No. 361.
Mr. Bell to Mr. Bayard.

No. 160.]

Sir: Referring to my No. 150 of the 10th ultimo, in which I reported the opening in this city of an international conference for the purpose of establishing order among the fishermen of the North Sea by putting an end to the abuses growing out of the traffic in spirituous liquors, I have now the honor to inclose herewith, for the information of the Department, three copie sin the Dutch text of the law of June 15, 1883, promulgating the treaty in the French text of May 6, 1882, between Belgium, France, Denmark, Germany, and Great Britain and the Netherlands on the question of the fishing-police in the North Sea, and also three copies in the French text of the Procès-Verbaux of the International Conference held at the Hague June 10 to 25, 1886.

Your attention is especially invited to the particulars communicated to the conference by the British delegates.

To the extract from a report on the North Sea fisheries, presented by Admiral Gordon-Douglas and Mr. Malan to the British Admiralty in November, 1884, a copy of which is inclosed herewith, and the original of which may be found printed on pages 23, 24, Annexe II, Procès-Verbaux.
To the cases of “floating grog-shops in the North Sea,” referred to in Annexe III, on page 12–15, Procès-Verbaux, a copy of which is also inclosed herewith.
To the annexe found on page 74, a copy of which is also inclosed, marked No. 5, containing the particulars respecting the quantity of spirits and tobacco to be taken on board a smack which was about to start for the North Sea.

It is understood that the representations made to this Government as well as to the other powers parties to the treaty of 1882, respecting the cases of disorder and scenes of dissipation which have arisen in connection with the liquor traffic amongst the vessels of the North Sea fisheries, fully confirmed the particulars and circumstances presented by the British delegate.

It appears that evils arising therefrom had become so widespread as to reach the homes of those who were dependent upon the fishermen for their support.

At all events the circumstances left no room to doubt that immediate remedies were imperatively demanded.

The Netherlands Government having taken the initiative the conference was convened at this capital.

By reference to the proceedings it will be observed that several interesting questions were discussed, amongst others, that respecting the [Page 753] right of visit and surveillance (fourth session, June 17, page 39–47, Proces-Verbaux).

It will be seen that after a full exchange of views upon that subject, the delegates agreed to adopt the principle that the supervision or surveillance should be exercised in accordance with the provisions of Article 26 of the convention of May 6, 1882, with a number of designated cruisers, the names of which must be communicated to the contracting powers.

It will also be seen that it was agreed that the intervention of the cruisers should be regulated conformably to the provisions of the convention of Paris of March 14, 1884, for the protection of submarine cables (page 47).

By reference to the proceedings of the third session, June 12, 1886, page 28–38, it will be seen that the questions relating to the modification of the customs laws of the several states were also the subject of discussion.

The exceptional position of the ports of Bremen and Hamburg was referred to by the German delegate to show that it would not be possible for Germany to introduce legislative measures contrary to the provisions of the German constitution guaranteeing freedom to those ports.

It is thought that the measures agreed upon by this conference, if finally adopted by the several Governments parties thereto, will prove efficacious in improving the condition of the fishermen.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 160.]

Extract from report on the North Sea fisheries, by Admiral Gordon-Douglas and Mr. Malan, dated November, 1884, presented to the Admiralty.


In the course of our inquiries we heard frequent mention of coopers, though we found it extremely difficult to obtain any definite information as to the evil they undoubtedly work amongst fishermen and boys, especially in the trawling fleet.

The coopers, or “floating grog-shops,” chiefly hail from German and Dutch ports, and visit most parts of the North Sea where trawlers congregate. They are, as a rule, of the tonnage and rig of fishing vessels, some being registered and numbered as such, while others sail as trading vessels.

One or two English smacks have been known to he engaged in “coopering,” hut they generally end by being sold in a foreign port, and trade under a foreign flag.

The distinguishing mark of a cooper is a flag or hit of hunting on the forestay. They trade in tobacco and spirits of vile quality, in scents, and latterly in immoral and obscene cards and photographs.

A cooper seldom remains more than three days with a fishing fleet, but passes from one to another until his stock is exhausted.

