Salmon fishery history is the net gain

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A FISHERMAN’S cottage restoration at Carrick-a-Rede helps cast a net into the past for the future.
A superb restoration project, aimed at preserving the heritage of a 400-year-old Salmon Fishery at Carrick-a-Rede, is preparing to open its doors to the public for the first time.

The project, a partnership between the National Trust and DARD/North East Region (NER) Local Action Group, will ensure that the history and traditions of a once thriving industry will live on for future generations.

A new guided visitor experience will help provide a sense of place and connection with the famous rope bridge near Ballintoy.

The project has helped conserve and open once again the fisherman’s cottage (PICTURED RIGHT) , which for decades was used by the fishermen who sheltered there as they worked at the fishery.

To provide the feeling that the fishermen have just stepped outside, visitors will have access to oral history and interpretation which tells the story of this bygone era.

An integral part of the project was the recording of memories and stories of people with an association with salmon fishing. A large number of oral histories were recorded during the project, with elements of the recording used to support the interpretation of the cottage, helping to preserve a very significant part of our maritime heritage for future generations to enjoy and be proud of.

Aki Colgan, the last fisherman at Carrick-a-Rede, provided many of the memories along with other local people. Aki took over the Carrick-a-Rede fishing licence when his uncle retired and worked there for over 25 years, only leaving in 2002 when co-workers were hard to come by.

It is hoped that the project will help to promote the site as an education resource and a destination for group visits particularly for schools, the local community, historical and environmental groups.

Commenting on the success of the project, Heather Thompson, National Trust Regional Director for Northern Ireland, said: “The Salmon Fishery at Carrick-a-Rede is one of the few surviving pieces of a once thriving industry. It sustained generations of fishermen in this coastal community until it closed in 2002.

“We are delighted and privileged to have had the opportunity to capture, create and share a sense of place, history and heritage for the local community and visitors at Carrick-a-Rede. All of this was made possible with our partnership with DARD/NER and we thank them for their support throughout this project.”

Chair of North East Region (NER) Local Action Group, Roy Beggs, added: “North East Region are happy to work alongside the National Trust in developing the site. We have no doubt that it will enhance the unique attraction of the Rope Bridge. This project is the obvious complement to the bridge as it provides the background as to why the bridge was installed in the first place. We hope this project will help maintain and develop the tourism product in the North-East area which of course is the most important tourism destination in Northern Ireland.”

This restoration project was made possible with funding from the EU Rural Development programme. This project was made possible by funding from DARD (£58,000) and from the National Trust £14,500.
Axis 3 of the NI Rural Development Programme is worth £100M and is delivered on DARD’s behalf by seven council clusters.
The Axis 3 Rural Development Programme, Measure 3.6, funding for the Fisherman’s Cottage restoration is administered by North East Region (NER).

Carrick-a-Rede has been under the care of the National Trust since 1967. The site is designated A Special Scientific Interest, (ASSI) and is protected as a high quality landscape within the Causeway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Carrick-a-Rede consists of a small Basalt off shore island accessible by a rope bridge. The bridge was originally built to allow fishermen to access the island where for hundreds of years they have been risking life and limb to cross to the island to catch migrating north Atlantic salmon.