Waterford County Museum, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, Ireland. Charity Reg: 17397
Tel: +353 (0)58 45960  Email: [email protected]
Articles    Photos
Table Of Contents
Fishing In Ardmore

Ardmore Memory and Story - The Sea

1. Fishing In Ardmore
Salmon Fishing
The earliest we know of fishing in Ardmore is in 1616, when the Earl of Cork, - according to Life and Letters of the Great Earl of Cork by Dorothea Townshend, published 1904 -
"was putting up salting and fish houses and a fish press at Ardmore, where he and the Hulls were setting up a fish curing establishment. Sir William Hull was Vice-Admiral of Munster, living in Leam Con Castle near Crookhaven and the fisheries there were worked by Sir William in partnership with Boyle.

In the same year 1616, the Earl made a memorandum “Delivered to Captain William Hull £20 as earnest money to buy casks for fumados upon an agreement to have half of his fish to be taken the next season at Crookhaven in which he and I are to be partners and Captain Hull is to adventure £100 with me in my next seasons fishing at Ardmore. The connection with Sir William Hull dates from his marriage to the widow of Boyle, Bishop of Cork, brother of the Earl.

Another fish anecdote relates to Mr Lancaster, one of the fellows of Youghal College who came in 1616 to beg the Earl for preferment. He was given his travelling expenses and in 1619, the Earl agreed to give him “as Parson and Vicar of Ardmore”, a free gift of half the fish, which formerly had been a due of the dissolved St. Molana’s Abbey, to which Ardmore had belonged.

In the beginning of the 20th century, there was no tradition of drift-net fishing for salmon in Ardmore. The only family who engaged in fishing were the Gearys (who lived where Tigaliunn is now) who had a licence for salmon fishing and fished with what was called a bag net, leaving it in position all night and collecting the fish in the morning, and transporting them by horse and cart to the Ferry Point and there to Youghal. The catch in the bag net could amount from 100 to 200 fish.

When Fred Keane, Star Cottage, one of the Keane family of Cappoquin, came to live in Ardmore around 1910 he acquired a boat and employed Patsy McCarthy and Maurice Flynn to fish for salmon; they were paid a weekly wage plus a 1/- a fish. The fish were brought up to the Coach-house of Rock House and from there, transported to the Ferry Point and Youghal in a special spring-dray called a jingle. Later on he had to get men from Ring to fish for him. They stayed in ‘Stone Steps’ i.e. the house overlooking the Boat Cove, now owned by Finbarr and Mrs Crowley of Cork. They walked home to Ring every Friday evening, over by Fuges, Ballyquin, and along a cliff path; they returned on Sunday evenings.

Others followed the example of Fred Keane. Jamesy Quain and Seán Faítch (O’Brien), Nick Rooney about 1910 (he eventually acquired three boats), Johnny Mansfield, Paddy Fitzgerald (generally called Grady), and Jim Pender. They tended to fish only in summer and to go to sea in two oared boats on suitable days. Nick Rooney was the first to start fishing in February. He and Eamon Mulcahy caught a salmon of 48½lbs weight, probably the heaviest ever caught in the bay. Seán Faítch (O’Brien) acquired his own 4 oared boat as did Paddy Brien also Tom Harty of Curragh. Deug Rooney and Tom Rooney came home from America to go fishing, but they returned to the US after some time.

Some of the other Ardmore fishermen were Willie Flynn of Dysert, Jimmie Carey. ‘Dr’ Walsh of Whitingbay, John and Tom Smith, Whitingbay, and from Curragh, Jack Corbett, four Hurtin fishermen, Simon Fletcher, Deug Brien and Danny Donovan. Johnny Mansfield had a boat, so had Tom Foley and Ned Foley.

Jimmie Rooney remembers eighty-four fishermen during his years of fishing. There were nine boats when he began his fishing career in 1925, at the age of 16 and gave up he thinks about 1972. Paddy Power and Paddy Flynn fished with him for about thirty-three years. He remembers on one occasion catching six salmon averaging 20lbs weight each; one of them weighed 38½lbs. On another occasion on a Fools Day, they caught thirty fish. In the 1930’s he had three boats made for him at Murrays in Youghal. Each one, plus a pair of oars cost £14.

