Another somewhat crude interrogation of the censuses, this time looking at males recording ‘fisher’ or ‘fisherman’, but removing those who were a fisher or fisherman’s son.
1841, it should be remembered, is unreliable in recording all the occupations of occupants at an address so we can only properly examine the second-half of the century.
The numbers of fishermen increased by 57% from 1851-1861 and by a staggering 73% in the following decade. Growth slows to a more serene 20% during the 1870s but the result is that for every 4 fishermen in 1851 there were 13 by 1881.
The 14% decline from this peak to the figures of 1891 and 1901 (which is the only decade to demonstrate stability) might reflect, in part, the effects of re-crofting on Harris but I cannot be sure of the importance of this factor. If nothing else, these figures echo the phrase from the evidence to the Napier Commission of men ‘turning their backs on the land to face the sea’…