River Blackwater Maps

The River Blackwater and Lismore Weir
The River Blackwater is an important feature in the landscape of County Waterford. The River Blackwater or Abhainn Mhór (Great River) rises in County Kerry and flows eastwards through Counties Cork and Waterford until it reaches Cappoquin where it changes direction to flow south through County Waterford to reach the sea at Youghal in County Cork. The river has been a source of abundance for those living along its banks, in particular, it is a noted trout and salmon fishing river. This very abundance that brought settlements, monastic (Molana Abbey and Lismore) and civilian (Cappoquin and Fermoy), to its banks has also, at times, been a source of contention. Weirs and quays have been built along the river to allow fish to be caught and the river to be crossed in greater numbers.

Competing interests and the need to balance the conservation and exploitation of the river's rich resources have lead to much debate, legislation and dispute. However, it is this very contention that has lead to a rich documentation of the river and its resources. In 1638 a Commission for suppressing weirs in counties Cork and Waterford was held and this Commission and the dispute that lead to its formation provide us with records of the weirs along the River Blackwater in the 17th century. The papers of the Lismore Estate held by the County Archive provide us with an opportunity to get a full picture of the River Blackwater and its fishing from Lismore to Youghal in the 19th century. The maps below are available by kind permission of the Lismore Estates (Jersey) Ltd. and can be viewed in more detail by clicking on each image.

River Blackwater Bye-Laws Report, 1878
River Blackwater Bye-laws Map On the 14th March 1878 the Inspectors of Irish Fisheries introduced a new bye-law for the No. 4 or Lismore District. The bye-law prohibited the use of drift nets to catch trout and salmon in the tidal portion of the River River Blackwater Bye-laws Map Blackwater from the townland boundary between the townlands of Strancally and Newport East on the west to the townland boundaries between the townlands of Coolbagh and Ballynaclash on the east. "Any person offending against this Bye-Law shall forfeit and pay for each offence a sum of Five Pounds and all Nets used contrary to this Bye-Law shall be forfeited."

The map was drawn up to accompany the Bye-Laws Report and document the quays and weirs along the river and mark out the locations of the limits to drift net fishing.

The bye-law followed a number of inquiries into the fishing on the river and it was reported that in the year 1863, the year of the Salmon Fishery (Ireland) Act, there were 18 snap nets, 3 draft nets, 14 bag nets 3 fly nets, 25 stake weirs and 5 head weirs in this section of fishery. The bye-law was disputed by a number of those fishing on the river and further inquiries, legal briefs and appeals were made in response to its introduction.

On the 14th March 1878, the Inspectors of Irish Fisheries introduced a new bye-law for the No. 4 or Lismore District. The bye-law prohibited the use of drift nets to catch trout and salmon in the tidal portion of the River Blackwater from the townland boundary between the townlands of Strancally and Newport East on the west to the townland boundaries between the townlands of Coolbagh and Ballynaclash on the east. "Any person offending against this Bye-Law shall forfeit and pay for each offence a sum of Five Pounds and all Nets used contrary to this Bye-Law shall be forfeited."

The map was drawn up to accompany the Bye-Laws Report and document the quays and weirs along the river and mark out the locations of the limits to drift net fishing.

The bye-law followed a number of inquiries into the fishing on the river and it was reported that in the year 1863, the year of the Salmon Fishery (Ireland) Act, there were 18 snap nets, 3 draft nets, 14 bag nets 3 fly nets, 25 stake weirs and 5 head weirs in this section of fishery. The bye-law was disputed by a number of those fishing on the river and further inquiries, legal briefs and appeals were made in response to its introduction.

River Blackwater Strancally to Youghal, 1879
River Blackwater Strancally to Youghal Many of those who made their living fishing along the river disputed the bye-laws and edicts of the Inspectors of Irish Fisheries and sought to document the river as they knew it. Richard Foley, a tenant of the Lismore Estate, operated the Blackwater Fishery and disputed the bye-law of the Inspectors. In doing so, he produced reports River Blackwater Strancally to Youghal and maps for use in making a case against the bye-law.

