Intercourse between English and Low Dutch Fishermen
The oldest mention of the fishing trade of the Hollanders and Zeelanders in England dates from the end of the 13th century; three ships were fitted out in 1295 by the king, then at war with France, in order to protect the ships of Englishmen, Hollanders, and Zeelanders, who were fishing on the coast off Yarmouth, and a proclamation was to be read twice a week warning men not to hinder, injure, or oppress these men, since they were friendly to the king. Two years later Edward I took fresh measures to protect English and foreign fishers from vagabonds. Flemings were now named as well as the Hollanders and Zeelanders. These measures for their protection presuppose that the fisheries had attained considerable importance in the economic life of England and merited thoroughgoing attention, and we can with safety assume that the fisheries date from many years before, though their early history is only surmise. More particulars are available for the next century. There were complaints by the Dutch in 1309 of the actions of the innkeepers, and these complaints keep cropping up during the whole century. The importance of the fishery to the Dutch appears when we find the Count of Holland taking up these complaints with the English Crown.
Ruinen has examined the evidence of the arrest of ships for debt at Yarmouth. Some ships were seized with their rigging and nets; the cargo of others was arrested and sold; sometimes also ready money was paid down, probably to redeem the cargo. The ships that were seized entire had probably come in in ballast, while the others had their catches aboard. He deduces what the method of operation of the fishermen was: they came empty from Zeeland or south Holland and went from Yarmouth to the fishing-grounds, bringing back their catch to this centre of the English herring trade, where ‘hosts’ bought the fish from them, and, as it appears, not seldom swindled them; then, having disposed of their catch, they set off to the grounds for another. The fishermen did not always bring back the catch themselves, for fish-buyers already went out to sea to fetch their
supplies. In 1319 this was perhaps to escape the levy of the extra tolls. This way of trading had more advantage for the buyer, as with less competition he could buy at a lower price; it suited the fisherman also, as he could sell his catch at sea without the loss of time in running into Yarmouth. It was not so good for the buying public, as the middleman often abused his favourable position.
Some indication of the importance of these foreign fishermen to the town is given by a petition of 1316 from certain great persons of the realm and from the towns of Great and Little Yarmouth to take off certain tolls, because the fishers of the Count keep away, to the great harm of the town and interference with the market for coming years. Evidence of the size of the fishing fleet is Count Willem III's provision of 140 herring-busses for Queen Isabella.
Ruinen finds evidence that the fishing season was probably from the beginning of August to St. Martin's Day. The fishers came from various towns and villages of Zeeland and south Holland, especially from Westkapelle, Zoutelande, Campoere, Flushing, Arnemuiden, Kortgene, Cats, Brouwershaven, Zierikzee, Brill, and Maarland.
In the 16th and 17th centuries the Dutch herring fishery was very important; the number of those in Holland and Zeeland subsisting on fishing in 1609 was reckoned at from 50,000 to 60,000, of whom 40,000 were actually fishermen; in 1601, 1,500 doggers sailed from Holland and Zeeland to the herring fishery, four times as many as half a century earlier. This Dutch fishery was an object of jealousy to the competing English. Dutch fishing-rights on the English coast, however, were guaranteed by old treaties dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries, and confirmed by the Great Intercourse of 1496, which regulated the commercial relations of the Netherlands with England. Fishing along the Scottish coast did not rest upon similar agreements; but the very silence about the fishing rights can be adduced as an agreement for the freedom of the industry. When at the end of the 16th century the English fishing industry began to develop, quarrels ensued between English and foreign fishermen, especially as the more numerous Hollanders gained from time to time the upper hand, and as a result progress was hindered.
The English Government recognized that the fisheries were an admirable school for the training of seamen, and so took steps to prevent the usurpation of the trade by foreign fishermen. There seemed to be little opportunity for increasing the sale of fish in foreign countries, since Norway and the Netherlands not only supplied their home demands but had a large surplus for export. Cecil therefore concentrated on the home market, and in a statute of 1563 a prohibition was inserted against buying herrings from foreigners unless they were shipwrecked, while Englishmen were allowed to export fish without paying any tax. In 1609 James I issued a placard forbidding foreigners to fish along the coasts and in his waters, unless they paid a tax for the privilege. This caused a great commotion in Holland, and the fishermen refused to pay the tax. In 1616 the royal officers charged with collecting it were attacked and carried off to Holland; violent quarrels, destruction of nets, and finally actual outbreaks between fishermen of the Netherlands and those of English and Scottish nationality resulted, and an open breach between England and the States was with difficulty avoided.
