Fishing near Kilkee, County Clare

Men and women were to be seen in all directions removing sea-weed which they had cut from the rocks, and brought to the shore in canoes, together with large quantities of the long-weed, which they tied together in great bundles, and which floated in with the tide, propelling with them all that was loose between them and the shore. This scene brought to our recollection Captain Cook's description of the inhabitants of Otaheite. The women appeared quite as active as the men in leaping in and out of the canoes, standing in the sea up to their waists, and in that state filling carts and creels, which were placed contiguous to the sea to receive the loadings. There is one kind on which they set the highest value; it consists of many leaves, some of them three yards long, attached to a stalk of considerable strength: this they use for manuring potatoe-ground, the soil here being particularly poor and sterile. This was a scene of enjoyment to the young natives, especially the little girls, who, with their frocks drawn up, and neatly fastened round their waists to keep them dry, ran in and out of the water like amphibious creatures: to young and old it appeared like the joyous scene of a harvest-home.

"We were much amused in observing the dexterity of about a dozen young girls, who went to assist in pushing off a canoe with two men in it, who had long laboured without success to get clear of the land, owing to the resistance of the waves. With a considerable effort the little folks pushed it off; but whilst the men were congratulating themselves on getting clear of the land, and preparing to row away, the light-hearted lasses, bent on diversion, watched the returning wave, and archly uniting their efforts, drew the canoe and its cargo on dry land, and ran away highly delighted.

"The day being unusually fine, induced us to take an excursion on the water; but here, as in some other bathing-places, much cannot be said of boat-accommodation. The natives use canoes for fishing, which are the only description of boat to be found along this coast. About twenty of these comprise the fishing-establishment at Kilkee: they are composed of a frame of light timber or strong wickerwork, covered with sailcloth, rendered waterproof with pitch and tar. The best kinds have slight timber hoops to support the cloth, which is an improvement. A few years since they were covered with horse and cow-hides, after the custom of the ancient Irish. These little vessels have neither keel nor rudder; they are particularly calculated to skim over the surface of the waves, and pass safely amongst the rocks on this dangerous shore, where a timber-boat might be dashed to pieces. The expert rowers, with a light paddle or oar in each hand, glide very swiftly over the waves, and turn them with great dexterity. It is surprising at times to see them going along shore; when a breaker approaches that would fill the canoe over its side, they instantly turn the head, which from its being elevated, enables them to ride over in safety, and as quickly return to their course: they are considered much safer when well managed than timber boats of the same size. The weight of the latter would preclude their general use along the coast; as where there are not any sheltered harbours, the fishermen on landing have to carry their canoes above the reach of the waves. When the sail-cloth happens to be torn it is most expeditiously repaired; a sod of lighted turf is held near the rent until the pitch is melted, a fresh piece is stuck on the aperture, and the canoe is immediately launched; the water hardens the cement, and without further ceremony the fishermen jump in and row off."


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