Tales of the Shannon waters: River’s stories are captured in Limerick film archive

Minister Josepha Madigan with Mayor of Limerick Cllr Stephen Keary and fisherman Mike Grimes launching the film Picture: Alan Place

Minister Josepha Madigan with Mayor of Limerick Cllr Stephen Keary and fisherman Mike Grimes launching the film Picture: Alan Place

THE fascinating stories of families in Limerick who earned their living along the banks of the River Shannon have been captured in a new film.

The Estuary, telling the tale of those who fished - mostly salmon - from the city to the estuary and those who practiced the traditional skill of reed cutting, has been funded as part of the Creative Ireland programme.

It grew out of another project by Limerick City and County Council in conjunction with Mary Immaculate College which captured the oral histories of the Shannon Fishermen and Reed Cutters and was made possible by funding from the Creative Ireland programme.

The documentary features fishermen from along the Shannon who recount their experiences and was officially launched at City Hall by culture minister Josepha Madigan, who said it “clearly demonstrated and captures the passion these men held for the river”.

"The film tells the often challenging story that these fishermen and their families experienced throughout their lives. 

"It shines a light onto very tough times of the past, when fishing along the Shannon Estuary literally put food on the table, paid the bills and bought clothes," she added.

Mayor of Limerick Cllr Stephen Keary said "the traditional Shannon fishermen and reed cutters are dying away but this film will allow their stories to remain with us.

"Those who worked along the River Shannon have a story to tell that is unique to Limerick and this film will allow future historians and sociologists to get a glimpse, first had, of what it was like to fish the Shannon," he added.

Limerick archivist Jacqui Hayes said: "Fishermen don't tend to create records and so this way of life doesn't leave behind a traditional archive and is in real danger of being forgotten. This documentary film captures this rich heritage for current and future generations and brings it to life through the voices of the fishermen telling their own story.

"One of the benefits of having this documentary is its ability to bring to life the voices and experiences of individuals, many of whom might otherwise have been forgotten by history. Film also provides a level of accessibility to the past that is often missing from other forms of history," she added.

The documentary features fishermen from along the Shannon who recount their experiences of fishing for a living along the Estuary. They belonged to one of four distinct groupings, which shared the river for the most part fairly amicably.

They were the Abbey Fishermen, Strand Fishermen, Newtown Fishermen and Askeaton Fishermen.

The construction of Ardnacrusha disrupted this way of life and an 2006 EU conservation policy saw major changes as the government bought the licences form the majority of the fishermen and it became illegal to use a net on the river.

The film can be viewed online at Limerick.ie.