HC Deb 02 February 1846 vol 83 cc435-9

rose to move for leave to bring in a Bill to afford encouragement to the construction of small Piers and Harbours calculated to extend the Fisheries in Ireland. No subject since his official connexion with Ireland had occupied more of his attention than this; and he hoped the House would agree with him that it was most desirable to extend and encourage the fisheries both in rivers and the sea. When it was considered what the extent of the coast of Ireland was, and how much indented it was with hays and estuaries, no one could doubt that the whole coast was admirably calculated to supply the finest fish. He regretted to say that, whatever exertions had hitherto been made, had not been successful. The fact was, the fisheries were in a neglected state. Grants had been made in former times for piers, harbours, boats, gear, and nets; and roads had been made and various devices adopted; but he was sorry to say they had all hitherto failed, and the fisheries had relapsed into a state of inaction. He feared there was some want of enterprise, but the first thing to raise the fisheries appeared to him to be providing the fishermen with boats of sufficient size to go out into the deep sea. The number of such boats at present in Ireland was not great. The reason was, that on very few coasts were there any landing places, piers, or harbours, to afford conveniences for this kind of fishing. Smaller boats only were used, which did not require any landing place or pier. The best mode of encouraging the employment of large boats, appeared to him to be to increase the number of piers on all parts of the coast of Ireland. He proposed, therefore, that in this Bill the sum of 50,000l. should be voted, to extend over five years, at the rate of 10,000l. a year, for the construction of piers and harbours for fishery purposes on the coast of Ireland. He also proposed that the Treasury, or Board of Works, should advance three-fourths of the sum required for the construction of each of these piers and harbours, and that the remaining fourth should be provided for in a way to be afterwards decided by the Board of Works. Many of the piers and harbours constructed under the old Act had not been constructed in the most convenient spots for the public generally. He hoped the House, therefore, would allow as large a limit as possible to the power of the Board of Works on this point. With reference to the mode of raising the remaining fourth of the expense of these piers and harbours, they could not lay down a rule for every case; but it was proposed to grant power to the Board of Works to determine how this should be done in each case. If there was a gentleman who had an estate in the neighbourhood which would be benefited by it, then the Board would say that he should pay the remaining part of the expense. If there was no landed proprietor in the neighbourhood who would be particularly interested in it, but if the locality would be benefited, then the Board would levy a rate on the inhabitants of the county. If, on the other hand, it was connected with some public line of road, the Board would recommend that the grand jury should make a presentment for that portion of the expense. In some instances it would be raised partly in one way and partly in another. Power would also be taken for the purchase of land for the enlargement of harbours. It would also be desirable that facilities should be given to poor fishermen for the washing of their nets, and that means of curing should be provided. The rents of the fishermen's houses and the tolls levied on the piers would afford the means of keeping the piers in repair. As to the means of providing boats, he thought that this would best be done by combinations of individuals. This had already been tried and found successful by a company in Waterford. He concluded by moving for leave to bring in a Bill to afford encouragement to the construction of small Piers and Harbours calculated to extend the Fisheries in Ireland.


was glad to find that the Government had taken up this subject. He had himself taken a great interest in a fishery in his part of the country, and by proper management had made it a most successful speculation. Such a measure as that was highly necessary at the present moment, particularly as the state of Ireland was most alarming. He had seen a letter that morning from Lord Lurgan, stating that the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. O'Connell) had not in the slightest degree exaggerated the present unfortunate condition of Ireland.


