnishing and polishing them. The process of varnishing a single box takes from three to six weeks. Spirit varnish takes three weeks, and requires about thirty coats; while copal varnish, which is now mostly used, takes six weeks, and requires about fifteen coats to complete the process. When the process of varnishing is finished, the surface is polished with ground flint; and then the box is ready for the market.” (NSA, Vol. V, 1845, p. 486)

  • Plaiting straw

Orphir, County of Orkney – “Almost all the young women have, for many years, been employed in winter in plaiting straw for bonnets.” (NSA, Vol. XV, 1845, p. 20)

Stromness, County of Orkney – “There are a few straw plait manufacturers, who employ a number of women in the town as well as in the country. This manufacture has been, for some time past, upon the decline; and, being at all times dependent upon the caprice of fashion, has lately afforded a scanty subsistence to the many young females who totally depend on it for their support. They are now allowed to plait in their own homes, which has been found more conducive to their health and morals, than doing so collectively, in the houses of the, manufacturers, which was the original custom. -There is a small rope manufactory, where ropes of various kinds are made, both for the shipping and for country, use. From the former Account, it appears there was a considerable quantity of linen and woolen cloth manufactured. This business has now wholly ceased here, being superseded by the perfect machinery now in use.” (NSA, Vol. XV, 1845, p. 32)

  • Salt sellers

Duddingston, County of Edinburgh – “Their labours afforded employment to above 40 carriers, all women, who retailed the salt in Edinburgh, and through the neighbouring districts.” (OSA, Vol. XVIII, 1796, p. 368)

  • Lace makers

Hamilton, County of Lanark – “The lace trade, established here about eight years ago by a house at Nottingham, which sent down a number of English women, who took up schools and taught the tambourers here the art, is now in a thriving state, and is contributing greatly to the happiness and comfort of the community.” (NSA, Vol. VI, 1845, p. 294) “From a census taken some months ago, and which seems to be accurate, there has been an increase [in population] of 309, which may be attributed to the introduction and flourishing condition of a lace-manufactory, which now employs a great many females.” (NSA, Vol. VI, 1845, p. 276)

  • Potato-starch makers

Spott, County of Haddington – “The only thing of this sort [manufactures] carried on in the parish, is a manufactory of potato-starch, or flour, on the farm of Easter Broomhouse. It employs six women for six months in the year. The flour is principally used by manufacturers of cloth; and sometimes by bakers and confections in large towns.” (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 230)

For a fascinating insight into the industries found in Scotland in the nineteenth century take a look at the book ‘The industries of Scotland; their rise, progress, and present condition‘ by David Bremner, published in 1869.

Conclusion

The last three blog posts illustrates just how important the role was for women in society. They worked in all sorts of sectors, including manufacturing, agriculture, fishing, and even mining at one point. They supported themselves and helped support their families, showing resourcefulness, adaptability, and willingness to work hard.

We will continue this series on women in Scotland by looking more generally at the impact women’s work had on society, as well as the impact society had on women.

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SUNCAT updated

SUNCAT has been updated. Updates from the following libraries were loaded into the service in the last week. The dates displayed indicate when files were received by SUNCAT.

  • British Library (09 Aug 18)
  • CONSER (Not UK Holdings) (15 Aug 18)
  • De Montfort University (04 Aug 18)
  • Essex University (03 Aug 18)
  • Glasgow University (14 Aug 18)
  • Leicester University (08 Aug 18)
  • London Library (10 Aug 18)
  • National Museum Wales (15 Aug 18)
  • Religious Society of Friends (24 Jul 18)
  • Royal Asiatic Society (15 Aug 18)
  • Sheffield University (01 Aug 18)
  • Southampton University (12 Aug 18)

To check on the currency of other libraries on SUNCAT please check the updates page for further details.

Enjoy the festivals with SUNCAT!

It always seems to be festival season here in Edinburgh! At the moment, it is the Edinburgh Fringe and International Festivals which are now in full-swing. But, there are festivals of every kind taking place all over the world. Some of these can be found in SUNCAT. Check out our weird and wonderful festival publications below and join in with the festival spirit!

