Poignant lament for the drift
TELEVISION viewers got
another chance this week to see a Quigley's Point
fishermen poignantly describe the dying days of
drift-net salmon fishing in Inishowen.
'The Drifters' documentary on BBC Northern Ireland told
the story of 76-year Pat McDonald of Three Trees - one
of the last of the drift-net fishermen on Lough Foyle.
It described how he had handed down his love of the sea
and fishing to his sons who, in turn, would return to
Quigley's Point during their Summer holidays to help on
The hour-long programme
described how Pat's family had fished the Foyle for
generations but how the tradition would now end with him
and his sons following the introduction of the
Government's salmon drift-net ban.
The ban was introduced earlier in a bid to reverse a
drastic reduction in salmon stocks.
'The Drifters', a Mind the Gap production for the BBC,
was filmed last year in anticipation of the ban.
Straight-talking Pat described how 2006 was the worst
year on record for catching salmon. "I'm out there
(fishing the Foyle) over 56 years and I never saw
anything like it. It's the worst ever I seen or am
likely to see if I was to live my life over again."
His son David outlined, laughing, how his first
introduction to fishing included his brother throwing up
all over him.
Pat and his fellow
fishermen explained their own strong views on how
pollution and over-development were the main culprits in
the decline of stocks.
While they traditionally fished for three months of the
summer, in the last days of the tradition, the boats
would fish for only six weeks, albeit sometimes 12-hour
days from dawn to dusk.
“They worked from small
20ft boats, carrying almost a mile of nets and would
leave on the first tide of the morning to take up their
favoured position on the Lough.
The day's catch was usually best on a Monday, the first
fishing day, but it was erratic, with some days nothing
to show for 12 hours' work. Other days a shoal could
come in and Pat might land 50 wild salmon for a good pay
day at Greencastle Seafoods Ltd. The engaging story also
showed how the McDonalds and other Foyle fishermen had
to compete with hungry seals for their catch or be left
with useless half-eaten salmon carcasses.
First broadcast last year, the Mind the Gap production
was an informative,
humorous and engaging documentary that offered many
insights into life as it was and is still lived on the
Foyleside of Inishowen.
It was also a poignant commentary on the skill involved
in the vilified but now defunct tradition of drift
netting as a means of supplementing subsistence farming
in Inishowen with much-needed seasonal income.