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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. VI


Newhaven.] FISHER FEUD WITH PRESTONPANS 301 men of the town of Edinburgh, and Lady Greenwich, on one part, and certain fishermen of Prestonpans on the other. The point in dispute is certain oyster scalps, to which each party claims an exclusive right. Accusations of encroachment were mutually given and retorted. At dredging, when the parties met, much altercation and abusive language took place-bloody encounters ensued, but only occurs in the Tmendas, like hawkings, huntings, or other words of style. ? After various representations to the Judge- Admiral, his lordship pronounced an interlocutor, ordaining both parties to produce their prescriptive rights to their fishings, and prohibited them from dredging oysters in any of the scalps in dispute till the issue of the cause. November 10, 1786, in virtue of which his lordship was infeft, interaZia, in the oyster scalps in question. They also condescended on a charter granted by King James VI., in 1585, to the town of Burntisland, which is on record, and which they say establishes their right. They further contend that the magistrates have produced no proper titles to prove their exclusive right to the scalps they have let in tack to the Newhaven fishermen. ?The charter of King James VI. was resigned ,by the town in the time of Charles I,, and the new charter granted by the latter, gives no right to the oyster scalps in dispute. The word ?fishings,? in was abolished in defiance of the principles of the Treaty of Union) in favour of the Newhaven men; but each party had to pay their own expenses. So far back as 1789 we begin to read of the encroachments made by the sea in this quarter, and probably of what was afterwards so long known as the ? Man-trap,? as the Advertiser mentions that ?? a young lady coming from Newhaven to Leith fell over the precipice on the side of the sea,?? and that within six weeks the same catastrophe had befallen four others, ?? the road being so narrow and dangerous that people at night run a great risk of their lives?
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302 OLD ANI) NEW EDINBURGH. [Newhaven. began in the Firth of Forth, and it is not very creditable to the vigilance of the fishermen of Fife, Newhaven, and elsewhere, that this great fund of wealth was not developed earlier, as when the herrings left the shore near the mouth of the Firth it was supposed they had taken their departure to other waters, and no attempts were made to seek them farther up the estuary. The discovery was made accidentally by Thomas Brown, near Donnibristle, who had been for years wont to fish with hook and line for haddocks and podlies, near the shore, and who found the herrings in such numbers that he took them up in buckets. In 1793 the fishermen of the Queensfeny began to set their nets with a result that astonished them, though twenty years before it had been reported to them in vain that when the mainsail of a vessel fell overboard in Inverkeithing Bay, and was hauled in, it was found to be full of herrings. The success of the Queensferry boats excited attention generally, and this fisheryhas been followedwith perseverance and good fortune, not only by the fishermen of Fife and Lothian, but of all the east coast of Scotland. During the old war with France the patriotism of the Newhaven fishenhen was prominent on more than one occasion, and they were among the first to offer their services as a marine force to guard their native coast against the enemy. So much was this appreciated that the President of the ? Newhaven Free Fishermen?s Society,? instituted, it is said, by a charter of James VI., was presented with a handsome silver medal and chain by the Duke of Buccleuch, in presence of several county gentlemen. On one side this medal, which is still preserved at Newhaven, bears the inscription :-?: In testimony of the brave and patriotic offer of the fishermen of Newhaven to defend the coast against the enemy, this mark of approbation was voted by the county of Midlothian, November znd, 1796.?? On the reverse is the thistle, with the national motto, and the legend Agminc Remorum CeZeri. The medal the box-master wears, in virtue of his office, when the Society has its annual procession through Leith, Edinburgh, Granton, and Trinity. This body is very exclusive, no strangers or others than lawful descendants of members inheriting the privileges of membership-a distinguishing feature that has endured for ages. The Society is governed by a preses, a box-master, sec?retary, and fifteen of a committee, who all change office annually, except the secretary. Their offer of service in 1796 shows that they were ready to fight ? on board of any gunboat or vessel of war that Government might appoint,? between the Red Head of Angus and St Abb?s Head, ?and to go farther if necessity urges? This offer bears the names of fifty-nine fishermen -names familiar to Newhaven in the present day. In the January of the following year the Lord Provost and magistrates proceeded to Newhaven and presented the fishermen with a handsome stand of colours in testimony of their loyalty, after a suitable prayer by the venerable Dr, Johnston, of North Leith. Formed now into Sea Fencibles, besides keeping watch and ward upon the coast, in 1806 two hundred of them volunteered to man the TexeZ, sixty-four guns, under Captain Donald Campbell, and proceeding to sea from Leith Roads, gave chase to some French frigates, by which the coast of Scotland had been infested, and which inflicted depredations on our shipping. For this service these men were presented by the city of Edinburgh with the rather paltry gratuity of Az50. An autograph letter of George III., expressing his satisfaction at their loyalty, was long preserved by the Society, but is now lost. With the TkxeZ, in 1807, they captured the French frigate Neyda, and took her as a prize into Yarmouth Roads, after which they came home to Newhaven with great ZcZat; and for years afterwards it was the pride of many of these old salts, who are now sleeping near the ruined wall of Our Lady?s and St. James?s Chapel, to recur to the days ? when I was aboard the Ted.,? It was an ancient practice of the magistrates of Edinburgh, by way of denoting the jurisdiction of the city, in virtue of the charter of James IV., to proceed yearly to Newhaven, and drink wine in the open space called the square. When a dreadful storm visited the shores of the Firth, in October, 1797, the storm bulwark at Newhaven, eastward of the Leith battery, was completely torn away, and large boulders were ?rolled towards the shore, many of them split,? says the Herald, ?as if they had been blown up by gunpowder.? The road between Newhaven and Trinity with its sea-wall was totally destroyed. A brig laden with hemp and iron for Deptford Yard, was flung on shore, near Trinity Lodge. This must have been rather an ill-fated craft, as the same journal states that she had recently been re-captured by H.M.S. Cobour- in the North Sea, after having been taken by the French frigate, [email protected] Another vessel was blown on shore near Caroline Park, and the Lord Hood, letter of marque, was) warped off, with assistance from Newhaven.
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