Page 1

life and fishing on a hebridean isle

the history of finsbay lodge, harris

R. A. M.

I

n telling the story of the enigmatic Finsbay Lodge, home of the Hebridean Sporting Association, this book opens a fascinating window on to the history of the beautiful Isle of Harris. The author has unearthed an amazing amount of detailed information, not just about the Lodge and the characters that were drawn to it and to Harris, but also relating to the fish and fishing. We see evocative glimpses of unique Hebridean life experiences for both local and visitor at the beginning of the 20th century and at the start of the First World War. Though the life of the Lodge was short, it was astonishingly vivid and was part of one of the largest ever angling ventures. Its relationship with other aspects of the history of Harris is very clear: the hotel at Rodel, the lodge at Borve, the salmon and sea trout fishing at Leverburgh and Horsacleit, and the school at Finsbay all play their part. The contributions of the proprietors of Harris, Lords Dunmore and Leverhulme, also find their place, along with Thomas Wilson, Archie Chisholm, the Lodge staff and the local children. Land reform, fish hatcheries, and rivalry for shipping trade also feature.

Finsbay Lodge,

HAR R IS

life and fishing on a hebridean isle Michael L. G. Gardner

£15.99

Michael L. G. Gardner

This book is certain to appeal to a wide variety of readers and is an invaluable contribution to the history of Harris and, indeed, Scotland. It will interest in equal measure devotees of Scottish island life, students of social history, and enthusiasts of the art of angling for wild fish.

t he History of

Between ancient Roneval and the sheltered Loch Finsbay There lay a fugitive mystery, the fine old Lodge of Finsbay.


Chapter two

The Hebridean Sporting Association, 1903 to 1920

I

n February 1903 a small group of Glasgow businessmen, solicitors and merchants, all keen anglers, formed a limited company, registered in Edinburgh, the Hebridean Sporting Association Ltd. Figs. 2.1 & 2.2 show the company’s Certificate of Incorporation and the front page of the Prospectus; Appendix 1 reproduces the company’s Prospectus issued to prospective shareholders. The company’s stated aims were not financial, but to provide top class salmon and sea trout fishing on the Isle of Harris. The fishings there had hitherto been highly exclusive, accessible only to tenants who took year-long leases of shooting, stalking and fishing. The sea trout fishing, in particular, was reputed to be among the best in Scotland and perhaps equal to the best in the world. The initial subscribers founding the company were: • John Malcolm (1858–1929) Ship Broker from Glasgow – he styled himself and signed as “Jno. Malcolm” – who almost certainly was the prime mover in the venture and who remained deeply involved throughout its existence. His enthusiasm for fishing was almost certainly generated by his grandfather, William Tough, who had been for many years the Inn Keeper at Scourie in Sutherland (see p. 195). See Fig. 2.3; also Fig 13.6 in Chapter 13 below; • John Dempster (~1848–1914) Produce Merchant from Carmunnock near Glasgow; • William Fergusson (~1853–1916) Solicitor, Glasgow who became Chairman; 

Scottish solicitors at this time often were described as “Writers”, a term now reserved for Writers to the Signet. It is possible that Mr Fergusson was a distant cousin of John Malcolm, but any family relationship was not a close one the hebridean sporting association

Gardner, Finsbay Lodge.indd 5



10/05/2010 09:43:03


Fig. 2.1 The Hebridean Sporting Association’s Certificate of Incorporation as a limited company – 1903. Reproduced by kind permission of The National Archives of Scotland [BT2/5276].

Facing page: Fig. 2.2 The front cover of the Company’s Prospectus as registered in 1903. Reproduced by kind permission of The National Archives of Scotland [BT2/5276].

• James Anderson Manufacturer, Glasgow; • David Strathie Chartered Accountant, Glasgow; • Charles Robert Murray (~1857–1917) Iron & Steel Merchant, Glasgow; and • Thomas James Gilchrist Boyes (~1848–1925) Solicitor, Bonnybridge. The initial company Directors were: John Malcolm, John Dempster (until his death in 1914), William Fergusson (until his death in 1916), and James Anderson (until his resignation in 1907). David Strathie was appointed as the Auditor, and Boyes & Fergusson (116 Hope Street, Glasgow)2 acted as the company’s 2

6

Boyes & Fergusson became Boyes & Cameron until the death of J. Burns Cameron in 1953 after which the business was amalgamated with Andrew Howard McFarlane and later subsumed into Bannatyne, Kirkwood, France & Co.

