Humble Works for Humble People: A History of the Fishery Piers of County Galway and North Clare, 1800–1922


Noel Wilkins

October 2017

An extensive illustrated history of fishery piers along the coasts of Galway and North Clare, based on the original archives from the Office of Public Works.


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This fully illustrated book explores the history of the fishery piers and harbours of Galway and north Clare. A testament to these structures as feats of engineering, it is also a riveting account of the human aspect that shadowed their construction; a beautiful rendering of the maritime activities that gave life to the Wild Atlantic Way – kelp-making, fishing, turf distribution, and sea-borne trade.

Humble Works for Humble People nurtures the retelling of human stories surrounding the piers, giving voice to the unacknowledged legacy of the lives that were their making. The Office of Public Works, the Congested Districts Board, foreign financial support, humanitarian efforts, controversies and conflict – these are all features of the piers and harbours’ development and preservation. Humble Works for Humble People is a vital contribution to the maritime history of Galway, Clare and of Ireland in general; an overlooked but culturally rich facet of Irish history.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction: Setting the Scene and Previewing the Way Ahead.
  2. A Beginning in a Forgotten Famine, 1800 to 1830.
  3. Enter the OPW: ‘We remain, as a Fishery Board, totally inoperative’.
  4. A New Beginning in a Never-to-be-Forgotten Famine, 1845 to 1856.
  5. From a Species of Delusion to a New Fishery Inspectorate, 1857 to 1879.
  6. The Kindness of Strangers and the Relief of Distress, 1879 to 1884.
  7. Fisheries to the Fore: The Sea Fisheries (Ireland) Act and Fund, 1883 to 1889.
  8. More Distress and Another Colonel: The Piers and Roads Commission.
  9. Retrospective on Troubled Waters: An Awkward and Delicate Position.
  10. The Abundance of Small Piers and Quays: Humble Works, indeed, for Humble People.
  11. The Congested Districts Board, 1891-1922.
  12. Yet Another New Beginning: Not So Little… but a Little Too Late.
  13. Epilogue

About the Author

Noel Wilkins is a retired professor of The National University of Ireland, Galway. His previous works include Alexander Nimmo’s Inverness Survey and Journal, 1806 (2011), Alexander Nimmo Master Engineer, 1783–1832: Public Works and Civil Survey (2009), and Alive, Alive-O: The Shellfish and Shellfisheries of Ireland (2004).

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