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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.

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. 1741 Essay on Improving Inland Navigation 9:
They [herrings] are sold by the Fishers by the Crane, which is the full of a Barrel, from Sixpence to Three Shillings.
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.”
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 152:
As the herring is a creature of unpredictable habits the fleet might go out for weeks and make no more than working expenses. Suddenly they found the shoals and drifter after drifter come in with a sixty- or a hundred-cran shot.
Fif. 1985 Peter Smith Lammas Drave 8:
Three boats had 5 crans each, but the general catch was from 1 - 5 crans.
Fif. 1985 Christopher Rush A Twelvemonth and a Day 17:
We got three cran that morning, the first catch of the season, and me ten years old. Twenty-three shillings apiece these crans were sold at. Each man got ten shillings and the boat got five.
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).

Comb.: crannock (< cran-heuk), one of a pair of metal hooks clipped on to the handgrips of the herring baskets in unloading the catch. Arg. 1949 N. Mitchison and D. Macintosh Men and Herring 69:
So two of them went down to the hold to fill the baskets and hook them onto the crannocks.

2. v. Of herrings: to measure out by baskets; to check the number of basketfuls. Hence cranner, one who does this.Sc. 1884 W. S. Miln Herring Fishing 15:
Many of them are engaged as "cranners," that is, to attend to the delivery of the herrings from the boats, keep correct count of the baskets emptied into the carts, and in particular to see that the baskets are properly filled, and otherwise look to the interests of the fish-curer he is in service with.
Sh. 1935 in Manchester Guardian Weekly (27 Sept.) 1/2:
The catch is “cranned” or “measured” out in baskets.
Abd.29 1947:
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 21 May 2022 <>



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