The late Duke of Northumberland introduced oyster cultivation on the Northumbrian coast. They were imported and established there, and in the year 1865 the fisheries were allowed to commence, when they were found to have succeeded admirably, but since then the sand has destroyed the oysters. Messrs, Forbes and Hanley state that since the introduction of steamboats and railroads, considerable quantities of sea-oysters are brought from Falmouth and Helford, in Cornwall, also from Scotland and Ireland; the Irish oysters coming mostly from Carlingford, Mala hide, Lissadell, Burran, Arklow, and Wexford; but the 'Report of the Irish Fishery Commissioners,' in 1874, gave a most unsatisfactory account of many of these fisheries; and it is said that the Carlingford beds, once so productive, are nearly dredged out, and in 1876 the take did not exceed a few thousands, The Wexford and Tralee beds were in the same condition, from over dredging and a succession of bad spatting years. It is not lawful to sell oysters in Ireland in the months of May, June, and July. The Wexford men dredged for them, of course, in the other months, but one reason of the beds being badly stocked was, that in the closed months they were regularly dredged by Beaumaris boats, which replenished their own exhausted beds with them; and in 1863 a French lugger visited Wexford seven times, carrying off on each occasion a large quantity of oysters for "laying down" on the French coast.*
* 'Topographical and Historical Description of the County of Dorset,' by John Britton, Esq., and Mr. E. W. Brayley, pp. 413, 414.
The amount of oysters taken on the principal natural oyster-beds in 1876, off Arklow, was 7520 barrels of 450 each, large and small, at prices from 18s. to 24s. 6d per barrel. In 1875, 13,640 barrels were taken. The Burran Bank oysters are highly esteemed in Dublin, and are called "Burton Bindons". They are brought from Kilkerran and Bossmuck Bays, in Galway, and are laid down to fatten on the Red Bank Oyster-bed in Aughinish Bay. Formerly Mr. Burton Bindon was the possessor of these beds, but now Mr. Singleton has succeeded him, as we are informed by Mr. Buckland, who visited these and other oyster-beds on the west coast of Ireland, the east coast of England, and also those on the west coast of France.
* 'Morning Post,' Aug, 29th, 1864.
There are oyster-beds in the Shannon, said in 1836 to yield a revenue of £1400; and formerly, a small bed in Cork harbour, of no great extent, but the oysters were large, and prized for stewing; however, I am told that the latter no longer exists. In Lough Swilly there are oyster-beds, but the oysters were getting very scarce in 1876, and it was proposed having what is called in Ireland, a jubilee, viz., closing the banks, or a portion of them, for two years, and preventing the picking or taking of small oysters.* Oysters are increasing in scarcity and dearness in Ireland and in England, and this may be traced in a measure to the increased demand, the railroads conveying the oysters into the country; and Mr. Farrer stated, in the evidence before the Committee on Oyster Fisheries, in 1876, that oyster cultivators had great difficulty in obtaining oysters to fatten, because they were taken into the manufacturing districts, where the people eat them though in bad condition; whereas they formerly had them brought to the beds in the Thames.
It is said that over-dredging has destroyed many of the oyster-beds, and doubtless this has been the case in places; but on some parts of the coast it is absolutely necessary to dredge during the summer, which is the close time, to keep the beds free from sand, weeds, and mud, which accumulate so much that the spat is injured; but the principal cause of the scarcity of the oysters may be attributed to the low temperature of the water during the spatting season; the last few summers having been cold, and the weather so changeable.
* ' Report on Oyster Fisheries,' 1876; Mr. Blake's evidence.
Between London and Glamorganshire there is a large trade in pickled oysters, and we are told that seventy-two million oysters are annually consumed in London alone.*
In Scotland, the Cockenzie fishermen derive a good portion of their annual income from the oyster trade, and dredge for them at high and low tide. The crews of the boats keep up a wild and monotonous song (in which they believe there is much, virtue) all the time they are dredging, and assert that it charms the oysters into the dredge.† The same authority further states, that as a class, the fishers of the Scottish coast are very superstitious. They do not like being numbered whilst standing or walking. It offends them very much to ask them whilst on their way to their boats, where they are going to-day. They consider it unlucky to see the impression of a very flat foot upon the sand, and they will not go to work, if in the morning, on leaving their houses, a pig should cross their path. An experimental steam fishing-vessel has been built at Cockenzie; she is a dandy cutter-rigged craft, forty tons burden, assisted with auxiliary screw steam power, for the purpose of dredging oysters during the winter months, and deep-sea trawling during the summer.
* 'Journal of Society of Arts,' Aug. 24th, 1883. † 'The Fisher Folk of the Scottish East Coast,' Macmillan's Magazine, October, 1862, No. 36.
The celebrated "Pandore" oysters are principally obtained from the neighbourhood of Prestonpans, The exclusive right to fish, dredge, and cultivate oysters and mussels, belongs to the barony of Prestongrange, extending as far as the shores of the barony and to the centre of the Forth. During the last century, and the earlier portion of this, the proprietors of the barony were able to maintain control over the fishermen, and to regulate the fishing.....At that date a number of salt works existed along the shore, and the oysters taken near them were termed "Pandores," which in Edinburgh still designates the finest oysters.* According to Mr. Frank Buckland, the oysters on the west coast of Scotland have a very beautiful shell, quite different from those on the east coast of England, and the beard of the oyster is always black, and this is also the case with the Irish, American, and Lisbon oysters.