|Lough Neagh - History & Culture
The landscape area around Lough Neagh has been inhabited since prehistoric times and evidence of the past can be found in an array of ancient religious sites, medieval ruins and historic houses.
On the loughshore Ardboe Cross is one thousand years old and has been described as 'the finest High Cross in Ireland' and all over the region are more ruins of monasteries, forts and castles. These include the isolated remains of a 17th Century church on Church Island and the fine monastry Round Tower in Antrim.
The area around Lough Neagh is home to some of the industries that generated the wealth of Ulster from 1700's onwards. At Moneypenny's Lock on the Newry Canal, (the oldest in the British Isles), barges loaded with peat, coal or linen would have passed by. The hey-day ot these great industries can be explored at places like Peatlands Park with its narrow guage railway which once hauled freshly cut turf, or Coalisland Cornmill Heritage Centre which portrays the hardships and triumphs of the once flourising coal mining and potteries industries.
Fishing and the Fishermen’s Cooperative
There are numerous species of fish within Lough Neagh such as Roach, Bream, Perch, Pollan, Brown trout, Dollaghan trout (a species common to Lough Neagh), Salmon and Eels. Of these the Eel is the most commercially valuable.
The fish within Lough Neagh are a valuable resource and have been caught ever since man arrived on its shore, in fact early Christian monks used the Eel for food and extracted its oil for lamps. Local people have fished the Lough and made a living from fishing for generations.
The fishing rights have a particularly well documented history from the time of Charles I, when the bed and soil and Eel fishery were granted to the Earl of Donegal, to the Chichester family and their descendants, the members of the Shaftesbury estate. Some conflict arose between the companies holding the fishing rights and the families fishing the Lough. This situation was resolved when the Lough Neagh Eel Fishermen’s Co-operative Society Limited, which had registered as a union to protect the fishermen’s rights, acquired an initial 20% share in the company. In 1971 the Co-operative purchased the remaining 80% of the company. Henceforth the Eel and scale fishing rights have belonged to the Lough Neagh Eel Fishermen’s Co-operative Society based at Toomebridge.
The market for the commercial Eel catch is based on export to Holland, Germany and London.
© Lough Neagh and Lower Bann Advisory Committees 2006 | Images © Lough Neagh & Lower Bann Advisory Committees Photo Library