Aberdaron Fishermen

A radio interview with the fishermen of Aberdaron.

Broadcast Saturday 29th of June 1946.

Well here we are in Aberdaron, the furthest corner of the earth, according to some folk, itís pretty little village nestling at the foot of the hills in a valley on the seashore, totally unspoilt even though it caters for many holidaymakers during the summer months.

The sea is calm and itís hard to believe that it could turn stormy causing havoc with the boats and the fishing pots, being broken and lost and of course keeping the inhabitants of Bardsey imprisoned for many days and weeks during the winter, and occasionally at other times too. Tonight weíre in the Aberdaron fishermenís hut. Some of the fishermen are preparing to go out tonight to their lobster pots.

Are you about to set off Tomos Glyn?

T. Glyn: Well yes, if we could finish getting these lobster pots ready, the tide took some of our pots last night.

T.O.W: These are good pots, who made them?

H. Parri: We all have a hand in making them, and we work together.

T.O.W: Oh right, so itís the round ones you make every time.

E. Griffith: Yes, some fishermen like the Bardsey men use the ones we call the ĎFrenchmenísí pots.

T.O.W: What type of pots are they then, do they differ a lot from these ones?

E. Griffith: They are long and barrel shaped, with holes in the end, similar to rat traps, they are made out of canes with lighter cane or wire woven around them. Some Breton fishermen came fishing in the bay some fifteen to twenty years ago, and we started chatting with them, they werenít having much luck and couldnít understand how we were catching lobsters until they saw our pots, then they used ones similar to ours.

T.O.W: Hang on Iíve just noticed you have different types of pots, strong round ones with a closer tight weave to them and the hole, which is the trap is at the top, if I sat on it, it would be none the worse itís so strong. Thereís a difference to the ones the Amlwch fishermen make isnít there?

E. Griffith: They make pots with a looser weave there and they are bigger, the canes they use are greener (younger). Holyhead, Llandudno and other places around the coast use the oblong ones, similar to rattraps.

T.O.W: Is yours a traditional type or do you have a special reason for making lobster pots like these?

E. Griffith: The reason we make large strong pots like these is that no other type would do in the strong tides, because we put them down where the tide is around four to six miles an hour.

T.O.W: So you donít put your pots down by the rocks then?

E Griffith: No we put them out at sea away from the coastline.

T.O.W: What type of cane do you use Tomos Glyn?

T. Glyn: Two year old grey willow.

T.O.W:  Where do you get them? Are there plenty to be found locally?

T. Glyn: No, thatís the trouble, we have to go as far as Borth and Rhosfawr to cut them as there are none closer to home, of course it means quite a lot of work for us, cutting for two or three days, then hiring a lorry to bring them home.

T.O.W: Do you have a special way to process them Evan Williams, are you an old hand at this kind of thing?

E. Williams: We cut them as soon as the leaves have fallen and then bring them home to mature in a damp place for about three months before we touch them.

T.O.W: Do you leave them to mature where they are cut as they do with some sorts of wood?

E. Williams: No, we just make sure the bundles of wood are kept from drying out too much before we use them, if they dry out too much theyíll split and then itís Goodbye Wales to making anything out of them.

T.O.W: I suppose you have to wet them and prepare them before you can weave and make them into pots?

E. Williams: No not at all, we start using them from January onwards, as we need them for the job.

T.O W: Which type of canes do you use?

E. Williams: Grey willow.

T.O.W: Thereís a reddish tint to this lobster pot, how did you get that colour and why change the colour of the cane?

E. Williams: After weíve finished making the pots we put them out in the sun for a couple of weeks and the colour changes to this reddish brown.

T.O.W: Well, what are your reasons for doing that then?

E. Williams: Well if you donít put a pot down thatís the same colour as the seaweed and the rocks then you wonít catch any lobsters.

T.O.W: I reckon that the canes that support the weave for the pots is three years old, comparing them to the rest.

E. Williams, Yes they are, they are stronger and youíve got to have a good frame.

T.O.W: Why do you weave the frames round the pot so close together, yours are much closer than on the Amlwch pots.

T. Glyn; You must remember that the lobster is a very nosey creature, they donít go into the pot for the bait, they go in to see what it is and whatís in there.

T.O.W: You wonít get many in this pot.

T. Glyn: Youíd be surprised you can get any number from one to eight every time, and sometimes youíll get one thatís been killed.

T.O.W: Killed? Dear me, by what?