200 yards of net was the length allowed in those days and the salmon licence cost £3. There was no fishing from 8 am Saturday morning until 6 am on Monday morning. The laws were enforced by the Lismore Board of Conservators. One chose one’s berth at the beginning of the week. That was an important decision and often caused friction. The position of one’s berth was achieved by being first out on Monday morning and it was retained until Friday evening. The distance between each berth was 200 yards.

Some of the fish went to Cappoquin, Billy Baldwin being the vendor; more to Waterford where a better price prevailed, but later, they were taken by O’Connor of Cappoquin, the fish being brought every evening up to Tigaluinn, residence of Martin Hurley and weighed in the back kitchen, and a small docket issued, and then, on a Saturday, they were paid. We have visions of our father with the Ready Reckoner each weekend. Each man in the boat got a share, with an extra one for the boat owner, who would of course have the obligation of paying for the licence and nets. A register of the salmon had to be kept, noting all that were bought or sold and to whom, and this was examined by the fishery inspector, from time to time.

So salmon fishing continued in Ardmore throughout the late twenties, thirties and forties. The season began on 1st February and there was special mass and the priest went to the Boat Cove to bless the boat and nets. The licence cost £3 and fishing continued till the end of July, but the men really regarded May as the last month.

The preparation went on for quite some time in advance, the nets having to be oiled before January and then mounted. Seeing the men mounting the nets at various locations in the village, was part of the memories of childhood. Corks had to be bought and these were brought to the forge to be holed in the fire there. During the fishing season, the nets were hauled in each evening and draped across the special poles at the pier.

In 1947 there was a memorable invasion of sharks during the month of May. Everywhere one looked there seemed to be eight or nine fins together, and of course they played havoc with the nets. Between 1926 and 1954, the seasons were very bad, but the salmon fishing continued to a certain extent. John Keevers joined the ranks in 1946.

1935 was the year the Muirchú (our only Irish naval boat at that period, a veteran of 1916, when she was British owned and shelled the G.P.O.) came to the bay. Nobody suspected her of having an interest in the salmon boats, but so she had. Discrepancies were noted and in 1936 she came again to the bay and the law cases were held in the local court house. However, the occasion was remembered with hilarity.

There was a big resurgence in salmon fishing in the late seventies and eighties. There was more of an emphasis then on the peel or young salmon which appeared in May. In one day, John Cronin had a record catch of 210 fish. Boats tended to get 40-60 fish each day. About 12 boats were fishing, John Keevers, Farrisseys, Paddy Foley, John Cronin, Jimmie O’Connor, Martin Troy, Dick Linehan, Vinnie Rourke, Mick Fitzgerald, Revins, Paddy Morrissey, Jim Flynn and Jim Moloney (who had bought with him from London, a young Australian teacher who spent the season salmon fishing in Ardmore). It was about this time, that we were intrigued at the idea of some of the fishermen landing at Cliff House on the early mornings and treating themselves to breakfast at the hotel, and often a special lunch later in the day. Tourists along the cliff walk were greatly interested at seeing a salmon being taken from the rock angle. All in all it was a halcyon period, now come to an end.

The whole concept of salmon fishing was now entirely different. The boats were bigger and powered with engines. The length of nets was much greater and there was a great deal of controversy about monofilm nets, which have now become legal.

Now, it was being argued (1977) that the numbers of salmon were decreasing and in the interests of conservation these was a decision by the Department to reduce the depth of nets from 60 meshes to 30. The length was confined to 800 yards and the cost of a salmon licence increased from £3 to £50. Monofilm nets were outlawed. Naturally, these laws gave rise to great upset and dissension, specially from those under the Lismore Board of Conservators.

