In Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and southwest England, 13th – 20th centuries, a unit of count for herring, 500, or 600 by the “long hundred” (that is, 120). Also spelled maise, mayse, mase, maze, maiz, mese, mesh and others.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, the mease was variously reported (mainly from the Isle of Man) at 612 fish, 525 fish, or 615 fish, the latter based on a long hundred of 123 or 124.
Elizabeth Gemmill and Nicholas Mayhew.
Changing Values in Medieval Scotland. A Study of Prices, Money, and Weights and Measures.
Cambridge University Press, 1995.
MESE Of Herring, conteinis five hundreth, for the commoun use of numeration, and telling of Herring, be reason of their greate multitude, is used be thousandes; And therefore ane Mese comprehendis five hundreth, quhilk is the halfe of ane thousand. From the Greek word Meson, In Latine medium.
De Verborum Significatione.
Edinburgh: printed by David Lindsay, 1681.
The first edition was published in Edinburgh in 1597.
Skene's etymology, not surprisingly, is way off base. For the very interesting conjectures regarding the derivation of this word, see the Oxford English Dictionary (draft revision Sept. 2008) In brief, contemporaneous words in Old or Middle French, or perhaps from the Old High German, through Middle Dutch or Middle Low German, but all apparently meaning containers for herring.
In England, fifteenth century, a unit of mass for copper, = 1,200 pounds.
H. S. Cobb, editor.
The Overseas Trade of London. Exchequer Customs Accounts 1480-1.
London Record Society, 1990.
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