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Mackerel Fishing by Seine Boat
in southern Ireland,
c. 1880’s - 1920's, with particular
reference to the role of women
Loc...
The Voices in the Archive
• The ‘fundamental task of the
historian is the retrieval of traces,
the rescuing of voices, the...
Presentation
1. Acknowledgements & intro
2. Seine fishing
3. Women’s role
4. Conclusion
Focus
• This study explored aspects of
mackerel fishing in southwest
Ireland during the 1880’s to
1920’s.
• Salt-cured mac...
Females & Fishing
• The research included a gender-
specific focus on the role and
function of females within the
fish cur...
Location
• The geographic area studied
includes coastal sites such as
Valentia and Caherciveen in south
Kerry and Castleto...
Roles of Women
• Historically, fishing is predominantly
a male occupation, but on-shore
work often involved women, e.g fis...
Methodology
• Primary and secondary sources
were located and examined to
identify if and how they recorded
the work of wom...
Overlooked?
• Marginalisation of women within
the historiographical consensus,
they are ‘outside history’ (Whelan).
Traces
• Scant documentation and thus
virtual historical ‘invisibility’ of
the female workers provided an
opportunity to u...
Sources
• RIIF Annual Reports
• Congested Districts Board (CDB) records
• 1901 Census records
• Contemporary newspapers
• ...
Research
Remote?
• Region could be considered
peripheral geographically, but its
location conversely positioned it
close to water b...
Portmagee, Kerry
‘His’ story?
• Historians of women are used to
‘reading against the grain’,
interpreting silences and
utilising ephemeral ...
Seafish Types
1. Shellfish, molluscs- oysters, scallops /
crustaceans- shrimps, lobsters and crabs
2. Demersal fish- live ...
Innovation
• Seine boats were introduced c.
17th century… Boats and supplies
required initial capital outlay, as
well as p...
Purse seine/nets
Colonisation
• First Earl of Cork set up curing
stations or ‘pallaces’ in Baltimore,
Cork, for pilchards in the early
1600...
Fishery Development
• ‘…no shortage of energetic and
greedy landowners and
merchants who planned fisheries
to enrich thems...
Bantry, Cork
• O’Carroll states that during the
period 1625 to 1766 there were
seven proto-industrial fish ‘curing
houses’...
Global Factors
• The industry was part of the
larger capitalistic economy and
fishing now termed ‘traditional’
was actuall...
Dependent Development
• Reynolds : British didn’t provide
adequate facilities for Irish to own/
compete in larger craft an...
Post-famine
• 1874- the number of fishing
boats was reduced overall to
nearly a third of what they had
been in 1846 and cr...
Exception
• An exception to the decline was
that after 1862 came the
offshore, deep sea mackerel
fishery based initially o...
2 Main Types of Fishing
• ‘Offshore’ Summer- crew
followed the fishing out of an
area, regularly spending long
periods awa...
Feeding the World’s ‘Workshops’
• Industrial production under
capitalism transformed the
industrialising areas, with equal...
A Seine Crew
• 2 open, carvel-built wooden boats.
The larger one:25-35 ft in length,
maximum beam of 7 ft. Up to 12
oarsme...
Seine & fuilear
Second Boat
• The smaller fuilear / ‘follower’,
would carry the bulk of the catch;
it carried a maximum of 6
oarsmen and a...
‘Indigenous’ Craft
• Almost every village in coastal
south Kerry and the Beara
peninsula had a seine crew at the
end of th...
Oilean Baoi Crew
Rev. S. Green
• ‘The first men who came across and
started were Americans, … utilized
intelligent local people they found
...
Royal Commission
• ‘Every man, woman, and child is
employed when the fishing is
regularly on... I have known the
difficult...
Coonana, Caherciveen
Income from Fishing
• Cullen states that change for the
better was evident in the 1890’s;
cash incomes rose appreciably,
d...
Local Social System
• The social system and local
economy on which mackerel
fishing/curing was based formed
the basis of t...
‘Pluriactivity'
• i.e. diverse economic activities,
on land and at sea, often
supplemented by craft
production, where wome...
