ash, a silver coin among the nets, or a " lucky stone " among the ballast, are the most favoured. A piece of ivy with nine joints placed in a secret part of the boat, and the usual horseshoe on the mast, were preferred by the old Sandside fishermen. In Morayshire, the men used to carefully salt \}i\Q first herring caught in the season, and hide it in some part of the boat to bring good luck for the rest of that season. If the talismanic article is given away or lost the luck goes too. This is why the crew of one boat often refuse to sell or give fish or any other article to the crew of another, as their luck is liable to be transferred with the gift. They will give a drink of water to those in another boat, but not a drop to be carried away. Indeed, a careful man will secretly retain a small piece of the end of a match before handing it to a man in another boat.
The " luck " is not always in the boat. It may be in the fisher- man's house. Before matches were so plentiful as now, one neighbour might be obliged to beg another for a burning peat to re-kindle his fire, but as a rule this was resented. Should any one be bold enough to go to a house and carry away a burning peat, those of the household immediately added a fresh peat to the fire, with the remark that " You may take it, but it won't do you any good," meaning, not that it would not kindle a fire, but that adding the fresh fuel to their own fire had broken the spell, and that the " luck " would remain with the original owners.
It is unlucky to count your fish as they are being caught ; it may prevent your catching more. In Sutherlandshire you must not count the boats as they are going out, nor point to them with the fore-finger when they are at sea ; but you may do so with the whole hand with impunity.
An eel in the catch is much disliked, on the ground that they believe Old Nick himself to be in it. Indeed, they seemed to dislike an eel anywhere, until they found they could get money from the Sassenach for it. A Scotchwoman, unless her ideas have become Anglicised, will not " dirty " her frying-pan with an eel, much less eat one. Some fine conger-eels are caught at Reay, but they have all to be sent to the English markets : they are not eaten locally. The fishermen here think it is because there are so like serpents.
Long ago, — so Mr. Robert Stevens, mentioned above, tells mcj — the fish forsook the shore from Reay to Thurso ; and an old