The Port of Malahide
Though never an official port, coming under the control of the Ballast Board of Dublin, Malahide, nevertheless, enjoyed a substantial trade.
In 1375 the Surveyors of Malahide harbour were instructed to prevent the shipment of unlicensed corn through its port. Breach of this penalty meant forfeiture of horse, baggage and arms. Edward IV in 1445 appointed the Lord of Malahide High Admiral of the Port and Seas Adjoining. On 8 March 1476 Thomas Talbot was granted all the customs of goods passing through the port. Talbot and his heirs were appointed perpetual Admirals of Malahide and he was also given the authority to hold admiralty courts and to appoint officers, searchers and water bailiffs. This cut across the jurisdiction of Dublin Corporation, which claimed Admiralty rights on the coastline from Balbriggan to Arklow. Joe Byrne makes reference in his book on John Talbot ("War and Peace - The Survival of the Talbots of Malahide" Irish Academic Press) to a Malahide fisherman called Richard Mastoke being brought before the court of Exchequer in 1531 for having illegally exported 40 bushels of corn and malt in his own vessel.
By the 1850’s the main business was fishing but also included the export of grain, meal and flour and the import of coal – approximately 20,000 tons annually. (Thoms Directory). The construction of the railway arches in 1843/4 put an end to the coal trading to Newport at the top right of the Broadmeadows near Lissenhall which at one stage had its own harbourmaster.
The fishing was of two distinct types. There were very extensive oyster beds in the vicinity of the railway arches where large numbers of green finned oysters were harvested annually, the low level of the water at low tide making this a relatively easy task. Along with all the fishing rights in the Estuary the oyster fishery was the property of the Manor of Malahide and income from the letting was an important source of revenue. Again Joe Byrne refers to an indenture of 1835 wherein Richard Talbot lets to Henry Murphy at al, the oyster bed for a yearly rent of £110 and 5,000 marketable oysters to be delivered to the lessor every year. Again the building of the railway seems to have destroyed this fishery – there were no environmental impact studies in those days. Read more about the Malahide oyster fishery.
There are port records in Chester and Bristol for the 15th century mentioning Malahide fishermen landing herring and whitefish and taking cargoes of salt home for fish preservation. Herring continued to be important to Malahide but the catches declined drastically in the last century.
Malahide was better known for its cod fishery. The local fleet of yawls ranged up and down the Irish Sea using a method known as longlining. The yawl Anne of Malahide and its tragic loss off the bar in 1828 is well documented.
See separate page for a fuller history of the sea fishing.
Malahide in 1859 From Thom’s Directories,1859
"A maritime town and parish in Coolock barony; population 596 in 105 homes. On the fourth station from Dublin of the Drogheda Railway.
In 1174 the Manor and Castle of Malahide was granted to Richard Talbot, confirmed by King John and extended by Edward IV in 1445 by appointing the Lord of Malahide High Admiral of the Port and Seas adjoining.
The town contains few houses but many handsome cottages which chiefly are let in summer for sea bathing. It has a Constabulary Police and a Coast-guard Station.
An Act was obtained in 1788 by Mr. M’Intyre at his own expense for a canal to extend to Swords and Fieldstown but it failed as did the same mans cotton manufacture which had been granted £2,000 from the Irish Parliament.
The only trade now carried on is the import of coal, about 20,000 tons annually, and the export of grain, meal and flour. Off the coast there are profitable beds of oysters, the property of the Lord of the Manor, leased to Messrs. Gaffney, Malahide from which considerable quantities are drawn and are much esteemed for their flavour. The inlet of Malahide is 4 miles North from Howth and extends 4 miles inland. It is dry at low water, but at high tide vessels drawing 10 and 11 feet may enter and lie afloat in the creek. Across the estuary, about 1 and ¼ miles in length, the Drogheda Railway is carried by an embankment at an elevation of 8 feet in ordinary Spring tides; in the centre of the embankment the line passes over a wooden viaduct of 11 arches or spans, 50 feet wide through which the tide flows as far as Lissen Hall bridge, a distance of 2 and ½ miles.
By 1870 the population had risen to 1,341 and the town comprised an area of 1,126 acres. The Castle was described in that year as a large square building , flanked by lofty circular towers, and standing on a high limestone rock, and commanding a fine view of the town and bay. The demesne was adorned with groups of stately trees, and the grounds and gardens beautifully laid out and open daily to the visitors. The only public buildings were the Church, a neat edifice of the later English style, and a handsome Roman Catholic Chapel."
