'My salmon fishing rights date to 1613' -- 'Ha! ours date to 1609'

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It could be shrugged off as an argument over fish, but in fact it is a classic dispute over ancient rights and local pleasures, over privileges and prerogatives, which stretches back centuries into the Celtic mist.

A few unemployed southern Irish anglers are taking on a scion of Britain's high nobility in the person of the 12th Duke of Devonshire, Peregrine Andrew Morny Cavendish, friend of the Prince of Wales and inheritor of fabulous wealth. And some prize salmon are at stake.

The resonances echo down the centuries: James I makes an appearance in the legal dispute, as does Magna Carta, Henry VIII and Sir Walter Raleigh. So, in more modern times, do Fred Astaire and Tiger Woods.

The origins of the tussle go back a long, long way. It centres on properties and rights that the Devonshires have held for 400 years or so. Among many other assets the family owns Lismore castle in Waterford and fishing rights on the river Blackwater in Cork...

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