  • International Quilt Festival quilt scene
  • The Carrying Stream Festival.
  • Gwŷl Arall = (Another) Festival.
  • Zoom Photo Festival Saguenay.
  • Asides : the GoDA newsletter for festival organisers.
  • O. Henry Festival stories.
  • Underage festival.
  • Canada’s ice cream festival.
  • Annual Tobacco Queen Festival.
  • Little Corporal’s School Festival.
  • A festival on the hill.
  • Tipsy Times : Carmarthen beer festival.
  • Black Mountain Folk Festival : [newsletter].
  • Tolpuddle Martyrs festival : souvenir programme.
  • Scribe : Mad Hatters Easter festival.
  • I [love] NY spring flower festival / State of New York, Department of Commerce.
  • Quarter notes : the newsletter of the Winnipeg Folk Festival.
  • The London Welsh Festival of Male Choirs.
  • Festival of Up-Helly-Aa : programme.
  • Sherlock Holmes festival : Crowborough, East Sussex.
  • Masks newsletter : International Festival of Masks newsletter.
  • Peebles March Riding and Beltane Queen Festival.
  • The city jester, or Festival of Momus.
  • Reclaim the screeens feminist film festival : programme and pamphlet.
  • Bluedot : an intergalactic festival of music, science, arts, culture and the exploration of space.
  • Carry the Weight Fest.
  • Shakesperience.
  • The Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema.
  • Love2walk.
  • Fest’ n’ Furious.

For more festival-themed journals, and lots more besides, take a look in SUNCAT.

SUNCAT updated

SUNCAT has been updated. Updates from the following libraries were loaded into the service in the last week. The dates displayed indicate when files were received by SUNCAT.

  • British Museum (02 Aug 18)
  • Cardiff University (01 Aug 18)
  • CONSER (Not UK Holdings) (08 Aug 18)
  • Durham University (02 Aug 18)
  • Exeter University (04 Aug 18)
  • Hull University (07 Aug 18)
  • Imperial College London (01 Aug 18)
  • Kingston University (01 Aug 18)
  • London Business School (07 Aug 18)
  • National Coal Mining Museum for England (02 Aug 18)
  • National Library of Scotland (01 Aug 18)
  • National Library of Wales (01 Aug 18)
  • Natural History Museum (01 Aug 18)
  • Northumbria University (01 Aug 18)
  • Nottingham University (02 Aug 18)
  • Open University (01 Aug 18)
  • Queen’s University, Belfast (04 Aug 18)
  • Royal Society of Medicine (07 Aug 18)
  • Sheffield Hallam University (01 Aug 18)
  • Southampton University (05 Aug 18)
  • Strathclyde University (01 Aug 18)
  • Sussex University (01 Aug 18)
  • Swansea University (01 Aug)
  • University of Wales Trinity Saint David (01 Aug 18)
  • Warwick University (04 Aug 18)
  • York University (01 Aug 18)

To check on the currency of other libraries on SUNCAT please check the updates page for further details.

Global Roam now available

We are very pleased to announce the release of Global Roam. This builds on the release of Global Download last week and allows users to browse global data in the familiar, user friendly, Roam online mapping interface. Global Roam is very much a work in progress and you will find that some of the standard […]

Women in Scotland: Farming and Fishing

In our last post we looked at women working in manufacturing. In fact, in many parishes it was the women who predominantly worked in this sector, spinning. However, there were also women still working on the land. In Morebattle and Mow, County of Roxburgh, “little more yarn is spun than what is necessary for private use. The women in this part of the country being accustomed to work much in the agricultural operations of the field, are little disposed for sedentary employments, and therefore, in general, sit down to the spinning wheel with great reluctance. From the present disposition and habits, both of males and females in this place, the introduction of manufactures among them would not, it is probable, meet with great success.” (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, p. 510)

Working in the fields

As reported in the parish of Watten, County of Caithness, “our women, perhaps, are more employed in the field, for at least 8 months in the year, than in most other places of the kingdom.” (OSA, Vol. XI, 1794, p. 271) The simple reason for this was that women earned more working in the fields. This actually lead to a lack of servant posts being filled, especially during the summer months, such as was the case in Torphichen, County of Linlithgow. “Servant women are difficult to be had too in summer, as they make nearly as much in harvest as their half year’s wages would be, and can do very well the rest of the time by spinning flax; indeed there are many women who do very well the year round, by spinning flax, with their harvest wages.” (OSA, Vol. IV, 1792, p. 471) This was also reported by the parish of Alford, County of Aberdeen, where “work is never done by the piece or day, but an agreed-upon-sum, together with the reapers victuals, (frequently accompanied by very ridiculous stipulations)… These harvest fees have been rising for some years, and are now 1 L. 15 s. or 2 L. for a man, and 1 L. for a woman, besides victuals”. (OSA, Vol. XV, 1795, p. 469) We will look a little more closely at servants in our next post.

