National Geographic : 1961 Mar
Before dinner the guests gathered at a stone fireplace so vast that a roasting ox would have looked rather small in it. In the old days the castle and the estate saw the owner only twice or three times a year, when lords and ladies and occasional royalty came, with their valets and maids, to catch salmon or to shoot game birds. While at Ashford Castle, I heard that the shark fishing season was in full swing off Achill Island. This is one of the few places in the world where the huge basking sharks, which migrate round Ireland from late March through June, are fished commercially; so off I sped to Achill. The island-a bleak, moun tainous mass thrust out into the Atlantic from the coast of County Mayo-is joined to the mainland by a causeway and bridge. The "king" of Achill is Joe Sweeney, whose gen eral store is the first object of note after you cross the causeway. He also is the leading shark fisherman. "We catch the sharks for their livers," he told me. "One liver sometimes gives us half a ton of oil. The largest sharks are 30 feet long. They are harmless, though a blow from a tail can wreck a boat. We catch about 800 a year." 327 KODACHROMESBYJOHN BARLEE(BELOW)AND NATIONALGEOGRAPHICPHOTOGRAPHERROBERTF. SISSON © N.G.S.