Women in Maritime Communities
1. women’s labour makes direct
productive contribution (to the
fishing industry),
2. they fu...
Cape Clear, Cork
Categorisation
• Division: male=breadwinner / female
= homemaker- little relevance
• Interdependent
• Some occupations mal...
Fish curing, Valentia
25/4/00 re: Valentia, Kerry
• ‘… alive with the business and very good
wages are paid to all employed in boxing
and removi...
Valentia, Kerry
Westcove, Kerry
CDB:
• ‘Progress could only be achieved
by training menfolk in improved
methods of land cultivation and
in coastal areas, ...
Joint Maritime Household
• Gendered perceptions of power
include consideration of women’s
role as producers and women’s
po...
Gender Analysis
• History informed by gender
analysis can question & reassess
dominant narratives & challenge
longstanding...
Recent Studies
• Recently, great strides have been
made to address this gap and to
study work opportunities for
women, par...
to date
• largely, a focus on paid labour
market, the development of
home based industries and
unwaged domestic production...
Women’s Work
Bourke divides women’s work into
3 categories:
1. in the labour market
2. at home producing goods for
sale
3....
However,
• CDB did identify women as the
‘more economic gender’ and
used pre-existing mechanisms to
enhance the role of wo...
Irish Census, 1871-1911
• Changing categorisations of
‘work’ resulted in numbers of
women listed in ‘indefinite and
non-pr...
Seasonal Work
**Census returns may not have
recorded the seasonal role
women played in locations where
fishing did take pl...
v.s. Newfoundland
• Census of 1891, 1901, 1911,1921
did record all women as well as
men involved as either harvesters
or c...
RIIF Reports 1889/90/91
• Yearly earnings of the shore
based labour force of males and
females were listed for these
years...
Portmagee, Kerry
RIIF Kerry, 1889
RIIF Cork, 1889
Scotland
• Whatley in Nadel-Klein: Many females
made ‘hidden’ contributions to
production in the context of the
family eco...
Seasonal Workers
• Local women and migratory
workers, women from outside
the region, i.e. from other areas
of Ireland and ...
Scottish migratory labour
RIIF 1888: English buyer brought 9
women from Isle of Man to cure fish.
Cork local O’Dalaigh: ‘h...
Skilled Workers
• Vivienne Pollock refers to the
women who gutted and packed
cured fish as ‘expert workers’.
• Work could ...
High Level of Dexterity
• ‘Splitters’ on one of the table
opened the fish and received a
slightly higher wage,
• ‘Gutters’...
Castletownbere, Cork, c. 1905
1 per Second
• ‘Gutters’ gloves to be worn on both
hands… The only digit to be covered
was the thumb; other part of a glov...
Curing Process
• Salt absorbs the internal moisture
in the fish and then when the fish
is placed in clean brine, it absorb...
Final Step
• 2 weeks after being caught, the
oily, slippery produce was
repacked into final barrels and
brine liquid then ...
Barrel stencil
U.S. Consul-General Fawsitt, 1920
• “…industrial classes throughout
America, principally those of
European origin, are the...
Autumn Catch
• ‘There wasn’t a woman, a girl or
a child in the island who couldn’t
earn something in those days and
there ...
Coonana, Kerry
Cultural Clash
• Rural subsistence lifestyle
offended many middleclass
travelers, was indicative of ‘low
state of civilisa...
Ideology
• The ideology of ‘domesticity’ and
‘separate spheres’ was of
relevance to the middle classes
and the landlord fa...
Imposition of Judgement
• Outsiders then and now could
regard women’s physical labour
as demeaning, when viewing it
from a...
Winds of Change
• Dependence on rowing, sail and
wind power was ended by the
introduction of motor power
• Market crash (‘...
CDB 1919
• ‘As the reaping hook cannot
compete with a modern
corncutting machine, it is obvious
that the sailing-boat cann...
...Utterly Gone
• ‘It would sadden the person who had
experience of that work if he were to
visit the harbour today; all t...
Vestiges
The work of women in fish curing
had contributed to survival of
essentially a socially pre-modern
community, but ...
Penetration of Cash Economy
• The cash economy increasingly
impinged upon the smallholding
livelihood, and fishing and fis...