Among these is a map of the River Blackwater from Strancally to Youghal produced by Richard Foley in 1879. The map identifies the houses along the river from Strancally to Youghal and shows the prohibited waters with cross sections marked along the river where more detailed accounts of the river were drawn up by Richard Foley to show its depth and its productivity. These accounts can be found in the papers of the Lismore Estate held at Waterford County Archive.

Richard Foley operated the Blackwater Fishery with his brother Edmond Foley as the business R & E Foley, Salmon Merchants. The two brothers leased the Blackwater Fishery from the Lismore Estate. The Blackwater Fishery was in the occupation of the Foley family from 1790 and the Foley brothers were very active in developing their business and meeting the challenges presented by fishery legislation.

River Blackwater Tributaries, c. 1910
Blackwater Tributaries There were ongoing investigations and correspondence regarding the river. In 1891 An Inquiry into the State of Fisheries in the River Blackwater and its Tributaries was held. The introduction of the bye-laws and the work of the Fishery Commissioners was not limited to the River Blackwater itself but also included its tributaries. A map showing the River Blackwater and its tributaries was produced c. 1910 and includes the rivers: Fuenshion (Funshion); Douglas; Araglin; Bride; Blackwater Tributaries Owbeg; Glenmore; Owennashad (Owenasahd); Glenakeeff (Glenakeefe); Glenshelane; Finisk; Goish; Tourig and Licky.

The map also identifies the lines of the Fermoy and Lismore Railway and of the Waterford, Dungarvan and Lismore Railway that ran beside the River Blackwater and the railway stations of Fermoy, Clondulane, Lismore, Cappoquin and Cappagh. The limits of drift net fishing and the tidal flow are also marked on the map.

No. 4 Blackwater Fish Report
No. 4 Blackwater Fish Report The weirs along the River were the focus of intense interest, particularly, in relation to whether or not the weirs along the River were preventing too many fish from passing along the river and thus reducing fishing further along the river. There were an ongoing series of reports produced to show the effects of the weirs on the fish stocks and the impact of bye-laws on the fishing on the River. This map shows the Lismore weir gap to allow fish to pass along the river and it also shows the limit of the tidal flow.

The map provides a list of the distances along the river. From Glenmore to Lismore Weir a distances of 3 and a quarter miles; No 4 Blackwater Fish Report from Lismore Weir to Lismore Bridge 580 yards; from Lismore Weir to the end of the tidal flow 1,155 yards; from Glenmore to the end of the tidal flow 4 and a quarter miles; from Femoy Weir to Clondulane Weir 3 and a quarter miles; from Clondulane Weir to Glenmore 10 and a half miles; from end of the tidal flow to the southern limit of the Bishop's Fishery 5 miles and from the end of the tidal flow to Youghal 19 miles.

Lismore Weir 1898
Lismore Weir 1898 The River Blackwater is an important part of our natural environment and this environment changes over time. These changes have on occasion presented difficulties. In the case of Lismore Weir the lie of the river was said to have changed over time and this change meant that that the Lismore Weir was no longer compliant with the Salmon Fishery (Ireland) Act, 1863. As a result Thomas Drohan, Inspector of Fisheries brought a case against the Duke of Devonshire and others claiming there was no legal free gap at the Lismore Weir. This case resulted in a series of reports on the River and changes in the River. It also resulted in a series of stunning maps showing the River at Lismore Weir.

In September 1896, a special meeting of the Board of Conservators of the Lismore District was held at the fishery office in Mallow and heard a report from Mr. R.O. Lyons who stated that since the free pass was constructed in 1865

"...the hatches Nos 1 and 2, Lismore Weir 1898 and the hatche at Poul Palleen have been closed (but I can't state in which year) and the result has been, by altering the flow of water to cause the formation of a gravel shoal or strand along the upper side of the weir, which diverts the current to the northern bank and to the trap or killing hatch, and also to the tail hatch and road hatches".