The whole trade of the cooper is most immoral and degrading. Fishermen are tempted to barter their owner’s warps, nets, ropes, sails, and fish for the drink, and the boys and apprentices are demoralized by the obscene pictures and cards so freely disposed of.

The drunkenness and debauchery consequent on a visit to a cooper have often terminated fatally. We may instance the skipper of the Mizpah, of Yarmouth, who was drowned in February, 1884, and the skipper of the Columbia, of Grimsby, who was drowned or murdered in September, 1882, whilst more recently a murderous assault was made by the mate of a cooper upon a Grimsby skipper during a drunken brawl.

Undoubtedly cheap tobacco is in many cases the first cause of a visit to the cooper, and in our opinion a great blow would be struck to the trade if fishermen could obtain their tobacco elsewhere at the same price, and we would suggest that every smack, or at least the “admiral,” or say one smack in every fifty sailing in company should be allowed to have a supply of tobacco out of bond for disposal at sea.

[Page 754]

This would probably check the evil, though there is no doubt that as long as coopers infest the North Sea some fishermen will find an excuse for going on board.

As codmen do not fish in company, and herring drifters do not keep the sea for more than three days, coopers cannot trade much among them, and they are therefore almost unknown to fishermen in the north of England and Scotland.

As these coopers are not always registered as fishing vessels, the commanders of cruisers have no right under the North Sea fishery convention to board them or make any inquiries. We are, however, of opinion that they should be instructed when possible to make note of any boats dealing with coopers, that they may be reported to their owners ashore.

The coopers whose names we have been able to ascertain from fishermen are as follows, though the port of registry may not always be reliable:

Present name. Present home port. Former name. Former home port.
Diedrich Geestemünde Billow Grimsby.
Swallow Nieuwedip
Caroline Geestemünde Christabel Colchester.
Anna Helene do Earl of Garborough Grimsby.
Delphine do Majestic Hull.
Christina (or Martha) Bocklesby Skipper Do.
Merchant Nieuwedip Merchant Grimsby.
Cosmopolite Schiedam
Unknown Ems Two Sisters Do.
Kenan Ostend

[Inclosure 2 in No. 160.]

Floating grogshops in the North Sea.

It has from the nature of the circumstances involved been impracticable to obtain exact particulars regarding the larger proportion of the very numerous cases of disorder which have arisen in connection with the traffic carried on by these vessels. No one acquainted with the North Sea fisheries would however think of disputing the fact that grave and widespread evils exist. Mr. Higgins’s report, made in 1881, gave a vivid picture of the shocking occurrences to which the liquor traffic then gave rise. Subject to one qualification it may be said that there is no reason to suppose that there has since been any material alteration in the aspect of the matter. The qualification is that some mitigation of the evils is said to have been effected in particular trawling fleets with which the smacks of the “Mission to Deep-Sea Fishermen” cruise, through the moral influence of the presence of the mission smacks, which are in reality floating churches and hospitals. But this mission is a voluntary agency, dependent for funds on the gifts of charitable persons, with consequently no guarantee for the maintenance and extension of its work.

In a letter to the Times newspaper, dated April of this year, the director of the above mission gave the subjoined extract from a communication then just received by him from the Great Grimsby Ice Company, which is of interest as an illustration of the surroundings of the question of the floating grog-shops. The “Edward Auriol” here mentioned is one of the mission smacks.

“We are informed that the ‘Edward Auriol’ left our fleet on the 26th March, and there has not been a mission vessel near them since. There is a cooper in the fleet now, and is doing a very great deal of harm. A lot of the men went on board for tobacco, and instead of getting the latter they got that infernal drink. The men got wild with drink, and many of them did not get on board their own vessels, and some of them have come in and left the vessels at the fleet undermanned. This state of affairs is terrible.”

Since 1881 the board of trade have continued to receive the same class of representations in general terms regarding the evils of this traffic as they did previously to Mr. Higgins’s inquiry. Shortly before the departure of the British delegates from England a petition was received from owners, masters, and crews of fishing-smacks, praying for the prohibition of the traffic, and stating their belief “that by the abolition of this abominable traffic great blessings will be conferred not only on the men who man the trawling smacks and on their wives, children, and relations, but on the owners of the smacks and on the property afloat in them.” To this petition one thousand four hundred signatures were attached, and there is little doubt that had time allowed the number of signatures could have been enormously increased.

