Economic History

Since the introduction of farming practices in the Neolithic period some 6,000 years ago Ireland has been a predominately agriculture-based society. It is known from Gaelic laws that Early Christian economy was primarily based on cattle, though the crop production was pursued in the monastic settlement. This tradition of cattle farming continued into the 12th century, and evidence of this can be seen in Lough Neagh with a high concentration of ráths or ring-forts (enclosed farmsteads) along the northeast and east shore, most especially from Dunore Point to Langford Lodge.  The lordships established by the Anglo-Normans saw the introduction of ‘manors’ or large rural estates which focused on the production of cereals to feed the newly founded towns; this type of agriculture was practiced by the new monastic orders which arrived with the Anglo-Normans and succeeded many of the early orders. Despite this, cattle based agriculture continued to be practiced under the Gaelic lords.

The Plantation period saw the removal of woods and opening up of land for production of cereals. This also saw the introduction of large-scale agricultural improvements for example the drainage and reclamation of poorer, marginalised lands such as bog. Such schemes were predominant in the 18th and 19th centuries around the shores of Lough Neagh, an example being the Brownlow estate located on the southern shore. By this time (18thand 19th centuries) the industrial revolution was established in Ireland and offered alternative employment to the many fishermen and ‘cottiers’, or poor agricultural labourers, who had little or no land to provide them with potatoes and cereals and upon which cattle could graze. This led to migration of many people from the shore of the Lough to the larger towns such as Lurgan, Portadown, Dungannon, Cookstown, Magherfelt and Antrim. However, this period also opened new opportunities for Lough Neagh with the new canal systems linking into the Lough, creating a vibrant economic hub. The extraction of resources from the Lough  became more important in the 19thand 20th centuries with a growing sand and diatomite and turf extraction industry Both sand and turf extraction continue to this day. Finally, fishing has also been a major economic benefit throughout the history of the Lough and a major eel fishing business survives to this day.