In March 1979, 50 fishermen from Youghal, Ardmore and Ballycotton took part in a picket outside Leinster House, but the minister, Brian Lenihan stood firm. The same year, an application was taken to the High Court, by Jim Moloney and Dick Lenihan to have the law declared invalid, but it ended in failure. In April 1979, the fishermen decided to defy the rules and went fishing in Ardmore on a Monday. No action was taken by the Gardaí or bailiffs present. The men from Youghal did likewise the following week. The opening of the season had been postponed to March 15th and ended on June 20th and fishing was not allowed on Mondays (neither was it of course on Saturdays and Sundays).

The “Fisherman’s Lament” appeared in the Dungarvan Leader in June 1979.

“I’m just a fisherman, no business, no land;
With my wee boat and nets, the Blackwater I fished.
Sure life was just grand.
I made a nice living, I was always content,
Until Brian struck the blow, and laid us all low
With his bye-laws and ban.

One fish at a time, St. Peter,
Is all I’m asking of you;
Give me the grace not to fly in God’s face
For what those blackguards all do
At times, I feel mad, St. Peter
No future for me but the dole,
Oh for God’s sake help me today
My mind to control.

Do you remember when you fished here on earth,
St. Peter you know if you’re looking below
It’s worse now than then;
Four days out of seven
From mid-March to July,
But we know to our cost
What the poor man has lost,
A Sad man am I.

Salmon fishing continued to a very limited extent, the season being from 1st June to 31st July, the salmon license costs £150 and a craft of nets £1500.

In (1998) the Blackwater Salmon Development Group with the Southern Regional Fisheries Board acting as facilitators, entered into discussions with the Ardmore fishermen, regarding a proposed ‘set aside’ of the fishery, on a voluntary basis with a monetary compensation for the fishermen. Salmon fishing was being conducted as usual, in 1998 and 1999.

Other Types Of Fishing

At the end of the last century, two seines were being fished in Ardmore. These were enormous nets which surrounded the mackerel and were pulled in and closed. They were so big that twelve men were necessary for the operation. They were then emptied by cognet into the boat and brought to Youghal, where mackerel were being cured at the time and exported to America. The girls dealing with the fish were from Scotland, so the firm was probably Scottish. This curing station finished in the 1920’s, Jimmie Rooney thinks.

Jim Wolsey from Ballycotton was working on a seine; he married Mag and they lived at the bottom of the village, to the north of the Boathouse, an area now part of the roadway. About £100 per crew each week was the pay given to the men. Oars and sails were used in the boats. Jamsey Quain and Seán Fáitch worked on a seine. If the signs were favourable, Jamsey spread a white sail on the wall above the boat cove and this was the signal to the Curragh men to come at once.

Spratt were quite often caught in seines and were brought around the countryside by horse and cart and sold; this was called jolting or rather joulting. People went very long distances with them, often travelling all night. Seán Rua’s (Fitzgerald who lived in what is now P. Carltons house in the street) saying has often been quoted. “At the dawning of the day, I fell into Carrick”, the word ‘fell’ being a good description of the last few miles downhill to Carrick-on-’Suir. Apparently when Johnie returned from the Carrick expedition the locals gathered into his kitchen to hear the account of his adventures. Incidently the jennet had to be escorted out of the kitchen to the back garden there being no other means of access at that time.

Jimmie Rooney had an exciting story of the four local men who lost their trammel nets in a storm and proceeded to search for them along the coast. One of the four was Mrs Hackett, and she went instead of her husband who wasn't strong enough to go with the others. They persisted in their search (by foot) away beyond Youghal, even beyond Cork harbour and located them in Kinsale. They were in touch with the coast guards along the coast and they gave them information to help them in their search and it was with their co-operation that the nets were finally located. Having found them they shouldered the nets and set off for home again on foot as before. When they arrived in Youghal, the men wanted to rest there for the night, but Mrs Hackett insisted on continuing on across the ferry and home so the three men went with her.

Long line fishing was conducted from boats the size of the “Dauntless”, six oars and also sail. They went out rather far to ‘grounds’ they knew.

