Second Shetland Truck System Report

Author: William Guthrie

Lerwick, January 24, 1872, Thomas Hutchinson, Examined.

12,616. Are you a fisherman and tenant in Skerries?-I am.

12,617. Who is your landlord?-Mr. Bruce.

12,618. Do you pay your rent to him?-No, to Mr. Adie.

12,619. Is he your tacksman?-Yes.

12,620. Who do you fish for?-Mr. Adie.

12,621. Are you bound to fish for Mr. Adie, or can you engage to fish with anybody you like?-We are bound to fish for Mr. Adie.

12,622. How do you know that?-Because Mr. Adie told us we were not at liberty to fish for any other man except him.

12,623. When did he tell you that?-I cannot state the date exactly, but it has been since I commenced to fish there, eighteen years ago. That was the time when the agreement was made last.

12,624. What agreement?-That we were to deliver all our produce, fish, and every other thing, to him, and to no one else.

12,625. If you chose to fish for anybody else, what was the penalty to be?-That we were to be removed from our crofts.

12,626. Has any person been removed for fishing to another than
Mr. Adie?-None, for there have been no offenders.

12,627. How many people are in these lands?-There are almost
130 of a population, old and young. There are six boats belonging to the islands that fish for Mr. Adie.

12,628. Do a number of people come there in the summer time from other places to fish?-Yes. They fish both to Mr. Adie and to Mr. Robertson. These are the only two who employ men there.

12,629. Has Mr. Robertson a station and a shop there?-Yes; he has a store for supplying his fishermen.

12,630. Is it open all the year round?-No, only during the fishing season.

12,631. Where do you get your supplies?-From Mr. Adie’s shop at Skerries. It is open all the year round, and is kept by Robert

12,632. Do you pay for your supplies at the time you get them, or do you settle for them at the end of the year?-Sometimes at the end of the year, and sometimes not for fifteen months.

12,633. How does it happen that you are sometimes fifteen months in settling?-We live in an isolated place, and Mr. Adie’s people cannot sometimes get conveniently exactly at the twelvemonth’s end, but they make arrangements to come when they please.

12,634. Is it sometimes late in the spring before they come to settle?-Sometimes we have not settled until March, but the usual time is at Martinmas.

12,635. Have you any objection to that state of things?-The only objection I have to it is that we do not have our freedom to fish to the person who will pay us best, and we should also like to be able to get our goods from the best market we can, and at the cheapest price we can.,

12,636. Can you not get your goods from any market you please just now?-No.

12,637. Why?-Because we cannot get our pay in hand.

12,638. Can you not get cash from Mr. Adie or from Mr. Umphray when you ask for it?-Yes, if we have it to get.

12,639. If you want supplies during the season, before the settlement comes, do you get them?-Yes, we can get our supplies then, as far as our earnings are likely to cover them.

12,640. Have you ever been restricted?-Yes; they only allow us to go so far as our earnings are likely to pay, and no further.

12,641. Have you ever been refused supplies?-Yes. I cannot give the date of that, but I have been put on an allowance both of meal and other things.

12,642. Did you get a certain amount of goods from the store each week?-Yes, each Saturday night.

12,643. How often have you been put upon that allowance?-That is always done, unless we can clear ourselves in Mr. Adies book.

12,644. When were you last put upon an allowance?-In 1869.

12,645. Was that a year of scarcity?-In our isolated place there is generally scarcity, because our crops are scanty.

12,646. Are they not sufficient to keep your families all the year round?-No.

12,647. Therefore you have every year to buy a certain amount of meal from Mr. Adie?-Yes, we have generally to buy about six months’ provisions from him.

12,648. Were you put on an allowance in 1869 because you were in debt?-Yes

12,649. What allowance was made to you then?-Three pecks of meal a week; and there are seven of us in the family.

12,650. Was that less than you required?-Of course it was, but I
could get no more.

12,651. How much do you use when you are not upon an allowance?-I could not say exactly, because when I can buy it for myself I take no notice. I think, however, we would require about five pecks a week.

12,652. Did you find the allowance of three pecks to be too small for you?-Of course we did.

12,653. Was the rest of the island put upon an allowance at that time?-All the indebted men were.

12,654. Were there many of them?-Most of the men in Skerries,
in the fishing line were in debt at that time.

12,655. At what season of the year was that?-In summer.

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12,656. Were there a number of men at that time in the island who did not live there?-Yes, a great number.

12,657. Were they put on an allowance too?-I could not say as to that. I can only speak of those who live constantly in the island,
and more especially myself.

12,658. Do you not think it was quite reasonable, that if a person to whom you were due money was to continue to make you further advances, he should use his own discretion as to the amount of these advances?-Of course, if I got the goods at the market price.
I think I ought to have got my meal, or whatever I was requiring, at the market price in Lerwick, adding something for freight.

