GLC Logo
Homepage  |   About Us  |   Historians  |   Classroom  |   Events  |        

Indexed by: Subject | Author | Date | Document Type
Listed Under:  Ireland, Famine Relief

Central Relief Committee of the Society of Friends

Report from James Alcock...respecting the present state of the fishermen...

Citation Information:"Report from James Alcock...respecting the present state of the fishermen..." Transactions of the Central Relief Committee of the Society of Friends during the Famine in Ireland. Dublin: Edmund Burke Publisher, 1852. (1996). [not finished; check tables]

(This statement only refers to their present condition, several accounts respecting them having been previously published from time to time, under the title of "Facts from the Fisheries.") I would not deem it necessary to trouble you further relative to the state of the Ring fishermen, were it not that I take it for granted you are naturally anxious to be informed how far the favors conferred in former years, have tended to produce a permanent benefit. I have the more pleasure in reverting to this subject now, because I believe that, notwithstanding the many difficulties they have had to struggle against, our fishermen are now in as prosperous and thriving a condition as they were before the famine; and were it not for the very great depreciation in the price of fish, more especially the dried hake, which, in the absence of herrings, is the staple commodity here, many would have realized this season what would have contributed materially to their comforts and independence for years to come. Is it not an important point gained, when we have it in our power to state that, in a little community like this, consisting of about two hundred families, with not more than an acre or two of land attached to each house, these poor people can support themselves without seeking poor-law relief, and this with a potato crop worse than has been in this locality for the three preceding years. You are aware that, about the commencement of the year 1849, the grants from your committee ceased; with the exception of two large bales of warm clothing, which proved most acceptable. Since that period we have received from a member of your society, who has at all times taken a most lively interest in our welfare, from three to four tons of best Druana hemp, which we sold to the fishermen at wholesale price. This year they have been left altogether to their own resources, and it will be gratifying to your committee to learn, that they have purchased with their own funds a sufficient quantity of gear of all kinds, to enable them to carry on their fishing operations with even increased energy; and that their exertions have been crowned with the most signal success. The quantity of fish taken this season nearly doubles that of any former year, averaging from 1,500 to 5,000 hake to each house. Before the potato blight, this description of fish sold at a particular season of the year in our local markets for 40s. per hundred. Now, it will scarcely realize one fourth of that amount. Nor has the very great success attendant on the trammel nets been confined exclusively to the Ring district. It has extended from several miles along the coast, and we have much pleasure in beholding, at the approach of evening, from our prominent headlands the small craft issuing forth from every cove and creek, with their nets and busy crews eager to imitate the example of their successful neighbours, and anxious to obtain a portion of that nutritious food which an all-wise Providence has sent for the general benefit of mankind. I may here mention, in reference to this very useful and improved engine for taking fish, that the bye-law recently passed by the commissioners of fisheries has worked with a most beneficial effect; inasmuch as it affords to our fishermen sufficient time to attend to their nets, without danger to life or property as heretofore. It has also broken down the barrier by which monopoly was protected, and opened the way to further improvements in the fishery laws. It is also worthy of remark, that hostile collisions between rival parties here and in Dungarvan have been wholly discontinued during the last year, and all now work amicably together. If further proof of the prosperity of this little community were required, I might add that, notwithstanding the general wreck which prevails around, exhibiting to the eye of the traveller, in whatever direction he shapes his course, the dismantled cottages of the poor, there is no perceptible diminution in our population; no trace of dilapidation to be seen; and the poor fisherman, on his return from sea, can sit down in comfort to his homely fare, without fear of molestation or eviction. Nay, more, he can contribute to the wants of his more indigent numbers to the landing-slip, to obtain a portion of the refuse of the coarse fish which has been taken in the nets. I trust I have said enough in the foregoing remarks, to satisfy you, gentlemen, that the funds voted by your committee for the promotion