Category Archives: The fishing trade

Fish from inland waterways

On 19 August 1862 the Irish Times markets report included this:

Athlone Market, August 16th. The following are the rates: oats 14s to 14s 6d per barrel; hay per ton 26s to 33s; straw 1s 7d to 1s 9d per cwt; potatoes 4d to 5d per stone; beef 7d to 8d per lb; mutton 6d to 8d; veal 5d to 7d do; lamb 6s 0d to 8s per qr; geese each 1s 6d to 2s 0d per pair [no, I don’t understand it either]; ducks 1s 2d to 1s 6d; fowls 1s 0d to 1s 6d; butter 8d to 9d per lb; eggs 6d to 7d per dozen; bacon (Irish) 7d to 9d per lb; American 5d to 6d.

Fish rather scarce: trout 6d per lb; pike 2d per lb; bream 1s per dozen; perch 1s per doz; eels 2s to 4s per dozen.

The weather during the past week has been, on the whole, favourable to the growing crops which look very well in this neighbourhood. Potatoes, especially, are an excellent and abundant crop.

From a Correspondent

Being anxious to increase the economic benefits of inland waterways, I determined to make a fish stew, using only freshwater fish. Accordingly, I emailed Inland Fisheries Ireland [IFI] to ask where I could buy a selection of freshwater fish. Answer came there none, which made me wonder why the state paid IFI almost €28.5 million in 2014 (the latest year for which accounts are available). If fishing isn’t producing food, then the maggots are being drowned for entertainment, as foxes are hunted for sport, and I don’t see why the state should subsidise it (or, of course, other recreational activities like football, small farming or Irish Rail).

Anyway, thanks to the virtues of private enterprise and the wonders of free trade, I was able to produce a stew using trout, pike, carp, zander, smoked eel and crayfish. But what a pity that it would have been so much easier a hundred and fifty years ago.

By the way, if you’re wondering why American bacon was on sale in Athlone, and cheaper than Irish bacon, Andy Bielenberg explains in Ireland and the Industrial Revolution: the impact of the industrial revolution on Irish industry 1801–1922 Routledge, London 2009 that

While most Irish bacon was exported to Great Britain, to sustain this trade Ireland increasingly consumed cheaper American bacon in the second half of the nineteenth century.

From the BNA

 

The Irish family farm …

why we don’t need it.

h/t Alex Tabarrok on Marginal Revolution

Delegated authority in the ESB

Just over a year ago, in June 2015, I wrote — at some length — about the right to navigate the Shannon through Castleconnell, Co Limerick. A member of the staff of the ESB fisheries department told me

The legislation empowering ESB to regulate activity on the Shannon is contained in the Shannon Fisheries Act 1935 – Section 9.1 (D).

That accorded with my own untutored understanding: according to Section 9 (1) (d) the Board is empowered to

(d) terminate, restrict, or otherwise interfere with, either permanently or temporarily and either compulsorily or by agreement, any easement, way-leave, water-right, fishing right, or other right over or in respect of any land or water[.]

However, I responded to the ESB pointing out that the existence of a power does not prove that the power has been exercised, much less that it has been exercised validly. I asked for information on (inter alia)

 

[…] what strategic decisions the Board has made on this subject, or what decision-making powers it has conferred on its fisheries staff […]

whether the Board has actually decided to “terminate, restrict, or otherwise interfere with, either permanently or temporarily and either compulsorily or by agreement, any easement, way- leave, water-right, fishing right, or other right over or in respect of any land or water”

if it has so decided, what the details of the decision are: details both of its making and of its application [.]

 

The Act gave the ESB a power, but the power has to be exercised properly and there must be a record of the making of the decision. I have had no reply to my queries, and my working hypothesis is therefore that the ESB has not validly terminated, restricted or interfered with the right to navigate the Shannon at Castleconnell. If I receive evidence to the contrary, I will of course change my view.

One part of the problem is that the Act gives the power to the Board and, in my view, employees of the Board cannot of themselves decide to exercise that power unless the Board has validly delegated the power to them. The fisheries department cannot close the navigation unless the Board explicitly gave them the power to do so.

