Category Archives: The fishing trade

Kilrush fisheries

Letter from James Patterson, Kilrush, to the Commissioners of Fisheries, 31 May 1823

Sir

Encouraged by the erection of the fishery piers on this coast, two persons registered themselves as fish-curers, viz Francis Coffee, on the 10th of March, at Liscannor, and James Shannon, on the 26th of April, at Seafield.

On the 26th instant I had a request note from the former to attend at his curing-house on the 28th, to inspect seven hundred and sixty ling, and nine hundred and ninety-six cod; I accordingly attended, and have great pleasure in saying, that a finer parcel of fish I never beheld; I at the same time registered twenty-six row-boats.

Kilrush, Seafield and Liscannor, Co Clare (OSI 25″ ~1900)

From thence I proceeded to Seafield to see what was going on there, where, I am sorry to say, I found the fishermen very desponding; they had an immense quantity of fish, offering at 1½d per dozen; but few purchasers, Mr Shannon not having as yet begun to cure. At Liscannor, agreeable to a previous arrangement made with the fishermen, Mr Coffee pays 3½d per dozen.

It would tend greatly to promote this speculation if some little additions were made to the bounty in lieu of the drawback on the salt, which they find it very difficult to recover, principally owing to the great distance to any custom-house, and the difficulty of travelling bad roads.

I send herewith the production bounty debenture. As the curer has but a small capital, I hope the board will order payment with as little delay as possible; every little encouragement that can be given this speculation in its infancy will greatly tend to promote it; and I have no doubt, in a short time, it will become very general, and productive of great advantage to the country.

I am, Sir, &c, &c, (signed) James Patterson

Report from the Select Committee on the Employment of the Poor in Ireland Ordered, by The House of Commons, to be Printed, 16 July 1823 [561] with edits by me

The Bishop of Killaloe and the bridge at Moys

That would be the Bishop of the United Church of England and Ireland, as established by the fifth article of the Acts of Union of 1800, of course.

Cussane lock (OSI 25″ ~1900)

Cussane (or Coosaun, as above) Lock was the furthest downstream of the three locks on the Killaloe Canal. It was submerged by the “Flooded Area” created by Parteen Villa Weir as part of the Ardnacrusha hydroelectric scheme.

The middle lock on the Killaloe Canal is at Moys and its remains are visible, just above the water, in normal non-flood conditions. It is (or was until recently) still possible to go through it by (small) boat, though of course without needing to use the lock mechanisms.

Approaching Moys Lock from upstream

However, although the lock itself survives, the bridge that crossed it is no longer there. It was shown on the 6″ (~1840) and 25″ (~1900) Ordnance Survey maps; I would guess that it was removed as part of the Ardnacrusha works, but I don’t know and would welcome information.

The lock and bridge at Moys (OSI 6″ ~1840)

The other thing I don’t know about the bridge is why it was built in the first place. Hely Dutton [Statistical Survey of the County of Clare, with observations on the means of improvement; drawn up for the consideration, and by direction of the Dublin Society The Dublin Society, Dublin 1808] wrote that

It seems to be the general opinion in Killaloe, that the canal has been cut in the most improper direction; they think it should have been brought in a valley between Killaloe and Dr. Parker’s, and to the north of the Bishop’s house, and not parallel to the Shannon as at present. Bishop Bernard offered several thousand pounds, if this line had been pursued; for, instead of cutting his demesne off from the Shannon, as at present it does, it would have gone at the back of his house; if this was the only objection, I think the engineer acted very impartially, as all public officers should, but very seldom do.

That suggests that the bishop was not best pleased to have a canal in front of his house; if he was willing to pay “several thousand pounds” to have the canal put somewhere else, the Limerick Navigation’s promoters must have been able to deploy considerable firepower (political and financial) to overcome his opposition. I wonder whether promotion to Limerick might have helped: according to a later estimate [Dublin Weekly Register 21 September 1822], promotion from Killaloe to Limerick would have increased a bishop’s income from £7000 to £8000 a year.

Charlotte Murphy [“The Limerick Navigation Company 1697–1836” in North Munster Archaeological Society Journal Vol 22 1980], describing John Brownrigg’s report on the navigation in 1801, said

This latter [Moys] lock had a bridge over the tail to accommodate the Bishop of Killaloe, whose demesne was served by the canal.

But what accommodation did the bishop need? A small strip of land downstream of the lock was insulated by the canal; perhaps the bridge provided access for cattle.

