16: The Sea League, c. 1933-1939: a thoroughly modern cause and the ‘literature of Highland protest’
by Prof. Hugh Cheape
In 1933 Compton Mackenzie, then living ‘in exile’ in Barra, founded ‘The Sea League’ or Comunn Iasgairean na Mara to lobby for the closing of the Minch to trawlers and the increase of fines for illegal trawling, and thus to rebuild devastated local inshore fisheries. The Sea League developed a membership of fishermen throughout the Hebrides. John Lorne Campbell of Canna became its Secretary and produced a bilingual news sheet, The Sea Leaguer, and the campaign continued until 1939. He later commented: ‘It is a great rarity now, but I think it deserves its place amongst the literature of Highland protest’.
Conservation of fish stocks and the protection of fisheries for local communities, not to mention access to coastal waters by EU nations, make this a topic of current significance.
Image caption: Barra fishermen on their boat in Castlebay Harbour, c. 1935. Photo by Margaret Fay Shaw.
About the speaker
Hugh Cheape devised and teaches with Dòmhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart a postgraduate programme, MSc Cultar Dùthchasach agus Eachdraidh na Gàidhealtachd (‘Material Culture & Gàidhealtachd History’), at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. He was awarded a Research Chair in the University of the Highlands and Islands in 2009. The MSc has grown out of his curatorial and ethnological work during a career in the National Museums of Scotland between 1974 and 2007. He has published in the subject fields of ethnology and musicology, including studies in Scottish agricultural history, vernacular architecture, piping, tartans and dye analysis, pottery, charms and amulets and talismanic belief.
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