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Fishing the Blackwater

The river Blackwater in Munster is amongst the finest salmon rivers in Ireland - and the largest owner of fishing rights on the river is the Duke of Devonshire

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4.1/5 (90 ratings)

Documentary maker: Liam O'Brien

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Fishing the Blackwater

The Munster Blackwater is the fourth longest river in Ireland. It rises in the Mullaghareirk mountains in East Kerry and makes its way through Cork and Waterford before it reaches the sea at Youghal.

The Blackwater is one of Ireland's most important salmon rivers, second only to the River Moy. But the Munster Blackwater is different because its fishing rights are almost entirely privately owned. The largest private owner of fishing rights on the river is the 12th Duke of Devonshire, Peregrine Andrew Morny Cavendish.

The Irish seat of the Duke of Devonshire is Lismore Castle, Co. Waterford. It's perhaps the most spectacular castle in the country, overlooking the Blackwater River and valley. The estate now consists of Lismore Castle, thousands of acres of land and the fishing rights to two thirds of the tidal water of the Blackwater (approx 12 miles) and a range of other fishing rights.
Legal controversy over the fishing rights to the river date back to the 19th Century.

The Duke maintains all his historical rights which include those of Youghal Harbour; these are contested by the local council. There are a range of communities along the river who have historically depended on it for a living.

Depleted fishing stocks have affected their rights in recent years. The most prized asset of the River Blackwater are the wild Atlantic salmon that run through it. This is why the fishing rights are so important. If you want to catch a wild salmon in private waters, you pay for it.

'Fishing the Blackwater' looks at these communities and their claims. It journeys up the river in search of the Duke of Devonshire through some of the most picturesque towns in Ireland. It travels through an area that has never pitched itself at mass tourism, which is remarkable considering the amount of "Trespassers will be prosecuted" signs.

'Fishing the Blackwater' is about hereditary rights, Youghal Town Council, a fairytale castle, the Duke - a close friend of the Prince of Wales and the Queen's representative at Ascot - and a sometimes rebellious peasantry - through it flows a river that is known as the Irish Rhine. It contains an interview with the Duke of Devonshire conducted in his club in London - the only interview he has ever given in relation to the fishing rights. It even has a walk on part for a golfer called Tiger Woods.

Produced and presented by Liam O'Brien

First broadcast April 2008.

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