A Selkirk group campaigning to return fishing rights on the Ettrick from the Crown Estates back to the Royal Burgh, is asking Souters to help recognise anglers from photographs taken on the river in 1913.
The Haining stretch of the Ettrick Water is the last to be reclaimed in the hard-fought legal dispute. The rights are on the town side of the Ettrick and stretch 1,100 yards downstream from Murray’s Cauld.
Now Dr Lindsay Neil, vice-president of the Selkirk and District Angling Association, hopes an identification of local fishermen in the old Daily Mirror photos, or any other photographs of named Souters angling in the Ettrick between 1870 and 1910, will win back ownership for the town. Dr Neil appealed: “These are the only photographs we have found of local people fishing in the Ettrick – do you recognize anyone?”
He explained: “The story is that since 1993 the Selkirk and District Angling Association (S&DAA) has been checking and contesting the claim of the Crown Estates who said, in 1910, that they owned all the salmon fishing rights on the Ettrick from Murray’s Cauld to Bridgeheugh.
“The S&DAA have been paying fishing charges since 1914, when an annual lease was signed for £5 pa. This was just after WWI started, when it was not worth arguing further against the Crown’s claims because of the war and the small sum involved.
“By 2004, that charge had risen to £4,700, and by sheer chance in 2004 documents were found in an Edinburgh sale, and in a Glasgow lawyer’s cellar, that proved the Crown wrong. We also had the old Selkirk charters going back to 1129 mentioning the townspeople fishing the King’s Waters The fishings at Philiphaugh and the Town Water were then handed back by the Crown in 2006, except for a small stretch which had belonged to the Haining Barony – now the Haining Charitable Trust – for which the Crown still claimed and now charges £500 plus VAT.
“We have since discovered that the Crown Estate doesn’t own that fishing stretch either, but owing to a legal quirk, we have to prove that folk were fishing that part of the Ettrick between 1870 and 1910.
“So if anyone recognises anyone in these photos or has knowledge of a relative or friend who did fish in the Ettrick above the bridge, that is all it will take to confirm prescription – that is, ownership of the Haining fishing rights.
“An old photograph would be gold dust. The S&DAA will then be able to pay the leasing charge to the Haining Trust who will have been proved to be the rightful owners instead of the money being lost to the area. Although the photos are grainy, it should be possible to recognize someone and sign a letter to the effect that that person, or someone known to you from family history, fished for salmon in the Ettrick on the Selkirk side just below Murray’s Cauld.
“The Haining Trust will be able to put the money to good local use and therefore the people of Selkirkshire, not just Selkirk, will benefit.”
If you can assist Dr Neil in his campaign, you can contact him at 46 Hillside Terrace, Selkirk TD7 4ND, or firstname.lastname@example.org