- Transcribed by Barb Baker Barb Baker
- Edition: July 21, 1888 July 21, 1888
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR.
A PLEA FOR THE PEOPLE CALLED POACHERS.
Sir, - There seems to have been an unusual commotion during the last week or two amongst the lovers of salmon; that is to say between the licensed salmon caters, who catch the fish for sport and eat it for fashion, and the unlicensed wretches who catch the salmon and sell them to supplement their scanty earnings, or eat them to satisfy the cravings of their hungry stomachs.
There is a pretty large class of people who seem to think that salmon, and most other dainty things, were provided by the Almighty simply to tempt their delicate appetites; and as they look upon it as an awful sacrilege for a poor man to be in possession of one of these salmon, they have been making it pretty lively for the great unwashed and unlicensed. These latter imagine poor simpletons, that they have as much right to and can enjoy a piece of salmon as well as the next one; and some of them even go so far as to uphold that horrible and wicked heresy that salmon was made for them as well as for the small number of washed and licensed, although they have no proof of it, except their own empty pockets and hungry stomachs which of course in an enlightened country with ten thousand foreign missionaries count for nothing.
Now, with all due deferance to you my respected licensed salmon eaters, I beg to say that every fish that swims in river or sea from a whale to a minnow, is as much the property of Jack Smith and Bill Brown, if they can catch them, as they are of my Lord Lylow, or the Hon. Fitzgerald Frummefty, or any other of the dear boys who kindly act as pillars of state to bolster up our free and glorious empire.
And this opinion I am ready to uphold in the face of any and all, washed or unwashed, licensed or no. And furthermore I maintain that in holding this opinion I have on my side reason, justice, and the laws of God, and I defy anyone to prove the contrary. Nay, I will go a step farther still, and say that if there is to be any favouritism in the matter, surely it ought to lean in the direction of the poor wretch to whom a salmon means a day's food for himself and family, rather than to the man of means who simply takes his salmon and fennel sauce to tempt his poor appetite.
I suppose Mr. Editor, that after giving expression to such sentiments as these, I shall be accused of having a slight leaning towards Radicalism. Well, if Radicalism means a firm belief in the doctrine that every man, woman and child, has a natural right to an equal share of God's common gifts, then am I a Radical indeed. And I take it that fish of all sorts, salmon included, is as much a common gift of God as the air we breathe, and I challenge anyone to prove the contrary of this. The only right that any person has to prevent me catching fish in the river Derwent, is the old-fashioned right of might, and I was under the impression that this right was not recognised by the laws of England.
I may say that I don't care for fish myself, if I did I should certainly have them out of the Derwent that being the handiest place, and I should not trouble myself about a license either, for I have as much right to those Derwent fish as any man breathing. I did one morning take it into my head to have a little salmon trout for breakfast, and going down to a part of the stream where salmon most do congregate; and being like Eugene Aram without any other weapon, I "blocked" two of them with a jagged stone and carried them home in a newspaper.
Passing along the rivers' brink I saw three "licensed" fishers (save the mark !) catching salmon with a net, and I watched them till they had caught two cartloads ! Talk about depopulating the river ! Why did not the enthusiastic licensed salmon catchers stop this wholesale slaughter ?
Will anyone outside Bedlam tell me seriously that I had not as much right to my two fish as these three men had to their two cart loads ? Answer me that, ye selfish dog-in-the-manger licensed catchers. Who gave any one man a monopoly of the river, and by what right does he maintain it ? Do you say we have spent money over building weirs and so forth ? Well, who asked you to do it ? Have you not done it for your own selfish ends ?
Take away your weirs and gates, your river watchers, and other pieces of humbug, and the salmon will come up the river even as they did a thousand years before you and your weirs came into existence. Do this that the poor man may be able to eat and live, and perhaps earn a livelihood by selling to those who prefer and cant afford to pay for others to catch their share of salmon.
I remain, sir, yours &c.,
[ This letter is much too long, but as fishing cases are prominent just now, we make room for it..............Ed.]