Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Good Spot For Haddock

One of the main foods for the people of Badbea was fish. Haddock was an important available fish variety. Alexander Gunn, born in Badbea in 1820 wrote the following article confirming the plentifulness of haddock when he was a boy. I think it can safely be assumed that haddock were also available to William Sutherland to catch to feed his family some decades before Alexander Gunn. William's access to the sea would have either been through Berriedale or down the steep cliff access at Achnacraig, a nearby settlement.

Alexander Gunn wrote:
"Fishing was the principle employment of the inhabitants, and had they had the facilities to dispose of the proceeds which exist now-a-days they could have done well by it, as there is not a better spot for haddock fishing in all Scotland than that which lies right opposite Badbea. I have seen the hauls of haddock so great that the very starfish were carefully picked off the line, and cast overboard lest the boat would be too deeply loaded. Tons of fish could be landed in one day were there an outlet for them. I have seen as high as 800 dried haddocks in our house at one time, and those who had no-one to prosecute the fishing for them, such as widows with young children, had their share every day laid aside for them as soon as the haul came ashore".

My version of haddock drying. The stones would also catch any warmth. 
Haddock were either strung up and dried in the sun and the wind (there was always wind but not always sun), or else they were hung up inside in the smoke of the household peat fire. Smoking helped preserved the fish for the winter. Later salt was used to preserve fish but it was too expensive at the time William Sutherland was at Badbea.

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