These were a regular annual feature in the latter half of the 19th century and were well reported in the national and yachting press. The following two reports give a flavour of the differing styles of reporting.
MALAHIDE REGATTA, 1858
As reported in Hunts Yachting Magazine
"This place situated about five miles to the northward of Dublin Bay, was the scene of a very spirited affair on Tuesday the 3rd of August. It was got up under the patronage of Lord Talbot de Malahide, and through the exertions of his agent, F. W. Cusack, Esq., assisted ably by W. Butler, Esq., honorary secretary.
The proceedings commenced with a match between the following yachts for a purse of fifteen sovereigns.
Dove, 12 tons, T. D. Keogh, Esq., Gazelle, 4 tons, J. Johnston, Esq., Vidette, 5 tons, R. W. Hodgans, Esq., Temeraire, 4 tons, E. Bolton, Esq., Virago, 10 tons, Capt. J. C. Byrne, and Bijou, 10 tons, R. D. Kane Esq.
The Electric, P. Thompson, Esq., entered, but she did not arrive in time.
An excellent start was effected at 3h. 2m., by all except the Virago, who was very badly berthed, being fully a quarter of a mile astern of the position taken up by her competitors. Gazelle went away with lead, but was soon overhauled and passed by Dove, Vidette, and Bijou, and the run out to the first flag-boat was exceedingly closely contested; the Virago pulled up her leeway wonderfully, overhauled and passed the Gazelle and Temeraire, and went into fourth place. There was a nice whole canvas breeze at W.N.W., veering occasionally in the showers to S.W., but north of west was the prevailing wind. Dove, Bijou, and Vidette rounded the Lambay flag-boat together, the Gazelle and Temeraire a few minutes after. The Bijou then got clear of her companions, the Dove and Vidette, which immediately struck their large gaff-topsails, the Vidette being hampered with hers, during which the Virago passed her. Bijou carried on until everything cracked again, making the running whilst her antagonists were shifting topsails; and when she had secured a good lead she down with her own, and prepared for a regular dusting match. Dove, in order to regain lost ground, set a small top-sail, but it rather injured her than otherwise, as it did not appear to stand well in a wind, so that she speedily sent it down again. In the meantime the Vidette, having struck her topmast and made all snug, went to work with a will, and, racing past the Virago, took third place. Bijou was the first to tack close by the Portrane shore, followed by the Dove, Vidette, Virago, Gazelle, and Temeraire. These positions were relatively maintained until nearing the bar flag-boat, on the stretch across the bay, the Dove overhauled the Bijou considerably. In the turn up the Channel the Bijou worked beautifully; the Dove, drawing much more water, could not stand in so close to the banks on either side, and consequently her ready little rival obtained an advantage. Vidette began to make play now in the short tacks, and also the Virago, but the latter vessel had scarcely weathered the bar boat, when she touched the tail of the Centre Bank and went aground. Meantime the Bijou was turning up tack for tack; she was winning fast. Dove and Vidette altho' well handled could not again reach their leader. their leader. The race finished thus - Bijou 4h. 58m., Dove 5h. 2m. and Vidette 5h. 3m.
Virago, Gazelle, and Temeraire not timed. The former got afloat again without injury.
Several rowing matches took place and the Dublin University Club crew added to their laurels. A very beautiful display of fireworks closed a really happy day.
It was intended to continue the sports the following day but it turned out very wet and disagreeable."
Malahide Regatta, 27th July, 1875
The Freeman's Journal' 28th July, 1875
"This, perhaps the oldest aquatic reunion in Ireland, was the means of drawing large numbers of spectators to Malahide. The weather, for once this month, was all that could be desired, and though the early morning argued ill for the day, there was a brilliant sunshine throughout from a bright blue sky. The day was in every way more like a July one than any we have had for a few weeks past, but the morning was not sufficiently promising to induce a numerous assemblage of fashionables. Still there were many there, and an agreeable promenade was to be had in the pretty park in front of the Royal, to the music of a military band. Two classes of people, as different as the North and South Poles, assembled at Malahide yesterday. They were the city and suburban folk and the rustics, of whom there was quite a crowd. All the surrounding districts of Rush, Swords, Howth, etc., contributed large contingents of peasantry, whilst the well-regulated specials of the newly-named Northern Railway Company brought down the metropolitans at convenient hours. The neighbourhood of the flag-staff on the beach at Malahide was almost entirely occupied by the rustics, who seemed to thoroughly enjoy the reel and Irish jig to the time observed on a flute or a fiddle by an itinerant musician. In fact with Aunt Sally - now a recognised member of every motley throng - pop guns, three cards, loop, a fire-eating man, and a man on stilts, one portion of the regatta quay assumed the appearance of a country fair, whilst at the end of the strand nearest the open sea one met quite a different class of people. But all seemed equally happy and on pleasure bent.
