coracles

Coracles on the Teifi at Cenarth c. 1900

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coracles have been associated particularly with Wales although they were used elsewhere in the British Isles until at least the late 18th century, but they continued to be used in Wales until the 20th century.

They were used principally for catching salmon, which were a cheap form of high quality food until it became possible to send it to various towns, including London, on over-night trains.

Many of the descriptions are inevitably similar, partly because the tourists were describing the same vessel which superficially varied little from place to place, but also because they were using the same published sources for the history of the coracle and its method of use.

left: from Mr and Mrs Hall’s The Book of South Wales and the Wye, (1861), p. 33
right: from Wirt Sykes’ Rambles and Studies in Old South Wales, (1881) showing the method used of draging a net between two coracles.
Other images on People’s Collection Wales web site:
Man with Coracle
NLW (202) Rock & Co. no. 3, Welsh Fisherman with the Coracle, 1860
Rock and Co. no. 11 , 1853
Bibliography:
Jenkins, J. Geraint, The Coracle (1988, 2006)
Horner, James, ‘British Coracles’, The Mariner’s Mirror, vol. 22, no. 1, January, 1936; no. 2, July 1936

The Coracle Society web site

Fishing for salmon from a coracle required a licence. The number of licence holders has gradually decreased over the years.

Licence holders appear to have had rights over who could fish in certain rivers. In about 1815 Walter Davies noted that ‘A stranger gentleman tried fishing in the Tywi but was court marshalled by the coracle fishermen.’ (NLW 1759 Bii, 2nd set of notebooks. p. 336)

Of the known 77 descriptions and 27 illustrations of coracles, most are in south Wales, on the Teifi, Tywi and the Wye

North Wales 
unspecified river  (1 description, 1 illustration)
Conwy  (2 descriptions, 1 illustration)
Dee (5 descriptions, 2 illustration)
Caernarfon (1 illustration)
Mid Wales
Dyfi (4 descriptions, 4 illustrations)
Aberystwyth ( 1 illustration)
South Wales
Teifi (27 descriptions, 8 illustrations)
Tywi (19 descriptions, 4 illustrations)
Swansea  ( 1 illustration)
Taf ( 1 illustration)
Llanofer  ( 1 illustration)
Severn  (3 descriptions)
Usk (1 illustration)
Wye (17 descriptions, 2 illustrations).
unknown   (5 descriptions, 5 illustrations)
England
Shrewsbury on the Severn (2 descriptions)
Shenton on the Severn, near Bridgenorth, Shropshire (1)

Englyn by Edward Circ, (fl 1500-1550)
Nid a’i gorwg drwg i drigo-mewn gwall
gwell yw’r tir i rodio;
siwgler ar ddvvr yn siglo,
cas gen i’r nyth, poeth fyth fo.
[I will not go to a bad coracle to dwell in danger, the land is better to walk upon, it is a juggler shaking on water, I hate the nest, confound it.]

DESCRIPTIONS OF CORACLES in chronological order

1188
To fish or cross streams they used boats made of willow, not oblong nor pointed at either end but almost rather in the form of a triangle and covered in rawhide, the fishermen carried these boats on their shoulders.
Gerald of Wales, 1188

uncertain date
they were made of split sallow twigs interwoven at the bottom, and on that part next the water covered with a horses hide
Camden, William, Britannia

1705 (and earlier in Latin?) Ireland
Of the ships, or Boats of the Ancient Irish, that were covered with Skins.
The ancient Irish made use of Wicker-Boats covered with Ox-Hides, not only in Rivers but in the open Sea. These boats were called in Irish Corraghs possibly from the British Corwg, which signifies a boat covered in leather {quotations of early references to leather-clad boats}
Ware, James, (1594-1666), Antiquities of Ireland, (Now first published in one Volume in English, 1705), Chapter 18, pp. 45-46

1717  the Towy
go fishing on the Towy in a sort of boat called coracles which is made of hoops, stands? and pitch’d blanketing and is portable.
Philipps, Erasmus, description of a tour in 1717 through counties Carmarthen and Brecon and the south-west of England to London, NLW ms 23273A, p. 11

1717
Llyn-savadhan lake, 2 miles long, 1½ broad is well stored with {fish} which the fishermen take in their coracles, Boats of a peculiar form, resembling more a trough than anything else, and rowed along with a paddle.
Philipps, Erasmus, description of a tour in 1717 through counties Carmarthen and Brecon and the south-west of England to London, NLW ms 23273A, p. 25

1760, Shrewsbury
We saw here the portable fishing boats made of horsehides, [coracles] which the inhabitants here use for their fishing in the springtime. It was one and a half yards long and one wide and so light that the man can put it on his back and carry it home with him together with his basket. It was rowed with one paddle which the man operated with his hands without supporting it against the boat. This was made inside of thin wooden laths, which hold the boat in its shape.
Ferrner, Bengt, Visit to Wales in 1760. Linnard, W., A Swedish Visitor to Flintshire in 1760, Flintshire Historical Society Journal, 30, (1981-2), p. 145-149

1762 (pre)
left Shenton (on the Severn, near Bridgenorth, Shropshire on our right.)
The singular practice of Fishing here, in what they call a coracle, is very pleasing to the eye for a Stranger. This vessel is formed with split sort of lath, in the shape of a large cloaths Basket; the outside is the hide of a horse. Across it is laid a board, upon which the fisherman sits, with his rod and lines, and with a Paddle guides himself to different parts of the rive; but his situation is so ticklish that a novice in the business would not, without Difficulty, keep it from oversetting. When it has drove down the river as far as the fisherman chuses to go, he paddles to the shore, and taking both his fish and boat upon his back (excepting his sport has been extraordinary good) with ease carries them home.
Toldervy, William,England and Wales described in a series of letters: exhibiting Whatever is worthy the Observation of the Curious Traveller, as well as all others, who wish to be made acquainted with the Beauties of this happy Country. (London, 1762), p. 302

1767 Abergwili
Salmon fishing in Towy is carried on in … perhaps the most ancient, and least artificial of any used in this Island, perhaps in the world ; as all the Canoes I have seen, even of the most unpolished Indians, are made with infinitely more art than these ; they are called corricles [coracles] ; their shape is almost round, at least very tubish for a boat : that which I measured was 4 feet 6 [inches] by 3 feet 3 : their edges are watled together with small Rods, such as baskets are made of, in these are interlaced split sticks, such as hoops are made of ; seven or eight of which cross the bottom : over these is put a piece of flannel dipped in tar which is secured to the watlings; the bench is of deal, pretty strong, and goes across the middle of the boat : these which are just capable of holding a man, are guided by a small paddle, consisting of a blade, and handle just like the Indian ones ; with this the man moves the boat by putting it in before him, and moving it to him : two of them will hawl a salmon net of a very large size, and draw any pool in Towey.
Banks, Joseph, Journal of a Tour in Wales, 1767-1768. “The copy of a Journal of an Excursion to Wales, &c., by S.S. Banks began August 13th, 1767, ended January 29th, 1768.” NLW MS 147C (transcribed by his sister S. S. Banks from the original now in the University Library, Cambridge MS Add 6294 (2)) pp. 24-25

 1767 the Dee
[Ellesmere to ]Wrexam … in the Course of which crossed the Dee on a good bridge and observed that coracles are used in that river as they are on Towey
Banks, Joseph, Journal of a Tour in Wales, 1767-1768. “The copy of a Journal of an Excursion to Wales, &c., by S.S. Banks began August 13th, 1767, ended January 29th, 1768.” NLW MS 147C (transcribed by his sister S. S. Banks from the original now in the University Library, Cambridge MS Add 6294 (2))

1769 Cardigan
Mentions coracles on the Teifi near Cardigan
Grimston, James Bucknall, Sir, (Third Viscount Grimston, 1749-1809), A Tour in Wales, 1769, Report on the manuscripts of the Earl of Gorhambury, Historic Monuments Commission Report, (HMSO, 1906), pp. 242-283, 19th September, 1769

1770
A slight fishing-boat is used in this part of the river, which is very curious. It is called a coricle and is constructed of waxed canvas, stretched over a few slight ribs; and holds only a single man who carries it and is so light that when he comes on shore can carry it over his head like an umbrella. This is the common vessel used here for fishing.  
Manuscript version of Observations on the River Wye, and Several Parts of South Wales, etc., NLW ms 21630, f. 34

1770 New Weir (on the Wye)
A fishing boat is used in this part of the river, which is curious. It is constructed of waxed canvas, stretched over a few slight ribs; and holds only a single man. It is called a coricle [coracle]; and is derived probably, as its name imports, from the ancient boat, which was formed of leather.

An adventurous fellow, for a wager, once navigated a coracle as far as the isle of Lundy, at the mouth of the Bristol-channel. A full fortnight, or more, he spent in this dangerous voyage; and it was happy for him, that it was a fortnight of serene weather. Many a current, and many an eddy; many a flowing tide, and many an ebbing one, afforded him occasion to exert all his skill, and dexterity. Sometimes his little bark was carried far to leeward; and sometimes as far to windward: but still he recovered his course; persevered in his undertaking; and at length happily achieved it. When he returned to the New-Weir, report says, the account of his expedition was received like a voyage round the world.
Gilpin, William, Observations on the River Wye, and Several Parts of South Wales, etc. relative chiefly to Picturesque Beauty; made in the Summer of the Year 1770, (London, 1782), SECTION III, p. 25-26; Gilpin, William, Observations on the River Wye, and several parts of South Wales, &c. relative chiefly to picturesque beauty; made in the summer of the year 1770, 2nd ed. (London, 1789), p. 40

1773? Llanrwst Bridge
The river here makes a handsome appearance, extending in a direct line far above the bridge, and often enlivened with the coracles, the vitilia navigia of the ancient Britons, busied in taking salmon; and in the months of February and March, numbers of smelt.
Pennant, Thomas, Tour to Snowdon, [in 1773?]; 1883 edition, vol 2, p. 302

1773
THE ancient British boats, the vitilia navigia of Pliny; the modern coracles; are much in use in these parts for the purpose of salmon fishing. They have now lost the cause of their name, being no longer covered with coria or hides, but with strong pitched canvas. They hold only a single person, who uses a paddle with great dexterity. The Britons had them of large size, and even made short voyages in them, according to the accounts we receive from Lucan.
Pennant, Thomas. Tour in Wales, MDCCLXXIII, (1778), p. 225
Pennant, Thomas. Tour in Wales, (1781), vol 1, p. 234
Pennant, Thomas. Tour in Wales, (1810), vol 1, p. 303
Pennant, Thomas. Tours in Wales, by Thomas Pennant. 3 cyf. Ed. John Rhys. Caernarvon: H Humphreys, 1883, pp. 288

