An eUntil the arrival of Myxomatosis in the 1950s the countryside teemed with rabbits which were regarded as a pest. It was common for the older boys and some girls from National School to have their own snares. One man now in his 90s recalls that sometimes before school he could have up to 20 rabbits in his snares.
There was big trade in rabbits. In the Durrus area they were bought by people such as Tom Dukelow formerly from Clashadoo and later Sea Lodge and he would have the rabbits collected by truck a few times a week for export to England. A buyer would often attend early morning at the creamery. Buyers also included Jackie Cronin and Burkes of Ahakista.
One of the buyers was the Cork firm of John Lane and Son Ltd., which also dealt in chickens and eggs. Also involved was Mr Regan, Scart Road, Bantry.
During the war prices were 2s 6d per rabbit. In the early 50s it was 2 shillings the equivalent of two pints of stout.
A native of the district recalls that ‘Catching rabbits was a source of pocket money for me until I was about age 12 years. At age six to eight years I was able to sell rabbits for 3 to 6 pence each. By the mid-fifties that disease called Myxomatosis had taken over the rabbits and they were dying by the hundreds.
My brothers who were 8 and 10 years older than I they would hunt rabbits with friends on Sunday afternoon they had own a ferret which was used to get the rabbits out of their burrows and then they would be killed by the hounds or dogs. The ferrets referred to were a vicious little animal kept in sacks.
Rabbit was a common source of meat of our Sunday dinner.
The local store or merchant that purchased hens or other fowl were the ones that also purchased the rabbits.
The season for hunting rabbits started with the first frost about mid-October and ended by about April.
The trade was reckoned to be worth £500,000 per annum at a time when De Valera said ‘No man is worth more than £1,000 a year’
The high point for prices was 1951/2
An excellent book on the Irish rabbit trade by Michael Conry has recently ben published, it gives a very good flavour of the countryside and refers to the terrible living conditions of labourers adn their families: