I am delighted to hear that the man next door has started to write his memoirs. He is now in his late seventies and has led a thrilling life spread over several countries. He acquired his home beside the river Boyne near Trim in the 80’s, but it was only in the late 90’s that he retired from his legal career
in London and moved permanently to his riverside residence. I moved next door a few years later.
His sitting room faces east and the river. There can be majestic sunrises over the water filling his
home with shimmering light, and most mornings you will find him having breakfast outside facing
that silvery artery of water gliding gently past. During the summer months each year he likes to
extend his breakfast out onto the river, conquering an island that becomes exposed when the river
level is at its lowest. It is an island of reeds with a firm earth base. He lays a plank of wood across to
reach it, cuts down the reeds, lays a carpet as a floor and sets up a table and chairs. He likes to
entertain there, bringing any guests for an early evening drink on the island as a novelty welcome.
He glides across the plank with no problem, unlike some of his guests that did not find their balance
on the approximately 3-metre-long plank and began their evening visit climbing out of the river.
He likes to arrange boat trips, particularly for guests from abroad that come to stay with him. It may
be their first day of their visit and they are coming down the river. The trip begins at a nearby bridge
around 2.5km away making it lovely to arrive at his house. I have been on many of these trips with
him and other guests over the years, sometimes even a flotilla of boats together. He always stops
along the way for the guests to swig on something strong from a hip flask that he has prepared,
taking a break from his constant arm pointing of different river birds in flight now disturbed. I
remember him once bringing a wind-up gramophone and seeing the few cows we passed along the
way wondering what was going on as the air filled with Haydn.
Everyone loves it when he lays down the challenge of a boat race, where you make a boat using only
biodegradable materials, but it must hold a candle. When families with children stay, you can hear
hammer on wood hour upon hour and the most inventive and eclectic display is shown on race-
night. Many tears have been shed by young contenders who watched their proud boats slowly sink
on their maiden voyage. Several have been saved by fisherman further down-stream, as if worthy of
survival, and these adorn his barn like esteemed victory ships.
While he does not fish himself, he welcomes the sport. He befriended some Frenchmen that come
to visit around his stretch each year, and now they all have a light meal and drinks annually, and they
park their hired cars with him for two or three days. He cannot really speak any French and they very
little English, but they nod and toast, and he opens his arms to them when they spontaneously
arrive, his exotic river visitors.
The river is like a beating vein within him, he relies upon it for tranquillity, a place for challenges and
excitement, and a means to bring people together. So, I raise my hat and salute this legend of a man,
my father, Christopher.