1774 Carmarthen
THE fishermen in this part of Carmarthenshire, use a singular sort of boats, called coracles. They are generally 5 1/2  feet long, and 4 broad; their bottom is a little rounded, and their shape nearly oval. These boats are ribbed with light laths or split twigs, in the manner of basket work, and are covered with a raw hide, or strong canvas, pitched in such a mode as to prevent their leaking. A feat crosses just above the centre, towards the broader end. They seldom weigh more than between 20 and 30 pounds. The men paddle them with one hand, while they fish with the other; and when their work is completed, they throw the coracles over their shoulders, and, without difficulty, return with them home. Riding through Abergwili, we saw several of these phenomena resting, with their bottoms upwards, against the houses, and resembling the shells of so many enormous turtles: and, indeed, a traveller, at the first view of a coracle on the shoulders of a fisherman, might fancy he saw a tortoise walking on his hinder legs; or, to reverse the simile of Mons. Scarron, who compared Rancour, Rancour, with his violoncello on his back, to that animal so walking, we may, on the contrary, compare our group to a strolling musician, bending under the weight of that instrument. These boats, according to Cæsar, are specimens of the original British navigation, who, happily, made them very useful to him in his Spanish expedition against Pompey; for Cæsar’s bridges, on the Segre, being hurried away by the torrent, he transported his legions, across that river, in vessels of this construction. PLINY, in his account of Britain, speaks of a fix day’s navigation in the open sea with these coracles. {quotes Caesar and Pliny in Latin.} [The book includes a drawing of a coracle in a view of Cilgerran castle by Grimm.]
Wyndham, Henry Penruddocke, A Gentleman’s Tour through Monmouthshire and Wales, made in the months of June and July, 1774, (London, 1775), pp. 61-62, (2nd edition, p. 52-53)

1775 Carmarthen
At Abergwilly, near Carmarthen, I observed the. singular kind of boats called Coracles. “They are generally five feet and a half long, and four broad, their bottom is a little rounded, and their  shape is nearly oval, These boats are ribbed with light laths, or split twigs, in the manner of basket work, and are covered with a raw hide, or strong canvas, pitched so as to prevent leaking. A seat crosses just above the center, towards the broad end. The men paddle them with one hand, and fish with the other, and when their work is finished,  bring their boats home on their backs; at first sight they appear like the shells of so many enormous turtles.” ([Wyndham], A Gentleman’s Tour Through Wales in 1774.)
They weigh about twenty-five pounds each. Sir James Ware, in the twenty-fourth chapter of the second volume in folio of his Antiquities of Ireland, gives the following account of these boats.
“The ancient Irish made use of wicker boats covered with cow-hides, not only on rivers, but sometimes in their navigation on the open sea. These little barks were called by them corraghs probably from the British word corwg, which signifies a boat covered with a hide.” That chapter is filled with quotations from Herodotus, Cæsar, Lucan, Solinus, Apollin. Sidonius, Virgil, and Pliny, relative to this kind of vessels.
Twiss, Richard, A Tour in Ireland [and part of Wales] in 1775, (London : 1776), pp. 5-6

1775 the Towy, Abergwili,
At Abergwili were many coracles lying against the houses; much slighter than those I saw at Llanrwst, the insides being only slight wicker work. About 10s 6d price.
Cullum, Sir Thomas Gerry, [Tour of south Wales, 1775], NLW 5446B, note on p. 122v.

1775, Shrewsbury
Coracles are used on this river, where a fish is caught which they call salmon mort, and sold at the enormous price of 14d a pound. …
Cullum, Sir Thomas Gerry, [Tour of south Wales, 1775], NLW 5446B, p. 159

19.7.1775 Carmarthen
we saw men fishing in their Curricles. This is a curious Boat about 4 or 5 feet long and about 2½ to 3 feet wide. It is little more than a large Basket the bottom covered with flannell and sprayed over with Pitch. A small seat is fixed across the middle on which the man (or sometime two) sits and with a Paddle like an oven Pull he works it with great Dexterity on the water, and by land carries it with much Ease by a Thong or With fixed to it. We saw them fishing for salmon in the Boats, also some going down the River and were much diverted therewith.
Diary of William Dillwyn of Walthamstow (?1743 – 1824), father of Lewis Weston Dillwyn, NLW Dillwyn Diaries: 1775 No. 6, p. 35

1777 Cilgerran
The water being low at the bottom of the hill, our horses were led through it [the Teifi] while we, one by one, were ferried in a coracle. Two fishermen in the town were engaged to conduct us safely across and, throwing the boats over their shoulders, were at the Teifi’s side in an instant. The guide sat in one coracle and as soon as we were properly balanced in the other, he paddled us over with his right hand, while, with his left, he held the sides of the boats together. A twisted withe is fixed to each side of the centre of the seat which serves as a handle to the fisherman when he carries it, and as a circle to confine you to the precise spot, where an exact equilibrium can only prevent you from being upset. The dexterity of the natives, who fish in these coracles is amazing, though it frequently happens to the most expert, that a large fish will pull both the man and the boat under water’. [Quotes Geraldus Cambrensis p. 273 in Latin] not in first edition
Wyndham, H.P., A Gentleman’s Tour through Monmouthshire and Wales, made in the months of June and July, 1774 and in the months of June, July and August, 1777 (1781), p. 85-86

1775
Print ‘Carmarthen’, by Thomas Jones (Pencerrig), includes coracles
Jones, T., Six views in South Wales, c 1775 (NLW PD00308, BV202)

1775 Moray, Scotland
Let me add, a now become a rarity, the Courach. This nautic vessel was, anciently, much used. SoLINUs, Cap. 22, says of the Irish in his day, ‘.‘Navigant autem vimineis alveis, quos circundant ambitione tergorum bubulorum,” a short, but exact, description of the Courach. It is in shape oval, near three feet broad, and four long,—a small keel runs from the head to the stern,—a few ribs are placed across the keel, and a ring of pliable wood around the lip of it. The whole machine is covered with the rough hide of an Ox or a Horse,—the seat is in the middle, it carries but one person, or if a second goes into it to he waited over a river, he stands behind the rower, leaning on his shoulders,—in floating timber, a rope is fixed to the float, and the rower holds it in one hand, and with the other manages the paddle; he keeps the float in deep water, and brings it to the shore when he will,—in returning home, he carries the machine on his shoulders, or on a horse. In Erse, Curach signifies the Trunk or Coat of the Body; and, hence, this vessel had its name, and, probably, its first model.
Shaw, Lachan, Rev. The History of the Province of Moray, (Edinburgh, 1775), p. 164
Quoted in Roberts, Askew, (1826-1884), Gossiping Guide to Wales, Oswestry: Woodall, Minshall, and Co. (ca. 1870), p. 125 when describing coracles on the Dee at Llangollen.

1780 Carmarthen, Abergwilly,
‘We observed a prodigious number of Coracles. They are made of wicker twigs, some between each other and seat in the middle and leather strap, and covered in leather or canvas well pitched over, they resemble the shells of turtles when turned up they are very light and when they done fishing with them on the river they bring them home on their backs. p. 154
Poor sketch of Cilgerran with coracles p. 289
Pridden, John, A Tour through Gloucestershire and Wales, 1780, NLW MS 15172 D

1782
Coracles (description)
Anon, Tour Journal (South Wales), NLW ex 1914, p. 9

1788 Carmarthen
Coracles {brief description}
Anon, ‘Excursion into Wales, 1788, July’, NLW, Ms 11493B, p. 16

1788 Wye,
We were amused with some fishermen in their curious little boats, angling for trout and grealing; these delicate vehicles are made of wicker, or basket work, and covered on the outside with prepared canvas, which they paddle down the stream, and carry on their backs home again, like turtles in their shells. Mr Gilpin  mentions this curious vehicle, called a coricle [sic for Coracle] probably from the ancient boat which was formed of leather, and gives the following curious story {of a of man who went to Lundy from New Weir by coracle which took 2 weeks} [see Observations on the River Wye, made in the year 1770, (1782), pp. 25-26]
Shaw, Stebbing, (fellow of Queen’s College, Cambridge), A tour to the West of England, in 1788, (London, 1789), pp. 191-192

1789 Cilgerran
{Rowed almost to Llechryd Bridge, and saw Cilgerran Castle, the slate quarries} Coracles ‘a small boat made of wicker and covered with canvas pitched this they carry from place to place on their backs more like the shell of a turtle than anything else.’
Anon, Diary of Journey into Wales, 1789, NLW Cwrtmawr 199 B, 30th June, 1789

1790 Pontardulais
Here we saw the first corricles [coracles] a kind of fishing boat in very general use upon the small rivers in Wales, it is a very slight basket made of laths and covered with pitched cloth, it only holds one person who sits upon a board fixed across the middle and works it with a paddle.
Nicholson, Francis, The diary of Frances (Fanny) Nicholson, NLW MS15190C, (typescript, p. 24) 15th July, 1790

1790
Langowyd (Llancoed) on the Teifi
‘We proceeded up river till our progress was stopped by the gates for the salmon fishery, the fish are caught in net baskets of a conical form with a round opening in the middle thro’ which they pass into the narrow end and are unable to get back again’.
‘Coracles are much used for fishing boats on this river as on many of the rivers in Wales’.
Nicholson, Francis, The diary of Frances (Fanny) Nicholson, NLW MS15190, (typescript, p. 3, 13th August, 1790

1791
Abergwili

{Passed some men carrying coracles at Abergwili and didn’t realise what they were at first.} p. 144
Carmarthen
Salmon fishing with coracles ‘made originally of hides but at present with canvas, strained over slight ribs of wood.’ p. 329
Morgan, Mary, Mrs, A Tour to Milford Haven, in the Year 1791, (London, 1795)

1791, The Wye between New Weir and Slaughterhouse Stream
Here the river makes a considerable fall and we descended by a lock. Passed a small house, the greatest fishery on the river, with a long shed to hang the coracles in, and several barked trunks, on which the nets were spread. The coracles go down the river two at a time, one on each side, drawing the net along to sweep the river. These pairs succeed each other every ten minutes.
Rogers, Samuel, Journey through Wales, 1791. Chapter VI in Clayden, P.W., The Early Life of Samuel Rogers. (London, 1887), p. 182

1791
At the village near the castle, which was solely inhabited by fishermen, were several coracles. [summary by Clayden]{He measured one of the smallest with his handkerchief. It was exactly the breadth of the handkerchief but an inch more in length. At one point of the voyage, the fisherman came down with his coracle on his back and his paddle in his hand, to go out for the night.}
They suffer themselves to be carried down by the tide, and when they wish to return paddle ashore and walk home with their vessels on their backs.
Rogers, Samuel, Journey through Wales, 1791. Chapter VI in Clayden, P.W., The Early Life of Samuel Rogers. (London, 1887), p. 191

1791 Carmarthen
There is one singularity of the Fishermen carrying on their backs what they call a coracle – it is a wicker basket covered with flannel & tard (sic) over. This they use as a Boat & steer it very swiftly with a paddle.
Ward, Sophia, Tour from London to South Wales and S. W. England, National Library of Wales, 19758A, 29th August, 1791