The following are particulars regarding certain cases of liquor traffic, the circumstances of which have come within the special cognizance of the British Government:

[Page 755]

“mizpah,” of yarmouth.

This English smack was one of a fleet engaged in fishing during February, 1884, when they were joined by a floating grog-shop named the “Swallow,” said to be under the Netherlands flag. Drink was obtained from the “Swallow,” and a carouse took place in the cabin of the Mizpah. Her master then went on deck and fell overboard, being intoxicated. Owing to the drunkenness prevailing on the Mizpah the maneuvers requisite for saving the master were not executed, and the unhappy man was drowned under the eyes of his crew. The mate of the Mizpah was prosecuted and convicted for having failed to take the necessary steps for saving the life of the master.

disorders off terschelling.

In consequence of a report made to them as to injury sustained by the mate of the fishing-smack Holmesdale, of Great Yarmouth, in May, 1884, the board of trade instituted an investigation. This was conducted by the mayor of Yarmouth, the collector of customs at Yarmouth, and a barrister acting as their legal assistant.

It was elicited that on Sunday, the 11th May, 1884, some one hundred and thirty British fishing-smacks, forming the Columbia fleet, were off Terschelling. They were accompanied by a steamer for carrying fish home when taken by the smacks. Three floating grog-shops, said to be Netherland vessels, were also with the fleet, and were selling spirits and tobacco to the smack men during the day.

The Holmesdale, a fishing-smack of Yarmouth, with a crew of six hands, was one of the fleet. About 9 a.m. her master, fourth hand, and deck hand, left her, taking with them the fish caught over night, and proceeded to the Edith and Mary, a smack lying near. The master boarded the Edith and Mary and sent on his small boat with the fish to the steamer. On leaving the steamer the two men from the Holmesdale went to a grog-shop, from which they bought three bottles of aniseed cordial, an intoxicating liquor, and conveyed it to their own vessel, where they commenced drinking.

The master of the Holmesdale returned to her in about two hours. He was seemingly aware of what was going on, but though he took no share in the drinking he made no effort to check it. After a time he returned to the Edith and Mary, taking with him his deck hand, and these two men stayed on board that vessel until late in the evening.

Drinking continued on board the Holmesdale all day, more aniseed cordial being from time to time obtained from the grog-shop. Other liquor was brought from a smack called the Robert and John, which came alongside the Holmesdale, and a general drinking bout ensued among men of both crews. Late in the afternoon the master of another smack, the Robert and Susannah, joined them. During the day there was much drunkenness on board the Holmesdale, which received visitors from some smacks besides those already named.

About three in the afternoon the admiral of the fleet signaled for all vessels to run west. The Holmesdale lagged behind, and her master consequently had difficulty in rejoining her. He reached her about 9 p.m., and found only members of her own crew on board, but was informed that just before two men from other smacks had left her the worse for liquor. At this time Jonah George, second hand of the Holmesdale, was lying at the tiller in a tipsy state. The master desired him to leave the tiller; George refused, and was pushed away. He then became quarrelsome. A sort of scuffle ensued, and he fell twice, on the second occasion dislocating his shoulder and injuring his face. This necessitated his being sent back to Yarmouth by the attending steamer for medical treatment.

As a result of the investigation Jonah George, second hand of the Holmesdale, Alfred Charles Teck, master of the Robert and Susannah, and Frederick Powles, second hand of the Robert and John, were found to have been guilty of gross misconduct and drunkenness. Their certificates were consequently suspended for periods of two and three months.

The gentlemen who conducted the investigation animadverted thoroughly on the conduct of the master of the Holmesdale, and regretted having been unable to punish him, it having been necessary, in the interest of justice, to call him as a witness. In concluding their report on the matter they observed, “The present case offers one more example of the great evils which are done to the fishing interests of the country by the system of cooperage, and we are of opinion that some immediate remedies are imperatively demanded.”

case of the “anne-helene,” of geestemünde.

