History of Early Fishing Activity around the British Isles | Exhibition September-November 2022

Launch of Fishing Exhibition
Image credit: Ian Maginess.

Launch of the fishing exhibition with, from left, Brian Russell, local fly fishing guide; Library Director, Robert Whan; the Keeper, Shane Forster and Archivist, Thirza Mulder, and representatives of the United Nations Association for Northern Ireland, Ruth Taillon and Patricia Irvine, and Assistant Keeper and United Nations Association N. Ireland Chairperson, Carol Conlin.

The Library’s new temporary exhibition on the History of Early Fishing Activity around the British Isles coincides with the United Nations International year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture. The exhibition has been researched and compiled by the Library’s Archivist, Thirza Mulder.

The exhibition will be on display in Armagh Robinson Library’s Long Room until the end of November 2022 during normal opening hours, Monday to Friday, 10.00am to 1.00pm and 2.00pm to 4.00pm.

For further information, please contact the Library staff by telephoning 028 37523142 or e-mailing: admin@armaghrobinsonlibrary.co.uk

All the material on display is held in the Library’s own collection and refers to fishing in the early Middle Ages right up to the eighteenth century.

Examples include the creation of fishing weirs within the Early Irish Laws, dating back to the seventh and eighth centuries. At that time, fishing weirs were usually used for small-scale fishing to feed local families.

By the sixteenth century, there were more people in Europe working in fishing than in any other occupation, apart from farming.

A century later, there was larger scale fishing in Lough Swilly, County Donegal. Indeed, in 1780, Arthur Young’s work ‘A Tour in Ireland’ states that ‘the number of herring in the Lough was so great, the fellows said it was difficult to row through them.’

Joining the Library’s staff for the exhibition launch were Brian Russell and members of the United Nations Association for Northern Ireland. Brian is a local fly-fishing guide. Speaking ahead of the launch, Brian said,

I welcome the opportunity to highlight fishing as a way of life and as a sport. Both need to be careful of the natural world and I am glad that this exhibition shows how important fishing has been for this island for many centuries.

A representative from UNA-NI said,

We thank Armagh Robinson Library for choosing this theme to reflect the UN International Year. This special year is helping to encourage people to buy and consume products from small-scale artisanal fisheries and aquaculture, and to learn more about the value of small-scale fishers, fish farmers and fish workers.

We note that the exhibition will remain on view for World Fisheries Day on 21 November which is a day to highlight the importance of healthy ocean ecosystems and to ensure that there are sustainable stocks of fisheries throughout the world.