1791 Cardigan
While we were gazing at the shattered walls of this gloomy fortress, a number of figures, apparently in punch bowls, with each a wand in his hand, came suddenly floating round the foundation, and passing us like lightning, were hurried down the stream until we saw them no more. I was all astonishment. My companion burst into a fit of laughter. Jeremy, with his mouth wide open and his neck stretched out, gazed at them till they vanished, and then exclaimed, “Bless my old shoes! what be they? witches in a whirlwind?” A second troop appeared, but not being able to pass us so abruptly, I had leisure to examine them more minutely. The whole phenomenon was now developed; they proved to be nothing more than a party of fishermen, who were earnestly engaged in pursuing their usual method of taking salmon. This is done in vessels, called coracles, [Note: The vitilia navigia of Plini, and in more modern times called coracles, from their being covered with coria, or hides.] which are constructed after the following manner.
They make a small frame of wicker work, in shape much resembling the bowl of a spoon. This is covered with materials, composed of old blanket and canvas, and being properly secured with a thick varnish of pitch, is entrusted to the waters. A twisted withy is fixed to each side of the centre of the seat, which serves as a handle to the fisherman, when he carries his boat from place to place, and as a circle to confine him to the precise spot, where an exact equilibrium can only prevent him from being overset. The dexterity of the natives who fish in these vessels, is amazing, though it frequently happens to the most expert, that a large fish will pull both the man and the boat under water.
Embarking in these frail vessels, with their net in one hand, and a paddle in the other, they float along the tide, and take the finest salmon in the world. This trade is not confined to the men, the women bear a share in the labour, and are full as expert in the management of a coracle as the lords of the creation. When they have floated as far down the river as they chuse, they put to shore, and taking their boats upon their backs, walk along the banks, as they are unable to proceed against the tide in coracles, and launching them at a convenient place, embark again, finishing as before. During the whole night, this is their employment, unless a sufficient quantity of fish is taken before that time expires. Nothing can be more singular than the appearance of these coracles; a whole fleet of them embark together, and it is surprising to see the velocity with which they proceed.
Clarke, Edward Daniel, A tour through the south of England, Wales, and part of Ireland, made during the summer of 1791. (London, 1793), pp. 250-252

1793 Carmarthen
Here I first saw the fishermen make use of coracles with wonderful dexterity. They are small wicker boats (or rather large flat baskets) covered with leather, just large enough to contain one man, who guides it by paddling with one short oar.
Colt Hoare, Richard ‘Journal of a Tour in South Wales anno 1793’, NLW 16489, f. 170v
Thompson, M.W., The Journeys of Sir Richard Colt Hoare through England and Wales, 1793-1810, (1983) p. 40

1793 Usk
‘South West View of Usk Castle’ by John Gardnor, Vicar of Battersea. Engraved by Mr. Gardnor and Mr. Hill, showing three coracles in the Usk
Williams, David, The History of Monmouthshire, (1796), plate 6, p. 139

1794 Cilgerran on the Teifi
{Quotation from Poly Olbion by Michael Drayton re salmon (much local accuracy)}
“When as the Salmon seeks a fresher stream to find …
Above the streamful of of the Surrounded Heap”
The different methods of taking these fish form part of the employment of the people of this country who salt them and carry them to market, the usual method of taking them is with a draught net managed by two persons seated in Coracles, who draw the net with one hand and manage the paddle with the other; this vehicle which is in general use in these part of a frame of wicker, covered with a hide or varnished canvas, furnished with a seat; it is sufficiently light to be transported on the back of the fisherman from one place to another and capable of containing two persons conveniently. This species of boat, which has from time immemorial been in use among the Welch, corresponds with a description of a similar conveyance described by Lucan, in the following lines; as used by the Britons.
“Primum cana salix madefacto vimine parvam …
Navigat Oceano” Lucan, Pharsalix, Lib. 4, 131l
Clutterbuck, Robert, Journal of a Tour from Cardiff, Glamorganshire through South and North Wales. In the summer of 1794. Cardiff Public Library, MS 3.277, pp. 24-25

1794 Pontardulais
Coracles (as mentioned by Wyndham), formed of wicker and covered with sail cloth pitched.
Anon, BL add mss 30172, f 5v

1796 Cilgerran
The least unsteadiness overturns them and many lives are yearly lost in the Welsh rivers. Cardigan coracles were made of light willows worked at four inches asunder and flannel, well tarred, put around. The flannel would last five or six years, but the woodwork was renewed every year. A large one measured 4 ft 9ins x 3 ft 10 ins deep.
[Drawing of a coracle]
Christopher Sykes, Journal of a Tour in Wales, 1796, NLW MS 2258C (Typescript copy of his tour of Wales), p. 43-44

1796 Carmarthen
We saw many fishermen returning with their Curricles [Coracles] on their backs, so well, and so universally described by both ancient, and modern writers; I think they are admirable for the purpose of fishing, as the carrying on their backs overland, between each time of drawing in their net, leaves the water undisturbed.
Sykes, Lady, [Journal of a Tour in Wales, 1796], University of Hull, DDSY(3)/10/11 (Typed transcript), pp. 148-149

1796 Aberystwyth
Print by J Hassell of coracles and a salmon being dispatched by a priest at Aberystwyth.

1796 Llangewad, Carmarthenshire
‘John Harry, overseer, do purchase flannel and other things necessary to make a coracle for John Lot.’
Vestry book of Llangewad 5th September 1798

1796 Wye between Ross and Monmouth
on the Wye they use a little boat called a corricle [coracle] which is only made of laths and then canvased and done over with pitch; when they land they take them up by a strap and carry across their backs; it is navigated with one oar, made in the form of a spade, they use for fishing – we are told numbers are drowned in them, as a very little motion oversets. … to day passed many water corricles [coracles] fishing, they weigh from 18 to 20 pounds so are easily carried on a man’s backs
Anon, A Tour from York into Wales in the year 1796, NLW MS 4489, ff. 9r, 11r

1797 Machynlleth
We passed the Dovey, which flows to the north of Machynlleth and it divides it from Merionethshire, over an old stone bridge, from which we were gratified by sight entirely new us, the management of coracles, and the mode of fishing from them. These little water conveyances are, you know, of high antiquity, receiving their name from the Coria, all skins, with which they were originally covered. They have now indeed dropped their right to this appellation; the course pitched canvas been substituted as a coating it in the room of leather. Intended to carry only one person each, they are not more than five feet long, and four broad, rounded at the corners, and constructed of wickerwork; and are consequently sufficiently light to be conveyed on the back of the fishermen to his home, when the labour of the day is concluded. Simple as this construction is, we find the ancient Britons encountered the waves of the ocean in them, voyaging in their wicker baskets covered with a leather to the island Mictis; a perilous undertaking, whether the name be applicable to the Isle of Wight, or to one of the Cassiterides. The man who manages the coracle is seated exactly in the centre of it, and directors its motion by the action of a small paddle, with which it is truly astonishing how completely he commands this apparently awkward vessel. Two coracles usually go together in order to assist each other in fishing; and operation of singular address and activity, the right hand being employed all the time in paddling, the left hand in conducting the net, and teeth in holding the line attached to it.
Warner, Richard, Rev (1763-1857) A Walk through Wales in Aug, 1797, (Bath, 1798), p. 91-2

1797 The Severn near Coldblow and Monmouth
Many salmon are caught at this place which is five miles [upstream] from Monmouth. Here we saw several boats, called Coricles [coracles] peculiar to this part of the river. They are constructed of waxed canvas over a few slight ribs, and hold one man.
As we were setting off [from Monmouth on a pleasure boat] we saw two men going out in their coracles to fish. Each man lays hold of one end of a net, about 20 years long, and paddles down the river till they feel a strike. They then haul it up as quick as possible, and draw it on shore. They paddle along at a great rate and put as much in mind of what we read concerning the Indians in their canoes.
Manners, John Henry, Journal of a Tour through North and South Wales, the Isle of man etc, etc. [Sept] 1797. (London, 1805), pp. 38-40

1797
We saw this day a man fishing in a coracle … at present they are made of coarse canvas, coated with pitch, are about five feet long and four broad and weight about 15 pounds. …
Shirley, Evelyn, Tour through Wales, Cursory Remarks made in a Tour through different parts of England and Wales in the months of August and September, 1797, NLW, mss. 16133 C, f. 108

1797 near Cilgerran
‘The coracles are much used on this river, and large fleets of them are sometimes to be seen, trying for salmon.
Manners, John Henry, Journal of a Tour through North and South Wales, the Isle of man etc, etc. [Sept] 1797. (London, 1805), p. 191

1797 Carmarthen
People are seen on the banks of the river, launching their corricles, which they carry, as Indians do their canoes, on their backs, from place to place. This kind of boat is made of light wood covered with a horse’s hide; and each contains just one fisherman, who, with a paddle, guides the vehicle with wonderful dexterity through the most rapid passes. They use these in the salmon fishery, which is abundantly productive: a salmon may be had for twopence per pound; what is not disposed of fresh at market, is salted and dried, and is to be found at the London shops, as Welsh salmon.
Wigstead, H., Remarks on a Tour to North and South Wales in the year 1797, (London, 1800), pp. 53-54

1798 Llandrinio on the Severn
Coracle racing competition between about 12 entries.
Bye-gones, September, 1876, p. 116

1798 Dyfi
Coracles were 5 feet to 6 feet long and 3 feet and four feet broad, of an oval shape so light that one man may with ease carry them on his shoulder. Camden (Britannia), says they were covered with horses’ hide, but now covered with pitched canvas.
Bingley, William, (1774-1823), A tour round North Wales, performed during the summer of 1798, (London, 1800), vol. 1, p. 470

1798 Cilgerran
the picturesque ruins of Cilgerran Castle … saw from this castle the method of fishing with the Coracles which from their antiquity, peculiarity to Wales deserve a particular description…’ {Mentions Pliny’s description of them. Now covered with pitched canvas. Description of how they were used}
Clutterbuck, Thomas, A Tour thro’ North and South Wales, with an Excursion to Dublin, from Holyhead, in the Year 1798, Cardiff Central Library, MS. 3.276, p. 127

1798 Conway
Small boats and numerous coracles are seen both above and below Llanrwst bridge, occupied chiefly in fishing. These the Vitilia navigia of Pliny, took their name from having been made of the skins of beasts, called coria. At present they are formed of wicker work, about five feet long at the broadest end, four feet wide, and two feet in the prow, and covered with a piece of tarpaulin, or tarred canvass. A piece of board is placed across the centre, on which the fisherman sits with a small paddle in his hand, and himself strapped upon the seat. With so slender a security do these people commit themselves to the perilous wave in quest of fish; as they generally use the drag, two go in company; with the left hand they manage the net,” and with the right, the paddle; at the same time taking the leading ropes in their teeth. It is curious to observe with what adroitness they preserve the balance (the loss of it would be fatal,) while managing their nets. In the season they take quantities of salmon and smelts, with other fish; and when the labour of the day is past, taking their vessels out of the water, and strapping them on their backs, they carry them home, and lay them in front of their cottages to dry till the next voyage. These vessels are still more curious, as the rude efforts of our ancestors to obtain the sovereignty of the ocean ; and whoever feels a conscious pride in living in an age, when the very elements are made subservient to the arts of commerce; and belonging to a country, whose maritime fame is the envy of the world, cannot but with pleasure survey this infant origin of the British navy. Prior to the Roman Invasion, the ancient Britons discovered their skill and courage in crossing the channel in these precarious vessels; and gave auspicious omens of their future and invincible prowess on their native element, the ocean.
Evans, John, Rev., A tour through part of North Wales, in the year 1798, and at other times… (London, 1800), p. 275