Agricultural work was very hard and labourious, just as it was for men, and this was duly noted in the parish reports. It included clearing weeds, hoeing, carrying creels of manure or produce, sowing, reaping, dressing corn. Here are some examples of the work women actually undertook on the land:

Stornoway, County of Ross and Cromarty – “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 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.” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 131)

Painting called Midday Rest by Robert Cree Crawford, 1878, depicting three women taking a break while working in the field.

Crawford, Robert Cree; Midday Rest, 1878. Picture credit: Glasgow Museums.

Prestonpans, County of Haddington – “The land is cleared of weeds, by sowing in drills, and horse-hoeing the interstices; and women are often employed to pick them out with the hand. The land designed for wheat is ploughed as soon as it is cleared of the preceding crop.” (OSA, Vol. XVII, 1796, p. 62)

Kingsbarns, County of Fife – “Much of the wheat and beans on the low lands are sown in drills, which, along with the potato and turnip, give a vast deal of employment to young women in hoeing. About 113 are so occupied. In fact, from the time of planting potatoes, which usually begins at the end of April, until harvest be completed, they are seldom off the fields. Their payment when so employed is 8d. per day, without meat; and when lifting potatoes, 1s. with their dinner. A good labourer with the spade obtains from 1s. 4d. to 1s. 6d. per day in summer, and from 1s. to 1s. 2d. in winter. The harvest wages are, for men, L. 2, with some potato and lint ground, and supper meal, and for women, L. 1, 13s. with the above bounties.” (NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 97)

Stornoway, County of Ross and Cromarty – “In this, and all the other parishes of the island, the women carry on as much at least of the labours of agriculture as the men; they carry the manure in baskets on their backs; they pulverize the ground after it is sown, with heavy hand-rakes, (harrows being seldom used), and labour hard at digging the ground, both with crooked and straight spades.” (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, p. 258)

Snizort, County of Inverness – “The soil is broken up by the caschrom, and when sown is harrowed by women, who are also employed in carrying out the manure in creels to the field, and other drudgeries of the same nature. It cannot but give pain to every benevolent mind to see not only young women whose delicate frame should exempt them from such hard labours, but even mothers employed as beasts of burden.” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 293)

Kilmuir, County of Inverness – “When the ground is thus turned over and sown, the harrowing department generally falls to the lot of the women. Owing to the lightness of the narrow, which they are able to drag after them, the ground cannot be made, sufficiently smooth, and to remedy this they commence anew with the “racan,” which is a block of wood having a few teeth in it, with a handle about three feet in length. As they have few or no carts, they are under the necessity of carrying manure, peats, potatoes, and all such commodities in creels upon their backs. So little do the women care for the weight of the creel, though full of peat or potatoes on their backs, that, while walking with it, they are engaged either at spinning on the distaff, or knitting stockings. Sacks, or canvas bags, are seldom used; instead of which they have bags which they call “plats,” made of beautifully plaited bulrushes. Of the same useful material they likewise make their ropes, and sometimes cables for their boats. Although the agricultural processes of the small tenants are in this manner conducted, the tacksmen are possessed of ploughs and carts, and other implements of husbandry, of the best and most approved modern construction.” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 279)

Kilmuir, County of Inverness – “The women, for the most part, thrash the corn by a light flail of peculiar but simple construction. The quantity of barley raised is but very small, which the natives seldom reap with a sickle, but when ripe they pull it from the roots, then equalize it, and tie it up in small bunches. When it becomes seasoned, they cut off the ears with a knife, and preserve the straw for thatching their dwellings.” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 285)

Bedrule, County of Roxburgh – A number of women were “chiefly employed in what is called out-work, as hoeing the turnip, making the hay, reaping the harvest, removing the corn from the stack to the barns etc.” (OSA, Vol. XV, 1795, p. 558)

Strath, County of Inverness – “The mode of dressing the corn to be ground by what is called gradan, is here still in use. By this operation they save the trouble of threshing and kiln-drying the grain. Fire is set to the straw, and the flame and heat parches the grain; it is then made into meal on the quern. This meal looks very black, but tastes well enough, and is esteemed very wholesome. The whole of the work is performed by the women. The only apology given by themselves, for this mode of preparing the grain, is, that the quantity of grain which the generality have is very small, and many of them are at a great distance from a mill.” (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, p. 228)

Transportation of goods

As well as working on the land, women transported produce to the markets to be sold. In Inveresk, County of Edinburgh, “the whole produce of the gardens, together with salt, and sand for washing floors, and other articles, till of late that carts have been introduced, were carried in baskets or creels on the backs of women, to be sold in Edinburgh, where, after they had made their market, it was usual for them to return loaded with goods, or parcels of various sorts, for the inhabitants here, or with dirty linens to be washed in the pure water of the Esk.”(OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, p. 15) Yes, women even carried sand to Edinburgh, which was the hardest labour of all and least paid! “For they carry their burden, which is not less than 200 lb. weight, every morning to Edinburgh, return at noon, and pass the afternoon and evening in the quarry, digging the stones, and beating them into sand. By this labour, which is incessant for six days in the week, they gain only about 5 d. a day.” (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, p. 17)

