Second Shetland Truck System Report

Author: William Guthrie

Hillswick, Northmavine, January 11, 1872, Peter Peterson, Examined.

6772. Are you a fisherman at Hillswick?-Not present. I am at
Hillyar now. I live at Hillswick, but I am not fishing there.

6773. Have you got any land?-Yes; a small piece in Hillswick from Mr. Gifford.

6774. For whom do you fish?-For Mr. Laurence Smith at Hillyar at present.

6775. Is he a large curer?-No; he has only two boats fishing for him. I have been fishing for him two years now.

6776. For whom did you fish before?-For Mr. Anderson.

6777. Why did you leave off fishing for him?-I got into debt, and was refused supplies from him; and, as I could not do without supplies for my family, I went to another man.

6778. Why would you not pay your debt to Mr. Anderson?-I did not make a sufficient fishing to pay it, and I had no great means to work on either: I had no boat.

6779. What was the amount of your debt?-£17, 9s. 5d.

6780. And when it came to that amount, he refused you supplies?-Yes.

6781. At what time of the year was that?-In the summer time,
during the fishing season.

6782. Did you settle with him at the end of that season?-Yes.

6783. Did you clear off what was due by you at that settlement, or was there still something due to Mr. Anderson?-£17, 9s. 5d. was the debt I left when I went away from him. I continued to fish the season out, and left him when the season was done.

6784. But you made a settlement at the end of the season?-Yes.

6785. What was the result of that settlement?-He made out that I
was due him £17, 9s. 5d, and he summoned me for it.

6786. Did you ask him how much was due at the time when he stopped the supplies?-No.

6787. Then, the sum you have mentioned was due after he had allowed you credit for all the fish of that season?-Yes.

6788. So that, at the time when he stopped the supplies, there would be a larger sum than that due by you?-There may have been.

6789. Were you asked to engage to fish to him after that?-No.

6790. What was his reason for summoning you?-I don’t know. I
was not asked to fish to him again, so that I had to look out for myself some other way, and I went to Smith and got supplies from him.

6791. Was there a decree against you in the action in which Mr
Anderson summoned you?-No, I have not got any yet.

6792. Was the case not decided against you?-I don’t think it. At least I left it unsettled in the hands of Mr. Spence, the lawyer,
when I left the town.

6793. Is the case not at an end yet?-I don’t know. Mr. Spence was to give me notice but I have got none yet.

6794. What was the nature of your defence in that case?-I was not able to pay, and therefore I was forced to appear in Lerwick before the court. Very likely, if I had been in a good boat the last season I fished for him, I would have done somewhat better.

6795. But was the debt really due for which you were summoned?-I did not have any pass-book, and got no copy of my account, so that I could not say whether it was due or not.

6796. Did you ever ask for a pass-book?-I have asked for copies of my account.

6797. Did you get them?-At one time I got a copy of my account for nine years.

6798. Had your debt been running on increasing for nine years?-
It was always increasing.

6799. Have you got these accounts here, or are they in your lawyer’s hands?-They are in Mr. Spence’s hands in Lerwick.

6800. How often did you ask for them before you got the accounts for the nine years?-I asked for them when I was summoned.

6801. Had you ever asked for them before?-Yes; I had asked for them sometimes, but not every year.

6802. Did you always get them when you asked for them?-No; I
got none until I got the whole at one time.

6803. Why did you not get them when you asked for them?-I
don’t know; I never was refused them, but I did not get them.

6804. Were you just put off?-Yes.

6805. Did you fish for Mr. Anderson all the time these accounts were running up?-Yes. The commencement of the debt was when I lost a fleet of lines by bad weather. There might have been a little due before that, but it was very little.

6806. How much do you call a fleet of lines?-Just what the boat carries. A boat takes 108 lines, and we lost them all except eighteen. The weather prevented us from taking any more in.

6807. Were these lines hired from Mr. Anderson?-Yes.

6808. Are the fishermen always liable for hired lines which they lose?-Yes. If they lose lines which they have hired, they have to pay for them.

