Of course the rocks themselves were worthless - but the seaweed worth its weight in gold.
The argument cent red around - whether or not you could walk to the rocks at low tide from the shore.
It was said that you could walk there at low tide from the shore - then the rocks would be deemed to belong to Uist - but if not then they would be deemed as belonging to Harris
Seaweed - Collecting and Drying Process - Burning
The seaweed was gathered and laid out to dry before being burned in a kelp kiln. The kilns were round, stone lined, pits measuring approximately 1.5 metres in diameter and 0.5 metres in depth.
Burning the Seaweed
Once a good fire was burning in the pit the seaweed was added.
The fire was left to burn for up to 8 hours with seaweed continually being added, resulting in the formation of kelp, a dark blue oily substance.This substance would then be left to cool for several weeks
Throughout the period of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries the kelp industry reached its height, with the local landowners making vast profits, while the crofters who did the back breaking labour saw little benefit, and in fact spent so much of the summer involved in the kelp industry that their crofts suffered
Seaweed Normally Used as Fertiliser - Crops Suffer
The trouble was - the weed which would normally have been used for fertiliser for the land but was used instead for the burning for the kelp industry - meant that the crops suffered.
Land Now Couldn't Support the People
The people settled on the land - that by now couldn't really support them. Rents were decided by how much of a shoreline there was and not by how much actual land there was.
This meant that however much the people earned from the kelp - they couldn't win as their rents were raised.
Ultimately - whilst the kelp industry did bring money to the Islands - not much of it actually stayed in the locals purses. Cutting the weed was really heavy work - up to your knees in seaweed and the burning of the seaweed really was a dirty job. The smoke from the burning was bitter and many islanders were to loose their eyesight.
Repeal of Salt Act Adversely Affects the Kelp Industry - Minerals Available from Abroad Again
It was actually the repeal of salt and other Acts that brought the kelp industry down.Once the Battle of Waterloo was over in 1815 - foreign sources for minerals once again became readily available and the government removed the taxes from imported minerals - and the kelp industry collapsed
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|Inches and cm sizes are approximate|