The fishing industry

Women also worked in the fishing industry, undertaking a variety of tasks, including making the fishing nets, gathering bait, baiting hooks, gutting the fish and taking the fish to market (often involving heavy loads and miles of trekking). In the parish of Avoch, County of Ross and Cromarty, women even carried the men to the boats on their backs! While in Burntisland, County of Fife, women drunk undiluted spirits to help them get through the disagreeable work of curing herrings.

Photograph of the Fisher Jessie statue in Peterhead, Scotland. (A naturalistic bronze cast statue of a fish-wife and little girl, the woman carrying a creel and a basket.)

Fisher Jessie Statue, Peterhead. Iain Macaulay available through license CC BY-SA 2.0. (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/) via Wikimedia Commons.

In Dundee, County of Forfar, “women from Achmithie carry crabs, lobsters, and dried fish to Dundee, a distance of twenty-four miles, and return with the price in the evening. These women are
particularly strong and active.” (NSA, Vol. XI, 1845, p. 40)

In Rathven, County of Banff, men “marry at an early age, and the object of their choice is always a fisherman’s daughter, who is generally from eighteen to twenty-two years of age. These women lead a most laborious life, and frequently go from ten to twenty-five miles into the country, with a heavy load of fish. They seldom receive money for this fish, but take in exchange meal, barley, butter, and cheese. They assist in all the labour connected with the boats on shore, and show great dexterity in baiting the hooks and arranging the lines.” (NSA, Vol. XIII, 1845, p. 257)

Slains, County of Aberdeen – “The women are generally employed to gather the bait. About the one half of the fish caught here is carried in boats to Leith, Dundee, or Perth; the other half is carried by the women to Aberdeen…” (OSA, Vol. V, 1793, p. 277)

Uig, County of Ross and Cromarty – “All the people dwell in little farm-villages, and they fish in the summer-season. The women do not fish; but almost at all times, when there is occasion to go to sea, they never decline that service, and row powerfully.” (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, p. 284)

Avoch, County of Ross and Cromarty – “No less remarkable are the inhabitants of this thriving village in general, for their industry and diligence. They manufacture, of the best materials they can procure, not only all their own fishing apparatus, but also a great quantity of herring and salmon nets yearly, for the use of other stations in the North and West Highlands. From Monday morning to Saturday afternoon, the men seldom loiter at home 24 hours at a time, when the weather is at all favourable for going to sea. And the women and children, besides the care of their houses, and the common operations of gathering and affixing bait, and of vending the fish over all the neighbouring country, do a great deal of those manufactures.” (OSA, Vol. XV, 1795, p. 630) “Their women are, in general, hardy and robust, and can bear immense burdens. Some of them will carry a hundred weight of wet fish a good many miles up the country. As the bay is flat, and no pier has yet been build, so that the boats must often take ground a good way off from the shore, these poissardes [fish wives] have a peculiar custom of carrying out and in their husbands on their backs, “to keep their men’s feet dry,” as they say. They bring out, in like manner, all the fish and fishing tackles, and at these operations, they never repine to wade, in all weathers, a considerable distance into the water. Hard as this usage must appear, yet there are few other women so cleanly, healthy, or so long livers in the country.” (OSA, Vol. XV, 1795, p. 637)

Boindie, County of Banff – “One cooper and three women wait on shore for each herring-boat. Coopers’ wages are 12s. per week; in the fishing season, 14s. and 15s. Women receive for gutting and packing a full barrel, 7s. At this rate, with a sufficient supply of work, they might earn 5s. by a day’s work. The expense of curing a barrel of herrings is about 8s. besides the price of the fish.” (NSA, Vol. XIII, 1845, p. 236)

In the parish report for Banff, County of Banff, “the following table exhibits the state of the herring fishery, as regards the port of Banff alone, for the last five years.” (NSA, Vol. XIII, 1845, p. 41)

1831. 1832. 1833. 1834. 1835.
No. of barrels cured, 1759 1959 1265 938 631
No. of boats employed, 14 16 18 22 8
No. of fishermen, 56 64 12 88 32
No. of women in curing and packing, 41 46 48 60 21
No. of coopers, 6 6 6 8 4
No. of curers 6 5 5 6 4

 

It would be interesting to discover why figures dropped considerably in 1835!