A case at the Court of Appeal, reported in the Irish Times today [11 July 2016: the article may disappear behind a paywall at some stage], seems to support that view [although I am not a lawyer: please consult your own legal advisers]. The relevant paragraph is

The board was entitled to delegate the power to issue wayleave notices to its chief executive but was not entitled to “sub-delegate” to the chief executive power to authorise such other persons as he deemed appropriate to issue wayleave notices, Mr Justice Brian Cregan held. Any such persons had to be directly authorised by the board.

I suggest that the same may apply to fisheries and navigation. If the navigation at Castleconnell was validly terminated, restricted or interfered with, either the Board took that decision itself or it explicitly delegated the power to do so to the fisheries department (or someone else). In either case, there should be a Board minute on the matter and it should be possible for the fisheries department to cite that minute.

 

Hunting the Lough Derg monster

Hunting L Derg monster 02_resize

The hunter scans the deep

Hunting L Derg monster 06_resize

The techie bit, probably to power the harpoon gun

Hunting L Derg monster 07_resize

Thar she doesn’t blow

Who are these chaps? What are they doing? Why are they doing it in a marina on Lough Derg? Are they inserting large numbers of volts into the water and, if so, what effect might that have on boats? Answer on a postcard, please.

Holiday tours in Ireland VII

On Lough Derg

There are two Lough Dergs in Ireland. One is in the County of Donegal, within four and a half miles of Pettigoe, and is celebrated for its St Patrick’s Purgatory. The lake is but six miles long and four miles broad, and can hardly vie for scenery with its namesake in the south.

In order to reach this, probably one of the most exquisitely beautiful loughs in Ireland, it is necessary to make for the town of Killaloe. This can be done by leaving Euston at a quarter-past ten at night, when Killaloe is reached by 3.10 the following afternoon; or should the tourist prefer the Irish mail, he can leave at a quarter to nine in the evening and arrive at Killaloe at half-past eleven the following morning.

Few Irish towns contain so many antiquarian relics, combined with such beautiful scenery, for Killaloe stands on a hillside tufted with wood and surrounded by mountains. The old cathedral occupies the site of a church founded by St Dalua, in the sixth century. The present building dates from the twelfth century, with a central square tower whose effect is somewhat spoiled by a  modern crown. Its gem is a Hiberno-Romanesque doorway, which has, unfortunately, been blocked into the south wall of the nave. The precincts also contain a small stone-roofed church, said to date as far back as the sixth century.

The fishing is generally extremely good, though many prefer Castleconnell, some five miles to the south on the road to Limerick. In any case few portions of the United Kingdom furnish better salmon fishing than that reach of the river Shannon that lies between Killaloe and Castleconnell.

Lough Derg must, however, remain the greatest attraction of the district. It is twenty-three miles in length, and varies in breadth from two to six miles. Nothing can surpass the loveliness of the scene, especially on a fine summer’s day. On the one side the well-wooded and smiling hills of Limerick and Tipperary, where Thomthimia, with its slate quarries, slopes down to the water’s edge; while on the other the darker and more rugged mountains of Slieve Bernagh, Ballycuggeren, and the Crag form the most effective contrast.

Kincora was once the residence of Brian Boroimbh, King of Munster, and its magnificence was long the main theme of the ancient bards. But little now remains of the ancient palace beyond a long circular earthen fort, with a single vallum some twenty feet in height.

Inishcaltra or the Holy Island is, however, well worth a visit, and for this purpose it would be better to utilize the local service from either Scariff or Killaloe to Mountshannon, which faces the island. It possesses a round tower some eighty feet high, and seven churches, or cells, and oratories, the most remarkable of which is that of St Caimin, originally erected by him in the seventh, but subsequently rebuilt by Brian Borombh in the tenth century.

Scariff may this year be approached by steamer, and is a very prettily situated village, within access by road of Woodford, in County Galway, and Ennis in County Clare. The steamer then crosses the lake to Dromineer, at the mouth of the Nenagh river, where the ruins of the castle stand out with such picturesque effect. The bay is one of the most popular resorts, both of the angler and of the yachtsman; for to the latter it has earned a well-deserved reputation for its annual regatta.

The steamer then stops at Williamstown while a boat from Kilgarvan occasionally lands passengers and conveys them to the steamer. As soon as the new jetty has been constructed by the Board of Works, Woodford will be equally accessible; but there is no doubt that the approach to Portumna pier at the head of the Lough, lying as it does between the well-wooded demesnes of Portumna Castle on the one side and Belleisle and Slevoir on the other, presents one of the finest pictures that the lake discloses, for there we see the most striking contrast between the tame verdure of the river Shannon and the bold mountain scenery of Lough Derg.