1798 Carmarthen
‘Where the inhabitants use a square boat or rather a basket covered with horse hide in the salmon fishery. They balance themselves very dexterously and stand straight ; when they have done fishing they carry home their boat, and it serves as a cradle for their children.
de Latocnaye, Rambles through Ireland; by a French emigrant. In two volumes. Translated from the French of Monsieur de Latocnaye, by an Irishman, (Cork, 1798), p. 16

1798 Wye
During the course of the navigation from Ross, we passed several small fishing craft, called Truckles or Coricles, ribbed with laths or basket work, and covered with pitched canvass. Like a canoe, the coricle holds only one person, who navigates it by means of a paddle with one hand, and fishes with the other; these boats are so light, that the fishermen throw them on their shoulders and carry them home. [note:] The name coricle is supposed to be derived from corium a hide, with which some of these boats were occasionally covered.
Coxe, William, (1747-1828), An Historical Tour through Monmouthshire, (2 volumes, London: printed for T. Cadell, jun. and W. Davies, 1801), vol. 2, p. 351

1800 Carmarthen
Coracles, a novelty. Salmon sold at 3-4d per pound
Skinner, John, Tour in South Wales, A.D. 1800, Central Library, Cardiff, MS. 1.503, p. 92

1800 Cilgerran, Teifi
The river Tyvi, I imagine, abounds with fish, as we observed at every door, in the village of Kilgerran, a coracle. [note:] It receives its name from coria, a hide, or skin [end of note]. The construction of this little water conveyance is remarkably simple, and intended solely for the ufe of fishing: a thick skin, or coarse pitched canvas, is stretched over wicker-work. This singular fishing-boat only conveys one man, who manages it with the greatest adroitness imaginable; the right hand being employed in using the paddle, the left in conducting the net, and the teeth in holding the line. Two coracles generally co-operate, to assist each other in fishing: they usually measure about five feet long, and four broad, and rounded at the corners; and, after the labours of the day, are conveyed, on the back, to the little cot of the fisherman, which is looked upon as a necessary appendage to the cottage door.
Anon, Cambrian Directory or Cursory Sketches of the Welsh Territories with a chart, comprehending at one view the available route, best inns, distances and objects most worthy of attention, (Salisbury, 1800), pp. 58-59

1801 Cilgerran, the Teifi
Through this village runs a river, called the Teifi, which generally affords the traveller some curious observations, particularly the numerous coracles which stand at almost every door. The construction of this little water conveyance is remarkably simple and intended solely for the use of fishing. A thick skin, or coarse pitched canvas, stuck over a kind of wicker basket forms the boat which one man manages with the greatest adroitness imaginable, usung his right hand to the paddle, the left in conducting the net, at the same time holding the line with his teeth. Two of these coracles generally co-operate, to assist each other in fishing. These usually measure about five feet long, and four broad, rounded at the corners which after the labour of the day, are carried on the fisherman’s backs to his little cot and deemed a necessary and respectable ornament to the cottage door.
Evans, Thomas, Cambrian Itinerary : or, Welsh tourist (London, 1801), pp. 154-155 (based on Anon, Cambrian Directory or Cursory Sketches of the Welsh Territories, 1800, pp. 58-59)

1801 English Bicknor
{A man seen fishing in a coracle}
Martyn, T., A Tour of South Wales, [1801], NLW MS 1340C, pp. 38-39

1801 Carmarthen
{describes the fishermen in their coracles}
Martyn, T., A Tour of South Wales, [1801], NLW MS 1340C, p. 92

1802 Cardigan to Cilgerran
The fisherman is seated is a sort of canoe, called a coracle, formed of open basket-work of thin laths, covered with horse’s hide, or a well-pitched piece of sail cloth; the vessel is of a figure nearly oval, about four feet and a half long and three wide, yet so light as to be carried on the man’s shoulder from his home to the river; {description of method of fishing}
Coracles have been peculiar to British rivers from time immemorial. Lucan very clearly describes them; and in later times, Sir Walter Raleigh relates that “the Britons had boats made of willow twigs covered on the outside with hides”.
Barber, J.T., Tour Throughout South Wales and Monmouthshire, (1803), pp. 94-95

1802 Cilgerran
it being the height of the salmon season, there were scarcely less than three score fishermen in their coracles within the space of a mile from the castle to the iron works.
Davies, Walter, (Gwallter Mechain), A Journal Kept on a Journey Through Parts of South Wales, 1802, (Journal no. VI ) NLW 1730 B, p. 130

1802 near Brockwear (on the Wye)
… frequently I was amused by the dexterity of those fishermen who used the coricle, [coracle] a somewhat singular appearance, and apparently pregnant with danger; the vehicle is calculated for only one man, who sits in the middle with a careful attention to the balance; it is formed of light ribs, secured by pitched canvas, and managed by a paddle; and certainly requires no small share of caution to conduct it with precision and safety, and I presume no timidity must be thought on to encourage anyone to the attempt.
Manby, George William, An historic and picturesque guide from Clifton, through the counties of Monmouth, Glamorgan, and Brecknock, (1802), p. 251

1802 Wye
‘The river Wye is navigable only for small sloops or barges which carry coal from Bristol to Hereford and the neighbourhood. There is also a boat a good deal used on this river called a coracle’ {it is light, easy to carry and} ‘the shape of a spade … chiefly used by fisherman. They add much to the picturesque landscape of the Wye, as you might fancy yourself transported into the country of some rude savages, novices in the art of navigation.’
Gray, Jonathan, ‘Tour of the Western Counties of England and of South Wales in 1802’, North Yorkshire Record Office, ZGY/T4, pp. 35-36

1803
Coracles have been peculiar to British rivers from time immemorial. Lucan very clearly describes them; and in later times, Sir Walter Raleigh relates that “the Britons had boats made of willow twigs covered on the outside with hides”.
Barber, J.T., Tour Throughout South Wales and Monmouthshire, (1803), pp. 94-95

1803 Llanstephan
The scene was now pleasingly diversified by the numerous coracles, that were spread about by pairs in every direction, to meet the fish with their trawls on the turning tide. A little before flood, these in shoals leave the upper part of the river, to which place they carry their vessels on their backs, and having launched, proceed to their respective stations, denominated from the quantity of fish they supply, the Caermarthen victuallers. Nor did it add a little to our amusement, to see with what dexterity they managed their nets, and with what celerity, when they saw a fish, they made for the point. If the first pair of boats happened to miss the prize, the next upon the alert generally secured it. No sooner is the unfortunate salmon ensnared, than they quickly draw up the net, and with a mallet striking him upon the head, instantly dispatch him; and lay him in the piscoid, or stern of the boat. Having staid as late as the state of tide will admit, or success may dictate, they unship their spoils; and clapping their coracles on their backs, strapped over their breasts, return like so many walking tortoises to their respective dwellings; at the door of which they place their vessels to be ready at hand for a future voyage. We observed before, (vid. Tour in North Wales,) that these boats are formed of wicker work, about five feet long, and four broad at the stern, tapering to a point at the prow, and covered and secured with tarred canvas. Indeed the Britons appear to have been very early initiated in the art of wicker work; and baskets, though used by the Romans, appear of British or Celtic origin.
Rev. John Evans Letters written during a tour through south Wales in the year 1803 and at other times … (1804), pp. 214-215

1803 The Teifi
These Coracles are historically as well as picturesquer curious; they afford a specimen of the earliest British Navigation, and are used at this day on many of the Welsh Rivers, probably without any variation from their original form. They are made with very strong basket-work, and covered with hides, or coarse canvass, with a thick coating of pitch. Their shape resembles the section of a Walnut shell; their length is generally five feet, and their breadth seldom less than four; they are intended for only one person, and it is entertaining to observe the mode in which they are managed. The dexterous navigator sits precisely in the middle, and it is no trifling part of his care to keep his just balance. The instrument with which he makes his way is a paddle, one end rests upon his shoulder, and the other is employed by the right hand, in making a stroke alternately on each side; the left hand conducts the net, and he holds the line with his teeth. These vessels were anciently used as the means of intercourse between the inhabitants on the opposite banks of the rivers; they are now applied only to the purpose of fishing. So frail an invention would probably have been succeeded by something of more strength and capacity, had there not been found a remarkable convenience in their lightness, seldom weighing more than from 20 to 30 pounds. The fisherman, when his labour is over, slings his boat across his back, and marches homewards under the burden of his machine and his booty. There is scarce a Cottage in the neighbourhood of the Tivy, or other rivers in these parts abounding with fish, without its Coracle hanging by the door; such is the adroitness of those who use them, that they are very rarely overturned on lakes and rivers, and they sometimes even venture a little way out to sea, when the weather is perfectly calm.
Malkin, B.H., The Scenery, Antiquities, and Biography of South Wales from materials collected during two excursions in the year 1803. vol 2, pp. 206-20. Quoted in full in Bowen, Melesina, Ystradffin : a descriptive poem, with an appendix, containing historical and explanatory notes (London : 1839), pp. 144-146  which also includes : In the Summer of 1833, a friend in Carmarthen kindly took the trouble to see several Coracles weighed, and found them to be from 80 to 50 pounds, each being made to suit the individual for whose use it was intended. They seldom last more than a year, if much used, being soon destroyed by the water. Their Weight was taken when hanging up dry, and would, of course, be somewhat more when wet.

