My dad was a plumbing contractor and we lived in a council house in Limerick City. His
greatest love was fishing. Looking back, I think there were times he loved fishing more than
his family. He had a little rowing boat which he kept at various moorings up and down the
majestic river Shannon. During October, he would put the boat on the roof of his Morris
Minor car and bring it home to winter in the garden, covered with on old oil cloth. He called
the boat ‘Dippy’.
Sometimes he would take me with him when he went on one of his fishing trips. He would
prepare his fishing rods and a big smelly satchel full of hooks and fisherman flies and away
we would go. He usually tried to pick calm days for our trips. I remember when I stepped
into the little boat it would wobble about, so I would gingerly make my way to my seat. He
taught me how to row and how to use the paddle. He would settle himself down, gently
push the paddle against the stones and we would glide smoothly out on the water.
As we moved slowly along the water, he would steer to the middle of the river. I used to
watch the oars slip gently in and out of the black, deep, mysterious water. Sometimes, if it
had been stormy, the water would be foamy and small pieces of debris would float past us.
As we made our way under the arch of Sarsfield Bridge, I was always fascinated by the green
moss that used to cling precariously, in damp patches, to the walls. Further up the sides,
little purple flowers were bravely growing out of the nooks and crannies. I loved trailing my
hand in the water, as we glided along, wiggling my fingers, revelling in the cooling sensation
of the icy water. “Don’t do that”, my Dad would say, “a pike might think you are a little
worm and bite your finger off”.
On cloudy days the river was always rough and little waves would bounce on the surface of
the water, topped off with white, sometimes creamy, foam. If the water became too rough,
Dad cut or trips short and head back to the safety of the shore. We never wore lifejackets
and Dad often had on heavy waders that came up to his thighs. Many a time I was scared
when we bobbed up and down as we rowed through the waves, but I told Dad, “I’m not
afraid if we topple over, I will cling on to the moss at the side of the wall’. He used to look at
me sadly and say, “The water is never your friend”.
On the days when Dad was fishing, I would spend time bailing out the water that had
accumulated in the bottom of the boat, with a little can that he kept especially for the
purpose. Often I would just lie back and watch the swans and ducks floating majestically up
and down the river, with their little chicks in tow behind them.
Sometimes, we would row from Limerick to the ruins of the historical Carrigogunnell, a
medieval fortification situated on the banks near the village of Clarina. Rowing down was
easy enough, but as the Shannon is a tidal river, the return journey was very hard, especially
if the tide was on the turn and going out. I used to breathe a sigh of relief when we passed
Barringtons Point and St. Michael’s boat club and the city was in sight.
That was long ago and I have very fond memories of the time I spent on the river Shannon
with Dad and I think of him every time I pass by the Shannon.