It would be tedious to dwell on the varied beauties of those innumerable seats that dot the shores of the lake on all sides; suffice it to say that few parts of the United Kingdom present as many diverse attractions as this wide expanse of water. Much as one may appreciate Loch Lomond, Loch Maree, or the Caledonian Canal, this Irish lough certainly surpasses them; and much gratitude is due to the Shannon Development Company for bringing within such easy access of the average tourist a wealth of scenery that certainly equals, if it is not finer, the finest spots that either Scotland, Norway, or Switzerland can offer.

This is, however, but half the trip from Killaloe to Athlone. Portumna is chiefly remarkable for the ruins of a Dominican priory founded in the thirteenth century, as well as for the Castle, the property of Lord Clanricarde, in which he has not resided since his succession to the estate. The village of Lorrha, three miles further up, also contains the ruins of a Dominican abbey, an oblong pile 120 ft long, as well as a castle and two old ecclesiastical buildings called by the peasantry the English churches, owing to their having been built by Norman settlers.

The river now assumes a totally novel character, winding by graceful curves through low-lying but rich meadow lands. Their luxuriant appearance is largely due to the fact that they are usually submerged under the waters of the river during the winter months.

Meelick Abbey is next passed. It was founded by the Franciscans in the twelfth century, and was at one time a sumptuous structure, but is now a roofless and mouldering ruin; and a beautiful pillar which formerly supported the arches on the south side has been torn away with ruthless vandalism, in order to make headstones for the graves in the cemetery.

Banagher can boast of a fine stone bridge, opened some fifty years ago to replace the preceding structure, which displayed no less than twenty-three arches of various forms, with massive piers between, and was so narrow that only one carriage could pass at a time.

Shannon Harbour is best known from the description of its hotel in Lever’s Jack Hinton, but that building is now let in tenements. Shannon Bridge is one of the three fortified passes built to guard the Shannon, and is but four miles from Clonfert, whose cathedral, now being restored, contains one of the finest Hiberno-Romanesque doorways to be found in the three kingdoms.

Few spots, however, offer greater attractions to the antiquary than do the celebrated seven churches of Clonmacnoise. The most remarkable of these are the Diamhliag Mhor or Great Church, which dates from the fourteenth, and Fineens Church, built in the thirteenth century. The former was originally the work of Flann, King of Ireland, in 909, and contains several bits, more especially the sandstone capitals of the west doorway, that may be traced to the earlier period. Besides these churches, there is much to be seen at Clonmacnoise, which includes among its ruins the episcopal palace and castle of the O’Melaghlins, a nunnery, two round towers, Celtic crosses, and inscribed stones. The grand cross, formed of a single stone 15 ft high and elaborately carved, surpasses every other in beauty of execution and elaborate detail.

Though the tourist may gaze upon Clonmacnoise as he approaches and leaves it and enjoys a particularly fine view of its beauties as he passes by the curve of the river on whose banks it is situated, no provision has yet been made to enable him either to land or to make a closer acquaintance of its many beauties as he passes by. This is due to the refusal on the part of its proprietor to meet the proposals of the company. It is, however, to be hoped that more favourable terms may be made in the future, as the traveller must now proceed straight to Athlone and visit the ruins from there either by road or by water.

Much more might be said of Lough Derg as well as of the Shannon from Killaloe to Athlone. Fair hotel accommodation may be obtained at Killaloe, Dromineer, Portumna, and Athlone at from eight to nine shillings a day. Lodgings can also be procured at Killaloe, where the proprietors have learned to cater for the requirements of those anglers who frequent this highly-favoured spot.

Return tickets may be obtained from Euston to Killaloe by the North Wall at
£4 13s 6d first, £2 16s second, and £2 third class. Lough Derg may also be visited from Athlone by the Midland Great Western Railway from Broadstone. The fares by Kingstown and the mail are somewhat dearer.

Pall Mall Gazette 1 August 1898

From the British Newspaper Archive run by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited, in partnership with the British Library.

