The Fishery of Arklow, 1800–1950
Surprisingly few Irish coastal communities have looked to the sea for their economic well-being. Arklow, Co. Wicklow was one of those exceptions. In 1836 it was listed as one of only six ports whose fishermen were constantly engaged in fishing, that is having no other means of livelihood. These men and their families, whom the local rector described as 'a race distinct', occupied an area which was known as 'The Fishery'. It is not an official place-name, and now is heard less and less with each passing year. But just what was The Fishery? Where was it? How did it come into being and what brought about its demise? This study investigates the 150-year lifespan of this town-within-a-town. It looks at the community's economic resources, and examines how their work patterns, uncertain finances and the dangers they faced in following their profession coloured their general approach to life. Finally, it explores the vital role of the remarkably independent women in the survival– and paradoxically the demise – of this once vibrant community.
Jim Rees is from Arklow, Co. Wicklow. He has researched its history for the past 30 years and is the author of five historical books on various aspects of south Wicklow.