The record of the day's business will not likely fill any important page in the aquatic calendar, though nevertheless it attracted and was attractive. The report appended amply tells the story of the yachts under canvas, and little need be said of the other contests. The Dolphin Club swelled a well-prepared and neatly-printed programme with two entries, but the men apparently preferred remaining within doors on the muddy banks of the Dodder to trying conclusions with their opponents on the waters of Ireland's Margate.
Passing over the minor events which had but little interest (some of them none at all), we come to the race for "A Cup," to be rowed by pairs in gigs. It fell to the Commercial Club, whose pluck and perseverance will yet win many a laurel for the wearers of the crimson, and they beat the Neptune men as easily as they did in the Ladies' Cup for fours. Here, too, these little gods of the sea got thoroughly well thrashed, and to all appearances the men whose colours are blue and white are anxious to lease the one old position in all struggles, last. A word about the arrangements. They were admirable, and but for one point a total neglect of punctuality, might be pronounced perfect. At the close of the day there was a "pig and pole" in the water which made everyone laugh, and in the evening there were fireworks on the ground and in the air which made every one wonder. So ended what was at once an enjoyable and successful regatta.
Appended are the details:-
The efforts of the committee to make the yachting element a success have been each year crowned by increasing success, and have this year culminated in the best entry of purely racing vessels they have had yet. Malahide is not naturally a good place for a yacht race, but by close observance of the exigencies of the occasion the committee have arrived at a very fair solution of the difficulties they had to encounter, and by starting the yachts outside, and finishing as near high water as possible up the river, they have water for their vessels and the public got a good view of the proceedings. The first race for the Malahide Cup, value £20, and a second value £5, brought the following to the post:- Ildegonda, 14 tons; Elaine, 10 tons; Fairlie, 14 tons; Wonderful, 10 tons; Queta, 10 tons; and Ripple, 12 tons. The latter lead out at the first, and held the lead all through, but was headed at the post by Fairlie, the little Queta so well up that she took first in time - the finish being -
Fairlie ... 4h 12m 10s
Ripple ... 4h 12m 32s - second in time
Ildegonda ... 4h 13m 40s
Queta ... 4h 13m 45s - winner of Cup in time."
Malahide Yacht Club now holds the second-place cup won by the Ripple in 1875. It was purchased in 1994 or 1995 at a London Metropolitan Police auction of unclaimed recovered stolen goods and the purchaser passed it to the Club in 1996.The Ripple was built in Belfast in 1862 for G. Brett by D. Fulton, a building contractor who also built yachts and was a leading member of the Royal Ulster Yacht Club. Fulton was also a member of the Clyde, Mersey, Western and Prince Alfred Yacht Clubs. In the Carrickfergus Regatta of 1866 there was a 12 ton cutter Ripple owned by D. Boyd of Royal Mersey Yacht Club. The boat later passed into the ownership of George Murney who was originally a member of the Royal Mersey Y.C. George Murney was an original member of the Royal Ulster Yacht Club when it was founded in 1867. He was Number 13 on the membership list and was the Club's first treasurer in 1867. He is recorded as owning the 12 ton cutter Ripple and an 8 ton cutter Lily when he joined the Club. He was still a member in 1884 but off the membership list in 1890 ( the intervening records are missing). Murney was keen yachtsman, not only in Belfast Lough as he and Ripple appear in Carlingford regattas in 1872, 1877, 1878 and the Royal Irish in 1887 as well as several years at Malahide. The ' RIPPLE'' won a 'claret jug' style 12" high silver trophy as first prize at Helensburgh Regatta on the Clyde in August 1864. His brother, Dr. D. Murney, Number 6 on the Royal Ulster members list, was Rear Commodore of that club from 1875 until 1883. The original of the painting pictured here is in the Royal Ulster Yacht Club in Bangor, Co. Down.