Fish in canal shock

I see from the blatts (or at least from the Cork Examiner) that there is much free food to be had in the Tralee Ship Canal, which has, it is said, “Literally millions of sprat and mackerel” as well as eels, baby ray and shrimp. According to the story,

Kerry County Council said engineers were meeting yesterday to find a resolution and to organise a clean up.

Perhaps a call to Captain Birdseye?

Not just kayakers

Now rowers propose to use the Shannon.

I hadn’t realised that the Limerick [non-salmon] weir had affected rowers.

The ESB and eels

A minister speaks [or at least reads out a script prepared by other people].

I see that

The independent Standing Scientific Committee on Eels sets targets of quantities to be transported annually.

Which would be nice, if transporting eels were an end in itself. But the object is surely to increase the eel population, and I note that the minister had nothing to say on that subject. Nor did he tell John McGuinness what the stock of eels was. So we have no idea whether all this activity is achieving anything, and responsibility is diffused amongst the members of an Standing Scientific Committee on Eels, none of whom seem to have any stake in the matter.

This is a clear case for privatisation: sell the eels and the fishing rights to people [cooperatives, as on Lough Neagh?] who will have an interest in managing the populations of eels, rather than in managing the numbers trapped and transported.

The minister also introduced a red herring about compensation, which he wasn’t asked about. By my reckoning he answered only half the question, and even that credits him with answering the ritual invocation “if he will make a statement on the matter”.

Cots and canoes at Castleconnell

Castleconnell, in Co Limerick, is on the section of the River Shannon that includes the (broadly defined) Falls of Doonass. That section was bypassed by the Plassey–Errina Canal, one of the five parts of the Limerick Navigation, which navigation was largely abandoned after the construction of the Shannon hydroelectric power scheme in the 1920s. After that, vessels used the headrace, lock and tailrace of the Ardnacrusha power station to pass between Lough Derg and Limerick.

On 27 May 2015 I noted a statement by the Limerick and District Anglers Association about the Castleconnell section of the Shannon:

Therefore canoeists who enter this section of river without permission are trespassing.

Cots

That section of river was not, as far as I can tell, navigated by cargo-carrying vessels; it would be surprising had they been able to do so, even downstream. However, it was navigated by narrow cots. Lady Chatterton in her Rambles in the South of Ireland during the year 1838 [Vol II Saunders and Otley, London 1839], wrote

We have passed the last few days at Doonass, a beautiful place near the rapids of the Shannon. The sound of those rushing and falling waters was most soothing and melodious, as heard from the house, which is situated at some distance, in a beautiful park, sloping down to the river.

I walked several times on its banks to enjoy the splendid sight, and to watch some people who were fishing for salmon. It made me quite nervous to see the boats shoot some of the falls, knowing that unless they had kept exactly the right course, they would have been inevitably dashed to pieces.

In A Week at Killarney [Jeremiah How, London 1843] Mr & Mrs Samuel Carter Hall wrote

Castle Connell, a village about six miles from the city [of Limerick], is perhaps unrivalled in the kingdom for natural graces; and immediately below it are the Falls of Doonas, where the river rushes over huge mountain-rocks, affording a passage which the more daring only will make, for the current — narrowed to a boat’s breadth — rushes along with such frightful rapidity, that the deviation of a few inches would be inevitable destruction. [*]

This, although the most remarkable of the falls, is succeeded by several others, between Castle Connell and Limerick — the whole scene, however discouraging to the political economist, as presenting a picture of wasted strength, being delicious in the highest degree to the lover of natural beauty.

0125 The Falls of Doonass_resize

The river at Castleconnell by night in the floods of 2009

[*] We cannot easily forget our sensations of mingled alarm and enjoyment, while rushing along this course — at night, but by the light of a brilliant moon; it was exciting to the highest degree. We had confidence in our helmsman (if so we must term the man with the paddle-rudder he held in his hand); yet every now and then the voyage was a startling one, and the danger quite sufficient to shake stronger nerves than ours. He had nothing to do but to keep a keen eye upon the rocks at either side, and guide his “cot” by pushing aside a wave with a strong arm, so as to keep in the centre of the current; and he did so with wonderful accuracy.

Copy of 0107 Mr & Mrs S C Hall at Doonass (1843)

The Halls’ sketch of a cot

We were afterwards convinced that there was in reality no more peril than there would have been upon the Thames; for the boatmen are so skilful and so well-practised, that they govern their boats with absolute certainty.

