On September 25th 2000, then in his 76th year, Dunmore East fisherman Alan Glanville caught a 240 kilogramme bluefin tuna in Donegal Bay. That’s 529 pounds of fish – a staggering 37 stone and three quarters.
For the record, it took Alan three quarters of an hour to boat his catch, the biggest ever caught on rod and line in Irish waters at the time.
Incidentally, just 24 hours previously, Alan had already caught a bluefin that ‘only’ weighed 160kg (353 lbs). That record has since been broken, not that the man himself is all too perturbed by that.
“Well that’s what records are there for – they’re made to be broken,” he said. “I tend not to get sentimental about such things, but in saying that, it’s certainly something I’m proud of.”
Pride is something which positively radiates from Alan when talking about his beloved ‘Carina’, the boat from which he trawled out of Dunmore for almost 30 years.
“Now the one record of mine which I believe still stands goes back to 1967 and that was the record catch of herring, when we brought in 248 cran* – and that’s a record for a single boat.
“Now I started all this off (trawling for herring in Ireland as well as Britain) but what happened then was that boats began to pair off, and they could go much faster and catch more with much bigger nets when there were two working together.
“And I had to stop the herring fishing after eight to 10 years of that because of those boats being paired, but it was a period of work that I enjoyed enormously, and I had a marvellous crew.”
Those who trawled with Alan included Arthurstown’s Jim Roche (“his sons run the Passage car ferry”), Jim’s brother Willie, Mick Whittle from Dunmore, Geoff Power (“who was later a County Councillor”) and Paddy ‘Napper’ Kelly.
“They were a great team, and we put down many productive winters together,” said Alan. “And I’ve put it absolutely on record that no skipper who ever achieved anything did so without having a good crew behind him.
“My crew was always very good to me and looked after me very well. They never made me unload and always kept the boat spotless and had the nets mended before we came ashore, which is very different to what happens now in many instances – different times, I suppose.
“But we always looked upon the boat as our life, our livelihood and it had to come first. And I’ve always maintained that when you looked after the boat, when you put the boat first, then the boat would look after you. And that’s been my experience of the Carina in particular, a boat that I possess an enormous affection for.”
But it was on board the Marnet (his previous vessel) on January 7th 1957 that Alan and his late wife Suanne were wed in Waterford “just below the bridge”.
“There we are signing the register,” he said while showing me a photo of the big day in his study, while the rain lashed down in grey streams over the harbour. “And there in the wheel house is the registrar!”
Of the wedding he stated: “It cost seven and six pence to be married and we followed that up with two half-crown breakfasts at Dooley’s which brought the total cost of the wedding to 12 and six pence – that would work out at about 80 cent now! We had a marriage that lasted 50 years, and we had a very happy life together indeed.”
The chat then switched from marital union to European union. In Alan’s view, putting Irish fishermen first has never been high on the agenda of any Dublin Government, dating right back to the accession talks into what was then titled the EEC.
“A good many fishermen from the south and east coast of Ireland approached me in July 1971 to travel to Brussels during those talks to plead their case on their behalf” he continued.
“But because fishermen in this country didn’t have the strength in numbers that Irish farmers have so regularly called upon, our collective voice was never nearly as vocal, nor were we listened to as intently.
“And fishermen in Ireland paid a high price for that, and it’s a decision whose ramifications have remained with us ever since.
“We needed, at a minimum, a 12-mile limit from the baseline, but all I heard in return from the Irish representatives was that once they got into the club, they’d tailor the rules and agreements thereafter.
“But that was never going to happen and of course it never did. And the Common Fisheries Policy with which we’ve since had to live with has done Irish fishing and Irish fishermen a great disservice, which is a shame. We were sold down the river.”
Looking ahead, despite EU rules, dealing with enough red tape to wrap the entire Irish fleet several times over and the over-fishing of the past 20 years, Alan Glanville retains a sunny outlook.
“I’m an optimist by nature. Good fellows and their boats will always come through. Stocks will recover and people will always want to eat fish. Things can get better and I believe they will.”
* A cran typically contains 1200 fish.