Neibāde or Liepupe?

In the early 20th century there were several ports on Kurzeme coast: in Pape, Mērsrags and Roja, however there were none on Vidzeme coast. It was therefore clear that there should also be a port on Vidzeme coast. The only issue was where to build it. In 1911, the Ministry of Trade and Industry decided to investigate Neibāde and Liepupe coast in order to take a decision on the issue of which of the two sites would be more useful for the building of a port.

Neibāde was described that year as very densely populated; it had gained popularity not only as a seaside resort, but also as a significant trade, craft and fishing centre. In Neibāde, including Peterupe, there is a post office, a bookstore, selling also stationery, seven different food and colonial shops (including bakeries), a workshop for watches, gold and silverware, saddlery and two photography shops. Pabaži and Skulte seaside settlements next to Neibāde with a number of shops, various craft shops and many herring smokehouses, are also populated areas. In addition, during the summer season a food market is held in Peterupe twice a week. In particular during the swimming season Neibāde has very lively traffic and the steamer "Neubad" can barely transfer all passengers from Neibāde to Riga and from Riga to Neibāde.

In Liepupe, by contrast, the port would be very important for Limbaži. Many Limbaži traders already carry out their imports and exports through Liepupe, and an increase in the circulation of goods in Liepupe compared to Neibāde, which is situated 12 versts from Liepupe, is expected soon.

With regard to the seabed characteristics, the so-called "Silandža marsh water" in Skulte at Aģe estuary near Neibāde is very advantageous in the mentioned respect. There is a natural stonewall in the sea, which is only 4 - 5 feet under water. Since the old times vessels seek and find refuge during storms in this location, and the construction of a port would not cost as much as in other locations. Summing up each of these locations has a perspective.


Aģe estuary

It was free of charge for the local fishermen and they used it as a pier for their boats. In order to keep the boats on the shore, they had to be pulled ashore and that was by no means an easy job.

In 1912 the Baron of Skulte rented out Aģe estuary to the entrepreneur Peter Trimpel who started to handle everything in his own manner, hindering the work of the fishermen in different ways. The leaseholder even demolished the footbridge from the left bank to the right one. Consequently, the fishermen who lived on the left bank of the river had to take a detour to the bridge and then back again to the fishing pier in order to get to their boats. The fishermen rebuilt the footbridge several times, even having the police interfere; however it was demolished again.

Then Trimpel was told that the footbridge was needed for the border guards to patrol the seashore. Now the entrepreneur built the footbridge himself and allowed the border guards to use it for free, while others were being charged "bridge money". Also a special "port tax" was charged to the boats entering the estuary of the river.

Naturally, the fishermen, who had used the estuary for free from ancestral times, were not willing to pay such a tax to the entrepreneur and did not take their boats up the river anymore, but pulled them ashore on the nearby beach. The fishermen also lodged complaints to the authorities about the doings of the leaseholder. When the Crown surveyors arrived and measured everything, it turned out that the Baron of Skulte had rented out a significant patch of land along the seashore without permit, which by law belonged to the Crown as well as felled the trees on it. An administrative report was drawn up. The Aģe estuary was also recognized as free for travel, as the manor had no right to rent it out.

1.During the World War activities in the river estuary commenced again. Next to the local fishermen, the same leaseholder Trimpel together with his worker Peteris Sandis build a refuge port on the Baron's land: they build a sea dike, secured the banks, etc. A Jewish businessman, who claimed he might need the port in the near future, provided the funds for construction.

During this time, local fishermen could not go to sea whenever they wished, but only according to the orders of the military administration at certain times and in certain locations. From mid-1915, throughout Vidzeme coast fishing was prohibited. Only the enterprising builder of the port continued to work. However, when the inspections started, it turned out that there was even no government permit to carry out the construction; the Baron of Skulte could not issue this kind of permit either. Individuals who provided the funds for the construction of the port had disappeared.

World War I and the time after it suspended all the ongoing plans of the government for the port and its construction.

During the early thirties the issue of the ports emerged again. This time it was planned to choose the location for the port either in Skulte, in the estuary of the Aģe river or the estuary of Sakupīte on Tūja coast.

On May 21, 1937 the President of Latvia Dr. Kārlis Ulmanis visited Vidzeme seaside parishes where he got acquainted with the life and the needs of farmers and fishermen. At that time he determined the new fishing port of refuge to be built in Skulte. He selected a large stone, which, after appropriate sanding would be walled into the new pier of the port with chisselled inscriptions on the construction progress. At the time Skulte fishing village was the largest fishing centre on Vidzeme coast. There were 100 fishermen, excluding the families of the fishermen, and about 40 motorboats for fishing. Skultes fishermen since 1932 had been united in a fishing cooperative „Jūras zivs” ("Sea fish"), led by J. Brinkmanis. The Association owned a wood drier of considerable size and a lorry for delivering fish. The Association also owned the first fishing motor repair shop in Latvia.

