Fearn Balintore and Hilton Community Collage

Chapter 7 - Shellfish

For some reason shellfish do not occupy an important place in the economics of the Seaboard, nor does anyone remember that they ever did so. This seems strange when fifty thousand lobsters were caught between March and July 1793 around Tarbat Ness and sent south.  [6b]

In Nigg, too, there were plenty of lobsters about 1800 but so many of them were caught and sent south to the London market that they soon became scarce.8a Perhaps if the Statistical Accounts for Fearn were a little fuller it might appear that there used to be a thriving lobster fishing on the Seaboard also. From time to time lobsters and crabs were caught and sold in the country as orders but never on any great scale.

In 1910, however, Hugh Mackay, Hilton, began fishing for lobsters from North Sutor to Rockfield and sent them direct to Billingsgate.  To start with they were packed in seaweed but this was changed to hardwood shavings and sawdust in which odd packing they survive much better. About 1920 a Mr. Straw from Helmsdale and another
man from Nairn used to come and collect any lobsters that were available. Recently there has been a considerable revival and it is said that in 1970 there were lobster pots every twenty yards from North Sutor to Tarbat Ness, and A. Jappy & Sons, Helmsdale, buy them at 10/- per lb.

Crabs were not popular apparently in Hilton and Balintore, but in Shandwick they are said to have been much enjoyed when they were caught by being hooked out with wire from under the rocks. 

The school log book shows that as far back as 1987 the children gathered whelks for sale at the annual Fearn market. They also sold them to the local shops who sent them on to Billingsgate. Sometimes groceries were bartered for whelks at the shops and at one period Mackay the Curer, already referred to as the first fish-merchant, exchanged meat for whelks at his butcher's shop. The whelks were always riddled for size and the children would beg the grocers not to riddle them all! They are still being gathered and sent direct to London, though not in any great quantities. Prices fluctuate but at the
moment are from £2 to £2.25 per cwt.
During the past few years there was an attempt to fish for prawns but at present this has been discounted.

Continue in Chapter 8
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