August 2021 - "'The literature of Highland protest': the Sea League and its newsletter, 1933-1939 - a thoroughly modern cause" (Prof Ùisdean Cheape)


Thursday 26th August, 1-2pm

Between the two world wars, a need for the protection of that natural resource - fisheries - on which the wellbeing of islanders on the Edge had always depended was still never more pressing. The concept of being 'on the edge' was exacerbated by the apparent neglect of a remote government and bureaucracy. In 1933 Compton Mackenzie, then living 'in exile' 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 local inshore fisheries with drift-nets and 'long lines'.

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.

Professor Ùisdean Cheape, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, UHI


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