Humble Works for Humble People is a study of the structures associated with Galway and North Clare’s fishing industry: from ‘artisanal’ piers and slips to larger, more sophisticated ship and boat quays – built in large numbers from the early 19th century. It details the effects of wider, as well as more local, historical events on fishing and traditional occupations in the west of Ireland. Wilkins describes a landscape that is both natural and man-made, shaped not by prosperity and burgeoning industry, but by hardship and desperation. The detail in the text is a testament to focused research in this area of coastline. The book pursues not only the forgotten histories of the people who built the structures, but also the history of fisheries administration and the philanthropic funding of the quays and piers.
Beautifully illustrated, with informative maps of the coastline, historic plans, and splendid photographs of many of the piers and quays discussed, the book reflects on the wider history of local economies through difficult times in 19th-century Ireland.
This review appeared in CA 337.