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Art. IV.-1. A Report of the Fishery Case, Poole Gabbett,
Esq. v. Thomas Clancy, and Thomas Droyer, tried before Mr. Justice Ball, and a Special Jury at the Limerick Summer Assizes, 1841, and which occupied the Court for over fice
days. By William O'Brien, Limerick. 2. Report of the Select Committee on the Salmon Fisheries of
the United Kingdom, 1824. 3. Second Report of the Select Committee on ditto, 1825. 4. Report from Select Committee on ditto, 1827. 5. Second Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the state
of the Irish Fisheries, with the minutes of evidence presented
to both Houses of Parliament, 1836. 6. A Treatise on the Game and Fishery Laws of Ireland. By John Finlay, Esq. LL.D. Barrister-at-Law. Dublin, 1827.
10 an Irishman with strong national feelings, there canbetween what nature intended that his countrymen should be, and what they are. Their natural qualities and capabilities are the theme of eulogy with every writer,—yet they, themselves, are treated by that nation with which they come most in contact, as objects of ridicule, oppression, and pity. Their bravery is unquestioned;—but they have been for ages slaves; their industry unparalleled ;—but they have been for ages paupers. Their coasts, rivers, and harbours, are the finest in the world ;—but they are without commerce.
Their shores teem to an almost miraculous extent with fish ;—but they are not allowed to touch them. Their soil is fertile beyond all others;- but they are not suffered to enjoy its fruits, or even deemed entitled to existence upon it. He would however soon sicken at the contemplation, and without going through all the melancholy details, would hasten to the inevitable conclusion, that nature intended that they should be the richest, the proudest, and happiest of God's creatures; but that they are the poorest, the most abject, and most wretched.
It would be beside our present purpose to attempt to trace the causes which have led to this lamentable result; our object in this paper being the very simple and unambitious one of examining, in detail
, the legality of one of the many forms of material and palpable oppression to which our unfortunate countrymen are subjected. Any more galling species of oppression than that which we now propose to investigate, it is impossible to conceive. On the seacoasts, and on the banks
of the various navigable rivers of Ireland, there are hundreds of thousands in the deepest distress, debarred from the only sort of employment for which their local situation would seem to have destined them, and compelled to starve, while they behold the means of wealth and food, which the law of nature, and of England, and the universal usage of mankind, (Anglo-Irish excepted) allow to the first adventurous captor, passing away before their eyes, and appropriated to the use of a few individuals. God knows that they enjoy very little of the gifts, which He would seem to have designed for them; but that they should be prevented from appeasing their hunger, with the creatures which He brings and carries with the tides and seasons, and, as if to meet their daily wants, affords peculiar facilities twice a day for catching, and which, if not caught by them, may not be caught at all; that, in short, the fishes of the sea should be to them “forbidden fruit,” is so monstrous an injustice, that in any other country, it would be incredible. That this injustice is illegal, is a proposition which we shall render as clear and unquestionable as any legal proposition can be, and make so plain and obvious, that no reasonable being can refuse it credence, or hesitate to conclude with us, that those who perpetrate this illegal injustice, differ from highwaymen in one respect only, that of preying upon the ignorance, instead of upon the fears of their victims.
Before entering into the consideration of the legal character of this species of oppression, we shall mention a few details relative to its origin, extent, and results. Every body knows that there is not a country on the face of the earth, which has suffered so much from the rapacity of its rulers as Ireland. From the first moment of Henry the Second's planting his foot upon its shores, the spoliation of the great mass of the people for the special benefit of a few needy adventurers has been the guiding policy of England. In the history of no other country do we find such a continuous series of confiscations. There is scarce a spot in the island, that has not been five or six times forfeited on one pretence or another. “'Twere long to tell, and sad to trace" the steps, by which the whole country was gradually wrested from its rightful owners. In progress of time it became difficult to find a spot of ground in the possession of any one, from whom it was desirable to take it. This was a contingency which would puzzle greater philosophers than
VOL. XI.-NO. XXII.
the most ingenious of the sovereigns under whom it was the inexpressible felicity of our forefathers to exist. When, therefore, earth was not to be had, attention was turned to the other elements, and the result of some deliberation was the discovery, that the sea, and coasts, and navigable rivers of the island, with all that was therein, belonged to the soverign by royal prerogative, as part of his private inheritance, and that he might give and grant them to whom he pleased, and leave the rest of the community to praise and magnify the benevolence and generosity that still allowed them the use of the common air, and did not bottle it
for the exclusive enjoyment of him and his favourites. Accordingly we find Elizabeth, James I, and his two successors, bestowing on various parties the fisheries of all the coasts and navigable rivers in the island, that it was worth any one's while to accept. The example thus set by the crown, of appropriating what it had no right to appropriate, was soon followed by the proprietors of lands on the coasts and on the banks of navigable rivers, where the crown had forgotten or neglected to exercise its newly-discovered prerogative; and thus the great body of the people were soon robbed of their ancient rights, and all the valuable public fisheries of the island were monopolised by the grantees of the crown and the owners of the adjoining lands. It is almost impossible to give a full and exact return of the number of fisheries that ought to be public which have been thus monopolized, but from the following return which we have compiled from the last official report on the salmon fisheries of these countries (that of 1836), our readers will be able to form some vague conception as to the immensity of the scale on which the Irish poor have been defrauded. Respecting the oyster, and other salt-water fisheries, we have not been able to obtain any details worth noticing, but from what we have learned concerning them, we have no reason to doubt that they been disposed of after the same fashion as the salmon fisheries. In the following return we pursue the order of the Report: where the claim of exclusive fishing is exercised under colour of law by patent, we add "patented," --where by unvarnished force and fraud, or other means not stated in the report, we add “monopolized.” The figures after the name of a river or bay, denote the number of miles the tide flows in it, according to the report.
