Each house consists of a 'but and a ben', with occasionally a small apartment between. The magistrates designed to have made the houses of two storeys, but the fishers refused to live up stairs, and they also refused to have any other than an earthen floor in their houses. In both of these, though there may have been some superstition and a good deal of prejudice, there was also some reason,—for it would have been next to impossible for them to have kept a wooden floor clean, while an earthen one, if not clean, at any rate does not show the dirt so much, and it would have been very inconvenient for them to lug their long lines and their heavy baskets up stairs. On the whole, their houses are, generally speaking, as clean and comfortable as the nature of their occupation will admit of.
From the circumstance of some of these fishers
being employed as pilots, and from their immediate connection with the
harbour, and constant intercourse with the inhabitants of Aberdeen, there
is in them a greater degree of civilization than is observable in most
of the other fishing communities. At the same time, their double employment
as fishers and pilots is by no means favourable to their religious, moral,
and domestic habits. The unavoidable want of regularity in their hours,
the general practice of giving allowances in drink for any particular
service, and their custom of dividing the pilotage money among the boat's
crews generally on Saturday evening, all tend to lead them to the public
house, where sometimes a large portion of their earnings is spent. Yet
drunkenness, though prevalent among them, is by no means universal.
They seldom marry with persons not of their own community, except in a few instances where the daughters of fishers have married with seamen and ship-carpenters. This may arise not so much from any dislike to form connections out of their own craft, as from the fact that, on the one hand, a fisherman would find a woman of any other class wholly incapable of giving him any assistance in this occupation, and unable to perform the hard work devolving on the fisherwomen; and, on the other hand, a fisher-woman, from the irregularity of her occupation, and want of leisure and opportunity to attend to her daughters, unless when they follow her in her fishing employments, cannot educate them so as to be useful wives to persons of any other class. A free school was established some years ago by Mr John Davidson, goldsmith, exclusively for the white-fishers, and it has been the means of doing a great deal of good among them. It is taught on the plan of the 'sessional' school, and its effects are manifest in the decided and progressive improvement of the manners and habits of the fishers. The children who attend the school re-act on their parents, and, as it were, shame them out of their indifference to useful knowledge and habits.
The fishers are, generally speaking, a long-lived people and very healthy, and, notwithstanding the dangerous nature of their occupation, there are few accidents of serious consequence among them. Occasionally considerable quantities of shrimps are caught in pools left by the tide on the sands; and the fishermen who reside in Futtie use as bait great quantities of sand-eels, which they collect by turning over the sand after the tide has receded.
most other fishermen, they have a good many superstitious ideas and practices,
and they have implicit faith in many traditions, and in various omens.
Thus they reckon it very offensive for any one to count a boat's crew,
or a company of them returning from market, and it is not less so to tell
how many fish they have caught. If a fisher be turned back when he is
going out to fish, he will on no account go out that day, and is very
much provoked. Often, too, things, which any one but they would esteem
mere trifles, cannot be spoken of without interfering with some omen,
whose influence they would hold it sinful to doubt. It is at the same
time to be noticed, that the Fishers of Futtie have less superstitions
than those that live in the fishing-villages along the coast, both to
the north and south, where they live almost entirely secluded from intercourse
with the inland agricultural population.