The link between Visual Sociology and Galway’s Fishery Watchtower

The link between Visual Sociology and Galway’s Fishery Watchtower

The subject I have chosen to explore is that of the class fieldtrip I took part in on May 5th with my visual sociology classmates. A key location which stood out to me was the Fishery Watchtower here in Galway city. I am indeed familiar with the tower as I pass by it very often on my way to University but it never really crossed my mind as a place of historical importance. It wasn’t the type of building that would stand out to me so attending the field trip really opened my eyes to how there is a story behind every building us as humans come across, be it big or small. This post will look into the historical background of the watchtower and how my learning experience has transformed as a result of linking my visual sociology skills with places I used to take for granted in the past.


3D map of Fishery Watchtower.

“Maps often reveal more about their makers by what they leave out than by what they include” (Smyth, 1985, p2). This map helps to indicate the scenery surrounding the tower and the formation of the river but we are not shown a map of the entire city per say. The tower was built in 1852 and is known to be a very unique building due to the fact that it is the only building of its kind that dwells in Ireland. The name Fishery Watchtower, a great example of Victorian Architecture has many other names, such as the Salmon house, or the Tower Station. The tower was used for many reasons. Not only was it treated as a place where fishermen could monitor the levels of fish arriving in the river, but the tower was also used as a place to monitor illegal fishing at a close proximity. During those times, people did not feel the need to pay for goods that nature provided so illegal fishing was quite popular and resulted in many fishermen losing their licenses.


Largest Salmon caught by the Watchtower.

Our tour guide mentioned to us that this salmon was indeed caught by a female at around 8pm one evening. She received a lot of backlash when people discovered it was a woman that caught the fish. To the extent that she wrote an open letter stating how exactly the fish was caught. This image not only represents the fact that it is the biggest fish to have been caught, but it also represents the story of how women were seen as the lesser beings. We were told that catching these fishes is not as easy as it may appear. It involves a lot of togging between the fisherman and the fish and a lot of the time, it is the fish that is fighting for its life that wins the battle. Our tour guide also explained to us that not only salmon was caught but some eels were also fished out. Having the right tools and skilld is what would enable one to be successful at the trade.


Fishing net.

The element of looking stood out to me whilst on this fieldtrip. It helped me to understand that “the way we design and build our communities and neighbourhoods affects social capital” (Leyden, 2003). This building was one that helped to contribute to the community’s physiological needs. Fish and Potatoes were one of the most popular edibles in Irish history. The tower stood as a portion of that which brought the citizens together. Many social gatherings involved a place of food and the events which went on by the watchtower pushed people towards the market place. If illegal fishing wasn’t monitored, a lot of people would benefit more from the tower than others, which in turn results in some individuals not getting as much nutrition as the rest. Perceptibility is very important when linked to the watch tower because it indeed brings to light what we hear about the building. With our tour guide explaining to us what happened around the early days of the watch tower, I figured that the fact the tower was filled with images helped out our imagination, it helped us picture how things actually were back then and bring our tour guides stories to light.


Leyden, K.M. (2003) “Social Capital and the Built Environment: The Importance of Walkable Neighbourhoods”, Research and Practice, 93(9), pp. 1546-1551

Smyth, W.J. (1985) “Explorations of place”, in Lee, J. (eds) Ireland: towards a sense of place. County Cork: Cork University Press, pp. 1-20


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