Royal Commission of inquiry into the state of the Irish Fisheries: first report

Back to Search Bibliographic Data Print



Modes of Fishing.

Trawls and trammels are very much complained of, and restraints and regulations suited
to the circumstances of different places are quite necessary.

Bantry, April 6, 1836.

Examining Commissioners—Messrs. Barry and Townsewd.

Witnesses—Rev. Thomas Bakby, P.P.; Rev. Michael O'Sullivan, R.C.C.; Patrick Mur¬
phy, Huor of Mr. Levis's Sean Boat; Patrick Daly, and several other Fishermen.

Description of The Sprat and Herring sean fishery, especially the former, may be considered the most

Fishery. important pursuit of the Bantry fishermen. There are in Bantry ten such seans, owned

chiefly by respectable persons, and therefore well found and kept up. To each sean there
is a large boat and a smaller sized one, called a follower, and fifteen men are employed..
The huor, or headman, gets what is called a bounty or advance of £5 or £6 in money, to¬
gether with two-fifteenths of one-fourth—that is, the one-thirtieth part of the whole lish
taken, which averages according to the season, from £3 to £5, sometimes more. There
are two cockswains, of whom, one gets 30s., and the other 20s., as bounty. The other men
get from 5s. to 16s., and all except the huor get 6^d. per night for every night they are out^
together with the one-sixtieth part to each of the fourteen mem. There is no case where
the sean is owned by the crew, but Murphy thinks they would be much better off, if they
had a sean between them, as the owners keep them in from fishing many nights when they
may be profitably employed, in order to save the nightly wages and the wear and tear of
netting, in cases where there is not an absolute certainty of taking fish. Murphy thinks that
under such circumstances, there would be no danger of disagreement. A seaning establish¬
ment may be set up for £100 to £150. The present owners particularly have no reason to-
be satisfied with the trade, and are willing to dispose of their nets and boats. It does not
follow, because the trade in their hands has been unsuccessful, that in the hands of the
fishermen themselves, it would not yield a good livelihood, and gradually the means of re¬
paying the cost of the establishment. Murphy thinks that a crew could in three years,
repay the value of the sean and boats. Late years have been extremely unproductive;
many causes have been assigned, bvit to none more than the general use of trammel-nets,
do the sean fishers attribute the late failure of fish.

Mortality among The operation of sean fishing is exceedingly laborious, and a very premature mortality

Sean fishers. is remarked among those who follow it. This may be also attributed to the want of

comforts, and to the too general use of ardent spirits.

Habitations. The fishermen pay from 30s. to £2 yearly, for very wretched houses, without even

cabbage gardens, and at the rate of £4 per acre, for the use of potato-ground for a sea¬
son. Nothing would more tend to improve their condition than more comfortable habita¬
tions, with small portions of ground annexed at reasonable rents, but which they could
consider permanently their own. More than an acre would not be considered desireable tcj

Fishery of 1828. There has been no productive fishery in Bantry since 1828.

Pilchard Fishery. Pilchards were taken in great abundance in 1823. None have appeared in any quantity

Sprat Fishery.


Bantry^ August 13, 1836',

Witnesses—Mr. Samuel Youkg, Port Surveyor of Bantry ; Mr. John Youstg, a very old Gentle¬
man, who had been for very many years engaged in the Fisheries of Bantry; Mr. Richari>
Young; Mr. John Sandy Bird; Mr. J. B. Corioery; Mr. Jeremiah Donovan, all re¬
spectable traders of the town of Bantry, and Sean Owners ; The Rev. Thomas Barry, P.P.
Rev. Michael O'Sullivan, R.C.C.; Mr. Thomas Jenkins; Joseph M'Carthy, Part
Owner of a Hooker, and others. Fishermen.

The Commissioners having been informed that large shoals of Sprats had been taken
in the Bay of Bantry, in the end of July, and that the fish had suddenly deserted the
place under rather unaccountable circumstances, determined to visit Bantry a second time,
for the purpose of inqiiiring into the particulars on the spot.

Although the Sprat fishery of Bantry Bay seldom commences before the 15th of August,
large shoals appeared this year about the 23rd July. On Monday the 25th, Mr. Corkery
took six boat loads in one haul, at Gurteenroe, in Bantry Bay; the weather having been
at the time rather rough and boisterous. They continued up to the end of the month to
be taken in great abundance, when the weather became unusually fine and hot, and the
shoals drew off into deep water, and the quantity taken since has been very inconsiderable.
Mr. Corkery took altogether, about nine boat loads. Each boat load, is about eighty
barrows, of eight cluggets to the barrow. The clugget counted in the presence of the
Commissioners, contained fifteen long hundreds of Sprats, six score to each hundred. The
j)rice at which they are sold, was 6tf. the clugget fresh, or Is. salted. The huxters who
purchased them, retailed them at \^d. the hundred. Each boat load of fish takes about
one ton and a half of salt to the first and second salting.

The boat load will produce about twelve imperial gallons of oil, which for tanning pur¬
poses, is as good as any that can be found, and is at present worth from 2s. M. to 2s. M. pe