T. Glyn: Oh another lobster, if two lobsters get into a fight in the pot one is sure to loose heart and the killer escapes the pot and youíll never catch him.

T.O.W: Is that a characteristic of all killers after the fight. When you get the pots up and have a poor catch or are waiting to send them away what do you do with the lobsters then?

T. Glyn: We keep them in the Ďkeep potí... wait a minute Huw, thereís one yes get it out....  you see the difference.

T.O.W: Well Iíve noticed that this is much larger than the others, why is it woven so close and so very tight at the top Huw Parri?

H. Parri: Well this is a keep pot and when you think that a large number of lobsters are kept for days in it, naturally struggling to get out, the pots are down quite deep, you need three ropes to tie them on the surface apart from the ropes that anchor them to the seabed to keep them stable in the tides, and you need the strength to keep the top on it, as on this keep pot as compared to the ordinary pots.

T.O.W: Well, William Evans, what sort of pots do you make and use out there in Bardsey?

W. Evans: Well, the same as these, round two year old grey willow and sometimes we use hazel for the ribs, as we in Bardsey have to put our pots down in the deep in the same way as the lads from the mainland do, we also use the ĎFrenchmenís pots by the rocks, more so for crabs rather than lobsters. Fishing conditions are the same for us as they are for the lads from the mainland.

T.O.W: So do you grow canes on Bardsey then?

W. Evans: No, not any more. When the farms and houses on Bardsey were full there were about twelve plantations around the stream that runs across the island, and plenty of cane for everyone, but theyíre run down now, nobody looks after them, so theyíve grown too big and of no use to anyone, thereís nothing to be done but to get them from the lads on the mainland.

T.O.W: How many of you make pots and fish on the island now?

W. Evans: All of us can make our own pots, but there are only four of us that fish on a regular basis, we have to make sure our pots are strong enough to withstand the current.

T.O.W: How do you get on up there at Borth, Huw Williams?

H. Williams: Naturally we have the same pots, but as we put our pots down in the north towards Whistling Sands, we loose a lot of pots there. The tides are different there, itís on the ebbing tide that we loose pots, but here itís on the incoming tide that they loose pots, they get thrown against the rocks and smashed to bits.

T.O.W: Youíd argue for having strong pots then, as do these four partners.

H. Williams: Oh yes, and stronger if possible, trouble is three year old willow gets too hard and inflexible to use.

T.O.W: Well donít you think it would be beneficial for all of you who make a living out of making lobster pots and fishing to have a Willow Plantation, for your own use, say you had four or five acres of land and planted the trees and tended them during the year as an alternative use of the land, it would be really useful and far better for you.

H. Williams: Oh yes it would be very beneficial, but where would we get the land.

E. Griffith: You need wet lands for growing canes, much wetter than anything we have around here.

T.O.W: Not necessarily. You need damp conditions naturally, some folk believe you need water around the roots of the trees because they mostly grow on river banks.

T. Glyn: Well say we were keen to get a suitable place and get on with it, is it possible to get help to buy the land and then proper guidance as to how to care for a plantation.

T.O.W: That depends on you to some degree, if you could expand the business employing more men from the area in fishing, and thereís no shortage of fish here is there.

E. Griffith: Plenty of fish, but thereís a lack of boats, pots and a market for the fish, at present we sell them locally in Pwllheli, but we could expand. Itís a tidy living.

T.O.W: Well I can assure you that thereís help to be had with how to set up and look after a willow plantation and how to make the best and most economical use of the willow and also help with marketing if needs be. It wouldnít be too difficult to make an application for you to get more practical help.

Iím sure you catch other types of fish too.

H. Parri: Oh yes with the lobsters we get crayfish and crabs, and sometimes youíll see some strange things in the pots. We catch mackerel and herring by the thousands on the way home from the lobster pots.

T.O.W: Weíre very familiar with the term Nefyn Herrings, but thereís not much mention of Aberdaron herring. Well how about it then why not have some Canning Factories on the Llyn Peninsula such as they have in Milford Haven and Fleetwood and that way you could help more people find employment keeping them here in Llyn instead of them leaving to find work in other areas. It could be the start of a whole new industry based on one that is traditional to Llyn and itís inhabitants. Youíve got a good nucleus here and an opportunity to get it off to a good start.

T. Glyn: Well I can talk for all of us and say that we are all very willing to get together and conform with any project thatíll help us add to the food stocks of this country.

T.O.W: Well, itís worthwhile thinking about then.............

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Many thanks to Mr R G Jones, for the original.

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