The Blackwater at Ferry Point looking towards Yougahl.   Photo: Eoin Murphy.

The Blackwater at Ferry Point looking towards Yougahl. Photo: Eoin Murphy.

The Duke of Devonshire, owner of Lismore Castle and the fishing rights to a substantial part of the Blackwater river up to Youghal, said on RTE on Sunday last that he would like to meet with Youghal Town Council to discuss a possible sale of the salmon fishing rights in Youghal Harbour.
The Duke maintained that ownership rights had been established in law, but that he would be prepared to put the sale up for negotiation with public officials.

He owns the fishing rights to both sides of the river bank up to Lismore, a distance of 20 miles and pays a substantial amount in rates to the Southern Fisheries Board for those rights, which attracts angling tourism from at home and abroad.

“A sensible agreement could be made for the benefit of everybody”, said the Duke, one of the richest men in Britain

Angling clubs have paid for the right to use the river and there does not appear to be a problem in that regard, although poaching can still be an issue. He understands how some oppose ownership of fishing rights and that was a political point of view that people had and which he could respect but did not agree with however.

RTE highlighted in the first part of the programme how shell fishermen could not harvest oysters or mussels in Youghal Harbour or engage in such new activities as a result of the Duke owning the rights and given how there was a decline in fishing generally this should not be allowed.

It appears that the Duke is beginning to understand some of the public opinion which local councillors have articulated and which led to court action in the not too distant past.

Independent Councillor Ollie Casey said he believed the Duke was genuine in his offer and expected discussions shortly.

The RTE interviewer met the 12th Duke of Devonshire, Mr. Peregrine Andrew Mornay Cavendish, at a gentleman’s club in London by special appointment.

The Duke explained how the family was so attached to Lismore and its people as well as the castle, managed by Lismore Estates and they have been supportive of many local projects in the community, as well as local tourism. Art exhibitions are held there and open to the public as are the gardens and they create a tourist attraction for that part of the county.

He expressed his love of the river and called it the slumber river, as it meanders around west county Waterford on its route to the sea. The peace and tranquillity there make it one of the most magical places in the world. The programme went on to describe the wondrous salmon fishing in the river, one of the best in Ireland, where one can rent a fine fishing hut with three course meals with fishing rights for a week at Carysville.

Tiger Woods and other stars visiting Ireland have been there discreetly as have friends of John Magnier, the race horse trainer and friend of the Duke. This can cost €2,500 to €4,000 for a week’s full board for a fishing party.

Brian Sheerin, manager of the Southern Fisheries Board, comes from Roscommon and marvels at the Youghal and Blackwater scenery, where the Duke pays up to €20,000 in rates per annum for his fishing rights.

Drift net fishing is banned now and there is also less for the snap net fishermen, but there is opportunity for tourism fishing. The move to shell fish and fish farming is a reaction to the difficulties caused by restrictions relating to fishing in the old way with boats.

Local anglers have fished with the Duke and some of his family over the years and relations are cordial. It was noted also that the Duke is not an aggressive landowner, as he admits himself and it could be time to turn over a new leaf. He was full of admiration for the successes in the Irish economy.

The Devonshire family have up to 8,000 acres around Lismore, have huge estates in England, notably Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, which we had occasion to visit once. This is one of the finest country houses in Britain and is a top tourist attraction

Chatsworth has a rich collection of art and magnificent gardens in the midlands of England, not far from the City of Derby and the Peak District. The family are related to the Spencers and the late Lady Diana. The Duke is also good friends with Prince Charles and is believed to be worth several hundred million sterling, with substantial property in London.