1804 (about) near Machynlleth
The Dovey. Coracles are used upon this, and on all the larger rivers in Wales, for the purpose of fishing; their shape is nearly oval … covered in pitched canvas.
Pugh, Edward, Cambria Depicta: A Tour Through North Wales illustrated with Picturesque Views, By a Nature [Native?] Artist (London, 1816), pp. 220-221

1804 Chepstow
The salmon fishery on this river is very productive; we are informed that two men had taken in one night last week upwards of 40. The vessel which is generally used for this purpose, is called a corricle [sic] and is composed simply of an ox’s hide distended in the shape of a walnut shell by means of willow sticks tied together transversely and bent to a proper form. It is so light that the fishermen, after finishing his labour is not necessitated to moor it in the river, but carries it on his back to his dwelling where it frequently serves at night for a crib for his children. Two of these boats with one man in each extend a sort of seine net between them with which they float down the stream having in one hand the cord of the net and in the other a paddle with two feathers with which, holding it in the centre, they guide themselves. These boats are dangerous to those who are not accustomed to their management, for the slightest preponderance on either side, as they carry no ballast, would be immediate destruction to the unskilful swimmer.
Anon, Journal of a sketching tour in North Wales made in company with Jere in the summer of 1804, NLW Puleston Papers, 1084A, Chepstow, Tuesday 1st August

1805 Chepstow to Tintern
The Corricle [coracle] is built somewhat in the style of a ship’s boat but flat bottomed and capable of holding only one person, whose head hardly appears above water – it weighs altogether about 30 lb draws only 4 inches of water is without rudder and managed by a single paddle like a canoe – the materials for its construction which cost scarcely a guinea, are simple laths and oil-cloth supported by wicker work … {it is similar in shape to a cashew nut shell} the fisherman has no sooner landed from [the coracle] than he whips it over his shoulder and marches off.
White, James, Picturesque Excursion into South Wales, 1805, British Library Add MSS 44991, p. 26

1805 The Teifi, Lampeter
‘Here we observed several coracles, of the same construction as on the Wye’
Mavor, William Fordyce, (1758-1837) A tour in Wales, and through several counties of England: including both the universities ; performed in the summer of 1805, (London : 1806),p. 51

1805 New Weir (on the Wye)
… the coracles flying backwards and forwards on the stream … [of the Wye]  [note:] The fishery here, which belongs to Mr Partridge of Monmouth, is wholly carried on by means of coracles, a very ancient kind of British vessel, broad at one end and rounded at the other, and only large enough to contain a single person. Its use seems to be in great measure confined to the Wye, and to some of the rivers in South Wales. It is composed of a slight frame of wicker-work round the edges, and of bent laths, intersecting each in the body, covered with pitched canvas. It has a cross bench or seat, and is so light that the owner can throw it over his shoulder, or place it inverted on his head, and carry it from place to place; of which we saw several instances in the navigation. Indeed, it is wonderful to observe the dexterity with which the fisherman manages it, by means of a paddle; and it is still more wonderful, when we consider its flimsy texture, that any person can feel secure in such a vehicle, in deep and sometimes rapid rivers. Yet notwithstanding its fragile appearance, it is recorded that an adventurous fellow, for a wager, once navigated a coracle from the New Weir, as far as Lundy Island, at the mouth of the British Channel. [Bristol channel]. In this voyage he spent a fortnight; and had not the weather been fine, he must inevitably have fallen a martyr to his temerity. On his return, he was received with as many congratulations by his acquaintances, as if he had performed the circumnavigation of the globe; and indeed the danger he incurred was much greater. The coracle used formerly to be made of leather, or at least covered with it, whence it is supposed to have derived its name. The principal kinds of fish caught in the Wye, are salmon, gray-ling, trout, perch, eels, salmon pinks, chub, dace etc.: we were told that it did not furnish pike.
Mavor, William Fordyce, (1758-1837) A tour in Wales, and through several counties of England: including both the universities ; performed in the summer of 1805, (London : 1806), pp. 27-28
[He recorded that he drew and measured  some coracles but there are no more details in the journal.]

1805 Lampeter, on the Teifi
Here we observed several coracles, of the same construction as on the Wye
Mavor, William Fordyce, (1758-1837) A tour in Wales, and through several counties of England: including both the universities ; performed in the summer of 1805, (London : 1806), p. 51

1805 Carmarthen
Coracles are here much used especially for fishing, two go together with a net between. They are made of leather or canvas covered with pitch put round a frame of wood and are so light that the men carry them home on their backs when they have done fishing etc. as Homer’s heroes securing their shield over their shoulders in a retreat.
Yates, R.V., (Richard Vaughan Yates) and Joseph Brook Yates (died 1865), Memoranda of a Tour in North and South Wales and parts of England and Ireland, 12th May to 22nd June, 1805, NLW, 687B (UCW 47), p. 138

1806 Carmarthen
‘walked on the public promenade … and went to witness the return of the singular fishing boats called Coracles which are still in use here. {History of coracles}. They are composed of twigs, covered inside and outside with pitched canvas or Welsh flannel.’
Douglas, George L.A., ‘Observations made during a tour in Wales and different parts of England’, NLS Ms 10349, p. 187

1807 On the Wye near Goodrich Castle
At a fisherman’s cottage a little lower down, we saw a curious kind of fishing boat which is used on this part of the river. It is constructed of pitched canvas stretched over a few slight ribs of split wood, and holds only a single man, who manages it with a paddle in one hand whilst the other is employed in hauling the seine. – It is called a  coracle probably from the Latin word Corium, which signifies a Hide, such boats having anciently been covered with that material.
Cuyler, A.M., Recollections of a visit to Llanbeder [Llanbedr] in the County of Brecon with remarks on an excursion down the River Wye from Rhos to Chepstow including Abergavenny, Monmouth, Piecefield, Raglan etc, 1807, NLW add MS 784a, p. 110
[This is based on Gilpin’s description (above)}

1808 Carmarthen
The fish are taken in boats called coracles. A fisherman walking with one on his back, which is frequently to be seen, looks very much like a tortoise.
Note: from Williams’ Ancient History
They used small boats made of ozier, for the purpose of fishing or of passing rivers. They were not of an oblong form, but nearly round, of a triangular shape. These boats were so slight that the fishermen usually carried them on their shoulders.
Spence, Elizabeth Isabella, Summer Excursions through parts of Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Herefordshire, Derbyshire, and South Wales [in 1806, 1807, 1808] (1809), vol 2, p. 70-71

1809-1811
There are two slightly different versions of a manuscript prepared for A Description of Caernarvonshire.
As far as my recollections serve me I have not observed in any other part of the country the coracle, or ancient British boat, now covered with canvas, instead of leather and thus loosing its claim to its distinctive appellation. These vessels half a walnut shell, flattened, and form a very frail aquatic conveyance. It is singular that the same contrivance should have been found by Mr [Samuel] Turner, when employed in his mission, among the mountains of Tibet.
An account of the parishes of Llandegai, Llanllechid and Aber forming part of a preparatory draft of ‘A Description of Caernarvonshire’ written 1809-1811 by Edmund Hyde Hall, NLW add MS 839C, p. 7
At this place I observed for the first and only time in the county a  coracle, the original British boat, made of wicker and covered with leather. The name however is no longer descriptive for pitched canvas is now used. It seems to be the frailest of vessels, and is, in fact, only safe when conducted by an experienced fisherman. Mr [Samuel] Turner, in his embassy to  Thibet remarked a similar contrivance in that distant region
Hall, Edmund Hyde, (1760s?-1824) A Description of Caernarvonshire (1809-1811), University College of North Wales, Bangor, Penrhyn add. ms. 2942; Jones, E Gwynne, (ed.), A Description of Caernarvonshire, Transaction of the Caernarfonshire Historical Society, (1952), p. 100

1810
Print by Harding, J.W., (artist) with description of the coracle on the back
Sketches in North Wales, print, ‘Coracle Fishing’

1810 The Wye near Ragland
In this part of the river, – I observed several of those singular fishing-boats called Truckles or Coracles. – The construction of these little barks – (which are intended solely for the purpose of fishing) – is remarkably simple. They are made of strong ribbed covered basket-work, – and so light that the fishermen carry them to and fro’ on their shoulders. – They were “virtilia navigia” of Pliny and were much in use amongst the ancient Britons. Their name was derived from their being formerly covered with Coria or hides. Camden says “they were made of split sallow twigs interwoven at the bottom, and on that part next the water covered with a horses hide” but they are now usually covered with pitched canvas or tarpaulin. – They hold a single person – who rows himself with incredible swiftness with a paddle in his right hand, whilst with the other he manages the net. [note:] quotation about Irish coracles from Sir James Ware’s Antiquities of Ireland (above).
Machynlleth – Dolgellau area
On the rivers … we sometimes observed those singular boats called “Coracles” (see p. 56). After the labours of the day these curious Fishing Barks are carried on the fisherman’s back to his little Cot, and deemed a necessary appendage and respectable ornament to the Cottage door.
Bruce, William Joseph, A Peregrination through part of the Counties of Somerset, Monmouthshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire with a portion of South Wales and a tour round north Wales as performed in the Autumn of the Year 1810, NLW, mss. 19405C, pp. 56, 146

1810 Wye between Ross and Monmouth
The traveller may have seen, in his excursion down the Wye, a curious kind of fishing boat, called a Truckle or Coricle, (in British Cwrwgyl) made of strong ribbed basket work, lately covered with horse hides but now with tarred canvas, (tar-pawling [sic]) formed like the section of a wall-nut shell, and generally four and a half or five feet long. The truckle is scarcely ever made to hold more than one person, who is obliged to keep his balance well by sitting in the middle of it, making way with a paddle, one end of which is rested upon his shoulder, whilst a stroke is made on each side, alternately, with the other end. These boats are only adapted for lakes, rivers or a very smooth sea, and are so light that the fishermen throw them over their shoulders and carry them home. They are in common use on the River Usk, and in many other parts of Wales, and are of very early origin.
{Story of Thomas Llewelyn who, for a wager, once navigated a Coracle as far as Bristol.}
Willett, Mark, An excursion from the source of the Wye, (1810), pp. 59-60

1810 coracle
a considerable salmon fishery  carried on, and the manner of taking the fish is very curious. The fisherman is seated in a kind of canoe, called a coracle, made of basket work of thin laths, or ozier twigs, and covered with a horse’s hide, or a well-pitched piece of sail cloth. The vessel is nearly oval, about 4 ½ feet by 5 , and lightly constructed, as to be easily carried upon the shoulders. In this canoe or skiff, he uses a paddle in one hand, while with the other he manages the net, holding the line between his teeth.
Holdsworth, Rev., [probably], The Tenby guide : comprehending such information, relating to that town and its vicinity, as could be collected from ancient & modern authorities., (Swansea, printed by J Voss, 1810), p. 98

1805? Monmouth
observ’d a very singular kind of boat, made use of by the fishermen on this river. It is call’d a coracle, & is made of basket work cover’d with tarpaulin, it holds just one person & [whole line scored through] the most exact balance can alone prevent the boat from oversetting; the man paddles with one hand, & fishes with the other; & when his daily labour is over, he returns home by land, this coracle being so light that he can with ease carry it on his head, & shelter himself under it from every inclemency of the weather.
Anon [Sotheby?], Journal of a tour through parts of Monmouthshire and Glamorgan made, 1805?, NLW MS 6497C, p. 23

1811 Carmarthen
In the evening we saw 20 or 30 people carrying down their coracles …
Gray, Jonathan, Letters to his wife, Mary at Ogleforth, 1811, North Yorkshire Record Office, Letter J48, 2.9.1811

1811 Carmarthen
Coracles on the Towy were not of oil skin as on the Wye, but were made of flannel pitched.
Cullum, Rev Sir Thomas Gerry, [Trip to Tenby, 1811], NLW 5446B, p. 59

1812 Pontardulais
We visited one of the fishermen’s huts but found only some boys netting and as great an idea of ignorance and misery as could be found. The men fish in coracles or small boats about 8 feet long which they paddle with their hands and carry on their backs. They take a great quantity of the small kind of salmon (I believe) which they call sewen some of which we saw taken out of the river for our dinner.
Bletchley, Ann, Letter describing a trip from Swansea to Pontardulais, Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Record Service, SY 49

1814
coracle fishing
Plymley, Katherine, diary, Shropshire Records and Archive Centre, 567/5/5/1/30, p. 1 