The boats are flat-bottomed (for often the stream is not above a few inches deep), narrowed, and squared at the stem and stern. The paddle is a piece of flat wood, about three feet long, increasing from the handle to the breadth of about ten inches; only one is used, which the man changes from side to side according to the direction in which he desires to proceed — using it alternately to advance the boat, and as a helm to steer its course. We refer more especially to the boats used by the fishermen, in which the oars are seldom resorted to; for they are pushed up the stream by a long pole, and the current takes them down it without an effort.

And who can forget the stirring scene in L A Hall’s short story “Which was the bravest?” [in The Magnet Stories for Summer Days and Winter Nights Groombridge and Sons, London, no date, but my copy was a Christmas present in 1862, albeit not to me] in which Herbert, the English youth, falls over when attempting to pole a cot up the river at Castleconnell? The boatman, Lawlor, speaks:

“Sure the young gintleman wanted to try what stuff the Irish poles were made of, and small blame to him if the Irish rock and the Irish ash were too hard for him.”

This was all the work of a moment, during which Lucius [Herbert’s cousin, who lives near Doonass], well accustomed to the Shannon navigation, manfully stemmed the torrent with his single pole.

Not many Etonians could manage that nowadays, I imagine. But then there may not be as many Etonians around Doonass.

The Shannon Navigation

Note that L A Hall [of whom both Google and I are largely ignorant] used the term “Shannon navigation”. I had initially assumed that the Limerick Navigation Company, in its several manifestations, would have had no interest in this stretch of river and that therefore the Shannon Commissioners, and their successors the Board of [Public] Works and, now, Waterways Ireland would not have acquired any interest in its navigation.

I thought that there might have been a public right of navigation, as outlined by Douglas Caffyn, but that in any case such a right had been protected by the beneficence of Her late Majesty Victoria, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, who caused Her ministers to insert this provision in the Shannon Navigation Act 1839 [CAP LXI An Act for the Improvement of the Navigation of the River Shannon 17th August 1839]

XXXVI. And be it enacted and declared, That the said River Shannon is and for ever hereafter shall be, to all Intents and Purposes a public navigable River; and that all the Queen’s liege Subjects may have and lawfully enjoy their free Passage in, along, through, and upon the said River Shannon, with Boats, Barges, Lighters, and other Vessels, and also all necessary and convenient Liberties for navigating the same, without Let, Hindrance, or Obstruction whatever, on paying such Rates, Tolls, and Duties as are by this Act appointed to be paid, and complying with such Rules, Orders, Regulations, and Bye Laws as shall be made by the said Commissioners under the Provisions of this Act: Provided always, that nothing herein contained shall be construed to exempt any Person or Thing from the Payment of any Tonnage, Quayage, Rateage, or other Dues payable under an Act passed in the Fourth Year of the Reign of His late Majesty King George the Fourth, intituled An Act for the Erection of a Bridge across the River Shannon, and of a Floating Dock to accommodate sharp Vessels frequenting the Port of Limerick, and of an Act passed in the Fourth and Fifth Years of the Reign of His late Majesty King William the Fourth, intituled An Act to amend an Act passed in the Fourth Year of the Reign of His late Majesty King George the Fourth, intituled “An Act for the Erection of a Bridge across the River Shannon, and of a Floating Dock to accommodate sharp Vessels frequenting the Port of Limerick”, or from Compliance with any Rules or Regulations imposed or to be imposed by the Commissioners appointed under the said Two last-mentioned Acts.

There is one possible complication in the same act:

XXXIX. And be it enacted, That the said Commissioners shall, within Six Months from the passing of this Act, or at such other Time or Times as shall seem to them most expedient, fix and determine the Limits of the said River Shannon, and such of the Rivers aforesaid, or Parts thereof, as shall be improved under this Act, as to them shall seem expedient, within which all the Powers and Authorities by this Act given to the said Commissioners for the Care and Conservancy of the said Rivers respectively shall and may be exercised; and a printed Notice giving such Description of the Limits so fixed, with such Map or Plan thereof as to the said Commissioners shall seem expedient, shall be posted on each Toll House on or near the said River Shannon, and such of the Rivers aforesaid as to them shall seem expedient, and at every Place where a Table of the Tolls or Rates to be taken on the said River respectively shall be posted, and at such other Places as to the said Commissioners shall seem expedient.