On the 19th August, 1884, the masters of four English smacks from Grimsby, when about 30 miles from the Danish coast, went on board a floating grog-shop known familiarly among the fishing-fleets as the “Green” owing to her color. They met other English fishermen on board, and had some liquor. Afterwards a dispute arose between one of the Englishmen named William Bashcomb and the mate of the grogshop, [Page 756] in respect of some fish which were on hoard, and some violence resulted. A brother of Bashcomb being present took part with his relative and received two stabs with a knife from the mate of the grog-shop. The mate then jumped below and was seen no more, but the master of the vessel appeared in the companion with a revolver. When the latter perceived that one of the Bashcombs was seriously hurt, he rendered what assistance he could, and the wounded man was transferred to one of the smacks and brought home for treatment. He eventually recovered.

The German Government instituted proceedings against the mate of the grog-shop, this vessel proving to be the Anna-Helene of Geestemünde.

The tribunals however acquitted the man, it being considered that the accused had acted in self defense, and had not exceeded the limits thereof.

“flying scud,” of yarmouth.

This trawler left Yarmouth on an eight weeks’ fishing voyage near the end of July, 1884, and was duly provisioned at starting. Her usual master was prevented from going with her, but joined her at sea some three weeks later. In the interval she was commanded temporarily by another certificated master, who, shortly after reaching the fishing-ground, sent word home that she was four pieces of beef short in her provisioning, and asked that this alleged deficiency should be made good. The owner’s suspicions were aroused, and he directed the actual master on his going out for the purpose of taking command to “see after” the beef. The latter neglected to make a personal investigation, and trusting to the mate’s version, reported the beef to be six pieces short. The other master on giving up command returned to port and received his pay without any special remark.

When the Flying Scud came back to Yarmouth it transpired that during the command of the man first temporarily employed as master, and under his orders, beef, biscuit, and salt from her provisions were given in exchange for liquor and tobacco, to a floating grog-shop to which several visits were paid, The nationality of the grogshop is not known. During the period in question the man who was acting as master appears to have been drunk at least twice, and on one occasion to have broken a bottle of grog over the cook’s head.

cases of the “diedrich” and the “anna.”

The circumstances under which these two floating grog-shops, which are German vessels, were plundered by English fishermen in the North Sea in the year 1884, are too notorious to call for exact recital at this moment. Whilst it will be remembered that sentences of imprisonment were passed by the English court on several English fishermen, it seems proper to point out that the men concerned in the matter of the Diedrich were the worse for liquor, which they had obtained on board her in the ordinary course of her traffic.

It further appears from a report of the commanding officer of the British cruiser Rose, that in about a month after the plunder of the Diedrich she was again the nucleus of a scene of dissipation and misconduct amongst fishing-smacks in the North Sea.

[Inclosure 3 in No. 160.]


The British delegates have to-day (24 June) received from Hamburg the following particulars respecting the quantity of spirits and tobacco to be taken on board a smack named the Delphin, which is shortly to start for a trip in the North Sea:

Articles. Quantity taken on board. Price at sea.
Dutch shag tobacco pounds 2,000 1s. 6d. per pound.
Chewing tobacco boxes 15 2s. per pound.
Rum bottles 200 1s. 6d. per bottle.
Grog essence do 50 2s. per bottle.
Double caraway brandy do 100 Do.
Raspberry liquor do 50 Do.
Cherry liquor do 12 Do.
Dutch gin do 250 1s. 3d. per bottle.
Peppermint liquor do 80 2s. per bottle.
Annisette (large and small) do 100 2s. and 1s.6d.per bottle.
Dantzig (large and small) Goldwasser do 100 Do.
Cigars 3,000 Various prices.
A quantity of pipes
[Page 757]

They learn from the same source that the price at which the above liquor is sold to fishermen is two shillings per bottle, and that it can be bought at Hamburg for five-pence per bottle. They further learn that this particular smack during last season, from April to October, accomplished eight trips, extending as far as the coast of Scotland.