Stop it! at least between Saturday and Monday…

The Legal Genealogist freely confesses.

I am definitely a law geek.

I could spend hours reading old law books, court cases and — yes — even legal dictionaries.

Because you never know what you’re going to find.

Take this morning as one example.

It’s a busy time of year for everyone, and I decided to pop into Black’s Law Dictionary to see if there was a good word for an alphabet soup blog post. We’re up to the letter S for the year 2019, and…

2019 letter S

An hour later, I’m knee-deep in history lessons.

Did you know about something called Saturday’s stop? In “old English law,” it was a “space of time from even-song on Saturday till sun-rising on Monday, in which it was not lawful to take salmon in Scotland and the northern parts of England.”1

Now there’s no explanation in the dictionary for why that was imposed, so of course you have to head over to a book service like Google Books and toss the term in to see what you get.

Up pops a two-volume set of 1841 books called Medii Aevi Kalendarium: Or, Dates, Charters, and Customs of the Middle Ages, by R.T. Hampson.2 No, it doesn’t fully explain Saturday’s stop, either… but oh my… what a rabbit hole of history it provides. Wanna know about “scamblyng dayes”? “The … Mondays and Saturdays in Lent, when no regular meals were provided and the members of our great families scambled.”3

Which of course means we need to find out what it means to scamble: “to struggle with others for largess thrown to a crowd broadly : to struggle greedily and indecorously for something : to get on somehow : stumble along.”4

That doesn’t help with Saturday’s stop, so it’s back to Google Books and Henry Youle Hind’s The Effect of the Fishery Clauses of the Treaty of Washington on the Fisheries and Fishermen of British North America.5 In the introduction, Hind says: “The ‘Saturday’s Stop’ was considered so important in England, Ireland and Scotland, that imperial enactments, involving the severest penalties, were the law of the Land.” He then quoted a 1656 volume that said a fisherman was “only to fish upon pain, not only of forfeiture and fines, but Death … yet must be keep the Saturday’s Stop … from Saturday in the afternoon until Monday…”6

Okay… why?

Back to the books, and there’s a volume by John Rankine about the law of land ownership in Scotland, published in 1884. It includes a reference to a 1477 statute by the Scottish Parliament imposing this limit, which by inference explains its nature: it’s included in a much later statute — the 1828 “Act for the Preservation of the Salmon Fisheries in Scotland.”7

And that’s confirmed by David Brewster’s The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia: “The importance of the salmon fishery to Scotland, induced the legislature, at an early period of our history, to enact various statutes, for the preservation and multiplication of the breed, and for prohibiting all kinds of apparatus in their capture, which might tend to a diminution of their numbers.”8

So the reason to stop fishing between Saturday and Monday was to protect the salmon industry… to preserve the numbers of fish… because it was so important to the Scottish economy.

The things you learn when you dive into the law books…


Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Just stop it,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 4 Dec 2019).

SOURCES

  1. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 1063, “Saturday’s stop.”
  2. R.T. Hampson, Medii Aevi Kalendarium: Or, Dates, Charters, and Customs of the Middle Ages, 2 vols. (London: Henry Kent Causton & Co., 1841); digital images, Google Books (https://books.google.com/ : accessed 4 Dec 2019).
  3. Ibid., “Glossary,” at II: 350-351.
  4. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (https://www.merriam-webster.com/ : accessed 4 Dec 2019), “scamble.”
  5. Henry Youle Hind, The Effect of the Fishery Clauses of the Treaty of Washington on the Fisheries and Fishermen of British North America (Halifax, N.S. : Charles Annand, 1877); digital images, Google Books (https://books.google.com/ : accessed 4 Dec 2019).
  6. Ibid., “Introductory Sketch,” at xvii-xviii.
  7. John Rankine, The Law of Land-ownership in Scotland: A Treatise on the Rights and Burdens Incident to the Ownership of Lands and Other Heritages in Scotland (Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons, 1884), 765; digital images, Google Books (https://books.google.com/ : accessed 4 Dec 2019).
  8. “Fisheries,” in David Brewster, compiler, The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia (Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons, 1830), 9: 364; digital images, Google Books (https://books.google.com/ : accessed 4 Dec 2019).
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