12,659. Did you not get it at that rate?-No; I found that I could buy meal 7s. per sack cheaper in Lerwick than in Skerries; and from that down to the lowest thing we got, it was generally charged one-third more than it could be got for in Lerwick or any place near to it. I have paid for a sack of meal at Mr. Adie’s station at Skerries, when I could have got it from any merchant in
Lerwick at 50s. or 51s.

12,660. That was a difference of 10s.: when did you do that?-I
could not say, but I have done it. I think it was about four years back.

12,661. Was that before 1869, when you were put on an allowance?-Yes.

12,662. Were you in debt at that time?-Yes.

12,663. Did you get an advance of a sack of meal at a time, and were charged 61s. for it?-Yes.

12,664. Where could you have got it in Lerwick for 50s. or 51s.?-
From Mr. John Robertson, senior. I got it from him at that, and paid the cash down.

12,665. Did you get another sack from Mr. Adie at the same time?-Yes, at the same date.

12,666. Did you get both of these supplies within month of each other?-Within a month or two.

12,667. Have you any pass-book or any paper to show that?-No.

12,668. Did you get a receipt from Mr. Robertson for the money?-No.

12,669. At what season of the year was that?-In January.

12,670. And you think that was about four years ago?-Yes.

12,671. That would probably be about January 1868?-I think so,
but I cannot exactly say.

12,672. Did you buy the meal from Mr. Robertson in your own name?-One part in my own name, and the other part in the name of my father, John Hutchison.

12,673. Who gave the order to Mr. Robertson?-I did.

12,674. Did you tell him that one half of the meal was for yourself and one half for your father?-Yes.

12,675. Do you know whether the purchase was entered in his books?-I cannot say, for I paid the cash down.

12,676. Do you know anything about the quality of that meal?-It was just about the same quality as we could get from Mr. Adie.

12,677. Was it before or after you got the meal from Mr.
Robertson, that you bought the sack at 61s. from Mr. Umphray?-
It was after, about two months after at the furthest.

12,678. Did you say anything to him about the price when you got it?-I did; and Mr. Umphray told me he must sell it at the invoice price which his master sent to him.

12,679. Did you take the meal at that price?-I was obliged to do so, when I could not make a better of it.

12,680. Could you not have gone and got some more from Mr.
Robertson?-I could; but I had no expectation of having anything at the end of the time with which to pay him.

12,681. Did you think Mr. Robertson would not have given it to you on credit?-I don’t think it, for I could not have asked it.

12,682. Do you think Mr. Robertson would have given you the meal as cheap if you had been buying it on credit?-He would have given it to me cheaper on credit than Mr. Adie did.

12,683. Is there any other time that you remember, when you bought meal or any other goods at Adie’s shop, and when you could have got them cheaper elsewhere?-That has happened every time.

12,684. But did you ever try at what price you could get your goods at another place in the same way as you did at that time?-
I have done so at times. We can get as many sillock hooks at
Messrs. Hay’s shop, at Simbister in Whalsay, for 1d. as we can get beside us for 11/2d.

12,685. Do you generally buy your sillock hooks at Whalsay?-
No; we generally go for them to the store where we are supplied. I
could also get washing soda in Lerwick for 1d., and we pay 11/2d.
for it at Skerries. I bought 14 lbs. of it in Lerwick yesterday at 1d.
a lb. The last I bought at Skerries was about two months ago, and it was marked down to me at 11/2d. If I were buying as much as 14
lbs. at a time in Skerries, I would get no discount upon it; I would still be charged 11/2d. per lb.

12,686. Do many of the people in Skerries go for their supplies to other places?-No; they all go to Adie’s store for them.

12,687. Why do they do that when the prices are so high as you say?-Because they are bound so far to do it, in this way: that they fish for him, and all their earnings go to him, and they must go to the store for whatever supplies they require.

12,688. Do you mean that they are obliged to get their supplies on credit, and that they have credit nowhere else?-They cannot have credit anywhere else until they see whether they have any money to get, and then they can come to Lerwick or any other place with their money; but they cannot do that at any other time.

12,689. Are you at liberty to sell the produce of your farm to any person you please?-No. We are under the restriction to take it all to Mr. Adie’s store.

12,690. Who told you that?-Mr. Umphray, Mr. Adie’s factor.

12,691. Is there anybody else you could sell it to?-No; except in the summer time, when Mr. Robertson’s man is there.

12,692. Have any of you offered to sell to him?-Yes.

12,693. Have you been prevented from doing so?-Yes; we have been prevented in this way, that we were obliged to go to Mr. Adie with all that we had, or else we would have been put out of our crofts.