The Elizabethan measures to protect the fisheries could hardly have been very successful, for we find patriotic Englishmen in the 17th century just as concerned about the state of the fishing industry. John Smith in England's Improvement Revived (1673) pointed out that a flourishing fishing industry was the very foundation of Dutch prosperity; Misselden in his Free Trade (1662) complained of the encroachment of the Dutch on our herring fishery; Tobias Gentleman in England's Way to Win Wealth (1614) gave various suggestions on the subject, while in Britain's Buss (1615) Englishmen were urged to build their fishing-busses on the Dutch model. In this century, too, there were attempts to develop fishing by the formation of companies wealthy enough to undertake the business on a large scale. The Company of the Royal Fishery of England was never very prosperous; it soon expended its original capital, and the subscribers of a second stock in 1683 were equally unfortunate. An attempt to found a similar company was made in 1750, the special object being to gain the white herring fishery from the Dutch, while the cod fishery was also to be attempted; this company, too, never answered the expectations of its promoters.
It required war to equalize matters between English and Dutch
fishers. The Dutch herring-fleet suffered grievously in the second half of the 17th century, as very many busses were captured by English, French, and Swedish privateers, and whole fleets were frequently destroyed, especially during the English wars. By the end of this century the Dutch fishery had greatly fallen off, and Scottish fishermen were beginning to drive the Dutch from the world's markets. Nevertheless intercourse has continued ever since, especially in the North Sea grounds and on the Dogger Bank.
A few names of kinds of fish were introduced from Low Dutch into Middle English. Schulle (a. 1300, Havelok), a plaice; probably ad. M.Du. or MLG.
schulle, scholle. Butt (a. 1300, Havelok),
a name applied variously in different places to kinds of flatfish as sole, fluke, turbot, &c.; as Da. bøtte, Sw. butta are from Low Dutch, it is improbable that the Eng. word is from Scand.; the more probable origin is MLG. but (LG. butte) or M.Du. botte, butte; Havelok is a poem of Lincolnshire origin, and we know that intercourse with Low Dutch fishermen was especially strong in this region in the 13th and 14th centuries. Butkin (1526), a small fish, is a diminutive of the above, and may be from butt and -kin, or a direct borrowing from the Flem. diminutive of botte, butte.
Spirling (c. 1425), the smelt; ad. MLG. spirling or M.Du. spierling. A variant is Spurling (a. 1471, from Suffolk). Sparling (1307-8), however, is ad, OF. esperlinge, of Teutonic origin.
Whiting (14.., Nom. in Wr.-Wü., c. 1425), a small fish with pearly-white flesh abundant off the coast of Great Britain and highly esteemed as food; ad. M.Du. wijting, also wittingh (MLG. wîtink).
Names of fish from Low Dutch are more numerous in the modern period. Lump (1545), a spiny-finned fish of a leaden blue colour and uncouth appearance, the sea-owl; found also as M.Du. lompe, MHG. lumpen, G. lump, lumpfisch, F. lompe; by foreign etymologists it has been commonly supposed to be of English origin, a use of the sb. lump with reference to the bulky figure of the fish; the Du. forms are, however, known from earlier examples than the Eng., and the word in Eng. may be a borrowing from Low Dutch.
Pickle-herring (c. 1570), a pickled herring; appears first as pickled herring, later pickle-herring, after M.Du. or e.mod.Du. peeckel-harinck, MLG. pekel-herink, both in the same sense.
Scaffling (1589), a kind of eel; ad. M.Du. sc(h)afteling(h), scaflingh. Dorse (1610), a young cod; ad. LG. dorsch, in the same sense. Haye (1613, Purchas), a shark or a particular species of shark; ad. Du. haai, plural haaien, W. Flem. haaie (in Kilian, 1599, haeye), whence also Sw. haj, G. hai, shark. Quab (1617), a sea-slug, also an eelpout; (1628), a crude or shapeless thing; ad. M.Du. and MLG. quabbe, Du. kwab, kwabbe, LG. quabbe, burbot, eelpout, goby, tadpole. Garnel, Gernel (1694), a species of shrimp; ad. Du. garnaal, dial, garneel, shrimp.
Cabilliau, Cabeliau (1696, W. Montague, Delights of Holland), codfish, codfish which has been salted and hung for a few days, but not thoroughly dried; ad. F. cabillaud, cabliau, or Du. kabeljauw, a name used, according to Franck, by all the coast Germans since the 14th century (MLG. kabelaw, G. kabliau, kabeljau, Sw. kabeljo, Da. kabeljau); it has generally been regarded as a transposed form of bakeljauw, bakkeljau, bacalao, which is, however, not compatible with the history of the word.