approved of the Bill as far at it went; but he thought that it ought to have been carried much further. Piers and harbours were of the first necessity on the coast of Ireland, and they ought to be constructed on the same admirable system as those which had been made with so much success on the coasts of Scotland. It was a melancholy fact that a great quantity of fish which had been cured in Scotland was actually imported into Ireland, although the Irish coasts abounded in fish, and afforded much more than sufficient to supply the demands of the Irish people themselves, leaving a considerable surplus which might be exported to foreign countries. The fisheries which had already been established in Ireland had met with great success. There were two companies in his (Sir H. W. Barron's) immediate locality, one of which had been established principally on account of the harbour of Dunmore, on the eastern coast of Waterford, which had been built at the public expense, though perhaps not on the best principles. Mr. Strangman (to whom the light hon. Baronet had alluded) was connected with one of these companies, and had been extremely successful. The company had made a clear profit of 20 per cent., besides appropriating a sum of money for repairs, and a sinking fund for contingencies. He mentioned this to stimulate other parties to proceed in the same course, as he was quite sure that they would find their account in it. Another company had followed Mr. Strangman's company, and had been equally successful, since the profits yielded at the present moment upwards of 20 per cent. on the capital invested. There was one point in the speech of the right hon. Baronet which he did not exactly understand. The right hon. Baronet had said that a sum of 50,000l. which he proposed should be granted was to be extended over a period of five years. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean by that to say, that the money could not he, spent in one or two years, but that it must not be spent in less than five? He thought that as much as possible of that sum should be expended in the approaching spring and summer, for the reasons which had been already alluded to by his hon. Friend below him. He thought it but right, whenever the opportunity was afforded him, to press upon the Government the very great necessity there was for attending to the famine which was now hanging over Ireland. If it were at all necessary that additional testimony should be given as to the urgency of the peril, that testimony he had it in his power to supply. He had received a letter from a member of the commit- tee of the board of guardians of the city of Waterford, which committee had been appointed to report on the state of the potato crop, and the prospects of the poor in that locality. The Union in which Waterford was situate was very large, extending fourteen or fifteen miles in every direction round the city. The gentleman to whom he referred had taken a very active part in the labours of the committee, being himself the agent for a nobleman who had very considerable property in that part of Ireland. His correspondent wrote thus:— The potato crop is rapidly progressing to utter destruction. The last accounts are unanimous on this point. The interior of the potatoes is black and actually rotten. He was more and more convinced every day that the fatal disease which had attacked the potatoes was advancing, and that in a few weeks the poor of Ireland would be placed in a most alarming position. He should not do his duty, therefore, unless he warned Her Majesty's Government of this impending evil, which must be met with a bold hand and with decided measures.


said, that the right hon. Baronet who had brought in the Bill was not aware that, in certain parts of Ireland, where there were the greatest opportunities for promoting fisheries, the object of the Bill would be thwarted by corporations who had got into their own hands the power, though he would not say the right, of fishing. He would point out to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the bay of Galway, where a corporation held the Cladagh fisheries. These people had laid down such regulations, that on person could fish before or after a certain time, or on any day but when the company's boats went out themselves. To show the extent to which this tyranny had gone, he would just mention one instance of it which occurred last year. They allowed fishing with the hook, but interdicted the use of the trawl, which, as every person who was acquainted with fishing knew, was the most effective mode of fishing. A friend of his introduced the trawl in the bay, and caught an enormous quantity of fish of the finest description, with which the whole neighbourhood was supplied. As soon as the fishermen of Galway heard of this encroachment upon their prerogative, they sallied forth at once, and nothing but the providential interposition of the police prevented the utter destruction of all his friend's fishing apparatus. Application was subsequently made to the Castle, and a small ship of war was sent round to the bay of Galway, in order to protect persons engaged in the fisheries. If the Government would act upon the precedent which was set upon that occasion, and take care that the fishermen should be allowed to pursue their occupations in peace, he was sure that the Bill would have the best effect upon that part of Ireland which relied on fishing for the means of subsistence. The Irish fishermen ought to have the epportunity of using the trawl on their own coasts, and not be compelled to stay at home while the fishermen from Torbay came round with the trawl, and swept the fish into English boats.

Leave given.

Bill brought in and read a first time.

House adjourned at a quarter past seven o'clock.