1815 Carmarthen
Print of Carmarthen with coracles, engraved by Scott after Wilson, p. 339
The fishermen on this and some of the other rivers of Wales use a boat of a singular construction called in Welsh Corwg and anglicised Coracle … The form of this vessel is nearly oval flattened at one end like the keel of a common boat; its length is usually from 5 – 6 feet and its breadth about 4 feet. The frame is formed of split rods which are platted like basket work : these are afterwards covered on the outside with a raw hide, or more commonly with a strong coarse flannel which is rendered watertight by a thick coating of pitch and tar. A narrow board is fastened across the middle; when on the water this forms the fisherman’s seat, whence, with his paddle, he directs his bark at pleasure. They are not adapted to carry more than one person conveniently. When proceeding to their work or returning, the men fasten these vessels on their backs by means of a leathern strap attached to the seat, which they pass round their bodies. Their appearance when thus equipped has been aptly compared to that of a large tortoise walking on its hind legs. Their usual weight may be about forty or fifty pounds ; but according to an old adage, it was thought necessary that they should form as heavy a load as the individual could carry before they would bear him on the water. Note: Caesar found them among the Britons; Note: Llwyth gwr ei gorwg. His coracle should be a man’s load.
Rees, Thomas, (1777-1864), A Topographical and Historical Description of the Counties of South Wales, (London, 1815), For ‘The Beauties of England and Wales: or, original delineations, topographical, historical and descriptive of each country’. Complete edition 1815, pp. 391-392

1818 / 1820? Wye between Ross and Monmouth
This differs slightly from his first edition of 1810 (above)
There is a valuable Salmon-Fishery here [New Weir, Whitechurch]. A kind of fishing-boat or canoe used in this part of the river, is of singular construction. It is called a Truckle, or Coracle (from the British name Cwrwgyl), and formed of strong ribbed basket-work, covered with a horse’s hide or well-tarred piece of canvas. It is in shape like the section of a walnut-shell, about four feet and half long and three wide, yet so light as to be easily carried, reversed, upon the shoulders. It holds but one person, who is obliged to keep his balance well by sitting in the middle, making way with a paddle, one end of which is rested upon his shoulder, whilst a stroke is made on each side, alternately, with the other end. These boats are only adapted for very smooth water. They are in common use on the river Usk, and on many other rivers in Wales that are but partially navigable, and are of very early origin.
To a person unaccustomed to such scenes, one of these fishermen would appear amphibious; for on a smooth part of the river you may see him gliding gently down with the current; on approaching a cataract or a weir, he paddles to the shore, and like a tortoise, with his shell upon his back, passes the interrupted navigation, and anon he is seen again on the water below.
Willett, Mark, An excursion from the source of the Wye, (2nd edition, 1818 / 1820?), pp. 36-37

1819 on Capel Curig to Llangollen road, on the Conwy
Here and there on the river we saw fishermen in their coracles, little vessels something like a washing tub squeezed by a door into an oval form, a board is put across the middle in which two men sit, one each way and whilst one paddles the other casts the net. They were fishing for salmon. [continued, passing a cast iron bridge erected in the year of the battle of Waterloo at Bettws y Coed]
Tomos, Dafydd, ‘Michael Faraday in Wales’, including Faraday’s journal of his tour through Wales in 1819, p. 95

1821 The Teifi
the Teify has another picturesque feature – the Coracles. They are a sort of Welsh Canoe, in shape well enough compared to half a walnut-shell; and are made of wicker covered with hides or pitched canvas. They give character to the scenery; fishermen, with them upon their heads, have the wild look of South Sea Islanders carrying their canoes; but in water their tub-like form brings to mind Shakespeare’s witch -‘Thither in a sieve I’ll sail’
Newell, Robert Hasell, Rev, Letters on the Scenery of Wales … (1821), p. 67

1822 On the Wye near Wilton Bridge
A kind of fishing-boat is used in this part of the river, constructed of pitched canvas stretched over a few slight ribs, constructed for a single man only. It is called a Coricle [coracle].
Anon, An account of the principal pleasure tours in England and Wales. Illustrated by maps and views. (1822), p. ??

1823 the Teifi
On this river a kind of boat called a corsacle [sic, coracle], is used, made of wicker-work, covered with hides; it is of a similar kind to those in use when Caesar visited Britain.
Pinnock’s County Histories. The history and topography of South Wales with Biographical Sketches etc. London (1823), p. 18

1823
In the river were frequently seen those curious boats, called in the language of the country, “Coracles” formed of wicker and lined with skins; and which the fishermen carry on their backs, on their return from fishing, and lay them in the sun near their cottage doors, till the next voyage. These Coracles (from Cwrwgl, in Irish, Curach), which are also used in the Conway and other rivers in North and South Wales, are of great antiquity. {Followed by references to Coracles in other parts of the world from early times.}
Bucke, Charles, On the Beauties, Harmonies and Sublimities of Nature, vol. 3, (1821), (2nd ed 1823), pp. 335-336

1824 Carmarthen
Saw coracles on the river, the first we had seen and I feel no inclination to trust myself to such frail vehicles as they appear to be. They bring them down to river on their shoulders, each man with one. They throw them very dexterously into the water and then getting in themselves, paddle away with one oar which is generally used in front of the boat and serves to steer by also. These coracles always go in pairs one on each side of the river and a net from one to the other so that the poor sewin have no chance of escape.
Martineau, Margaret, Travel diary of Margaret Martineau …, Hampshire Record Office, 83M93/21, p. 38

1826 Wye
Watercolour of a man with a coracle [man is dressed in blue jacket and trousers]
Curious ancient fishing boat used on the Wye called a truckle [coracle]
To the stranger, who has not before seen it, the curious fishing boat, made use of on this river, with the skill exerted in its management, may afford some amusement.
The natives of Hereford and Monmouth shires call it a thoracle [sic], or truckle;—in some places it is called a coble, from the Latin corbula, a little basket. It is a basket shaped like the half of a walnut shell, but shallower in proportion, and covered on the outside with a horse’s hide or canvass. It has a bench in the middle and will just hold one person; and is so light, that the countrymen will hang it on their heads like a hood, and so travel with a small paddle (which serves for a stick), till they come to the river, and then they launch it, and step in. There is great difficulty in getting into one of these truckles,—for the instant you touch it with your foot, it flies from you; and when you are in, the least inclination of the body oversets it. It is very diverting to see how upright a man is forced to sit in these vessels; and to mark with what state and solemnity he draws up the stone which serves for an anchor, when he would remove, and lets it down again.
Mr. GILPIN has related the following story:—An adventurous fellow, for a wager, once navigated a coricle as far as the isle of Lundy, at the mouth of the Bristol channel. A full fortnight, or more, he spent in this dangerous voyage; and it was happy for him that it was a fortnight of serene weather. Many a current, and many a eddy; many a flowing tide, and many a ebbing one, afforded him occasion to exert all bis skill and dexterity. Sometimes his little bark was carried far to leeward, and sometimes as far to windward; but still he recovered his course, persevered in bis undertaking, and at length happily atchieved [sic] it. When he returned home report says, the account of his expedition was received like a voyage round the world.
On reading the above story, I thought it a circumstance deserving investigation —and, from a descendant of the person who made the voyage, I obtained the following information:—The man’s name was Luke Hughes; lived at Wilton near Ross; and belonged to the vessels that traded between that place and Bristol. [note: ] Grandfather of the late Mr. James Hughes, of the Bear Tavern, Wilton, and the first proprietor of any Barge on the river at that place, established for trading purposes. The old man had committed to writing the account of his VOYAGE, which he retained among his papers,—but; I am sorry to remark, he had not been able to find it, when this sheet was first put to press,—and he is now dead. [end of note] He did not perform the voyage for a wager, but, as a frolic, attended the vessel to Bristol, keeping within reach of her assistance the whole time, in case of accident. When he made King Road, a ship of war, or tender, then lying at. anchor, supposing the coricle to be something drifting on the water, put out their great boat, when to their surprise they found it our hero in his truckle. Astonished at his skill and resolution, they took him on board their ship, where they made him merry, and at flood tide attended him with their barge to the mouth of Bristol river, when they parted company, having placed him under the protection of the vessel with which he left Wilton.
Speaking further on the subject to a friend, whose knowledge enabled him to give a just opinion of such an undertaking,—he informed me, that, in the summer season, when the weather was fine and calm, many men were to be found in Monmouth, who would, if necessity urged it, for the value of a guinea, as cheerfully navigate a truckle as they would steer a barge into Bristol river.
Heath, Charles, The Excursion down the Wye, from Ross to Monmouth, 8th edition, 1826, Annotated version, NLW MS 14581B, p. 81

1828 the Teifi
The river Teifi, I imagine abounds with fish as we observed at every door in the village of Cilgerran a coracle. The construction of this little water conveyance is remarkably simple and intended solely for the use of fishing : a thick skin, or coarse pitched canvas is stretched over wicker work. This singular fishing-boat conveys only one man, who manages it with the greatest adroitness imaginable, the right hand being employed in using the paddle, the left in conducting the net, and the teeth in holding the line. Two coracles generally co-operate, to assist each other in fishing : they usually measure about five feet long, and four broad, and are rounded at the corners ; and, after the labours of the day, are conveyed on their backs to the little cots of the fishermen, being looked upon as a necessary appendage to the cottage door.
note: From Cwrwgl: Irish Curach, The Greenland boats are also made of laths, tied together with whale-bone, and covered with seal-skins. In these slender vehicles they are said to be able to row upwards of sixty miles a day ; and the tops being covered with skins, they resist the fury of every storm. For when a wave upsets them, the boat rises again to the surface of the water, and regains its equilibrium. When Frobisher first saw them in 1576, he took them for seals or porpoises. In the voyages of the two Zenos, they are compared to weavers’ shuttles. They are used, also, in the islands of the North-Asian Archipelago, where the Russians call them Baidars ; and are found to be of such practical use, that Lieut. Kotzebue, in his expedition along the American coast of the Frozen Sea, took with him boats of a similar construction, in order to ford any rivers that might obstruct his journey. Similar boats are used by the Samoides of
Nova Zembla They are also used in Labrador, Hudson’s Bay, and Norton Sound. They glide with almost inconceivable swiftness. The arctic Islanders of Baffin’s Bay, however, have no method of navigating the water. Beauties, Harmonies, and Subliminities of Nature, vol 3, p. 335, 2nd ed.
Anon, The Cambrian Tourist; Or, Post-chaise Companion Through Wales …” 6th edition, 1828; 8th edition, 1834, pp. 98-99. The first paragraph copied from Anon, Cambrian Directory or Cursory Sketches of the Welsh Territories with a chart, comprehending at one view the available route, best inns, distances and objects most worthy of attention, (Salisbury, 1800)

1829 near New Weir on the Wye
Fishermen use little round boats called truckles / coracles
Anon, Tour of the Wye Valley, National Museum of Wales, 184561, p. 68