Snook (1697, Dampier), a name given to various fishes, esp. to the sergeant fish and the robalo; ad. Du. snoek, pike.
Brassy (1710), the Sc. form of brasse. Brassem (1731), a kind of fish, perhaps a sea-bream; ad. Du. brasem (M.Du. brasem, braessem, in Kilian braessem; the form corresponds to MLG. brassem). Brasse (1847), a name of a fish of the perch family; probably from MLG. brasse, ‘eyn brasse’, ‘salmo’.
Crucian, Crusian (1763), a species of fish, a native of central Europe, of a deep yellow colour; formed with the suffix -an and accommodated spelling from earlier or dial. LG. karusse, karuse, karutze.
Crape-fish (1856), codfish, salted and hardened by pressure; perhaps from LG. krapp, hard, twisted (rope), hardbaked. Matie (1858), a herring in what is considered the best condition for food, when the roe is perfectly but not largely developed; ad. Du. maatjes(haring), earlier maetgens-, maeghdekens-, from maagd, maid, and ken, kin (cf. MLG. madikesherink, LG. maid-kenshering).
There are a few terms applied to fish. Roe (a. 14.., Voc. in Wr.-Wü., c. 1430), the mass of eggs contained in the ovarian membrane of a fish; the ME. type *ro(e), row(e), corresponds to M.Du. roch, roge (Kilian, roghe), Flem. rog, MLG. roge, rogge; it is not clear whether this is a native Eng. word, unrecorded in OE., or, perhaps more probably, a later adoption from Low
Dutch. Milt (1483, Caxton), the roe or spawn of the male fish, the ‘soft roe’; the spleen in mammals; OE. milte, spleen, corresponds to OF. milte, spleen, M.Du. milte, Du. milt, spleen, also the milt of fish, ON. milti, spleen; the sense ‘spawn of fish’ may have been adopted from Du.; as the milt of fish is of a soft substance like the spleen, the transferred use was not unnatural; but it was no doubt helped to gain currency by the resemblance in sound between milt and milk (Du. milch), the older name for the soft roe of a fish. Milter (1601), a male fish, esp. in spawning time; from milt and -er, but perhaps adopted from the equivalent Du. milter.
School (c. 1400), a shoal or large number of fish, porpoises, whales, &c.,
swimming together whilst feeding or migrating; (1555), a troop, crowd (of persons), a large
number; ad. Du. school, troop, multitude, ‘school’ of whales,
M.Du. schole. Shoal (1573), a large number of fish, &c. (in Spenser, 1573, applied to persons; in North, 1579-80, to birds; in Nashe, 1593, to fish); the earlier history of the word is uncertain; etymologically it is identical with OE. scolu, troop, which corresponds to OS. scola, multitude, MLG. schole, M.Du. schole, multitude, flock, shoal of fishes, Du. school; it is possible that in OE. the word had the unrecorded sense of a shoal of fishes, and in this sense continued in nautical use, but it is simpler to suppose that the 16th-century shole was a readoption of the Du. form, which in the 14th century had been taken into Eng. as scole; the initial (ʃ) may be an Eng. sound-substitution for the Du. (sχ), or it may have come in from one of the Flem. dialects in which sch was pronounced (ʃ).
Rope-sick (1614, T. Gentleman, Eng. Way to Win Wealth), of herring, having the back infested with parasitical worms; ad. Du. dial. ropziek; the pamphlet of 1614 is the source of the later quotations.
An important group of words consists of the names of kinds of fishing-boats and of the tackle and equipment used in fishing.
Buss (1471), a vessel of burden; also a kind of boat which was and is used in the Dutch herring fishery; in the sense of vessel of burden probably from OF. busse, in the sense of fishing-boat it is generally supposed to be ad. M.Du. bûse, buusse, buysse, vase, cup, small vessel, spec. as used in the herring fishery (Kilian has buyse, ‘navis piscatoria’); the Du. word is ad. OF. busse, and was perhaps imported on the coast near Dun-
kirk; if the Eng. word is from M.Du., then it has been approximated in sound to busse from OF. busse.
Corver (1491), a kind of Dutch herring fisher and fishing-boat; ad. M.Du. corver, a fisherman and fishing-boat of some kind. Compare te corve varen, to go fishing in a korfscip, korfharinck, a herring of some kind, korfmarct, the market where the fish is sold.