Another possibility is that the bridge provided access to the episcopal eel weirs. According to Mr Blackburne QC, addressing the Shannon Commissioners in 1837 on behalf of the Bishop of Killaloe and Sir Gilbert King Bart of Jamestown [Saunders’s News-Letter 29 December 1837],

The bishop, his tenants, and his predecessors had from time immemorial been in the habit of using twenty-five eel weirs, extending from the tail of Lough Dearg down the whole line of the rapids of Killaloe, which place, from natural impediments, could never be made navigable.

I think I have read somewhere that the eel weirs were worth £75 a year to the bishop, but I can’t remember where I saw that so I haven’t been able to check it.

The bishop’s house, the lock and the bridge (OSI 6″ ~1840)

 

 

There is one other aspect. The bridge was used by the horses towing boats on the canal and, of course, by the men leading them. We know that because the towing-path changed sides at Moys Lock. It was on the west side of the canal from Cussaun to Moys but on the east from Moys to Killaloe: it is marked on the 6″ OSI map and named on the 25″.

That forced horses and men to walk on a narrow embankment rather than on the shore. But it kept them out of the bishop’s garden and a little further from his house. Might that have been the intention?

I would be glad to hear from anyone who knows more about Moys.

 

 

Taking the piscatorial

Piscatorial

We are glad to observe that the fishing at Killaloe is this season, as heretofore, attracting, in pursuit of their thoroughly delightful but simple sport, numerous ardent bands of the “Knights of the Angle”; and the comfortable quartiers of the old “Royal” — without question the nicest home in the province for the Waltonian — are, in consequence, being daily eagerly secured by anglers of condition from various parts of Ireland, as well as from England and Scotland. We can only wish them propitious weather, the May-fly “well up”, heavy creels, and after their day’s enjoyment, in the evening merry meetings with abundant cheer.

Dublin Evening Mail 6 June 1860 quoting the Limerick Chronicle

Fishermen

On Sunday evening a conflict took place between the fishermen on the river above Thomond-bridge, Limerick, which at one time threatened very serious consequences. It appears that since the interruption to their fishing at the Island point some of the long net fishermen procured short or snap nets, and commenced fishing lower down the river. The short net men did not like this intrusion, and it would appear that no amicable feeling prevailed between the parties. After nine o’clock in the evening the short net men put out their nets, when the others attacked them; the boats fouled each other, the men commenced to fight, and some stones were thrown over the parapet of the bridge which did injury to the cots of the short net men. The presence of Constable Frawley and some of the police tended somewhat to repress their disposition to violence, but it is apprehended that further and more serious collisions may take place between the parties.

Saunders’s News-Letter 15 June 1855

Lock lox

Fishing extraordinary

Banagher: the old canal (OSI 6″ map ~1830s)

Banagher, June 13. On Friday evening last a scene of a truly interesting nature to all lovers [of] angling took place near the old bridge which crosses the Shannon at Banagher, in the King’s County. An old and experienced fishermen, well known in that part of the country by the appellation of Tugg, between the hours of seven and eight o’clock in the evening, hooked a salmon of enormous weight and strength, a little above the bridge; the fish, after making a few violent efforts to extricate himself —

Flew through the glassy waves with finny wings,
Whilst Tugg still kept behind.

From eight until past eleven the contest was carried on with doubtful success, in nearly the centre of the river, which is here about half a mile wide — during which time the salmon was played (as anglers term it) up the stream, as far as Bird’s Island, a distance of more than an English mile from the place where the fish was first hooked; still the salmon was unwearied, and struggled as hard as when first hooked, notwithstanding the utmost skill of Tugg to weaken and bring him within reach of the gaff.

Bird’s Island, Banagher Bridge and the head of the canal (OSI 6″ map ~1830)

The town clock struck twelve at night, and yet victory had not declared for the indefatigable Tugg. Three hours more rolled by, when Tugg, nearly as exhausted as his adversary (after nine hours’ display of the utmost skill and perseverance in the Piscal art), had recourse to a strategem by which he made himself master of his finny prey.

Connecting the navigable parts of the Shannon above and below the bridge at Banagher, is a canal of about half a mile in length; into this canal, Tugg, with his wonted skill, coaxed the fish, and then letting him down to the lock, at the farther extremity, the upper gate of which had been opened to receive him, he was allowed to pass in, and the gate being immediately closed, the water was let off by the lower one, and thus the finny monster became an easy prey.