1831 the Teifi
The fishermen of the Teify and many other rivers in South Wales make use of a singular kind of boats, called coracles, from the coria, or skins, with which they were originally covered. These vessels are constructed of willow twigs, in the manner of basket-work, and covered with a raw hide or coarse canvass, with a thick coating of pitch, to prevent leakage. They are generally five feet and a half long, and four broad: in shape they resemble a section of a walnut shell, one end being rounded at the corners, and the other nearly pointed. They are intended to carry only one man, for whom there is a seat just about the centre, towards the broad end, and are made sufficiently light to be carried on the owner’s back when he is going to or returning from his daily employment, or when he comes to rocky descents or falls in the river on which he is fishing. The dexterity with which the fisherman manages the apparently awkward vessel, and contrives to keep his just balance, is truly astonishing. The instrument with which he makes his way is a paddle, one end of which rests upon his shoulder, and the other is employed by his right hand in making a stroke alternately on each side. The left hand conducts the net, and the line attached to it is held between the teeth. Two coracles usually go together in order to assist each other in fishing. When not employed in fishing, they are placed at the doors of the fishermen’s houses, and there is scarcely a cottage on the banks of the Teifi which is not furnished with one.
These vessels are now only applied to the purpose of fishing; but they were used by the ancient Britons as the means of intercourse between the opposite banks of the rives; and Pliny in his account of Britain, speaks of a six days’ navigation in the open sea with these coracles. Caesar also made use of them in his Spanish expedition against Pompey, and ascribes their origins to the Britons.
Leigh, Samuel, Guide to Wales and Monmouthshire, (1831; 3rd edition, 1835), pp. 13-14
[Some of this on coracles derived from Warner, Richard, Rev (1763-1857) A Walk through Wales in Aug, 1797, (Bath, 1798), p. 91-2]

1832 Cardiganshire
Cardiganshire presents another particular subject for remark, in the singular kind of boat used upon the Teifi and other Welch rivers, which reminds us, of eastern aquatic contrivances. This boat which is flatter than ordinary is made of basket work covered with a raw hide, or flannel, thickly coated with tar or pitch, to keep it inaccessible to water. The owner, seated on a narrow board, paddles his little vessel along with perfect ease, and when the day’s work is concluded, lifts it up on his back, fastens it with a strong strap, and, thus shielded, hastens to his home: this boat, or coracle, as it is called, does not exceed 20 or 30 pounds in Weight.
“ In his hand the stripling held an oar,
“ And on his back, like a broad shield
“ The coracle was hung.”
Anon, An accompaniment to the topographical map of England and Wales, interspersed with poetical quotations, (London, 1823), pp. 81-82 [Based on Aikin?]

1833 Carmarthen
The boats here are also very simply constructed, being made of basketwork, and covered with waxed canvass, which renders them so light, that a fisherman can carry one many miles on his back with as much ease and grace as a tortoise carries its shell. The ancient Britons covered theirs with the hide of a horse, which thus continued, even after death, to bear its rider; but in shape, size, and weight, their coracles I have been told by antiquaries, were exactly similar to those now in use. It requires very skilful navigation to manage them, as the boatman may often be observed to paddle his oar with one hand, while he conducts his net with the other, and holds a line in his teeth. If he over-reaches in the slightest degree, while eagerly playing a trout on the hook, the fish gets the best of the joke, as the angler inevitably plunges into a cold bath; therefore the little vessel must be kept as carefully balanced as a spoon on the edge of a tea-cup. Some years since a spirited boatman, on the Wye, astonished the natives of Ross, by undertaking, for a wager, to navigate his coracle to the farthest extremity of the Bristol Channel, which was thought nearly as impossible as to go round the world in it. His voyage lasted a fortnight, during which he encountered difficulties beyond belief, as this bet was scarcely less difficult to gain than that of Bradbury the clown, who undertook formerly to proceed from one extremity of the Thames to another in a boat drawn by six geese harnessed, which exploit was successfully achieved at last, as well as that in a coracle upon the Wye.
Sinclair, Catherine, Hill and Valley, or Hours in England and Wales 1833, 1st edition, New York, 1838; Another edition, Edinburgh, 1848, pp. 264-6

1833 the Teifi
on this, more than most other rivers in Wales, is used a small fishing boat of singular construction, called by the Welsh, corwg and by the English corruptly coracle which is not adapted to carry conveniently more than one person : in form it is nearly oval, but flattened at one end like the stern of a common ship’s boat its length being usually from five to six feet, and its breadth about four. The frame is formed of split rods, which are plaited like basket work, and covered on the outside, sometimes with rawhide, but more commonly with strong coarse flannel, which is made waterproof by a thick coating of pitch and tar : a narrow board is fastened across the middle, on which the fisherman sits and guides his little bark with a paddle. When proceeding to their employment, or returning from it, the fishermen fasten these boats, the weight of which is generally from 40 to 50 pounds, on their backs by means of a leathern strap attached to the seat, which they pass round their bodies.
Lewis, Samuel, Topographical Dictionary of Wales, 1833, ‘Cardiganshire’

1833 north Wales
These are the famous places for angling and just above them in several instances we saw a man sitting in a round sort of basket boat [Coracle] {tiny drawing of a man in one} just enough to hold his seat, in this he pushed himself about from place to place as best suited his fancy. …
Letts, Thomas, Journal of Tour, NLW MS 22340B, p. 30

1834 Teifi
THE WELSH CORACLE, OR FISHING-BOAT. There is a remarkable number of these curious vessels always to be seen on the river Teifi. They are constructed of willow twigs, in the manner of basket-work, and are covered with a raw hide or canvass pitched in such a manner as to be waterproof. They are generally five feet and a half long and four broad ; their bottom is a little rounded, and their shape resembles the half of a walnut-shell. A seat crosses just above the centre, toward the broad end. The angler paddles with one hand, and casts his flies with the other; and, when his work is finished, brings home his boat on his back. These coracles are specimens of original British navigation, according to Caesar, who turned them to good account in his Spanish expedition against Pompey: for Caesar’s bridges over the Sagre being carried away by the torrent, he transported his legions across it in vessels of this construction :— “Imperat militibus Caesar ut naves faciant cujus generis cum superioribus annis usus Britanniae docuerat. Carinae primum ut ac statumina ex levi materia fiebant: reliquum corpus navium viminibus contextum coriis integebatur.” — Bell. Civ. lib. i. L Pliny, in his account of Britain, speaks of a six days’ navigation in the open sea with these coracles : —” Tirnaeus historicus a Britannia introrsus sex dierum navigatione abesse dicit insulam Mictim, in qua candidum plumbum proveniat. Ad earn Britannos vitilibus navigiis corio circumsutis navigare.”— Plin. Hist. Nat. 1. iv. c. 16. p. 145
CORACLE FISHING ON THE DEE. In this river we have often used the coracle with success. This light bark, says a correspondent of the Old Sporting Magazine, enables the fisherman to float down the river, steering to whatever side he thinks most likely for success, and impeding or hastening his progress as he may think advisable; and it is as wonderful how slowly he can make it float in a rapid stream, as how fast he can get it on when there is no stream at all; or even work it up against a slight current.
Hansard, G.A., Trout and salmon fishing in Wales (London, 1834),

1834 The Dovey
We soon came in sight of the Dovey, and observed before us two men carrying a net, and coracles strapped on their shoulders. The word coracle, or coriacle, is derived from coria, a skin, and seems to prove the invention to belong to the time of the Romans. These skiffs are four feet wide, and two over the head; the shells, formed of wicker basket-work, and covered with flannel, the principal manufacture in this part of the country, or with coarse cloth, pitched or tarred. We stood on the bridge for some time to see the operations. They were about to drag for salmon ; and it must have been difficult to preserve the balance in such frail and fragile machines. The net was attached to the two boats, and connected them. When all was clear, the fishermen made with their paddles a considerable .circle, and then reunited, drawing in cautiously the sweep. They seemed very dexterous in the management of their canoes, and perfectly unconscious of danger. Danger there must be, for the upsetting of one would inevitably involve the safety of the other, if not the lives of both, by entanglement in the meshes. A salmon of ten or twelve pounds weight leaped over the corks, but the first essay was a failure.
” This is a most destructive practice,” I observed, ” and if permitted, care should be taken that the laws regarding salmon-fisheries are well enforced. The size of the meshes, as in France, …
Medwyn, Thomas, The Angler in Wales: or Days and Nights of Sportsmen, 2 vols, (London, 1834), vol 1, pp. 81-82

1835 The Wye
When we got again into smooth water (and at that particular point the Wye is deep), we saw, for the first time, some fishermen floating and paddling about in their little coracles. These coracles, or truckles, as they are sometimes called, are evidently a remnant of the primitive inland navigation of the ancient Britons, and are probably the same as the portable boats used by the Scots and Picts in crossing the rivers to invade England. In form they are neither canoe-shaped nor ship-shaped, being, on the contrary, like a somewhat oval tub. They are made of pitched canvass or raw hide, stretched over a few slight ribs of wood, or over a frame of wicker-work, and each of them is only capable of holding one man. The least motion seems to threaten to upset them, and it is very difficult indeed to the inexperienced to get into them and set them afloat at all, as, unless the weight is made to bear exactly on the centre, the coracle rolls over stern uppermost. The men we saw using them appeared, however, to be very much at their ease as they went across or down the stream, working a paddle with one hand and fishing with the other. These boats are so light that, when their day’s work is done, the fishermen throw them over their shoulders and carry them home. In case of rain, they can be made very effective as impervious hoods or umbrellas. Gilpin told a story, which has been copied in most of the guide-books, of an adventurous fellow who, for a wager, navigated a coracle out of the Wye, and all down the broad and frequently stormy estuary of the Severn, as far as the isle of Lundy, at the mouth of the Bristol Channel. “When he returned to the New Weir,” says the original teller of the story, “report says the account of his expedition was received like a voyage round the world.”
Anon, The Wye, The Penny Magazine, issue no. 219, Aug. 31, 1835  

1834 The Wye
The fisherman is his own boat maker. The boat is called a coracle (vulgo truckle) from its having the appearance of being made of leather (corium, a hide), which, in reality, is not the case. It is also called a coble,—perhaps from corbula, a little basket, which seems more correct, because the skeleton is a piece of basket-work, covered with strong barragan or flannel, saturated with dubbin, pitch, and tar, to render it waterproof: and so light is the vessel, that the fisherman, by means of a strap, fastened to the seat, throws it over his shoulder, walking with it to the river’s brink, whence he launches forth, in perfect confidence, to exercise his calling,—letting down his net, while carried down with the stream, till he chooses to cast anchor—that anchor a stone of considerable weight, to keep his frail bark steady. A novice, in getting in or out, would upset it: and, when in, unless an exact equilibrium be maintained, it would capsise, and endanger the life of the adventurer. Yet, in so precarious a vehicle, the fisherman paddles along without fear; sometimes tossed about like a cork, when the winds are boisterous. Indeed, Mr. Gilpin records an instance of a man, for a trifling wager, navigating one of them to the Isle of Lundy, in the Bristol channel. When he returned, the account of his expedition was received with wonder by his connections.
Booker, Luke, Rev., The Springs of Plynlimmon: A Poem (with copious notes), descriptive of Scenery and Circumstances connected with the Severn, the Wye and the three Minor Rivers which Emanate from that Noble Mountain (Wolverhampton, 1834), pp. 78-79

