The Fishery

The Laune is the principal river in Co. Kerry. Its clear unpolluted water flows from the lower lake of Killarney into Castlemaine harbour and then on to join the Atlantic in Dingle Bay.

Within these walls in 1849 a partnership of salmon buyers was established which was to trade for more than a century. The men involved were Samuel Keays of cork City, Messrs. G. Ronayne of Youghal, Co. Cork, and local man William Dodd. They traded as K. R. D. These initials could be seen on their wooden boxes at the great fish depots of Dublin, England, and France. The Laune salmon was much in demand and could be found on the menus of many leading hotels and restaurants. The K.R.D. firm employed a workforce of over fifty fishermen, and hauls of eighty to one hundred salmon were not uncommon.

January 17th was the traditional date for the commencement of the annual fishing season. Fishing was allowed around the clock from 6.00am Monday morning to 6.00am Saturday morning. The season ran until July 31st. The weekends were referred to as ‘the weekly close season’. Generations of men from the Steelroe area had good seasonal employment as fishermen. The work of handling the boats and nets was, more or less, a specialised job and was handed down from father to son and grandson.

The boat builders were Thomas Naughton of Sunhill and Steven Foley from Cromane. Chief netmaker was Brendan Mangan of Laune View. The Company was managed by Alfred Dodd until 1950, and afterwards by Jeremiah Mangan of Langford Street. Michael Sullivan and Michael Conway ran “the Store”. They received all the salmon, weighed them, and recorded the numbers and weights. They also made the wooden boxes, and Michael Conway would transport these salmon, iced and boxed, to Killorglin Railway Station for delivery to Fish Merchants in Dublin, Manchester, London and beyond.

For preserving fish there were three “ice houses”; two in Farrantooreen close to Farrantooreen Lake, and one in Callinafercy beside the river. These were dug twenty-five feet into the ground, stone lined and thatched. Entry was through a small opening where the ice taken from the lake in those artic winters was stored. The ice was to be used as required for preserving the salmon in the transport boxes. With the arrival of electricity in the 1940s, ice was made on the premises.

The largest salmon recorded weighed 50lbs. in The Fishery there is a photograph of this salmon with two of the fishermen and Alfred Dodd and Christy Power. It was reported that this “giant” was later seen on sale in a fish market in Amsterdam.