Rejection of Rural Society?
• Bell observes that women such as
Donegal migrant workers to
Scotland and the U.K. left in
gr...
Life Chances & Status
• Bell highlights that while women’s
role as workers contributing to
the viability of a farm or
‘hou...
Androcentrism
• ‘…reclaiming the past of Irish
women and integrating that work
into Irish history is a significant
challen...
An Inclusive Record
• Contrasted with the work of
men, women’s role as workers
and income earners has not been
given equal...
for the record...
• History can inform, empower and
liberate, be inclusive to everyone
and provide a recognisable and
usab...
Workers’ Memories
• ‘Witnessing the past through
workers’ memories, ...we learn to
ask what roles family and gender
relati...
A Memory
• ‘Oh, they were wonderful workers. They
could work from 8:00 in the morning ‘til
8:00 in the evening, often, if ...
Conclusion
• Women’s work has been
identified in this research. It was
clearly an important role in the
fish processing in...
Mary McGillicuddy - The Role of Women in the Mackerel Fishing Industry in Southern Ireland, c. 1880s – 1920s
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Mary McGillicuddy - The Role of Women in the Mackerel Fishing Industry in Southern Ireland, c. 1880s – 1920s

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Slides used by Mary McGillicuddy during her presentation (The Role of Women in the Mackerel Fishing Industry in Southern Ireland, c. 1880s – 1920s) at the 'Women and the Sea' symposium. A podcast of Mary's talk is available at http://www.ucd.ie/humanities/events/podcasts/2015/women-and-the-sea/

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Mary McGillicuddy - The Role of Women in the Mackerel Fishing Industry in Southern Ireland, c. 1880s – 1920s

  1. 1. Mackerel Fishing by Seine Boat in southern Ireland, c. 1880’s - 1920's, with particular reference to the role of women Local History MA, seine fishing and the role of women, Mary McGillicuddy, 2008
  2. 2. The Voices in the Archive • The ‘fundamental task of the historian is the retrieval of traces, the rescuing of voices, the expansion of the archive’ (Whelan).
  3. 3. Presentation 1. Acknowledgements & intro 2. Seine fishing 3. Women’s role 4. Conclusion
  4. 4. Focus • This study explored aspects of mackerel fishing in southwest Ireland during the 1880’s to 1920’s. • Salt-cured mackerel was a key export from the locality.
  5. 5. Females & Fishing • The research included a gender- specific focus on the role and function of females within the fish curing industry as it operated at the time.
  6. 6. Location • The geographic area studied includes coastal sites such as Valentia and Caherciveen in south Kerry and Castletownberehaven and Baltimore in west Cork.
  7. 7. Roles of Women • Historically, fishing is predominantly a male occupation, but on-shore work often involved women, e.g fish processing, fish sales, book-keeping, bait digging, net mending, agricultural labour and domestic and emotional support.
  8. 8. Methodology • Primary and secondary sources were located and examined to identify if and how they recorded the work of women within the context of the mackerel fishing activity of the region.
  9. 9. Overlooked? • Marginalisation of women within the historiographical consensus, they are ‘outside history’ (Whelan).
  10. 10. Traces • Scant documentation and thus virtual historical ‘invisibility’ of the female workers provided an opportunity to uncover further evidence of their presence during the period selected for study.
  11. 11. Sources • RIIF Annual Reports • Congested Districts Board (CDB) records • 1901 Census records • Contemporary newspapers • Folklore records • Oral interviews/questionnaires • hotographs
  12. 12. Research
  13. 13. Remote? • Region could be considered peripheral geographically, but its location conversely positioned it close to water based trade routes, foreign markets and other countries.
  14. 14. Portmagee, Kerry
  15. 15. ‘His’ story? • Historians of women are used to ‘reading against the grain’, interpreting silences and utilising ephemeral sources (Abrams et al).