CHAPTER Two

Gardner, Finsbay Lodge.indd 6

10/05/2010 09:43:04


THE HEBRIDEAN SPoRTING ASSoCIATIoN

Gardner, Finsbay Lodge.indd 7

7

10/05/2010 09:43:05


Fig. 2.3 John Malcolm, founding Director of the Hebridean Sporting Association. From The Bailie 1913 [1].

Solicitors. Both Mr Boyes and Mr Fergusson were founding subscribers. The company Secretary was George Duke Stirling CA at their registered office at 154 St. Vincent Street, Glasgow until he resigned due to ill health in 1907, after which he was succeeded by W.B. Mackie at 116 Hope Street, Glasgow, the address of the Association’s solicitors. In 1907, Thomas Binnie Jr (1867–1937: Land Valuator, Glasgow) and in 1918 Samuel Stevenson (1871–1937: Timber Merchant, Newlands, Glasgow) became Directors. Initially the Company had an authorised capital of £10,000, divided into 1000 shares of £10 each, though to raise further funds this authorised capital was increased to £13,000 in 1905 to include 300 preference shares of £10 each. To raise even more capital when it became clear that the Association’s financial situation was difficult, debentures were issued (£890), but the debenture holders waived their interest. The company also took out a number of loans which became an increasing burden. The Company’s Prospectus never provided for the issue of a dividend, so this form of return cannot have been the motive for membership. The possibility of the investment making a capital gain on the eventual disposal of Finsbay Lodge was not explicitly mentioned, but a finite lifetime for the venture may have been envisaged. Some shareholders may have been anticipating this and may have regarded the venture as an interesting speculative investment. The Company quickly attracted 75 shareholders, each person initially putting in the minimum investment of £100 (except for one, John Collins, a master at Rugby school, who managed to join with a smaller investment of £50!). The sum of £100 would be the equivalent of about £10,000 invested by each member at today’s rates.  



George Duke Stirling was a brother-in-law of John Dempster It is convenient to use a multiplier of 100 x to estimate the current cost, but a slightly more accurate estimate would be £7,700, based on the composite price indices in 1903 and 2007.

CHAPTER two

Gardner, Finsbay Lodge.indd 8

10/05/2010 09:43:05


life and fishing on a hebridean isle

the history of finsbay lodge, harris

R. A. M.

I

n telling the story of the enigmatic Finsbay Lodge, home of the Hebridean Sporting Association, this book opens a fascinating window on to the history of the beautiful Isle of Harris. The author has unearthed an amazing amount of detailed information, not just about the Lodge and the characters that were drawn to it and to Harris, but also relating to the fish and fishing. We see evocative glimpses of unique Hebridean life experiences for both local and visitor at the beginning of the 20th century and at the start of the First World War. Though the life of the Lodge was short, it was astonishingly vivid and was part of one of the largest ever angling ventures. Its relationship with other aspects of the history of Harris is very clear: the hotel at Rodel, the lodge at Borve, the salmon and sea trout fishing at Leverburgh and Horsacleit, and the school at Finsbay all play their part. The contributions of the proprietors of Harris, Lords Dunmore and Leverhulme, also find their place, along with Thomas Wilson, Archie Chisholm, the Lodge staff and the local children. Land reform, fish hatcheries, and rivalry for shipping trade also feature.

Finsbay Lodge,

HAR R IS

life and fishing on a hebridean isle Michael L. G. Gardner

£15.99

Michael L. G. Gardner

This book is certain to appeal to a wide variety of readers and is an invaluable contribution to the history of Harris and, indeed, Scotland. It will interest in equal measure devotees of Scottish island life, students of social history, and enthusiasts of the art of angling for wild fish.

t he History of

Between ancient Roneval and the sheltered Loch Finsbay There lay a fugitive mystery, the fine old Lodge of Finsbay.

Finsbay Lodge  

Finsbay Lodge Book