Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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CRAN, Crane, n.2 and v.2 [krɑn]

1. n. A measure of capacity for fresh herrings before cleaning, fixed by the Fishery Board at 37½ Imperial Gallons, roughly the contents of four baskets or, more precisely, one barrel. Gen.Sc. Now in gen. use also in Eng. Sc. 1930  P. F. Anson Fishing Boats 18:
On coming alongside, the fish are gathered up by special wooden shovels, or handscoops, and unloaded in a round basket, supposed to hold a quarter of a “cran.”
w.Lth. 1845  Stat. Acc.2 II. 7:
The curers seldom purchased at a higher price than 7s. a cran or barrel.
w.Islands 1795  Stat. Acc.1 XIX. 282:
They both fished, and bought the herring fresh from the country people, at the great price of from 9s. to 12s. per crane (which is the full of a barrel of green fish as taken out of the net).

2. v. Of herrings: to measure out by baskets; to check the number of basketfuls. Hence cranner, one who does this. Sh. 1935  in Manchester Guardian Weekly (27 Sept.) 1/2:
The catch is “cranned” or “measured” out in baskets.
Abd. 1947 29 :
According to my father, when he was a boy in Fraserburgh, say 50 years ago, the boys and students on holiday used to cran for the different fish-curers, i.e. act as tallymen and count the baskets of herring as they were unloaded, their count acting as a check on that of the fishermen. Persons employed on this task were known as cranners.

[From Gael. crann, a tree, a lot, a share, a measure of herring, phs. referring to the custom of dividing the catch by drawing lots (see Cavel, n.1 (1)). In 1772, T. Pennant in Tour in Scot. mentions the use of a barrel as a measure for herrings. The first mention of the word crane appears to be in Stat. Acc.1 (see quot. above). At this time, the cran was “a common herring barrel with both ends taken out,” of 35–36 gall. Eng. Wine measure (Mr R. Muir, letter to Fishery Board, 14th Dec. 1815). Jam. (1808) gives crane = “as many herrings, not salted, as fill a barrel.” In 1816, the Fisheries Commissioners fixed the dimensions of the cran, so that it would have a capacity of 42 Old Eng. Wine gallons. In 1832, the dimensions were changed to give a capacity of 45 Old Eng. Wine gallons. In 1852, the measure was ordered to be given in Imperial Gallons, and thus it remains (Letter from Fishery Board).]

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"Cran n.2, v.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 Mar 2018 <>



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