of the Ring fisheries have not been misapplied. To this I may add, that the fishermen are to be distinguished from the same class of persons around, by their robust and healthy appearance, and by their comfortable and substantial clothing; and that their boats and gear are in good working condition. The failure of the Helvick curing establishment is, however, much to be regretted; occurring as it did at a time when the superior excellence of the fish, particularly the ling, cod, and smoked haddock, was becoming known and appreciated. Had the conductors confined themselves exclusively to the curing of fish for the English market, and not expended their capital upon other speculations, I have no doubt but that the result would have been very different. The pier and slip continue to give much satisfaction, as affording shelter and protection to our craft, and a great convenience in landing the fish and nets. Schooners, also, of heavy tonnage can now discharge their cargoes here in perfect security. Having thus briefly touched upon such subjects as I considered to be interesting to your committee, it only remains for me now to recapitulate what has been advanced in confirmation of my statement, relative to the condition of the people, viz. that when there has been no diminution of the population from evictions; no emigration, nor the abandonment of premises through distress; no dilapidation of houses; a reduced poor rate, and a large stock of cured fish on hands, it may fairly be inferred that much good has been effected in Ring through your means; and that, notwithstanding the heavy losses which the fishermen sustained on shore by the failure of their little crops, they have continued to support their families in comparative comfort for a considerable period, even after your favours were discontinued. (Signed) JAMES ALCOCK. Seaview, 1st of January, 1852 Extract from memorandum of agreement with William Thomas Campbell of Belmullet, respecting the advance of L300 made to him for the promotion of the Fisheries. (This agreement is given as an example of those under which several fishing stations were established in the west of Ireland.) Having had a good deal of communication and discussion on the subject of the fisheries, with William Thomas Campbell of Belmullet, the Central Relief Committee have agreed to place L300 under his care, to be appropriated in the following manner, viz.: for the purchase of 15 boats and 10 curraghs, with the nets, gear, and tackle complete for twenty boats:-- L s. d. Each boat to cost 6 0 0 Nets for each boat 1 10 0 Four spillets or long lines for each boat, at 15s. 3 0 0 Four hand lines and leads, at 2s. 6d 0 10 0 Anchor, cable, and sundries 3 10 0 L14 10 0 Each curragh to cost 4 0 0 Nets for each curragh 1 10 0 Four spillets, at 15s 3 0 0 Four hand lines and leads, at 2s. 6d. 0 10 0 Anchor, cable, and sundries 3 10 0 L12 10 0 TOTAL PRESENT OUTLAY: Fifteen boats, with nets, lines, &c. at L14 10s. 217 10 0 Ten curraghs, at L4 40 0 0 Nets for five curraghs, at 30s. 7 10 0 Lines for ditto, at L3 15 0 0 Hand lines for ditto, at 10s 2 10 0 Anchor, cable, and sundries for ditto, at L3 10s 17 10 0 82 10 0 L300 0 0 It is understood that twenty boats, each boat or curragh having a crew of four or five hands, shall be at all times in employment. The arrangements for the remuneration of William Thomas Campbell, who undertakes the management of the boats, the care of the fish, and the sale thereof, and the careful keeping of the accounts for the payment of the crews; and for the liquidation of the sums laid out in the purchase of the several boats and curraghs; shall be as follows:-- Each boat to be considered as divided into ninths. 1 1/4 share to be appropriated for wear and tear. 1 1/2 share to be appropriated for liquidation of outlay. 1 share to be appropriated for management, to William T. Campbell. 5 share to be appropriated to the crew generally. 1/4 share to be appropriated to the captain of the boat additional. 9 Each boat to be duly and properly registered in the name of William Thomas Campbell, for and on behalf of the Central Relief Committee of the Society of Friends, for whom he shall act as trustee until the outlay shall be liquidated. On the liquidation of the outlay of each boat, the property in said boat shall then become vested in the manager and crew in the following proportions:-- Manager 3 shares. Crew 6 shares It is clearly to be understood, that the whole property in the boats and curraghs, nets, gear, and tackle, and the complete control over them, shall continue with the Central Relief Committee of the Society of Friends; and with their trustee William Thomas Campbell, acting for that body, until the whole amount of the outlay shall have been liquidated; and he shall have full power and authority to select the several captains and crews, as likewise to dismiss the captains and crews, or any of them, by reason of any ill conduct on their part, from which he may have just reason to fear injury to the undertaking. 4th of Eleventh-month, 1847