  16. 16. Seafish Types 1. Shellfish, molluscs- oysters, scallops / crustaceans- shrimps, lobsters and crabs 2. Demersal fish- live on or near seabed, e.g. cod, haddock, whiting, plaice 3. Pelagic- (form shoals), i.e. plankton eating surface feeders, swim near to surface -‘oily’ fish e.g. pilchards, herring, mackerel
  17. 17. Innovation • Seine boats were introduced c. 17th century… Boats and supplies required initial capital outlay, as well as provision of the fishing ‘pallace’ or curing house, and employees to process the catch and then sell it on.
  18. 18. Purse seine/nets
  19. 19. Colonisation • First Earl of Cork set up curing stations or ‘pallaces’ in Baltimore, Cork, for pilchards in the early 1600’s.
  20. 20. Fishery Development • ‘…no shortage of energetic and greedy landowners and merchants who planned fisheries to enrich themselves and Anglicise the native Irish’ (Barnard).
  21. 21. Bantry, Cork • O’Carroll states that during the period 1625 to 1766 there were seven proto-industrial fish ‘curing houses’ around Bantry Harbour alone. He asserts that there was an average of ten women working to each man fishing.
  22. 22. Global Factors • The industry was part of the larger capitalistic economy and fishing now termed ‘traditional’ was actually adaptive response to that economy (www.everyculture.com).
  23. 23. Dependent Development • Reynolds : British didn’t provide adequate facilities for Irish to own/ compete in larger craft and 19th century Scottish artisanal fisheries were managed in the same manner- to protect capital investment by London companies and their more advanced fishing vessels.
  24. 24. Post-famine • 1874- the number of fishing boats was reduced overall to nearly a third of what they had been in 1846 and crews reduced to less than a quarter (Cusack).
  25. 25. Exception • An exception to the decline was that after 1862 came the offshore, deep sea mackerel fishery based initially on the Cork harbor of Kinsale and then Baltimore (Fitzgerald).
  26. 26. 2 Main Types of Fishing • ‘Offshore’ Summer- crew followed the fishing out of an area, regularly spending long periods away • ‘Inshore’ Autumn- fishermen did not travel far from their home ports.
  27. 27. Feeding the World’s ‘Workshops’ • Industrial production under capitalism transformed the industrialising areas, with equally powerful forces changing the lives of people in the ‘supply zones’ of the globe (Wolf).
  28. 28. A Seine Crew • 2 open, carvel-built wooden boats. The larger one:25-35 ft in length, maximum beam of 7 ft. Up to 12 oarsmen on double-banked oars sat in the larger boat, which carried a captain, or helmsman, and a ‘hewer’, or fish spotter, in the bow.
  29. 29. Seine & fuilear
  30. 30. Second Boat • The smaller fuilear / ‘follower’, would carry the bulk of the catch; it carried a maximum of 6 oarsmen and a helmsman.
  31. 31. ‘Indigenous’ Craft • Almost every village in coastal south Kerry and the Beara peninsula had a seine crew at the end of the 19th century (MacCarthaigh).
  32. 32. Oilean Baoi Crew
  33. 33. Rev. S. Green • ‘The first men who came across and started were Americans, … utilized intelligent local people they found already on the west coast in the fishing business…told these men how the thing should be done, and then… they cured the mackerel in that way.’ (CDB testimony)
  34. 34. Royal Commission • ‘Every man, woman, and child is employed when the fishing is regularly on... I have known the difficulty to be sometimes to get labour. The whole countryside is swept; you could not get help sometimes to get through the amount of fish landed by the boats- all row boats’ (Green).
  35. 35. Coonana, Caherciveen
  36. 36. Income from Fishing • Cullen states that change for the better was evident in the 1890’s; cash incomes rose appreciably, deposits in post office savings banks in counties (e.g.Kerry) rising between 1881 and 1912.
  37. 37. Local Social System • The social system and local economy on which mackerel fishing/curing was based formed the basis of the community and gave the inhabitants a sense of self and identity, a way of life.
  38. 38. ‘Pluriactivity' • i.e. diverse economic activities, on land and at sea, often supplemented by craft production, where women and men engaged in a variety of production tasks.
  39. 39. Women in Maritime Communities 1. women’s labour makes direct productive contribution (to the fishing industry), 2. they fulfil the function of reproducing the next generation, 3. they perform special responsibilities due to the absence of men away at sea (Thompson).