Latheron, County of Caithness – “The herring being thus separated from the nets, are immediately landed and deposited in the curing box, where a number of women are engaged in gutting and packing them in barrels with salt.” (NSA, Vol. XV, 1845, p. 101)

Burntisland, County of Fife – “About 36 hands, including apprentices, are constantly employed as coopers; and about 60 females are occasionally employed in the curing of the herrings. The occupation is cold and disagreeable; but even this cannot warrant a pernicious practice that has long prevailed, of giving daily to those engaged in it, and some of these are young females, a considerable quantity of undiluted spirits.” (NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 417)

Bressay, Burra, and Quarff, County of Shetland – “The curing of herring in Bressay employs about thirty women and children in the season… The manufacture of herring-nets now engages attention, and promises to be a useful employment.” (NSA, Vol. XV, 1845, p. 16)

Women also worked in the whale-fishing industry. In one company set up in Burntisland, County of Fife, from twelve to fifteen women were employed to clean the bone, compared with twelve oilmen and coopers. (NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 418)

The Fish-Wives of Fisherrow

The parish report of Inveresk, County of Edinburgh, gives a fascinating insight into the lives of the fish-wives of Fisherrow, describing both their work and their demeanor. “They are the wives and daughters of fishermen, who generally marry in their own cast, or tribe, as great part of their business, to which they must have been bred, is to gather bait for their husbands, and bait their line. Four days in the week, however, they carry fish in creels (osier baskets) to Edinburgh; and when the boats come in late to the harbour in the forenoon, so as to leave them no more than time to reach Edinburgh before dinner, it is not unusual for them to perform their journey of five miles, by relays, three of them being employed in carrying one basket, and shifting it from one to another every hundred yards, by which means they have been known to arrive at the Fishmarket in less than 1/4 ths of an hour.” (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, p. 17)

They were very good at expressing themselves through language and gesture, and so were extremely gifted at selling. “Having so great a share in the maintenance of the family, they have no small away in it, as may be inferred from a saying not unusual among them. When speaking of a young woman, reported to be on the point of marriage. “Hout!” say they, “How can the keep a man, “who can hardly maintain herself?” As they do the work of men, their manners are masculine, and their strength and activity is equal to their work. Their amusements are of the masculine kind. On holidays they frequently play at golf; and on Shrove Tuesday there is a standing match at foot-ball, between the married and unmarried women, in which the former are always victors.” (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, p. 19)

Gathering kelp

Women also gathered and manufactured kelp. In Shapinshay, County of Orkney, “the summer months are occupied in burning kelp, which is the great manufacture of this country. The men almost of the whole islands, and many of the women, also exert themselves in this species of industry; and their joint efforts some seasons produce upwards of 3000 tons, which, at a moderate rate, brings near 20,000 l. to the inhabitants.” (OSA, Vol. XVII, 1796, p. 240) In Bressay, Burra, and Quarff, County of Shetland, “the manufacture of kelp in Bressay employs twenty or thirty boys and girls, who receive 9s. or more in the month, and have to work at least three hours every tide, by day or night. An overseer is employed, who receives at the rate of L. 2 per ton for his own wages and payment of the workers.” (NSA, Vol. XV, 1845, p. 16)

In Nigg, County of Kincardine, “to help their maintenance, the fisher-women at times, and also some women of the country, from the beginning of summer, go to the rocks at low tide, and gather the fucus palmatus, dulse; fucus esculentus, badderlock and fucus pinnatifidus, pepper dulse, which are relished in this part of the country, and fell them… The sea-ware, or bladder-fucus, grows up in three years on the rocks round the Ness and Bay chiefly, to a condition for being cut, dried, and burned into kelp. In 1791, 11 tons, of a fine quality, were made by 33 women, mostly young women, at 8 d. per day, with the direction of an overseer.” (OSA, Vol. VII, 1793, p. 207) However, in the later parish report for Nigg it was stated that “for many years past it has been discontinued, there being no demand for it. There was also, several years ago, a salt manufactory in the bay of Nigg, but it also has been given up. Lint was formerly sown and manufactured by private families in the parish, now there is no manufacture of the kind.” (NSA, Vol. XI, 1845, p. 209)

Conclusion

Looking through these excerpts on women in the farming and fishing industries, it is clear to see their common traits: strength, resourcefulness, dexterity and determination. They displayed a real fortitude and did not shirk hard work. This is illustrated again and again throughout the parish reports, and, we hope, is reflected in this series of posts on women in Scotland. In our next post,  we will continue looking at other kinds of work undertaken by women, some of which may surprise you!

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