Canny on the Nanny

I was 12 when it happened, so cast your mind back to 1974! We lived on a dairy farm but had
a field two miles away. Every day after I arrived home from school, my Mother would have a
well-prepared hot meal waiting for me but once consumed, I would walk to this field to bring
home our swaggering Friesian cows for evening milking.
The River Nanny ran through our land as it meandered its way through the Duleek hinterland
in east Meath before entering the Irish Sea at Julianstown and this meant on sunny summer
days, I would always take my brother’s battered fishing rod and a jam-jar packed with
wriggling earth worms with me in the hope of getting lucky.
Spending half an hour on dry green grass with my black rubber wellies dangling over the
bank as the shallow bubbling water trickled by beneath me, was an idyllic way to spend a
sunny afternoon.
En-route to the river bank, I always stopped off at Noone’s grocery shop and with my hard-
earned one shilling, I bought a bottled pint of milk and a bar of plain chocolate before
stuffing them in to my over-size jacket.
As I’d watch the water flow past me, every so often, I’d take a swig from the bottle and
munch the chocolate, one dark square at a time!
Every day during May, June, July and August, I’d cast my hook and wriggling worm in to the
Nanny in the exact same place. Every day, I caught nothing! Every day I wondered in
frustration if there were any fish in the river at all or did I just not know how to do it right?
One evening, my Mother asked when I walked 15 cows in to the shed, with a rod in one hand
and a full jam-jar in the other, “how come you never catch anything?”
“I’m having no luck,” I would reply. I told her where I placed my rod and being the canny
Kerry woman that she was, she knew in an instant I’d being doing it all wrong.
“The river flows too fast there. You need to find somewhere deep where the water is still and
fish can swim around without being forced along by the current,” she said. It all made sense.
One day while walking the cows home along Athcarne road, I stopped at the bridge over the
River Nanny, climbed up on the wall and looked down at the flowing river underneath.
Straight away I could see a deep pool to my left beneath where the water was still.
“Mmmm,” I thought, “this could be worth a try.”
Next day, somewhat educated by my Mother’s wise advice, I climbed over the wall, rod in
one hand and jar of worms under my blue woolly jumper and found a tight space amidst the
green stinging nettles to plonk myself on the grass.
I cast the rod and waited. I didn’t wait long! As I removed the cap from my fresh bottle of
milk, the reel on my rod began to rattle. There was a tug on the line and I knew with instant
excitement, I’d caught something!
As I reeled in, a silver shiny trout wriggled itself on the emerging hook. I’d cracked it!
Half an hour later when it came to go, I’d caught four trout and one eel! I couldn’t believe my
A week later, I started secondary school in Drogheda and that once-off memorable day was
never repeated ever again!
Oh to be back in 1974!