1835 Carmarthen
Sewin are caught here in abundance … which he sells at 6d a pound. Salmon are also taken in the river.
The Roman [illegible] speaks of the British coracles ‘?Primum Cann Solex …’ [continues in Latin]
The man sits on the bench steadying the boat with his body while he paddles along holding the cord of the net with his teeth. Two coracles in this manner are washed down by the stream to the mouth of the river [.] the fish ?striking up from the salt water are caught in the net which is drawn together by the opposite coracle paddling closer to the other [.] if a strong fish he is despatched with the little pestle placed on the seat as represented in the sketch.
[The drawing shows views of the coracle from above and below. A pestle (a truncheon shaped implement as in ‘pestle and mortar’ but often called a ‘priest’) is shown strapped to one end of the seat.]
Skinner, John, Tour of Wales, 1835, British Library, Egerton, ms. 3111, f. 15r, image no 17

1837 the Teifi
We had the pleasing excitation during this very pretty walk [along the Teifi from Cilgerran], of seeing a salmon caught by 2 men paddling themselves down the stream in 2 coracles holding a net stretched across the stream. The coracle is a sort of wicker basket covered with a tarred blanket; it merely goes with the stream, and the fisherman carries it (as represented in the Penny Magazine) when going up the river. The fish weighed 9 pounds and it was offered to us for 4 shillings.
Romilly, Joseph, Rev, Tour of Wales, 1837, Edited by Rev M.G.R. Morris, Llandysul, 1998, p. 55

1839 the Wye
On this part of the Wye, salmon fishing is carried on to great extent, and the river is sometimes spotted thickly with coracles, the primitive little boats used for the purpose. Shaped like half a walnut shell pinched a little in the middle, and made of wicker covered with hides or cloth prepared to exclude the water, they are light and portable; being only large enough for one person, and seem to require no small degree of dexterity in the fisherman who occupy them. They are guided and propelled by one broad paddle, but when the fisher is busy at his craft, they lie on the water so stilly, or glide so slowly down with the tide, that at first sight, no one would suspect them of containing anything living.
Twamley, Louisa Anne, The annual of British Landscape Scenery; An autumn ramble on the Wye, (London 1839), p. 40

1841 the Wye
The Wye here passes under Wilton bridge, a construction of rather a curious kind, which dates from the close of the sixteenth century. Coracles are seldom seen so high up the river as this; but we mention them here because the hero of Gilpin’s often repeated anecdote was an inhabitant of Wilton. This man, it seems, ventured into the British Channel in a coracle, as far as the isle of Lundy; a very remarkable voyage to be made in a canvass tub, the navigation of the estuary of the Severn being quite as trying as that of any part of the British seas. Previously, however, to this exploit, the very same feat was performed by an itinerant stage-doctor of Mitchel Dean in the Forest. The coracles are a sort of basket made of willow twigs, covered with pitched canvass or raw hide, and resembling in form the section of a walnut-shell. Similar rude contrivances are in use among the Esquimaux and other savage tribes, and were employed by the ancient Britons for the navigation of rivers. They are now the fishing-boats of the rivers of South Wales; and when the day’s work is done are carried home on the shoulders of their owners, disposed in such a way as to serve for a hood in case of rain. The early ships of Britain are described by Caesar and Pliny as being merely larger coracles–clumsy frames of rough timber, ribbed with hurdles and lined with hides. According to Claudian they had masts and sails, although they were generally rowed, the rowers singing to the harp. p. 18
Near New Weir on the Wye
Just below [the New Weir], while the rapidity of the stream still continues, a ferry is carried across it; and lower down the fishermen use little round boats called truckles (coracles), the remains perhaps of the ancient British navigation, which the least motion will overset, and the slightest touch may destroy. All the employments of the people seem to require either exertion or caution; and the ideas of fear or danger which attend them give to the scene an animation unknown to the solitary, though perfectly compatible with the wildest romantic situation. p. 27
Ritchie, Leitch, The Wye and its Associations, A Picturesque Ramble (London 1841)

1842 Ross on Wye
Pencil drawing, ‘Fisherman in a Coracle’ [Photographed]
Saw a coracle, quotes Caesar’s commentaries
Description of coracles – raw hide or pitched canvas on a frame …
Anon, ‘A Five Days tour to the Wye, August, 1842’, NMW 190489, pp. 20-21

1842 Llangollen
fishermen using a coracle
Anon, A journal of a tour to Chester and North Wales, 1842, NLW, mss. 4946 C, p. 11

1847 the Teifi
There are more coracles (corgw) employed on the Teifi than on any river that we have seen in Wales. The fishermen as they wend their way to the stream with their boats on their backs, look at a distance like huge tortoises South Sea Islanders; sometimes 100 coracles may be seen afloat together in the height of the salmon season. Most of our readers are of course aware that the coracle is the ancient British boat; its shape somewhat resembles the section of a walnut shell; the dimensions are about 5 feet by 4, and the weight, when dry, from 30 to 50 lbs. The material is strong basket work, covered with hides or pitched canvas. some dexterity is required to manage these tiny barks, which are propelled and steered with a paddle, and remind one of Shakespeare’s witch -‘Thither in a sieve I’ll sail’
Cliffe, Charles Frederick, The book of South Wales, the Bristol Channel, Monmouthshire, and the Wye, a companion and guide…
1st edition 1847; 2nd edition (enlarged) 1848, p. 305; 3rd edition, 1854 edited and revised by the Rev George Roberts, p. 272

1849 Wye
The people use a curious kind of boat here – the truckle or coracle from Cwrwglyl … formed of basket work covered with a horse skin or pieces of tarred canvas … they are short, light and handy.
Letter from Robert Graham  to his sister, letter 21, National Library of Scotland, GB233/ms. 16055,  Chepstow 23.8.1849

1854 Llanberis lake
I observed a solitary coracle, with a fisherman in it.
Borrow, George, Wild Wales, (1862), chapter 29

1860s Carmarthenshire
16th January, 1860 [From Llanfair to home] ‘we … crossed in the coracle’
21st January, 1860 ‘The wind blew my coracle into the river’
26th January, 1860 ‘Made a new coracle as the one that was made about a fortnight ago was blown in the river and cut up’
11.1.1862. ‘When entering the coracle at Penpwll when coming home, fell into the river …’ [he was drunk]
16.6.1862 ‘To Llanfair about making some plan for having net fishing salmon as usual. Capt Showton is terribly against the coracles.’
2.10.1860 ‘The Commissioners are holding a meeting relative to salmon fishing in Wales’
My failings and imperfections, The diary of Rees Thomas of Dol-llan, 1860-1862, edited by Steve Dube, (Llandybie, 2011)

1861
Report of the Commissioners appointed to Inquire into the Salmon Fisheries, (England and Wales), (1861) (see Jenkins, The Coracle, p. 28)

1863 the Teifi
coracles have increased since I have known Cenarth which is the principle coracle station … Coracle fishing has not been introduced on the Teifi from what I can gather above 60 years … [There are at least 12 references to coracles on the Teifi dating between 1769 and 1799]
Report of her Majesty’s Inspectors on Salmon Fisheries (1863), p. 141 OR Royal Commission to enquire into Salmon Fisheries (1863)

1863 Carmarthen
Small wickerwork walnut shaped baskets, which the fisherman carried on their backs, when they did not use it as a boat on the water; it was 6 foot long and 3 wide, covered with black leather, with one seat and one paddle. It was called a ‘coracle’
Anon, Journal of a Tour in south Wales (Pembrokeshire, Carmarthen, Swansea, Cardiff), Cardiff Central Library, MS 3.272, ‘South Wales, Autumn, 1863’, p. 55-56

1867 the Teifi
flannel used on coracles until recently
Phillips, J.R., History of Cilgerran, (London, 1867), p. 167

1867 Ceredigion
Le coracle
Erny, M Alfred, Le Tour du Monde, Nouveau Journal des Voyages, Volume 15 (1867)

1860s, 1870s
Photograph by Francis Bedford ‘774 Wrexham Bangor Isycoed Bridge’ showing a coracle in the water and one on the back of a man on the bank.
National Library of Wales Llyfr Ffoto 3062 / 148

1870 (about), Llangollen on the Dee, (using a century-old description of a Scottish example)
There is free fishing {on the Dee in places} but most of the river … charges by the day. Coracle fishing is more expensive.
The coracle, currach, courach – or cwrwgl … is an ancient British water conveyance, not difficult to construct nor easy to work, and certainly not safe to travel in. The shape and make of these curious boats was thus described in 1775: “it is in shape oval, near 3 feet broad, and 4 feet long; a small keel runs from the head to the stern; a few ribs placed across the keel, and a ring of pliable wood around the lip of the machine. The whole is covered with the rough hide of an ox or a horse; the seat is in the middle; it carries but one person, or, if a second goes into it to be wafted over a river, he stands behind the rower, leaning on his shoulders.” [Rev Lachan Shaw, The History of the Province of Moray, (Edinburgh, 1775), p. 164] Tarpauling is now used as the covering, but in other respects the coracle you may see on the river is much the same as that used by the Ancient Britons. There is an old Welsh saying that applies to the Cwrwgl, to wit, “Caria di fi, mi dy gariaf finau dithau”, which means “Carry thou me and I will carry you” as the coracle said to the fisherman: and on these Deeside roads during the fishing season you will sometimes meet a man carrying his boat.
Roberts, Askew, (1826-1884), Gossiping Guide to Wales, Oswestry: Woodall, Minshall, and Co. (ca. 1870?), p. 125, with illustration of a man with a coracle on his back and a broad tipped oar in his hand.

1871
Brief description of coracles
New, Charles H., [Tour of north Wales] 1871 ‘Wedding Trip’, NLW MS 22021, pp. 66-7

1884 Llanfair [Llanfair Caereinion]
brief description of a coracle
Hissey, James John, Old Fashioned Journey through England and Wales, 1884, p. 268

1879 Llanover
Lady Llanover of Llanover Hall, near Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, was keen on all things Welsh. She patronised Eisteddfodau, kept her own harpers and weaver and dressed herself, friends and servants in Welsh costume on special occasions. She even kept a pair of coracles.
The poor prince [The Hereditary Grand Duke of Baden] has been victimised today to see all the relics of Mrs Delaney, and was afterwards taken to the lake to see two coracles, the boats of ancient Wales, in which Ivor and Arthur Herbert besported themselves.
Hare, Augustus J. C. (1834–1903), The Story of My Life, Vol. 5, (London, 1900), p. 226

1901 on the Dee between Corwen and Llangollen
Coracle fishing still practiced.  The Dee is the only river in north Wales where they may be seen.
Roberts, Henry, Illustrated guide to Corwen and neighbourhood : where to go, what to see, how to see it. (Corwen, 1902), p. 10 Awarded First Prize at Corwen Eisteddfod, 1901

1902 Llangollen,
… the Dee, dashing impetuously over boulders and pebbly beaches, or more rarely sliding quietly where the trout lurk in deep and darkling pools, where the Welshman still navigates that early British canoe or boat whichever you like to call it the “coracle,” a craft that no Saxon can master.
Harper, Charles G, The Holyhead Road; the mail-coach road to Dublin, (London, 1902), section XXXVIII

1938
describes the use of flannel in corracles
Hornell, J., British Coracles and Irish Curraghs (1938)

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