The limits were set out in maps and minute books, which are listed in Schedule E of the Third Report of the Commissioners for the Improvement of the Navigation of the River Shannon published in 1842 [I don’t think that report is available online]. I’ve never seen the maps and minute books and so I don’t know whether they say anything about navigation on the relevant stretch of river, but the list includes:

Map 2 Map of part of the Shannon and the Canal, from Arthur’s Ferry to Castleconnel and World’s End (County of the City of Limerick, Counties of Limerick and Clare); Minute Book pages 7 to 11 inclusive; also 14 to 21 inclusive […]

Map 2B Plan and Sections of Clareville, or Prospect Mill-dam (County of the City of Limerick, County of Clare); Minute Book pages 9, 10, and 11

Map 2C Plan and Sections of Doonass Salmon-cribs, and of Water Park Bleach Mill-dam (Counties of Limerick and Clare); Minute Book pages 9, 10, 11, and 12

Map 3 Map from World’s End to Killaloe (Counties of Clare, Limerick, and Tipperary); Minute Book pages 11 & 12; also 21 to 26 inclusive; also 30 to 32 inclusive.

Apart from Map 2, those seem to be about water (mill) rights and salmon rather than about navigation, but I hope to check that with Waterways Ireland. The Commissioners may have decided that the Castleconnell stretch of the river lay outside the limits of the Shannon, and that navigation thereon was not therefore protected by the provisions of Section XXXVI. Even then, though, a public right to navigate may have continued to exist. On the other hand, the Commissioners’ limits may not have affected navigation on this stretch of river.

It is also possible that some later enactment affected navigation.

the ESB

An entire series of enactments, from the Shannon Electricity Act 1925 onwards, empowered either the Minister for Industry and Commerce or the Electricity Supply Board [ESB] to do various things connected, more or less, to the construction and operation of the hydroelectric power station at Ardnacrusha. Under the 1925 act, for instance, the minister was empowered [inter alia] to

3. […] (b) impound, hold up, divert, take, and use the waters of the River Shannon and any river or stream tributary thereto and any lake, pond, or canal thereon or connected thereto;

(c) embank, dam, dredge, deepen, widen, straighten, divert, and otherwise alter the River Shannon or any river or stream tributary thereto;

(d) embank, dam, dredge, alter the level of, and otherwise affect any lake, pond, or other water on or connected directly or indirectly with the River Shannon;

(e) remove, or alter, repair, construct, and maintain such sluices, weirs, dams, embankments, and other works as may be necessary for or incidental to the doing of any of the things mentioned in the foregoing paragraphs […].

Under the Electricity (Supply) Act 1927 the minister was empowered to prohibit navigation during construction; blocking off the river with Parteen Villa Weir probably made that easy to enforce. The Board was also empowered to prohibit navigation after taking over the works:

(3) When the handing over of the Shannon works to the Board under this Act is completed the Board, notwithstanding any such enactment as aforesaid, may by order, for the purposes of the operation of the Shannon works or of the exercise of any of the powers or the performance of any of the duties or functions conferred and imposed on the Board by or under this Act prohibit navigation in or upon the River Shannon or any particular part thereof specified in such order for such limited period of time specified in that behalf in such order as may be required by the Board for the purposes aforesaid.

That came before the ESB got the fisheries rights, so I can’t see that it’s relevant to any restriction of navigation in the interests of fisheries.

I searched the splendid Irish Statute Book for both Acts and Statutory Instruments with combinations of terms like Shannon, electricity, navigation, salmon and fishery. I then read — well, searched and skimmed — every relevant enactment I could find. I am not a lawyer, but it seemed to me that the only enactment under which the ESB might restrict, or have restricted, navigation, by kayaks or canoes or anything else, on the Shannon through Castleconnell, is the Shannon Fisheries Act 1935, of which more below.

Just for completeness, I should say that the Shannon Fisheries Act 1938 includes this section:

3.—Nothing in this Act shall operate to prejudice or affect any right of the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland in relation to the navigation of the waters of the River Shannon.

That’s a useless provision, I think, because if the Commissioners of Public Works lost anything it was under the 1935 Act; the 1938 Act did nothing to restore any rights lost under the 1935.

