“Running” the Salmon

I recently recalled the selling of Salmon in Cheekpoint.  In conclusion of that piece, I mentioned the practice of running fish, a means of earning a bit of extra cash for some of life’s pleasures, which invariably meant drink and cigarettes.

Because the existence of fishermen, then as now, is so precarious, it was common practice at the start of each Salmon fishing season for the fish buyers to provide credit towards the cost of fishing.  This would go towards nets, corks, lead and roping twine etc, or in some cases these were actually supplied. Over the course of the season to August 15th, a percentage from each fish sold went back to the buyer, until the debt was repaid. In years when fishing was good, this could be paid off quickly. But a bad year meant a boat could be hard pressed to make the repayment.

My Uncle John (RIP), Uncle Sonny and Grandfather Andy (RIP)
Thanks to Sean Doherty for the photo

As each fish lost a percentage to the buyer, it wasn’t uncommon to hold a fish back and “run it” as we called it locally.  Selling it to another buyer of course was out of the question, at least directly.  But there was always a willing buyer locally for a fine fish, including the pubs.  Of course it wasn’t just the buyers that were sometimes hoodwinked.

A common enough practice was that a boat and gear might be worked on behalf of an owner.  In this case, the shares (which were always divided by 3) were 1/3 for the owner and the 1/3 each to the two men fishing the boat.

Tom & Michael Ferguson (RIP) drifting for Salmon
Thanks to Tomás Sullivan for the photo.

I recall myself and my brother Robert being challenged one morning on our return from fishing the flood tide by the owner of the boat.  Aboard we had three peal (small salmon).
“Is that all ye have?”
“Shure isn’t it well to have it”
“The Garriger said he saw ye taking in a pig of a salmon”
“Shure there wasn’t a salmon caught by anyone over there this morning, we bagged the biggest one of them, twas a right struggle to get him aboard”
“Garriger said he was 20lb at least, are ye sure ye don’t have him hidden under those nets!”
“Well if you can’t see him from there, he mustn’t have been much of a fish”

The owner was well in his rights to ask, and it was always the large fish that were run.  In this case, it was our Uncle Sonny and he was blackguarding us, but we’d heard many similar challenges.  The big fish were run because they raised more money and as the saying goes, you may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.  But if you were going to run one, you would be sure to avoid being seen bringing the fish in over the side.  It was also as well not to return to the village with it.

Many was the fish that was landed at Watty Byrnes in Ballyhack as boats drifted downriver on the ebb tide.  You would wait until nearing low water and then steam across to the quay and in to the pub to sell your fish. Watty always did well from it.  A good price for the fish, and you invariably dropped plenty of it behind the bar as you left with a few bottles of beer, or other items from his shop.

On one particular occasion, I was boy in the boat with another young man from the village.  His skipper was attending a funeral, and I’d been asked to fish with him for that day.  Anyway, a fine fish was caught on the ebb tide, and we proceeded down river by setting them at Seedes bank and letting them drift down to Ballyhack.  When the tide slowed we steamed to Watty’s.  Although, there would invariably be someone from Cheekpoint in the pub, you never had to worry. As Martin Mahon (RIP) said to us that day as he tapped the side of his nose with a nicotine stained finger, “What happens in the pub, stays in the pub!”

Paul Duffin and myself early 90’s

Of course even when men were fishing their own boat fish were sometimes run.  I recall a friend sharing the story from home one evening after his mother challenged his dad when he returned from fishing with no fish and barely able to put his legs under him.
“Have ye no fish?”
“A watery haul”
“Watery was it, pity you didn’t put more water in the whisky”
“Where’s me dinner, woman”
“Arrah, it’s where you should be, on the back of the fire!”

In the nineties, when I was finally fishing my own boat, I’d occasionally be asked to take a fish from younger lads,  They were fishing on behalf of others and in time honored fashion, were keen to make a few extra bob.  It was a bit more awkward passing a fish off as your own, and in some cases selling it on their behalf.  Either way, when it came to handing over the money, you were looked after.  It was the early days of Jack Meades, and many was the great night was had on the “windy stools” on the back of “running the Salmon”

If you’d like to know more about village life and the history and heritage of Cheekpoint, join us for a free guided walk this coming Bank Holiday Monday.  Walk departs from Cheekpoint Quay at 5pm and is an easy going stroll.

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.
My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage 
and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:  
F https://www.facebook.com/whtidesntales  T https://twitter.com/tidesntales

Jack Meades or Half Way House

Jack Meade’s is one of Waterford’s, if not the country’s, most popular pubs/restaurants.  Like all businesses it has had to adapt and diversify to remain viable, and given that it’s over 300 years old, its seen more than a bit of change down the years.
The pub itself says over the door that it was founded in 1705.  It was recorded in November 1710, that one Jenkin Richards leased the inn from William Harrison who lived at the time at Ballycanvan House. Richards was said to lease “the house commonly called or known by the name of “Half way house”

James Guest, (how’s that for a landlords name) and his son John were running the pub in 1721 and the family lived on the premises. The last of the family recorded here were the brothers Robert and James Guest who dropped their lease in the 1770’s. Despite searching high and low, I couldn’t find any other references to lessee’s until the mid nineteenth century. At that stage, in 1857 to be exact, the pub was being run by John Curtain.

It was at this point that plans for a new bridge emerged and there was some concern that the pub would need to be relocated. The bridge was constructed circa 1860 but the pub was left in place. It was apparently built as part of a failed enterprise of running a railway line to Passage East, a plan which included the enterprising Malcomson family. The need for speed in the cross channel ferry service was the momentum behind this. The enterprise was made up of visionary and influential businesses, who realised that a ferry terminal at Passage would take an hour off the normal journey time between the city and Bristol. It was also a viable option to the location of the SW Wexford Railway line between Waterford and Rosslare, which I’ve written about previously,
A map including the Waterford -Passage Railway line
John Curtains daughter, Elizabeth Meade, took over the pub on his death. Her son Thomas Meade was next to inherit passing it on in turn to his son John, commonly called Jack. Jack ran it up to the 1970s at which point it passed to his own daughter Carmel. Carmel and her husband Willie Hartley run it still, although it has grown in size in the intervening period, and their son Liam runs the busy food part of the business.
Much of the history of the pub and site is on display in the old pub
Although it is now more commonly known as Jack Meades, for years the name Half Way House was associated it. When I was growing up the pub could be referred to interchangeably and without confusion as “Jacks”, “Meades” “Mades” or indeed the “Half way house”. The place name of half way house is a common enough one, and designated a stop off point in days of old when carriages, carts, joulters, jarveys and so many other horse driven transports plied the busy road to Passage and Cheekpoint. Until the bridge was built the main road to Passage continued along the Cheekpoint Road to Strongbows Bridge and then diverted up Carriglea.
I’ve written  before about how as a child the lure of the areas was Willie’s agricultural contractor business and all the shiny tractors on show as we passed on the Suir Way Bus service.  Back then the pub was little more than the older building with parking for a few cars.  All that changed however when Carmel and Willie with the help of the ever present Mickey Mac, began to reclaim some of the bog for car parking to accommodate the growth in business.  In my late teens and early twenties it was the only place to be on the weekend and many was the high, and a few lows, I had there.

At this stage it’s the heritage value of the site that draws me back and if and when you call be sure to explore the area for yourself.  Here’s some related pieces found on or close by to whet your appetite;

Thanks to Liam and Carmel Hartley for much of the information I have on the pub in this piece, and for access to take photos of the pub and area.
I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.
My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage
and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:
F https://www.facebook.com/whtidesntales  T https://twitter.com/tidesntales