Fishing was traditionally men's work but fish are perishable and, once landed, women cleaned and gutted them for preservation by salting, smoking or drying on racks. Women also collected bait for fishing and sold fish in the markets.

Exports of fish, hides, cattle, butter, sheep, wool, furs, etc. from Ireland offered opportunities for female employment as did imports of sugar, tobacco, cloth, wine and other luxury goods. There was also a criminal sub-culture of smuggling, piracy, prostitution and theft.

The export of live cattle from Ireland was penalised by the English government in the 1660s owing to pressure from farmers in England. Cork City then began to process beef for the provision trade and became one of the leading beef slaughtering and processing centres in the British Isles. Cured meat was exported to Europe, England and to the colonies. New uses were found for the by-products:

... Cork cellar and slaughterhouse workers were supplied with seven pounds of offal per week to help feed their families. And of course, the slaughterhouses with their waste blood by-products were to create that well-known unique Cork delicacy, drisheen - Cork's own pure beef and sheep blood pudding.
Regina Sexton, A little history of Irish food. Dublin, 1998, p. 30.


  1. How did women contribute by their work to the business of fishing?
  2. There was also a criminal sub-culture of smuggling, ______, prostitution and _____.
  3. What other opportunities for work were available for women in ports?


  1. Research the history of paid work for women in a port in your own area in the early modern period.
  2. Research the history of the provision trade in Cork city.
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