  40. 40. Cape Clear, Cork
  41. 41. Categorisation • Division: male=breadwinner / female = homemaker- little relevance • Interdependent • Some occupations male dominated, • Others carried out predominantly by women, giving females some economic authority and a degree of personal autonomy.
  42. 42. Fish curing, Valentia
  43. 43. 25/4/00 re: Valentia, Kerry • ‘… alive with the business and very good wages are paid to all employed in boxing and removing the fish to the railway station for conveyance to the English markets. 2 Norwegian barges have come with cargoes of ice. Valentia has established itself as a great fishing station.’ (Kerry Sentinel)
  44. 44. Valentia, Kerry
  45. 45. Westcove, Kerry
  46. 46. CDB: • ‘Progress could only be achieved by training menfolk in improved methods of land cultivation and in coastal areas, in fishing, and by assisting women in better standards of home-keeping’.
  47. 47. Joint Maritime Household • Gendered perceptions of power include consideration of women’s role as producers and women’s power within the household. • The period under study cannot be equated with current conditions.
  48. 48. Gender Analysis • History informed by gender analysis can question & reassess dominant narratives & challenge longstanding myths, i.e. discursive construction of women v.s. women’s actual lived experience (Abrams et al).
  49. 49. Recent Studies • Recently, great strides have been made to address this gap and to study work opportunities for women, particularly in 19th century Ireland.
  50. 50. to date • largely, a focus on paid labour market, the development of home based industries and unwaged domestic production of women, with few studies addressing seasonal employment.
  51. 51. Women’s Work Bourke divides women’s work into 3 categories: 1. in the labour market 2. at home producing goods for sale 3. housework.
  52. 52. However, • CDB did identify women as the ‘more economic gender’ and used pre-existing mechanisms to enhance the role of women as breadwinners and ensure they were paid fairly and directly for their labour (Breathnach).
  53. 53. Irish Census, 1871-1911 • Changing categorisations of ‘work’ resulted in numbers of women listed in ‘indefinite and non-productive’ class, e.g. daughters of farmers / married women, masking the real extent of their economic participation.
  54. 54. Seasonal Work **Census returns may not have recorded the seasonal role women played in locations where fishing did take place, though men were listed with the occupation of fishermen.
  55. 55. v.s. Newfoundland • Census of 1891, 1901, 1911,1921 did record all women as well as men involved as either harvesters or curers of fish. Women comprised on average 33% to 38 %+.
  56. 56. RIIF Reports 1889/90/91 • Yearly earnings of the shore based labour force of males and females were listed for these years (and the value of exports from south Kerry and west Cork locations). After this, categories changed, no gender breakdown.
  57. 57. Portmagee, Kerry
  58. 58. RIIF Kerry, 1889
  59. 59. RIIF Cork, 1889
  60. 60. Scotland • Whatley in Nadel-Klein: Many females made ‘hidden’ contributions to production in the context of the family economy, as carriers, sellers, organizers and dealers in occupations apparently male preserves, but in fact dependent on female contribution.
  61. 61. Seasonal Workers • Local women and migratory workers, women from outside the region, i.e. from other areas of Ireland and Scotland were employed in the seasonal fish curing business (‘Herring girls’).
  62. 62. Scottish migratory labour RIIF 1888: English buyer brought 9 women from Isle of Man to cure fish. Cork local O’Dalaigh: ‘herring girls’, employed by fish merchants, followed fleet along coast, gutting and salting the fish. E.g. in Baltimore special ‘chalets’ were built for their accommodation by the fish buyers.
  63. 63. Skilled Workers • Vivienne Pollock refers to the women who gutted and packed cured fish as ‘expert workers’. • Work could go late into the night • Conditions often basic to harsh
  64. 64. High Level of Dexterity • ‘Splitters’ on one of the table opened the fish and received a slightly higher wage, • ‘Gutters’ on the other side removed the innards of the catch.
  65. 65. Castletownbere, Cork, c. 1905
  66. 66. 1 per Second • ‘Gutters’ gloves to be worn on both hands… The only digit to be covered was the thumb; other part of a glove was to be ‘fingerless’. The work much quicker with gloves as hands do not get so slippery’ (Barclay, Southern Star).
