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TITLE
Fish in the Works of Martin Martin
EXTERNAL ID
GB1796_SINCLAIR_ANDREWCURRIE_05
PERIOD
1980s; 1990s
CREATOR
Andrew Currie
SOURCE
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
ASSET ID
1811
KEYWORDS
botany
zoology
travelogues
gazetteers
marine life
Western Isles
audio

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Martin Martin's 'A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland' (1703) and 'A Voyage to St Kilda' (1698) are amongst the first printed works describing the life, culture and beliefs of the people of the Hebrides. In this audio extract from 1996, Skye naturalist - Andrew Currie - identifies many of the fish species mentioned in Martin's works.

Martin gives a particularly good account of the fish present in and around the islands. No fewer than nineteen fish species were recorded from some twenty-six islands. Salmon, trout and eels are the most important freshwater fish although they do migrate to the sea. And at sea, cod, herring, ling, are the most widely fished. As a source of food, fish clearly played a huge part in the life of islanders. Several Scots names were used by Martin and my additional reference was Robert Watt's 1989 'Glossary of Scottish Dialect Fish and Trade Names'. In North Uist Martin reports, 'There is such a great number of fresh-water lakes here as can hardly be believed. They are generally well stocked with trouts and eels, and some of them with salmon; and which is yet more strange, cod, ling, mackerel, etc., are taken in these lakes, into which they are brought by the spring tides'. This remarkable observation, first appreciated by Fraser Darling, is an early recognition of the brackish water habitat, still being researched today.

A curious fish reported by Martin is the marled, or speckled salmon. Campbell and Williamson in their 1979 paper identified this as the thick-lipped grey mullet. Another interesting fish, described by Martin thus, 'The fishers and others told me that there is a big herring almost double the size of any of its kind, which leads all that are in a bay. The shoal follows it wherever it goes. This leader is by the fishers called the king of the herring'. Watt identifies this as the ratfish. Round Skye, Martin reports cod, ling, herring, whiting and turbot and 'the best bait for cod and ling is a piece of herring, whiting, thornback, haddock, or eel'. Another puzzle to be solved - Martin records 'braziers' from the St. Kilda waters. Can anyone identify these? The 'Concise Scots Dictionary' identifies only freshwater fish under this name. Neil Campbell has suggested the sea bream

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Fish in the Works of Martin Martin

1980s; 1990s

botany; zoology; travelogues; gazetteers; marine life; Western Isles; audio

Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

Bill Sinclair Audio: Martin Martin

Martin Martin's 'A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland' (1703) and 'A Voyage to St Kilda' (1698) are amongst the first printed works describing the life, culture and beliefs of the people of the Hebrides. In this audio extract from 1996, Skye naturalist - Andrew Currie - identifies many of the fish species mentioned in Martin's works.<br /> <br /> Martin gives a particularly good account of the fish present in and around the islands. No fewer than nineteen fish species were recorded from some twenty-six islands. Salmon, trout and eels are the most important freshwater fish although they do migrate to the sea. And at sea, cod, herring, ling, are the most widely fished. As a source of food, fish clearly played a huge part in the life of islanders. Several Scots names were used by Martin and my additional reference was Robert Watt's 1989 'Glossary of Scottish Dialect Fish and Trade Names'. In North Uist Martin reports, 'There is such a great number of fresh-water lakes here as can hardly be believed. They are generally well stocked with trouts and eels, and some of them with salmon; and which is yet more strange, cod, ling, mackerel, etc., are taken in these lakes, into which they are brought by the spring tides'. This remarkable observation, first appreciated by Fraser Darling, is an early recognition of the brackish water habitat, still being researched today. <br /> <br /> A curious fish reported by Martin is the marled, or speckled salmon. Campbell and Williamson in their 1979 paper identified this as the thick-lipped grey mullet. Another interesting fish, described by Martin thus, 'The fishers and others told me that there is a big herring almost double the size of any of its kind, which leads all that are in a bay. The shoal follows it wherever it goes. This leader is by the fishers called the king of the herring'. Watt identifies this as the ratfish. Round Skye, Martin reports cod, ling, herring, whiting and turbot and 'the best bait for cod and ling is a piece of herring, whiting, thornback, haddock, or eel'. Another puzzle to be solved - Martin records 'braziers' from the St. Kilda waters. Can anyone identify these? The 'Concise Scots Dictionary' identifies only freshwater fish under this name. Neil Campbell has suggested the sea bream