This map from 1898 provides a detailed picture of the River at Lismore on a scale of 50 feet to 1 inch. It was presented as evidence at Lismore Petty Sessions on 19th December 1898 and gives the depths of the river at Lismore and marks the cross sections where detailed reports with further information were provided.

1899 Barrington Map
On 6th May 1899, W. Barrington produced a detailed map of Lismore Weir on a scale of 60 feet to 1 inch. Of particular interest in this map is the contrast of information it provides between an 1864 map by Richard A. Gray which appears in black on the map and Barrington's 1899 map which is drawn in red. Barrington's map is stated as "correct with the Ordnance 1899 Barrington Map Survey".

The map provides the depths of the river in feet and inches and shows the killing hatches in the weir with the "correct position of free pass" drawn in beside the tail hatch. This map was used in evidence in the Drohan case and this is why the correct position of the free pass is so important and also why the depths of the river and the difference in the lie of the river were so carefully drawn. The map also includes the Fishery houses and shows the trees along the river and the line of the road to Fermoy is marked.

Lismore Weir 1900
This map of Lismore Weir was also drawn up by W. Barrington and is dated 3rd April 1900 and it is also on a scale of 60 feet to 1 inch. Of particular interest in this map is the way in which it shows the direction of the flow of the water at the Tail Hatch, Queen's Gap, Road Hatch, Killing Hatch and Pool Polleen. Each of the cross-sections marked indicate areas where further more detailed information was created, in fact, so detailed was the information gathered that there are 11 volumes of reports on the proceedings of this case.

The Lismore Weir case rested on 4 points "1. The free gap is not situated in the deepest part of the stream ; 2. The sides of the gap are not in line with or parallel to the direction of the stream at the weir; 3. The bottom of the gap is not level with the natural Lismore Weir 1900 bed of the stream above and below the gap and 4. The width of the gap in its narrowest part is less than one-tenth of the width of the stream, and is less than 50 feet; and further that the free gap was not during the whole or any part of the six months referred to maintained in accordance with the provision of the Salmon Fishery (Ireland) Act, 1863."

Evidence was heard from surveyors such as Mr. W. Barrington, CE, Mr. O. Lyons, ex-County Surveyor, Mr. R. Crawford, CE and late hydraulic engineer to the Indian Civil Service and also locals such as, William Lineen, a fisherman who worked on the river from about 38 years.

Queen's Gap
This diagram of the Queen's Gap is dated 5th July 1898 and was created in order to demonstrate the level of the water in the Queen's Gap. It shows the level of still water in the pool from the upstream and the downstream sides of the weir. The diagram is on a scale of three quarters of an inch to 1 foot and the water is at 1.9 feet on the guage. It was this issue of the level of the water at the Queen's Gap that was at issue in the Lismore Weir case and as a result this diagram was produced as evidence for the case.

Man in Cap
The Queen's Gap diagram has an additional feature of interest. In order to identify the 6 foot height on the diagram a drawing of a man has been provided in pencil on the diagram. The man stands on top of the wall at the downstream section and is dressed in the fashion of the time. He carries a cane and he wears a cap - even his shoes can be clearly seen in the drawing.

These maps and diagrams provide a detailed view of the River Blackwater at a very specific point in time at the end of the 19th century and give us a glimpse not only of the river but of the people working along the river. For more information you can check the Lismore Papers at Waterford County Archives. If you would like to find out more about the River Blackwater today the National Parks and Wildlife Service has produced a number of reports on the River as a Special Area of Conservation.

Featured Maps

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Bye-Laws Map, 1878
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Strancally to Youghal, 1879
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Blackwater Tributaries, 1879
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No. 4 Blackwater Fish Report
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Lismore Weir 1898
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1899 Barrington Map
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Lismore Weir 1900
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The Queen's Gap
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Man in Cap