  67. 67. Curing Process • Salt absorbs the internal moisture in the fish and then when the fish is placed in clean brine, it absorbs the liquid into its flesh and is preserved as ‘cured’.
  68. 68. Final Step • 2 weeks after being caught, the oily, slippery produce was repacked into final barrels and brine liquid then topped up twice weekly til the barrels were sealed when consignment shipped out.
  69. 69. Barrel stencil
  70. 70. U.S. Consul-General Fawsitt, 1920 • “…industrial classes throughout America, principally those of European origin, are the chief consumers of imported cured fish. Irish salt mackerel, especially the Autumn catch, is much favored, many restaurants featuring ‘Irish Mackerel’ on their menu cards”.
  71. 71. Autumn Catch • ‘There wasn’t a woman, a girl or a child in the island who couldn’t earn something in those days and there was often so much to do that the very fishermen themselves had to lend a helping hand….’ (O’Siochain).
  72. 72. Coonana, Kerry
  73. 73. Cultural Clash • Rural subsistence lifestyle offended many middleclass travelers, was indicative of ‘low state of civilisation’, unfeminine, unwomanly behavior, contrasting starkly with that of society elites (Abrams).
  74. 74. Ideology • The ideology of ‘domesticity’ and ‘separate spheres’ was of relevance to the middle classes and the landlord family cultures. • Did it impact negatively upon the smallholding family’s view of themselves?
  75. 75. Imposition of Judgement • Outsiders then and now could regard women’s physical labour as demeaning, when viewing it from a particular perspective or worldview. The dignity of such endeavours was and often still is discounted.
  76. 76. Winds of Change • Dependence on rowing, sail and wind power was ended by the introduction of motor power • Market crash (‘Black Thirties’).
  77. 77. CDB 1919 • ‘As the reaping hook cannot compete with a modern corncutting machine, it is obvious that the sailing-boat cannot remain as effective on the same fishing grounds when the steam or motor vessel appears’.
  78. 78. ...Utterly Gone • ‘It would sadden the person who had experience of that work if he were to visit the harbour today; all the bustle of the activity that was then… utterly gone, and nothing at all to be seen but the cold and empty quays’ (O’Siochain).
  79. 79. Vestiges The work of women in fish curing had contributed to survival of essentially a socially pre-modern community, but change from subsistence to an industrial economy was unavoidable.
  80. 80. Penetration of Cash Economy • The cash economy increasingly impinged upon the smallholding livelihood, and fishing and fish curing provided access to income to enable an increase in standards of living.
  81. 81. Rejection of Rural Society? • Bell observes that women such as Donegal migrant workers to Scotland and the U.K. left in greater numbers than the men and asserts that this indicated a rejection of rural society by many farm women.
  82. 82. Life Chances & Status • Bell highlights that while women’s role as workers contributing to the viability of a farm or ‘household economy’ was vital, their status was relatively low.
  83. 83. Androcentrism • ‘…reclaiming the past of Irish women and integrating that work into Irish history is a significant challenge that all historians face’ (Luddy).
  84. 84. An Inclusive Record • Contrasted with the work of men, women’s role as workers and income earners has not been given equal weight in official documents and subsequent accounts (to date).
  85. 85. for the record... • History can inform, empower and liberate, be inclusive to everyone and provide a recognisable and usable past for all, though this does not always occur.
  86. 86. Workers’ Memories • ‘Witnessing the past through workers’ memories, ...we learn to ask what roles family and gender relations played - questions that business and economic history have tended to neglect’ (Trettin).
  87. 87. A Memory • ‘Oh, they were wonderful workers. They could work from 8:00 in the morning ‘til 8:00 in the evening, often, if they caught a lot of fish to split, you know. …..They’d have a long, long day…. They were the main workers…they were wonderful. They could split fish, like…one strip of the knife and it was there.’ (Murphy)
  88. 88. Conclusion • Women’s work has been identified in this research. It was clearly an important role in the fish processing industry of the time, and enabled them to earn an income in the local economy.

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