Seasonal fishermen came to Newfoundland from many areas, such as Bayonne and Labourd, to fish for the
summer. In February 1697 a regulation specified a maximum of 60 seasonal fishermen, but this does
not seem to have been observed. In Plaisance, the need for labour was considerable, and in 1690
the governor of the colony thought that perhaps the number of shallops that each planter could
operate should be limited to three.
This model of a Basque Fisherman, located at the Castle Hill Interpretation Centre in Placentia,
presents both the clothing of the period and fishing gear which would have been used in the
Photo courtesy of John de Visser. Taken from Harold Horwood and John de Visser,
Historic Newfoundland (Toronto: Oxford University Press, ©1986).
The seasonal fishermen, who fished in shallops, worked either for a planter, or for a ship from
France. While the crews were fishing, teams of shoremen (beach workers under the control of a beach
master) washed, cleaned, salted and stacked the cod. The crew of a shallop was made up of a master,
a stower, a bosun, and sometimes a boy. These crews were known as fishing associates. The shallop
master controlled and selected the grounds to be fished, while on land the beach master organized
the drying. The bosun was next in line in the shallop crew, both in terms of experience and
remuneration. His post was at the bow of the shallop and he was responsible for dropping the
anchor on the fishing ground and steering the shallop back to the stage. The stower was responsible
for loading the cod.
|French Fishing Stage at Plaisance.
From D.W. Prowse, A History of Newfoundland from the English, Colonial, and
Foreign Records, 2nd edition (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1896) 186.
The wages of the seasonal fishermen were calculated on a basis of 600 quintals for two shallops,
and the payment was made in quintals. The expression "paid by sharing one third" was also used.
In a normal fishing season every fisherman brought in 38 quintals of dried, salted cod. By
multiplying these 38 quintals by three, the third can be calculated as equivalent to 114 quintals.
The shoremen had to gut, salt and spread out the cod on flakes or on the beaches so that it could
dry. They turned the cod over periodically to protect it from moisture or too much heat. Each team
of shoremen was made up of a minimum of a master, a salter, a header and a boy. In effect, the
latter was called upon to do anything that the men wanted. A team of four shoremen could provide
a processing capacity sufficient for two shallops.
Hired hands at Plaisance 1673-1710
|1704 ||695 (504 were present at the time of the census; 191 more came later)
Source : Archives d'outre mer, G1 vol. 467
© 2000, Nicolas Landry