Finally, the Electricity (Supply) (Amendment) Act 1945 allows the ESB to prohibit navigation but it doesn’t seem to apply to the Shannon: only to rivers on which power stations were to be built after 1945.

The Shannon Fisheries Act 1935

The most important part of the act is Section 9 (1) (d) but 9 (2) (a) may also be of interest:

(1) It shall be lawful for the Board to do all such things, carry out all such transactions, and fulfil all such functions as shall be necessary or proper for or incidental or ancillary to the due performance of the duties in relation to the Shannon fisheries imposed on the Board by this Part of this Act, and in particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing powers, it shall be lawful for the Board to do all or any of the following things, that is to say:—

[…]

(d) terminate, restrict, or otherwise interfere with, either permanently or temporarily and either compulsorily or by agreement, any easement, way-leave, water-right, fishing right, or other right over or in respect of any land or water;

[…]

(2) Nothing in this section shall operate to authorise the Board—

(a) to do anything compulsorily without paying compensation therefor […].

Implementation

In order to check my conclusion, I emailed the ESB fisheries department on 26 May 2015:

I note that you say that canoeists and kayakers must seek your permission to use the Shannon at Castleconnell. I would be grateful if you could tell me:

(a) the legislation (Acts or Statutory Instruments) empowering you to make that stipulation

(b) the details of the Board decisions making it and

(c) the details of the stipulation itself. Does it, for instance, apply only to kayaks and canoes or are other vessels, and non-vessels such as jetskis or hovercraft, covered too?

The fisheries department very kindly replied on the same day:

Please note that ESB is not seeking to prevent kayakers or canoeists from using the river but as we operate the stretch of the Shannon River in Castleconnell as a private salmon fishery we are obliged to consider the interests of the anglers who use the fishery and pay to do so.

Since we introduced the requirement for kayakers to contact ESB Fisheries when intending to use the river at Castleconnell, no kayaker has been refused permission.

The legislation empowering ESB to regulate activity on the Shannon is contained in the Shannon Fisheries Act 1935 – Section 9.1 (D).

If you wish to discuss the matter please contact [name and telephone number redacted].

I prefer to have records of such discussions so I replied by email on 27 May 2015:

[…] I should say that I have no interest or stake in either angling or canoeing/kayaking per se. My interest is in the management of the Shannon, and in particular in navigation thereon, past and present.

[…] my interest in the navigation of the Shannon from Castleconnell downstream was excited recently by some comments by anglers on what kayakers might or might not do. Accordingly, I searched the Irish Statute Book database for all Acts and Statutory Instruments dealing with the ESB, the Shannon and salmon fisheries. I read every Act or SI I found on those subjects.

I found nothing to indicate that the right to navigate the Shannon, from Castleconnell downstream, had been extinguished or that the ESB had been appointed as a navigation authority with the right to control navigation; I note that the ESB makes charges for boats on some other fisheries but not on the Shannon.

I acknowledge of course that there may be documents I have not seen and that I may have missed or misinterpreted something in those I did read.

ESB> Shannon Fisheries Act 1935 – Section 9.1 (D)

That was the only enactment I found under which I thought the ESB could take any action that affected navigation. Indeed the section appears to allow the ESB to use helicopter gunships to deter poachers if it so desires.

However, that is an extremely broad enactment, and I have not found, in the Irish Statute Book or anywhere else, any information about these matters:

  • what strategic decisions the Board has made on this subject, or what decision-making powers it has conferred on its fisheries staff
  • in the implementation of that Section, what decision-making process the ESB followed and how it consulted citizens (other than anglers)
  • whether the Board has actually decided to “terminate, restrict, or otherwise interfere with, either permanently or temporarily and either compulsorily or by agreement, any easement, way- leave, water-right, fishing right, or other right over or in respect of any land or water”
  • if it has so decided, what the details of the decision are: details both of its making and of its application
  • how such decision is consonant with other legislation
  • how the decision was promulgated and where the details can now be found
  • what appeal and compensation mechanisms have been set up to enable the Board to meet the provisions of Section 9.2 (a)
  • what case law exists on the subject.

I have also been unable to find any enactment providing that citizens are obliged to obey any such decision or that any action can be taken against them if they decide to ignore it.

Let me say again that I acknowledge that my inability to find information doesn’t mean that it does not exist. However, I would have expected that, in any case where my [presumed] rights [eg to navigate] were affected, the relevant regulations would be readily available and the authority under which they were made would be clear. I would therefore be grateful if you would let me have the details, which I would like to publish on my website.