"In the 7 ton race the only starters were - Dream, 5 tons, Wyvern, 6 tons; and Wee Pet, 5 tons. Dream led from the start, which was a very close one, but in the river after the first round got ashore, as did also the Wee Pet, the latter grounding twice, which enabled the Wyvern to take second place; but when the Dream came in apparently the winner, she was declared disqualified by the committee for having gone over the line before the second gun fired. With all confidence in the judgement of the committee we consider this as shaving a little too close, considering the others did not object, and that she was called back, but did not comply. However, she, up the time the Wee Pet went ashore, had her beaten, and it is not on such a day as yesterday that Wee Pet will beat her. Wyvern gets second, but not through any merit or sailing that is in the boat.
PURSE for boats to sculled with an oar from the stern.
The Irish Girl (P. Sharkey, owner) ... ... 1
St. Michael (C. Hatch, owner) ... ... 2
Won very easily.
RACE open to all yachts. Money prizes.
The Fanny ... ... ... 1
Won very easily.
PAIR_OARED RACE for gigs. Prize, a cup.
Commercial Rowing Club ... ... 1
Neptune Rowing Club ... ... 2
The crews were-
Neptune- A.Carson, 10st. 12lb. (bow), J.W.Whittaker, 11st. 10lb. (stroke).
Commercial- A. Lang, 11st. 5lb. (Bow), M.J. Murphy, 11st. 7lb. (stroke).
The pair remained pretty even to the turn, where the Commercial men steered beast, and drawing away returning home, won easily by about three lengths clear.
THE LADIES CUP, value £20, for four-oared gigs.
Commercial Club ... 1
Neptune Club ... 2
The crews were;-
Neptune:J.F.Whitestone, 10st., Jas. Simpson, 11st. 4lb., A.Carson, 10st. 12lb., J.Whittaker (st.), 11st. 12lb., D.Athol,cox
Commercial; J.M'Tiernan, 10st. 10lb., J. Twamley, 10st. 12lb., M.J.Murphy, 11st. 7lb.,, A.Lang, 11st. 5lb., (stroke), B.Owens,cox
The pair rowed even for a few strokes, when the Commercial men assumed a lead which they held to the turn round, which they got quickest. From this point to home they continued to increase their command, and won finally by three lengths clear.
The coastguard boat-race was won by the Lambay boat, the second being that pulled by the men stationed at Baldoyle."
Malahide Yacht Club now holds the second-place cup (the middle illustration below) won by the Ripple in 1875. It was purchased in 1994 or 1995 at a London Metropolitan Police auction of unclaimed recovered stolen goods and the purchaser passed it to the Club in 1996.The Ripple was built in Belfast in 1862 for G. Brett by D. Fulton, a building contractor who also built yachts and was a leading member of the Royal Ulster Yacht Club. Fulton was also a member of the Clyde, Mersey, Western and Prince Alfred Yacht Clubs. In the Carrickfergus Regatta of 1866 there was a 12 ton cutter Ripple owned by D. Boyd of Royal Mersey Yacht Club. The boat later passed into the ownership of George Murney who was originally a member of the Royal Mersey Y.C. George Murney was an original member of the Royal Ulster Yacht Club when it was founded in 1867. He was Number 13 on the membership list and was the Club's first treasurer in 1867. He is recorded as owning the 12 ton cutter Ripple and an 8 ton cutter Lily when he joined the Club. He was still a member in 1884 but off the membership list in 1890 ( the intervening records are missing). Murney was keen yachtsman, not only in Belfast Lough as he and Ripple appear in Carlingford regattas in 1872, 1877, 1878 and the Royal Irish in 1887 as well as several years at Malahide. The ' RIPPLE'' won a 'claret jug' style 12" high silver trophy as first prize at Helensburgh Regatta on the Clyde in August 1864. His brother, Dr. D. Murney, Number 6 on the Royal Ulster members list, was Rear Commodore of that club from 1875 until 1883. The original of the painting pictured here is in the Royal Ulster Yacht Club in Bangor, Co. Down.
The silver pot below was awarded at the 1873 Malahide regatta, the jug at the 1875 regatta and the silver tankard with rustic decor at the 1877 event.