6809. What is the value of these lines?-The price is about 2s. 8d.
per line for new lines when they are ready for sea.

6810. Then a fleet of 108 lines would cost about £8 or £10?-I
never give any consideration to what the cost of them might be.
There were some of them old and some of them new; but I think
2s. 8d. was about the price for new lines about that time. The price varies at different times.

6811. Is not each man of the boat’s crew liable for his share of the lines?-Yes. If there are five men in a boat, then the lines belong to these men, and they have each to pay their share of the hire for the season.

6812. In that way, you would be liable only for one-fifth of the value of the lines?-Yes; only for one-fifth that year.

6813. And that was the beginning of your debt?-Yes; but it was always going on, as I had a small family, and they were needing bread. Then interest was charged, and such as that.

6814. Was there any interest charged upon that account?-Yes.

6815. Are you sure of that?-Yes. It is marked down in the copies that I got.

6816. Did you ever know any man who got the whole of his accounts for nine years at once except yourself?-No.

6817. Did you ever know a man who asked for them?-No.

[Page 165]

6818. Did you ever know a man who was nine years in debt to a fish-merchant, with the debt always increasing, except yourself?-
I could not positively say. I could not pick out any particular man;
but very likely there are some who have been in the same position.

6819. During the time your debt was increasing, did you continue to fish every year for Mr. Anderson?-I was fishing for him the whole time.

6820. Did you, during that time, sell any of your fish to other merchants?-I did. The last year I was fishing for him I sold some fish to others, in order to keep my family alive.

6821. Who did you sell them to that year?-To Mr. Adie’s factor.

6822. Was that what you call smuggling fish?-Yes. It was necessity that made me do it, in order to save my family.

6823. Was any objection made to your selling them?-No. I
told that in court the same as I am telling it to you, and there was nothing said to me for doing it. I was obliged to do it.

6824. Was it not quite a fair thing for Mr. Anderson to do to summon you for the debt you were due him?-He did summon me for it; and when I asked him how it was to be paid, he wanted me either to pay it down at once or get cautioners for it, but I
could not do either of these things. I perhaps I might have got a cautioner, but the money I did not have.

6825. Is it usual for a fisherman to get a cautioner when he is a little in debt?-I don’t know; some of them have got one.

6826. But if the man continues to fish for the merchant to whom the debt is due, is he required to get a cautioner?-No. It is only when he goes away from the merchant that he is asked for a cautioner.

6827. Were you bound in any way to fish for Mr. Anderson, or for any one else, during these nine years?-I suppose I was, from the way I was in debt to him; but, instead of getting out of debt, the debt always increased.

6828. Whose fault was that?-I don’t know. It was not my fault.
As I have said, the last season I fished for Mr. Anderson I did not have a boat fit to go to sea with; but very likely, if I had had a good boat that season, as it was a good year’s fishing, I might have got the debt somewhat reduced. Therefore it was not my fault. I got a boat from him, but ought to have got one that was fit to go to sea.

6829. Had you not your choice of boat?-I had no choice of a boat for that season.

6830. Where do you get the supplies for your family now?-From
Laurence Smith, the man I fish to.

6831. Do you settle with him every year?-Yes; I have settled with him two years now.

6832. Had you something to get in cash last year?-Yes. The first year I fished for Laurence Smith I had 28s. to get, after paying for the things I had got from him during the season. This year, when I
settled with him, I was clear. I had nothing to get, or very little.

6833. Were these two good fishing years?-They were very good;
but the fishing is not the same with all the boats. They are not always equal in the same year.

6834. What was the price of meal at these two stores you have been dealing with?-It is just up and down, according to the market-less in one year than another. I think that last year it was about 21s. per boll in Mr. Smith’s store.

6835. Are you told the price at the time you buy the meal?-Yes.

6836. Is the quality of the meal you get there as good as at Mr.
Anderson’s?-Yes, it is equally good. Meal and flour are just the same at the one place as at the other.

6837. Could you get better meal or flour anywhere else?-I don’t know. We would, no doubt, get a different quality in Lerwick, if we were dealing there.

6838. Have you tried it there?-No.

6839. Are you obliged to take your provisions from the shop of the merchant you fish for?-I don’t know about that. I have asked Mr.
Smith at different times for a few shillings until the end of the twelvemonth.

