19th c Fishing

The Harbour fell into decay but was repaired and somewhat extended by one Hans Hamilton to whom the Monument in Skerries is erected. This pedestal was hardly erected for his work to the harbour, but then of course he was also the father of 16 children. He died in 1863.

It is not recorded how he recovered the money he had spent on extending the harbour, but only the other day I had access to an old will and testament and therein was a clause to the effect that the deceased person had left a smack to so and so, and from the money derived from every box of fish landed at Skerries harbour by this boat, so many pennies went to the Estate agent. I suppose the shillings took care of themselves, but the wily men from Ringsend evaded this levy for years.

More than sixty fishing smacks from Ringsend came to Skerries fishing grounds every year. These were fine sailing boats, but their fish was landed by rowing boats over on the North Foreshore. Carters from Skerries conveyed the fish to the Dublin Market. It is said that these men from Ringsend could discharge their catches into the rowing boats without heaving to. They would sail close up along the shore, shout out, “15 baskets for Derham, 10 baskets for Seaver”.

Those named were some of the many carriers who earned their livelihood delivering fish to the Dublin markets. It is said they were never in bed for the seven weeks of Lent, the only sleep they had was on their carts. If this is right they will never have to spend any time in doing penance in the next world, for they certainly played their part in the laws of fast and abstinence.

T.M. Duff [SHS 1960]