The salmon weighed 43½ lbs, and was presented by honest Tugg to our worthy and highly esteemed Magistrate, Thomas George Armstrong Esq of Gavey Castle. The sporting gentry of Banagher and its vicinity intend raising a sum by subscription to reward poor Tugg, in testimony of their approbation of his unwearied assiduity, skill, and, above all, for the strategem by which he became at length master of this noble fish.

Dublin Mercantile Advertiser, and Weekly Price Current 28 June 1830

Eels from Killaloe

Great quantities of salmon have been recently exported from Limerick to England, and the abundant supply of eels in the Shannon is furnishing a new and productive traffic in the English market. There are ten tons of this prolific fish now in tanks at Killaloe, awaiting a conveyance to London, and a vessel adapted for the trade will take on board from Limerick in the ensuing week forty tons of eels for the London market.

The Dublin Monitor 23 October 1844

Down the Suir

Cheekpoint

Andrew Doherty runs the Waterford Harbour tides’n’tales blog which, starting with a focus on the traditional fishing community of Cheekpoint, has broadened out to take in the whole of the Suir estuary and a few other things besides. As he says

My unending passion is researching and writing about our way of life and more fully understanding the history and heritage that surrounds us here.

Before the tide went out

Andrew has now written a book, Before the tide went out, and it will be launched at Jack Meade’s on Friday 20 October 2017 at 7.30pm.

From the blurb:

Andrew Doherty vividly brings you into the heart of a now practically vanished fishing community, deep into the domestic lives of the people making a hard and precarious living from the river, only 6 miles from Waterford city centre. You share his affectionate memories of the local people and the fun that was to be had as a child playing in and around the fishing boats and nets on a busy quayside.

He also takes you out on the river, on bright and beautiful days, and on wild and dangerous nights, which he describes with a naturally story telling turn of phrase. You feel the cold, the misery of sea-soaked clothing and the pain of raw hands hauling on fish-scaled nets.

But what keeps you going is what kept him going for 15 years, the camaraderie and pride of spending time with brave, skilled and wise fishermen who could be grumpy, hilarious, sometimes eccentric, but never
boring.

Update: to buy the book see Andrew’s page here.

 

Eel fishing

In Foreign Parts.

h/t Tyler Cowen

Lough Corrib navigation marks

There are some interesting comments about Lough Corrib’s navigation marking system in this report [PDF] by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board.

Tories on the Barrow and the Shannon

I read here that Olivia O’Leary, who chairs a Save the Barrow Line committee, says that the Barrow Line (trackway or towing-path)

[…] is a natural amenity and should be maintained as it is.

It isn’t. It is an entirely artificial creation, built to enable the use of horses to tow boats. Any geraniums, beetles, butterflies or tweetie-birds using it are interlopers, squatters and trespassers and should be paying rent; at the very least they should take second place to humans.

The Grand Canal Company often complained about the poor quality of the Barrow trackway: the surface was not up to the job. If it is to cater for more users, it may well need to be improved. That is an engineering decision on which I am not competent to pronounce but, as the Barrow is pretty well a dead loss for long-distance cruising by larger boats, it needs to be redesigned for walkers, cyclists and canoeists.

But at least the Barrow NIMBYs are prepared to accept more boats. Dr William O’Connor of the Old River Shannon Research Group writes about the Shannon here, complaining about the small number of “garish canoes” that occasionally travel downstream from Castleconnell to Clareville. Dr O’Connor asks

[…] why has it become a free-for-all for canoeists?

The answer is that there is a right to navigate, as I pointed out here (with an addendum here): I have had no response from the ESB so, while being open to correction, I maintain my position. Anglers may believe that their interests are paramount on that stretch of the Shannon: I disagree. Of course I would be all in favour of discussions between anglers, kayakers, dog-walkers and other users (even environmentalists), but such discussions cannot be based on a presumption that one group has all the rights, or that one activity is of supreme importance, and that the rest are secondary.

For some reason, canoes operated by commercial providers are particularly to be condemned, although it is not clear how salmon and lampreys can distinguish between public-sector, private-sector and voluntary-sector canoes — or whether they would be bothered anyway: Dr William O’Connor says

It is noted that there has been little scientific research on the ecological impact of canoeing.

In other words, there is no reason to believe that there is any basis for the concerns expressed by Dr O’Connor or by various anglers.

More broadly, though, the common factor on the Shannon and the Barrow is that existing users of public facilities are resisting new or expanded uses and seeking to protect their privileges. Irish Toryism is alive and well.

Addendum: this is probably the solution to the salmon problem.