Harbour construction works were commenced in the autumn of 1937, and lasted for two years. The southern pier was constructed first. The pier was constructed as follows: posts in two rows are installed into the sea, rocks were piled between the pier walls and fascines of different kind are made of bundles of sticks. The rocks needed to install a pier were taken from the sea; five barges carried this out. The extraction gear for this type of barges is quite simple: units serviced by 4-5 people immerse into the seabed a scissor-like stone collecting device, which is capable of lifting even rocks with the weight of 2.5 to 3 tons. Rocks of all sizes generously cover Skulte coastal seabed.

In Skulte rocks were collected from the sea also for the needs of the highway, because when constructing a port, a good quality road is needed in order to deliver the fish and fish products. In order for the stones to be used for the highway they have to be cleaved. And this was how the harbour workers were able to earn good money. The champion in splitting stone was a Russian, Sudnik by name, who could split up a stone, which weighted a ton with 4 to 5 strokes of a hammer. Consequently, this giant earned four times more than the rest of the workers - 20 Latvian Lats.

After that the northern pier was built and the seabed of the port was dredged. Dredging was carried out by ground bailer "Vairogs" ("Shield"). . That was not easy. The seabed in some spots was rather sandy, whereas in other locations the sand layer hid rocks, blue and red clay and even old, decayed stumps.

On September 30, 1938 the representatives of the Marine Department and the Department of Fisheries and Fish - farming arrived to the new Skulte port, in order to set the land borders of the port and develop the coastal plan of the port, envisaging a site for a boat quay, fishing gear store houses, net drying, etc.

The port developers in search for rocks offshore for pier construction found a stone, which was suitable for a plate to be installed in the port. It was envisaged to chisel on it information on who proposed the port construction and when it was constructed.

The fishermen of the cooperative "Jūras zivs" in parallel to port construction decided to expand their collectively owned smoke house, because they understood that with the building of the port the catch would also increase and then there could be problems with fish processing. Together the fishermen completed the enlarging of the smoke house. However in the evening of November 3 the smoke house burned down to the ground. Although the fire was noticed at once, all efforts to put out the fire were futile. The wooden building of the smoke house could not be salvaged.

The fishermen did not have time to grieve. During the meeting of the cooperative they decided to build a new collectively owned smoke house - this time as a fireproof building, with a possibility to enlarge it. Work on the completion of the port and the smoke house lasted for almost a year.

By then it was already October 7, 1939. The representative of the fishermen not only from the nearby villages and fishing grounds traveled to Skulte for the opening ceremony of the port, but also from nearby villages and fishing grounds, as well as from Mangaļi, Ādaži, Riga and Sloka seashore, Engure, Kolkasrags and even Liepāja. Approximately 20 fishing boats arrived to the new Port of Skulte from the neighbourhood. From Riga, together with the Minister of Agriculture J. Birznieks, the director of the Marine Department P. Stakle, the State Land Bank Director H. Dzelzītis, as well as many officials form the Marine Department and Fisheries arrived to Zvejniekciems on a special train.

The large family of fishermen greeted the Minister of Agriculture in the port, decorated with flags. The Chairman of the Association of Fishermen E. Brinkmanis, the head of the Aizsargi unit and the head of the Mazpulks (youth organisation) welcomed the audience. Along the guard of honour of Aizsargi and Mazpulks the Minister crossed the stretch of sand and headed towards the memorial stone on the beach, the text chiselled on which tells of how the new fishing port in Skulte was built:

"Initiated by the President of Latvia Kārlis Ulmanis, built by the Marine Department, Skulte fishing port came into being. 1937-1939."

During the formal opening of the port, the completed construction works were emphasized: in order to build the port 48 00 m³ of soil was removed, 11 493m³ of rock was built in, 1887 posts were installed, 5325m² mattresses were submerged, 3527m² of the shore were paved with stones. The southern pier of the port was built 350 m long, whereas the northern pier was 362 m long. The depth in the port gate was dredged to the depth of 4.5 m and 3.5 m at the inlet into the river. The Port installation costs constituted 463 000 Latvian Lats.

The opening of the port was followed by the port inspection and consecration of the newly built collectively owned smoke house. The Chairman of the Association J. Brinkmanis, when opening the smoke house provided an overview of the costs of the collectively owned smoke house in the amount of 58 129.63 Latvian Lats, 150 000 bricks were built into it.

The smoke house was consecrated by the priest of the local parish J. Sudars.

After that the Minister of Agriculture J. Birznieks, the other guests and the board members of the Association signed a document, which was inserted into a special metal container and together with a few coins and immured into the foundation of the smoke house.

The material was prepared by the Museum specialist Dagnija Gurtiņa