Net-fishing for salmon on the River Fergus, at Clarecastle, Co. Clare

Clarecastle Quay 1964
Clarecastle Ballyea Heritage & Wildlife Group
Eric Shaw
Eric Shaw

The boat used by the Clarecastle net-fishermen for many years was known as a gandalow, a design of boat used in the Fergus and Shannon Estuaries. An 1840 drawing of the Quay shows a gandalow on the river. The boat is keel-less and with the spring in the floor, it is ideal to manoeuvre in shallow water or over the mud flats. It is about 21 feet in length and about five feet across, mainly made of white deal, with teak used for the bow, stern and knees. Up to recent times, there were 14 drift-net licences and about five draft-net licences held by families in the village. The drift-net went with the tide. The draft-net was paid out in a circle and it took two men to operate that system. The drift meant the distance between one fishing boat and the next and is reflected in many of the names used to identify points in the river. The salmon-fishing season usually began in February and ran through until May for what was known as spring salmon. After that, salmon weighing less than 5lbs. known as peal, were fished. Then there was coarse fishing for fluke, bass and mullet. During slack times in the summer, the boats were lifted from the water, sealed with caulker and repainted. After that, during the winter months, duck-shooting took over so that the gandalows were in use for almost the entire year. There were two large punt guns used in duck-shooting from a punt-boat. These could bring down a large flock of duck or geese. Gandalows are still being made by the Scanlan and Considine families.

Images in .pdf

Detail from Map of the River Fergus & Port of Clare 1840, courtesy of the London Hydrological Office

All other images courtesy of Eric Shaw

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