The Dublin Fishery Company, 1818-30

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Extracts from: The Dublin Fishery Company 1818-1830
By J. L. J. HUGHES.
Published in : DUBLIN HISTORICAL RECORD
AUGUST, 1951
Vol: XII, No. 3

On the 2nd of November, in the year 1818, a small number of gentlemen met at the Leinster Tavern, also known as Morrison’s Hotel, in Dawson Street, to consider proposals to form a company for the better supply of the Dublin Market with fresh fish.  The proposals were submitted by Captain James Steward, an official in the Civil Branch of the Ordnance Board employed as Superintendent of the Pigeon House Dock. The gentlemen present were taken with the idea and sent a deputation to the Lord Mayor to request his sanction and support. The Mayor appointed a day for a public meeting to consider the matter further and one hundred copies of a printed prospectus were distributed about the town. In brief, the prospectus asked for £2,000, divided into £50 shares, to purchase five boats of about 30 tons each to trawl off the coast and the adjacent banks. It was reckoned that each boat, in four or five days’ trawling, could catch and bring to market a freight estimated to average £10 when sold. One boat from the fleet would arrive at the Pigeon House Dock on each week-day and the fish were to be brought to Dublin by horse and cart. An allowance of thirty days in the year was made for times when fishing would not be possible because of gales and other causes. The remaining 335 days were taken to be the number of days that a freight of fish to the value of £10 would be brought to market and the annual income was put down as £3,350. The items on the expenditure side of the account totalled a lesser amount and showed that a good profit was to be anticipated. The wages of masters and seamen were put down as three-eights of the income which was too little according to the general practice of that time and as it turned out the company’s masters and seamen never got less in wages and shares than one-half the total income. At the public meeting on the 11th of November, Captain Steward’s proposals were approved and a subscription list was opened. The subscribers held further meetings at which the capital was doubled and rules were made for the management of the concern. Captain Steward was appointed the company’s agent to purchase boats and to superintend their working. He was also to take charge of the sales of fish and to account weekly with the treasurer for all receipts and expenses.

This information is in a book preserved in the Public Record Office and entitled: Dublin Fishery Company Minutes, which has entries beginning on the second of November, 1818, and ending on the 9th of October, 1824. There is evidence that the company hand-bills inserted in the Minute Book showing that the company’s boats were put up for sale in August of that year.

An item of outstanding interest in the Minute Book is the detail of the numbers of each kind of fish caught and on which days in each week fish were landed and brought to market and how much each day’s fish sold for. This record was kept for each of sixty-two weeks beginning on Saturday, 28th September, 1822, and ending on Saturday, 6th December, 1823′ The fish mostly named are turbot, sole, haddock, plaice, hake and whiting. The less frequently named are gurnet, cod, ray, ling and conger-eel In the 52 weeks of the year 1823, there were 192 days on which fish were landed which is an average per week of nearly 31 days. Not a single week in this year passed without at least 2 days on which fish were landed and brought to market. This must be regarded as a remarkable achievement when it is remembered that it was done with sailing-boats which were at the mercy of wind and tide.

The subscribers were citizens of Dublin from different walks in life. There were gentry, aldermen, clergymen, doctors, lawyers and government clerks. Viscount Frankfort de Montmorency, one of the Harbour Commissioners, was president and George La Touche, senior partner in La Touche’s Bank, vice-president and honorary treasurer. The offices of president and vice-president were discontinued after Lord Frankfort’s death in 1823 and the Board of Directors elected a chairman at their weekly meetings. C. B. Newenham and the first honorary secretary, Leonard Thornhill were clerks in the Ordnance Board at the Pigeon House Fort. George Booker of 2 Erne Street succeeded Thornhill as honorary secretary in June, 1819′ William Watts, 2I Sackville Street, was an apothecary and Arthur Morrison of Morrison’s Hotel, No. I Dawson Street, is described in the directories as a tavern-keeper. He was lord mayor in I834. Counsellor James Lyne, 2 Lower Mount Street, Assistant-Barrister for Co. Westmeath, advised the company in legal matters and another lawyer was Counsellor Henry Dawson of 3 Hume Street. The clergy were represented by the Reverend William Barber, curate of St. Mark’s, and the Reverend Henry Savage, assistant curate of St. Michael’s,’ High Street. The members of the Dublin Corporation were Alderman John Cash, of 34 Rutland Square and Belville, and Alderman John Kingston James, afterwards a baronet, of I6 North Frederick Street, with his counting house at 9 Cavendish Row. Doctor J. Duncan, 38 Marlborough Street, a practising physician, represented the medical profession, and Captain John Macgregor Skinner, RN., of Falconer’s Hotel, 12 Dawson Street, commander of one of His Majesty’s Steam Packets, and Major Crampton, 15 Holles Street, represented the Navy and Army respectively. Other notable subscribers were Robert Guinness of Stillorgan, Henry Darley of Stillorgan, and Ralph Shaw of George’s Quay, a Harbour Commissioner.(last line of page missing…)