The late Tom Veale’s father, a teacher in Ardmore owned the "Dauntless" at one stage. It went through numerous hands; my father Martin Hurley owned her at one time, had her repaired in Youghal and Jimmie Rooney and Paddy Neill sailed her home from the quay there. I remember it well as both my sister Eileen and I embarked on it also and sailed around to Ardmore with Jimmy and Paddy. Jimmie gasps at the thought since, as he wasn’t proficient at manipulating sails, but we did arrive in Ardmore safe and sound. The poor Dauntless didn’t go to sea again and after one storm was deposited half way up Powers' bog.

Herring fishing was carried on in Ardmore too and wasn’t supposed to take place between dawn and dusk. The nets were put out at dusk and hauled in at dawn. The coastguards used report any herring nets present during the day. Herrings were ’jolted’ too.

An interesting anecdote referring to this practice concerns my mother, sometime in the thirties. It was Pattern time and my mother after her day’s work was anxious to do the rounds and brought the late Statia Mansfield with her. Statia was about 16 at the time and was helping her in the house. It was about 10.30pm on a calm, moonlight night and as they were going up the road, they heard the sound of carts coming towards them. Statia proclaimed at this, but my mother said that they’d meet them soon. They didn’t and the carts seemed to be coming the other way, and this continued to happen on the return journey too. Statia was getting quite agitated and so was my mother, but she didn’t want to pretend this to Statia.

A few days later, Mrs Shanahan, an old lady from Monatrea was in and my mother recounted the experience to her. Mrs Shanahan had no difficulty at all in explaining it and couldn’t understand why they didn’t realise it was the ‘old people’ (i.e. dead people) coming to do their rounds.

Then one day, my mother happened to meet Bridie Troy of the Cliff (she lived where Kings are now) and she asked Bridie if she heard any carts going up and down, the other night. Bridie said yes, there was a haul of herrings and these were being brought up and down to a waiting lorry. The lower or Cliff Road is of course very near the upper one on which Statia and my mother were walking and the sound carried very well on the calm still night, so there was the end of a good ghost story.

Herrings seemed to fade out of the picture for some years, but became lucrative again in the seventies and eighties £14 a box was being paid; this rose to £21 per box and sometimes, as many as 100 boxes of fish per boat were being taken.

Lobsters were being caught, early in the century, Jimmie Rooney remembers the men from Hare Island in West Cork coming fishing lobsters for Fred Keane and seeing them baking bread in pot ovens over some kind of stove in the boat. The only shelter they had was the sails. Just a few months ago some people in Hare Island telephoned me looking for information on their forebears of the beginning days of the last century who came so far to fish lobsters and lived in such primitive conditions.

Lobsters are still being fished in Ardmore. In the thirties my father used buy them, keep them in a large lobster box moored off the pier and then have them packed in sawdust in fish boxes in the boat cove and sent off to Billingsgate. 8/- a dozen was the price paid to the men. As much as five dozen lobster were often taken from the pots.

The fishing industry has drastically declined in Ardmore in recent years. There are still some fishing boats owned by Tony Gallagher, Hugh Reilly, John Keevers and the Revins brothers have two or three. They use bottom nets for plaice, sole or pollock and there is some shrimp fishing with anchored shrimp pots.

The winkles (periwinkles) were also being harvested over the years and my father used bring them in his lorry to Youghal Railway station and send them to Billingsgate. At first (probably in the late twenties) he used a pony and cart to go to Monatrea and even to Knockadoon. Later on, he used a lorry, 6p a gallon was the price paid; now its £26 a cwt. One may still see some winkle pickers operating on the rocks.

Certainly times have changed in all facets of the fishing industry in Ardmore, an industry where possibilities had been noted and taken advantage of, by the Earl of Cork as far back as 1616.

Author: Siobhan Lincoln

Join Our Mailing List

Join our mailing list and get all the latest news for free via email. Simply enter your email address in the box below and press the 'Join' button.

Make A Donation

Waterford County Museum is a non profit voluntary museum. We would be grateful for any financial donation large or small.

Make payments with PayPal - it's fast, free and secure!

Social Media

Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Blogger Follow us on Youtube
© Waterford County Museum 2014. All rights reserved. Please read our Terms of Use
Website By: Déise Design