12,694. Did anybody ever interfere with you selling to Mr.
Robertson?-If it had been known that it had been done, they would have interfered; but no man, so far as I know, ever put the produce of his farm or of his fishing past Mr. Adie.

12,695. Do you know of any person being fined for selling to Mr.
Robertson’s man?-No; but I know that my father was fined 2s.
6d. for selling a dozen of eggs to a man at the lighthouse station.
That was in 1858.

12,696. Was that by Mr. Umphray?-Yes.

12,697. Was he Mr. Adie’s factor at that time?-Yes.

12,698. Do you know of anybody having been fined in the same way since?-No; except men going to Greenland, or going any other way where they think they can be better. They are fined in this way, that every man, young and old, on the island, is obliged to fish for Mr. Adie.

12,699. But if a man goes to Greenland he is not on the island?-
No; and it is for that reason he is fined.

12,700. But if he is not on the island, how can he be fined?-He comes back in the winter.

12,701. Who has been fined in that way?-I was fined, for one, in

12,702. Have you been at the Greenland fishing since that?-No.

12,703. Have you been away from the island since?-No.

12,704. Why have you not gone since?-Because I became a tenant of Mr. Adie then, and I had to stick by that and fish for him.

12,705. Were you not a tenant of his at the time when you were fined?-No.

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12,706. Then why did you pay the fine?-I must either pay the fine, or my father would have been warned away for me.

12,707. Were you told that your father would be put away if you did not pay the fine?-Yes.

12,708. How much did you pay?-£2.

12,709. To whom did you pay it?-To Mr. Adie himself.

12,710. Did you get a receipt for it?-No.

12,711. Was it put down to your account?-Yes.

12,712. Was it ever repaid to you?-It was never repaid to me, but these fines were repaid to some others. It was repaid to Andrew
Williamson, for one. There were six men belonging to Skerries who went to Greenland in 1855, and they were all fined £2 each.

12,713. That is a very old story. Did it ever happen again?-No.

12,714. Have men gone to Greenland from Skerries since then?-

12,715. And they have not been fined?-No.

12,716. How did they escape?-I cannot say.

12,717. They just had their liberty, and nothing was said to them?-Nothing.

12,718. Do you think the fines imposed on these six men served as a warning?-I don’t think so.

12,719. That did not prevent other men from going to
Greenland?-No, not for a few years back.

12,720. But did it do so at the time?-No; some men went to
Greenland immediately after that, and were not fined. I think the fines were imposed on these six men in order to try to stop them from going there; but it did not have that effect, and it was not attempted again.

12,721. Why did you not get back your fine, when it was repaid to
Williamson and the other men?-I never asked it back.

12,722. Have you or anybody else been fined for that, or for selling your goods to other people, since 1855?-No.

12,723. Except on that one occasion in 1858, when your father was fined for selling eggs?-Yes.

12,724. Can you sell your eggs to the lighthouse keepers now, or to any person you please?-Yes.

12,725. You are not bound now to sell them to Mr. Umphray?-
Not so far as I know.

12,726. Have you sold eggs to Mr. Robertson’s man within the last year or two?-Yes.

12,727. How do you sell your beasts?-To Mr. Adie.

12,728. Can you not sell them to any person you like?-Yes; but the cash must be returned to him.

12,729. You mean the cash must be handed to because you must pay your debts?-Yes.

12,730. Is there anything else you wish to say about Skerries?-
Nothing, except that I may state, on behalf of all the men who are in the town now from Skerries, that they would like their freedom to fish for any man who would pay them best, and be allowed to get whatever they require from the cheapest market.

12,731. Supposing you had your freedom, is there one to whom you could sell your fish for a better price than Mr. Adie allows?-
There are no others at the present time, so far as I know; but opposition might arise if there were more buyers than one, and if we had our freedom.


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Chicago: William Guthrie, "Lerwick, January 24, 1872, Thomas Hutchinson, Examined.," Second Shetland Truck System Report, trans. D’Anvers, N. (Nancy Bell), D. 1933 in Second Shetland Truck System Report Original Sources, accessed October 4, 2023,

MLA: Guthrie, William. "Lerwick, January 24, 1872, Thomas Hutchinson, Examined." Second Shetland Truck System Report, translted by D’Anvers, N. (Nancy Bell), D. 1933, in Second Shetland Truck System Report, Original Sources. 4 Oct. 2023.

Harvard: Guthrie, W, 'Lerwick, January 24, 1872, Thomas Hutchinson, Examined.' in Second Shetland Truck System Report, trans. . cited in , Second Shetland Truck System Report. Original Sources, retrieved 4 October 2023, from