Richard Twiss visits 1775

In 1775, English aristocrat Richard Twiss completed a tour of most of the counties of Ireland. Here he describes his visit to Ballyshannon:

"The next day I arrived at Ballyshannon, and was so pleased with its beautiful situation, that I remained there four days. It is a small town, situated near the sea, with a bridge of fourteen arches, over a river, which a little lower forms one of the most picturesque cascades I ever saw. It is rendered still more singular and interesting by being the principal salmon-leap in Ireland.

In order to explain this term, it is necessary to relate a few particulars concerning salmon. Almost all the rivers, lakes, and brooks in this island, afford great plenty of these fish: some during the whole year, and some only during certain seasons; they go down to the sea about August and September, and come up again in the spring months. It is said that the females work beds in the sandy shallows of rivers, and there deposit their eggs, on which the male sheds its seed; afterwards they both join in covering the eggs with sand. These in time become vivified, and take their course to the sea, being then of about the size of a finger. After six weeks or two months stay, they return up the same rivers, the salt water having in that short time caused them to attain nearly to half their growth.

They are caught in weirs, which are formed by damming up the river, except a space of three or four feet in the middle, which the salmon having passed, are caught in a small enclosure, formed by flakes of wood; the entrance is wide, and gradually lessens, so as barely to admit a single salmon at a time. Every morning during the fishery they are taken out, by means of a staff, with a strong barbed iron hook, which is struck into them." Elsewhere in this article, he goes on: "The next day I arrived at Ballyshannon, and was so pleased with its beautiful situation, that I remained there four days. It is a small town, situated near the sea, with a bridge of fourteen arches, over a river, which a little lower forms one of the most picturesque cascades I ever saw. It is rendered still more singular and interesting by being the principal salmon-leap in Ireland. In order to explain this term, it is necessary to relate a few particulars concerning salmon. Almost all the rivers, lakes, and brooks in this island, afford great plenty of these fish: some during the whole year, and some only during certain seasons; they go down to the sea about August and September, and come up again in the spring months. It is said that the females work beds in the sandy shallows of rivers, and there deposit their eggs, on which the male sheds its seed; afterwards they both join in covering the eggs with sand. These in time become vivified, and take their course to the sea, being then of about the size of a finger. After six weeks or two months stay, they return up the same rivers, the salt water having in that short time caused them to attain nearly to half their growth. They are caught in weirs, which are formed by damming up the river, except a space of three or four feet in the middle, which the salmon having passed, are caught in a small enclosure, formed by flakes of wood; the entrance is wide, and gradually lessens, so as barely to admit a single salmon at a time. Every morning during the fishery they are taken out, by means of a staff, with a strong barbed iron hook, which is struck into them".

Further in this article, Twiss describes how " at Ballyshannon, by far the greater number is caught in nets below the fall. The time of the fishery is limited; and after it is elapsed, the enclosure is removed, the nets are laid aside, and the fish are at liberty to stock the rivers with spawn. I was informed that this fishery at Ballyshannon rents for 1600 per annum, and yet the fish is sold at no more than a penny per pound and six shillings per hundred weight."


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