Mary McGillicuddy will speak at the ‘Women and the Sea’ symposium in September about her research on the role of women in the mackerel fishing industry in southern Ireland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
This research was undertaken in 2007/8 for MA in Local History (UL) thesis. It explored aspects of mackerel fishing in southwest Ireland during the 1880’s to 1920’s and included a gender-specific focus on the role and function of females within the fish curing industry as it operated at the time. Fishing has been predominantly a male occupation, but on-shore work often involves women, e.g fish processing, fish sales, book-keeping, bait digging, net mending, agricultural labour and domestic and emotional support. The geographic area addressed included coastal sites such as Valentia and Caherciveen in south Kerry and Castletownberehaven and Baltimore in west Cork.
Scant relevant documentation created the virtual historical ‘invisibility’ of such female workers and presented a challenge for a researcher to uncover further evidence of their presence during the period selected for study. Primary and secondary sources were located and examined to identify if and how they recorded the work of women within the context of the mackerel fishing activity of the region.