Bobbing for Eels
Interview with Pat ‘Hora, Kilbannon, Tuam, Co. Galway
1st December 2017
Bobbling for eels
CD: First of all, where would you catch them? Like in Kilbannon there would it be down at Acton’s Bridge or would it be Ballygaddy?
POH: Well, there was a great tradition of…my uncle described it once as like running the bulls at Pamplona! You bobbed for eels on the night of the first harvest flood
POH: And you couldn’t have a moon, you had to have a dark night. And what you did you got a big jar of worms and it would be after raining profusely, so worms would be particularly gettable!
POH: Maybe a jam jar full of worms. And you’d impale the worms head to toe on long strings of cotton, just like a rope of worms
POH: And you bound it round and tied it into what you call a hank. And you had a little circle of worms
CD: Right. A skill in and of itself.
POH: Right! And a weight at the end of it then and an ash plant and the weight appended to the end of the ash plant with the bob or the hank of worms. And you dropped the weight down until you felt the bottom
POH: And then when you felt a tug on it, it was the eels feeding, because the eels tend to migrate during those times…
POH: They would be the dark, early flood nights of autumn and winter. And the minute you felt the pull, you pulled the whole thing and the eels teeth got caught in the thread
CD: Right, OK
POH: But the fun then…this…it was dark at night and the river was flooded, how do you find this wriggling ell on the bank? So they used to have little braziers beside them
POH: To keep themselves warm and give themselves a bit of light. And as they flung the eels in the air, they usually had a helper as well.
POH: And the eels were put into…I remember a woman saying to me when I was checking up on eel bobbing. I’ve seen it done once, by an older man who is now dead and it was wonderfully successful, but I asked her and she said, “Oh, I remember him coming from the river with an eight stone bag full of eels”. And I said, “what did you do with them?” and she said that they used to put them into the bog hole and they’d ate them then during the winter time.
CD: Oh, right. How would you kill an eel now, just hit him over the head? They are hard enough to kill I think, are they?
POH: Almost impossible! The things they used to do…it was kind of a ….the cruelty to animals people might …when you eviscerated and cleaned and chopped the eel into pieces…when you put him into the pan he still moved!
CD: I heard those stories before, that he was still wriggling around.
POH: Whatever kind of a neurological set-up they have, you can literally separate them; skin them, eviscerate them…
CD: They’re in bits and they’re still…
POH: …chop them into little bits and they’re, they’re almost able to move on the pan.