6840. Have you got it?-Yes; I got it, but I never asked for any money to buy meal with, because he brought up stores there to supply his customers.

6842. But is it understood among the fishermen here that they ought to take their stores, or part of them, both provisions and clothing, from the merchant to whom they sell their fish?-That is generally the way in which they take there.

6842. Are they generally obliged to do that?-No; I don’t think they are obliged to do it.

6843. Can they get cash from the merchants with which to buy their goods in other places?-I don’t know. If the merchant has meal and other things which they are requiring, and can sell them as cheap and as good as they can get them at any other place then,
of course, they don’t need to ask money from him.

6844. But they generally do get their provisions from the merchant’s shop, and nowhere else?-Yes.

6845. Did you ever ask for cash with which to go and buy your provisions from another store?-No; but I got an allowance from
Mr. Smith with which to go to Mr. Anderson’s factor if he (Mr.
Smith) did not have the things I wanted.

6846. When was that?-I got it in both years when was fishing for
Mr. Smith.

6847. Was that a general allowance or was it given to you on some particular occasion, when you wanted something?-If there was anything I required for the fishing, which Mr. Smith did not have,
then I got leave from him to sell fish to another merchant, so that I
might buy it, or I got cash from him with which to buy it from another.

6848. That, I suppose, was when you wanted any kind of clothing which he did not keep?-Yes; or a bit of meat, or butter or meal, if he did not have it. Then he gave us money to buy it with from Mr.
Anderson’s, or allowed us to go and sell fish to Mr. Anderson and to purchase it.

6849. Did you often do that?-Not often.

6850. Your daughter was examined to-day?-Yes.

6851. She works at the kelp?-Yes, a little. She is young yet, and has not done much to it.

6852. She also knits a little?-Yes. The most she has knitted has been for people belonging to the family, stockings and other things that we were requiring for ourselves.

6853. She also sells your eggs?-Yes.

6854. When she sells these things, are they paid for in money or in goods?-We are generally requiring some stores for the house:
soap or soda, or a little tea or sugar; and they are got in that way.

6855. Does she always sell her hosiery for goods?-Yes; I suppose she never asked anything else for it.

6856. Do you sell the eggs yourself, or are they usually sold by your daughter?-They are generally sold by her.

6857. Has she a book of her own in which they are entered?-She has no book. They are generally paid for at once.

6858. How are you paid for your winter fishing?-We were generally paid for every haul as we brought it ashore, but we cannot do that now. We have to salt our fish ourselves in the winter fishing; and when we have got as many as two or three cwt. we send them over to Mr. Laurenson, and sell them to him.

6859. Then you are paid for them on account now?-Yes; we cannot settle for them now every time we come ashore. We salt so much, and sell it off, and then we begin to salt again; but before, when we sold our fish green, we settled for every haul of fish as they came ashore.

6860. Did you do that with Mr. Anderson too?-Yes, as long as I
fished to him.

6861. Did you get cash for that?-No; I cannot say that I ever got cash.

6862. Did you ask for it?-Yes; we asked for cash [Page 166]
several times, but we only got a small line, saying we had delivered so many fish.

6863. Have you got any of these lines this year?-No.

6864. What did you do with these lines?-When we came back with the line, we got anything we required for it.

6865. Did the line name any particular sum of money?-Yes.
The haul was divided between four men, and every man got his haul marked down on a separate line, with his name on it.


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Chicago: William Guthrie, "Hillswick, Northmavine, January 11, 1872, Peter Peterson, Examined.," Second Shetland Truck System Report, trans. D’Anvers, N. (Nancy Bell), D. 1933 in Second Shetland Truck System Report Original Sources, accessed July 18, 2024,

MLA: Guthrie, William. "Hillswick, Northmavine, January 11, 1872, Peter Peterson, Examined." Second Shetland Truck System Report, translted by D’Anvers, N. (Nancy Bell), D. 1933, in Second Shetland Truck System Report, Original Sources. 18 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Guthrie, W, 'Hillswick, Northmavine, January 11, 1872, Peter Peterson, Examined.' in Second Shetland Truck System Report, trans. . cited in , Second Shetland Truck System Report. Original Sources, retrieved 18 July 2024, from