In Meath and Louth: the Boyne, patented to the corporation of Drogheda ; neglected by them--monopolized by others. In Antrim and Londonderry: the Glenarm, Glenariff, Bush, Bann, from the sea to Coleraine, Foyle, 37 (31 only patented), and the coasts at their mouths, the Ballycastle and Port Rush coasts, patented. Lough Beg, four miles broad by four long; Lough Neagh, twenty miles long by fifteen broad, the largest lake in Europe, with the exception of those of Ladoga, Onega and Geneva (Finlay, p. 174); and the Bann, from Coleraine to Lough Beg, all fresh water, patented to the Earl of Antrim. (Rep. p. 10.) From Inishowen Head to the Giant's Causeway, monopolized.*
In Donegal: the Lennon, 4, Lackagh, Ballynass, Esk, Donegal-bay river and tributaries, and Erne from the sea to Lough Erne, patented: the Guidore, Guibarra, 10, Orea, Owentocher, Lochrismore estuary, Murvagh estuary, Eany and part of the bay into which it is discharged, monopolized.
In Leitrim : the Bunduff, Sligo bay and river, Easkey lake, river, and estuary, the Castletown, Bownona, and almost the entire coast patented or otherwise monopolized.
In Mayo: the Moy, from Ballina to the sea, the Ballycroy and Newport rivers, monopolized.
In Galway : the Galway river, from the town to the sea, the Gowla and Birterbuy bay, the Dowries and Ballinakill estuary, the Culphin and adjoining coast, the Bunowen, Bundurra,and the Great Killery bay, &c. &c. patented.
In Clare and Limerick: the Shannon, 64, patented. Feal, 6, Maig, Fergus, &c. monopolized.
In Kerry: the Maine, 151, Castlemaine harbour, Laune, Kenmare river or bay, 25, and Roughty, monopolized; the Currane, patented.
In Cork: the Ilen, from Skibbereen to Baltimore harbour, patented: the Bandon and Glasson, patented and otherwise monopolized; the Middleton, monopolized; the Lee, partially monopolized.
In Waterford : the Blackwater, 20, Brede and Waterford harbour, patented; the Barrow, Suir, and Nore, monopolized.
In Wexford: the Barrowf and Nore, monopolized under pretence of patent.
In Wicklow: the Bray river, and the bay extending from Bray Head to Killiney and Dalkey island, patented.
* This fact we learn from the Report of 1824, p. 112.
† “ But there are some public salmon fisheries in the estuary called bank fisheries.”- Rep. of 1836.
The public right is admitted in the deep water of the estuary; but the shores are claimed by patentees.-Rep.
In Dublin : the Liffey, partially monopolized ;* a great part of the coast patented.
From the following particulars, which we have gleaned from the Reports before us, a conjecture may be formed as to the value of the property thus monopolized. According to the evidence of Mr. Little, one of the principal lessees of the north-western fisheries, the fish from each of the rivers Bann,f Foyle, and Moy, would be worth at least from £5000 to £6000 per annum, and in some years from £8000 to £9000; the sale of salmon caught in them in 1835 amounted in Liverpool to £9000, in Manchester to £5000, in Bristol to £400, in Glasgow to £550, in Dublin to £300, in London (pickled) to £400, and in the neighbourhood of the rivers to £1800; in all, to £17,450; the annual average produce of the Foyle for the nine years prior to 1836, was 53,603 salmon, weighing 140 tons 14 cwt. Oqrs. 14? lbs. which, counting according to the mode there practised, 120 lbs. to the cwt. give 337,694 lbs., and at a shilling a pound, the sum of £16,884. 4s. 6d. ;g and the quantity of salmon shipped by him and his partner to Liverpool from their Bann, Bush, Foyle, Ballina, Ballyshannon, and Port Rush fisheries, from 1808 to 1823 (including the shipments for the last year to London, Bristol, Glasgow, and Whitehaven) was 2134 tons 14 cwt. 3 qrs. 11lbs., || which, at a shilling per pound, will be found to have made the enormous sum of £239,141. 3s. In some seasons the Port Rush fishery produces 18 tons of salmon, the Bush 15 tons, the Moy, at Ballina, 100 tons, and the Ballyshannon 90.**
We have not been able to collect any authentic data with respect to the produce of other fisheries, but when such is the produce of those few small ones, which can bear no comparison whatever with those of the Shannon, Kenmare, and Blackwater, we may conclude that the value of all the fisheries from which the public are fraudulently excluded, is not under £500,000 a-year.
* The Dublin corporation formerly claimed the monopoly from Island Bridge to Poole Beg, and obtained a recognition of the right by 23 & 24 Geo. III, c. 40, S. 49 ; which, however, was repealed by the 26 Geo. III, c. 50, s. 23, as "their right in said district was not ascertained."
† “So plentiful are salmon there, that one thousand four hundred have been caught in one haul of a net, and one thousand at the succeeding haul.”—Finlay, p. 175, note.
I Rep. of 1824, p. 129. $ This calculation of the value is our own work. || Rep. of 1824, p. 107.
Id. pp. 105-6. ** Rep. of 1836.