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History of Montrose
Chapter XVI. - Fisheries


MONTROSE has, from time immemorial, been noted for its fisheries. It had, no doubt, from the very first owed its origin to these ; and now the salmon trade and fish-curing have got to a great height. About fifty or sixty years ago the Montrose market was more plentifully supplied with fresh fish than it is now. The fish-curing business of Montrose, in the early part of the century, was carried on solely in the article of cod-fish, salted in barrels for the English markets. At this period great numbers of cod were caught along our shores, and thousands of barrels were annually sent away. Now-a-days there is not above a few hundred barrels got during the winter months. Further on, about the year 1830, one of our local curers, Mr. Joseph Johnston, commenced to send smoked haddocks to the London market, and a few barrels weekly, sent by the smacks, were sufficient to glut the market. But gradually the trade increased, till London took hundreds of barrels more readily than the few. Railway communication has changed this trade,* and now Glasgow is the great market for this kind of fish, and takes off from the east coast daily enormous quantities. The consequence of so rapid communication is, that fish of all kinds have risen greatly in price, and large haddocks that thirty-five years ago would have been bought at sixpence per dozen, have risen to eight or ten times the price.

The herring-curing of Montrose has been carried to a great extent, and the effect of railway accommodation has been to induce both fishermen and fish-curers to look for herrings off their own coasts, and every year fresh discoveries are being made ; and Montrose, which once imported thousands of barrels of herrings from other quarters, has become a producing port, and heavy shots of them, fresh from the deep blue sea right off Montrose, have been landed during the fishing seasons in our harbour. At one time there were as many as sixteen fish-curers in Montrose and its locality, now there are only a very few, the principal of which are the firm of Joseph Johnston <fc Sons, who carry on the trade to a very great extent ; Thomas Napier, Esq., who, besides, did a great business in curing pork; Mr. Alexander Mearns; Mr. George Anderson, &c. Since the Bervie Railway commenced a good supply of fresh fish comes by it from the fish towns in the neighbourhood.

The salmon trade was first developed to a great extent by the enterprise of Berwick-on-Tweed Companies, who, towards the end of the last century, leased all the principal fisheries, and commenced the boiling and kit trade. Then the iceing of salmon and more rapid communication ended that trade. Formerly the salmon caught at the Northwater would have been thrown down on the bare sand in a hot day in summer, and would have lain there till the carts brought them in to the ice-house at Montrose in the evening, and then they were packed in boxes, and the ice smashed about them, to the great injury of the fish, and they had to wait the Rochester fast-sailing packets, but now they reach London in twenty-four hours or less. So much for the advantages of railway communication. Alexander Hector, Esq., has the salmon-fishing at St. Cyrus, Bervie, and places along the coast northwards.


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