…….. differed in the social scale, the subscribers were on a level footing as investors in the venture since most took two shares and very few only one. Excepting Captain Steward, they were almost certainly on a par in knowing little or nothing about sea fisheries but they were willing to learn. One of their first resolutions after forming the company was to instruct Captain Steward to buy a copy of Robert Fraser’s Review of the Domestic Fisheries of Great Britain and Ireland, published in 1818. This quarto-sized volume of 287 pages contains more historical than practical information and it is doubtful if it helped the Directors very much in their work.

The Company was formed on the 17th December, 1818, and no time was lost in getting to work. Captain Steward left for England to buy boats on the 30th December and he returned on the 8th February, 1819. In these 5 weeks he journeyed from Brixham in Devonshire along the coast to Plymouth and as far east as London. Grimsby and Hull were not at that time the great centres of the fishing industry they afterwards became. It shows Captain Steward’s good judgement that he went first to Brixham, the home of the famous fishing smacks that led the way in developing the present day deep-sea fishing industry. Four of the company’s fleet of 8 boats are listed as coming from Brixham and one from Plymouth. One boat was built in Dublin and the home port of the remaining 2 is not given. The first boat arrived at Dublin on the 14th January, 1819, and on the 22nd February the company had five boats, the Armada from Brixham, 41 tons, cost £371; Rosebank, Brixham, 36 tons, cost £461; Maria, 37 tons, cost £410; Pheasant, 32 tons, cost £325 ; and the Frederick, Brixham, 39 tons, cost £490. If boats could have been obtained in Ireland the company would not have spent their capital outside the country. A boat at Balbriggan was inspected and found totally unsuitable. In order to give employment at home, a contract was placed with Mr. Morton of Dublin, shipbuilder, for a vessel to the company’s specification to cost £675. In January, the directors were hesitant in deciding to acquire the fifth boat but the returns of later weeks showing a good profit made them bold enough to announce in their first quarterly report to the proprietors in April, 1819, that they had ordered 2 more boats from England, the Mary from Plymouth, 39 tons, cost £430; and the Mariner, Brixham, 39 tons, cost £480. In this first quarterly report in April, 1819, the directors increased the capital to £5,000 because of numerous applications to become shareholders. By the end of July, when Mr. Morton’s boat of 40 tons was launched the company had eight boats in service. The new boat was named the Frankfort in honour of the president.

As well as the boats, the captains and seamen had to be brought from England since none experienced in trawling could have
been found in Ireland. This mode of fishing was practically non-existent here before 1819 and the Dublin Fishery Company was
(line missing here…)

The Inshore fishermen of Baldoyle, Howth and other palces displayed violent opposition.

1821 Mr. George McAlpin elected Assistant Secretary

Mr. john Hoare, 2 Pill Lane was the company’s salesman

Christopher Lawlor was under contract to suppl horses and carts to bring the fish to market. He had to attend Pigeon House
at 4am and was paid 2/6 a day for each horse and 1s. 3d when standing b

Seamen who came over with the boats returned and their places were taken local men.

Captain Pile, Captain Henry Saunders. Captain Nicholas Talbot
Masters; Samuel Bartlett, James Pile, Thomas Bartlett and Elias Willis.

Seaman : William King :

Seaman James Thornton, Seaman

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