I sent that two weeks ago today; I have not yet had a response.

My current understanding

I acknowledge that the ESB has the right to ban navigation on the Shannon through Castleconnell if it wants to do so. I also acknowledge that it is possible that it has done so and even that it may have taken its decision validly and in accordance with the principles of natural or constitutional justice.

However, the ESB has not yet shown that it has taken that decision and done so validly and in accordance with the principles of natural or constitutional justice. I have found no evidence that it has and, in two weeks, the ESB has not provided any. All we have to go on is a pair of unsupported assertions, one by the  Limerick and District Anglers Association [whose concept of trespass I do not understand] and the other by the ESB fisheries department, saying that would-be navigators must contact them, but without citing any authority for that demand.

As matters stand, I see no reason why that demand should be complied with. But, again, I acknowledge that I do not have full information.

Piscator, Navita and Shannon navigation rights

I was never any good at fishing. The only time I ever caught anything was when fishing for mackerel with feathers from a boat, which is [I gather] the equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel [surely a pointless exercise: if you wanted to catch or kill them you could just let the water out of the barrel].

My knowledge of angling comes, therefore, almost entirely from two sources. The first is observation: from the comfort of a boat, I’ve seen anglers along riverbanks, huddled under umbrellas in the rain, miles from any amenities. They don’t seem to be having a lot of fun, but that is no doubt because they “affect a holy melancholy”, as explained in my second source.

Izaak Walton begins his The Compleat Angler or the Contemplative Man’s Recreation, being a Discourse of Rivers, Fishponds, Fish, and Fishing [a 1904 edition available here] with a friendly argument between Piscator, Venator and Auceps, each lauding his own pastime. They cite learned authorities, refer to scripture and quote poets at length before refreshing themselves at the Thatched House.

Then Venator, having become an apprentice angler, learns “How to Fish for, and to Dress, the Chavender or Chub” and many another fish, pausing to hear Maudlin, the milkmaid, sing her song and her mother sing a response. After a supper of barley-wine and trout, Piscator, Venator and two more anglers, Peter and Coridon, sing more songs, including The Angler’s Song, which includes this stanza:

Of recreation there is none
So free as fishing is alone;
All other pastimes do no less
Than mind and body both possess;
My hand alone my work can do,
So I can fish and study too.

Towards the end of the book’s first part [the second being written by Charles Cotton], Piscator recites a poem attributed to Sir Harry Wotton, this being the last stanza:

Welcome, pure thoughts, welcome, ye silent groves,
These guests, these courts, my soul most dearly loves;
Now the wing’d people of the sky shall sing
My cheerful anthems to the gladsome spring;
A prayer-book, now, shall be my looking-glass,
In which I shall adore sweet virtue’s face,
Here dwell no hateful looks, no palace cares,
No broken vows dwell here, nor pale-faced fears; Then here I’ll sit, and sigh my hot love’s folly,
And learn t’affect a holy melancholy;
And if contentment be a stranger, then
I’ll ne’er look for it, but in heaven, again.

They don’t write ’em like that any more.

Piscator iratus

I had assumed that this blend of contentment and holy melancholy characterised the anglers of today. But when, having visited the excellent website of the Limerick and District Anglers Association, I moved instead to their FaceTweet page, I found that the modern angler’s lot is not a happy one. The angler has to contend with the iniquities of the Electricity Supply Board [which owns fishing rights on the Shannon], Inland Fisheries Ireland  [whose role on the Shannon I know not] and, now, kayakers.

In discussion of another post on the subject, the Association said:

Therefore canoeists who enter this section of river without permission are trespassing.

That interested me, and I thought I should look further into navigation rights on the Shannon. [Update 10 June 2015] I have posted my interim conclusions here.

There is a second point. The Old River Shannon Research Group repeated the kayaking topic on its FaceTweet page with this comment:

This is a commercial company trying to turn the Castleconnell beats into something like Lahinch has become with surfers. See their website here. This type of “development” requires Appropriate Assessment.

I am most reluctant to disagree with the learned Dr William O’Connor on anything, as he knows far more than I do about environmental matters, but his comment raised a second topic of interest and I thought I might look into that too. Again, I’ll post separately on that.