Cag (1596), a small fishing-vessel; from Du. kaag, in the same sense, e.mod.Du. kaghe (LG. kag); the Du. word has also given F. caque, a fishing-boat. Tode (1600, J. Keymer, Dutch Fishing), more fully tode-boat, a small Dutch fishing-vessel; the origin of the word is obscure, no similar term being known in Du.; Groningen dial, has todden, to drag, tow, tug, todden, tod, as much as one can carry, burden, load; and Guelderland and Overijssel dials. have todden, to drag, and perhaps the origin of the Eng. word lies in a combination of one of these words with boat. Crab-skuit (1614, Markham, Way to Wealth), a small open fishing-boat with sails; ad. Du. krab-schuyte, from krabbe, crab, and schuit, boat.
Herring-buss (1615, E.S., Brit. Buss), a two- or three-masted vessel used in the herring fishery; ad. Du. haringbuis. Jagger (1615, E.S., Brit. Buss), a sailing-vessel which followed a fishing-fleet in order to bring the fish from the busses, and to supply them with stores and provisions; ad. Du. jager, abbreviation of haringjager, from haring, herring, and jagen, to chase, pursue.
Hooker (1641, S. Smith, Royal Fishings), a two-masted Dutch coasting- or fishing-vessel; (1801), a one-masted fishing-smack similar to a hoy in build; apparently originally ad. Du. hoeker (in Hexham, hoecker-schip, ‘a dogger-boat’, in Kilian, hoeck-boot, a fishing-boat, so called from hoeck, hook). Pinkie, Pinky (1874), a narrow-sterned fishing-boat; from pink (see p. 70) and -ie, -y, diminutives, or perhaps ad. M.Du. pinke.
Coper, Cooper (1881), a vessel fitted out to supply ardent spirits, &c., usually in exchange for fish, to the deep-sea fishers of the North Sea, a floating grog-shop; ad. Flem. and Du. kooper, Fris. and LG. koper, purchaser, dealer, trader, from koopen, to buy, trade, deal; O.E.D. states that in the memory of Grimsby smacksmen the name goes back to 1854, when Flemish and Dutch koopers first began to frequent the fleets.
The following are the terms for fishing-tackle. Elger (c. 1440,
Pr. Parv.), an eel-spear; perhaps from. Flem. aalgeer, elger, though it may represent OE. ǽl, eel, and gár, spear. Mesh (1558-9), one of the open spaces or interstices of a net; the 16th-century forms are meishe, meash, mash, mesh; the form mash would regularly reproduce an O.E. *maesc, which occurs only once in the metathetic form max, net; the forms meishe, meash indicate a pronunciation with a long vowel (mēʃ), and mesh the shortening of the original vowel, probably in ME. (cf. flesh); on the whole, on account of the absence of the word in ME., its form-history in the 16th century, and the frequency with which fishing terms were adopted from Du., it is probable that meash (shortened to mesh) and mash represent adoptions respectively of the M.Du. forms maesche and masche. Mass (1641, S. Smith, Herring Buss Trade), a mesh; ad. Du. maas. Lask (1864), a hook baited with a slice from the side of a mackerel; perhaps ad. M.Du. lasche (Du. lasch), piece cut out, flap.
A few miscellaneous terms of fishing and the fish trade remain. Two of them refer to the curing of fish. Corved, ppl. adj. (1641, S. Smith, Herring Buss Trade), herrings in salt pickle for a few days before they are to be made into red herrings; apparently the same as the M.Du. korfharinck, mentioned under Corver (see p. 95), of which the exact sense is equally obscure; a suggestion is that as tonharing is barrelled herring, korfharing may be herring not barrelled, but brought ashore in baskets; corved would then be ‘put in a corf or corves’. Rowerback (1641, S. Smith, Herring Buss Trade), a trough in which herrings are stirred amid salt; ad. Du. roerbak.
A term for an operation in catching fish is Balk (1603), to signify to fishing-boats the direction taken by shoals of herring or pilchards as seen from heights overlooking the sea, done at first by bawling or shouting, subsequently by signals; probably ad. Du. balken, to bray, bawl, shout, cognate with OE. baelcan, to shout, which would itself have given balch. The sb. Balker (1602) occurs a year earlier; a man who gives such signals; from balk and -er.
A term which comes in from the large Dutch trade in the Middle Ages from the Rhine, Holland, and Zeeland in dried and smoked eels is Palingman (1482), a man who deals in eels; ad. Du. palingman, from paling, eel, and man.
A term of the fish trade is Bummaree (1707), a middleman in the fish trade at Billingsgate; Bense says that this is
probably a corruption of the earlier bummery (see. p. 63), which according to the English Dialect Dictionary is London slang, and has also the sense of usurer, while it occurs as a verb meaning ‘to buy up large quantities of fish to sell retail’, and ‘to run up a score at a newly opened public house’.
. 67, 71, 208, 483; Blok, iii
. 337-40; iv