Fishing fanatics in 1970s County Fermanagh: 18 snapshots of rivals on the rod

Is this the reel life? 1970s fishing enthusiasts angle for glory and a fat cheque at a competition in Northern Ireland.

Paul O’Callaghan

Footage courtesy of Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive

In this Northern Ireland Tourist Board production, competitors from all over the United Kingdom visit idyllic County Fermanagh for a major fishing tournament, where there’s a grand total of £5,000 in prize money up for grabs.

1. On 23 May 1976, the Ulster Prince ferry docks at Belfast’s Donegall Quay, after a journey from Liverpool.

Benson and Hedges Fishing Festival (1976)

2. Among the passengers are the 160 anglers due to compete in this year’s Benson and Hedges Fishing Festival. Some are veterans of the first Ulster fishing festival, which was held in 1971.

Benson and Hedges Fishing Festival (1976)

3. The action is set to take place across County Fermanagh, around two hours by car from Belfast, but, as our narrator points out, “far, far away from all the years of headlines about the troubles”.

Benson and Hedges Fishing Festival (1976)

4. The Killyhevlin Hotel, which overlooks Lough Erne, and boasts chalets “where you could fish out of the window without getting out of bed”.

Benson and Hedges Fishing Festival (1976)

5. Other contestants stay at the Hotel Carlton in Belleek, a village on the border with County Donegal, in the Republic of Ireland. 

Benson and Hedges Fishing Festival (1976)

6. Enniskillen Castle provides a scenic backdrop to the first official day of the competition. The castle played a major role in the Irish rebellions of the 16th century.

Benson and Hedges Fishing Festival (1976)

7. It’s a somewhat gloomy start to the tournament, as our narrator observes: “Not an ideal day for the darling buds of May, but there are a lot of roach in the water.”

Benson and Hedges Fishing Festival (1976)

8. And eventually some highly-prized big bream make an appearance.

Benson and Hedges Fishing Festival (1976)

9. This one adds 3.5 lb to the competitor’s weigh-in.

Benson and Hedges Fishing Festival (1976)

10. The day’s winner is the aptly named Dennis Salmon, who receives a cheque for £300 and an engraved crystal tankard.

Benson and Hedges Fishing Festival (1976)

11. The following morning, members of the angling press, staying at the Manor House Hotel, are given the chance to meet the competitors.

Benson and Hedges Fishing Festival (1976)

12. Some of said competitors are staying at the somewhat less aesthetically pleasing Mahons Hotel in Irvinestown.

Benson and Hedges Fishing Festival (1976)

13. Fishers prepare for day two of the official competition in Lisnaskea, the county’s second-largest settlement.

Benson and Hedges Fishing Festival (1976)

14. Hotly-tipped contestant Harold Pattison needs help from a Northern Ireland Tourist Board official just to carry his day’s catch.

Benson and Hedges Fishing Festival (1976)

15. Bumper catches like this are a welcome sight for the tourist board, as they prove that Northern Ireland has some of the best fishing in western Europe, with largely pollution-free waters.

Benson and Hedges Fishing Festival (1976)

16. On the final day, dark horse Jack Barrow catches almost 52 lb of fish, sending him shooting up to second place on the leaderboard.

Benson and Hedges Fishing Festival (1976)

17. Shirley Saltariche, the only female competitor, ranks a very respectable seventh overall.

Benson and Hedges Fishing Festival (1976)

18. But the overall champion is Dublin’s Harold Pattison.

Benson and Hedges Fishing Festival (1976)

The film and stills on this page are taken from Britain on Film, a digital archive of UK places that mean the world to you. 10,000 film and TV titles from 1895 to now will be digitised and can be watched for free on BFI Player.

Britain on Film is funded by the National Lottery funding and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

 

Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive is a free public access resource for teachers, students, historians and anyone who has an interest in moving images. Spanning from 1897 to the present day, the films in the Digital Film Archive cover all aspects of life in Northern Ireland and include everything from dramas to documentaries, newsreels and features, animation to amateur footage.

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    1,000s of films, beautifully preserved. 120 years of British life, unseen until now.

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