Dublin Bay

Going back to the early 19SO’s my memory of Dublin Bay is of wide open
spaces when the tide went out. We lived in Sandymount and out our front
gate across the road, was the beach. In springtime when tides were high, we
had great fun dodging waves as they crashed over the wall onto the path.
Sometimes the waves might catch a passing car or bus, unwary cyclists would
definitely get soaked.
In the summer it was our playground. We played in the sand when the tide
was out. Then we watched the incoming tide as it meandered left and right,
winding its way back in, up to the high wall which blocked it from reaching the
road. We learned to swim in the little channels the tide made and when we
improved we graduated to the deeper channels out further.
A group of about six or seven intrepid ladies, mums and aunties and perhaps
a grannie or two swam regularly from spring to autumn. They would walk from
their homes in their swim suits, bathrobes, bathing cap in hand. Friends
joining the group as it passed, us children joining as well. A happy band of
swimmers. If the tide was in we didn’t have far to walk, if it was out we would
walk out to the Cockle Lake. The Cockle Lake was perfect, the adults would
know the best time to swim there, the water level not too high. At adult waist
level it was safe for us children. We had a special routine as we entered the
water, everyone joined hands to make a circle, and with that we all sang
“Ring a ring a rosy, a pocket full of posies, a-tishoo, a-tishoo, we all fall down”.
On that note everyone ducked down into the water, not waiting around to
shiver. We had great fun splashing around, everyone doing just what they
liked. We learned to be more comfortable in the water but also to be aware of
the incoming tide and to take care not to be cut off.
During the summer my brother and his friends would often go out on the
beach to dig for lugworm. They used this as bait to set down lines on the
incoming tide. The fishing lines were pieces of rod with fishing wire attached
at intervals, fishing hooks were attached to the wire with the live bait. The
trick was to set the lines out far enough to catch the incoming tide, this would
stop the seagulls from eating the live bait. The opposite was needed when
the tide was turning. The lads had to watch the tide carefully and judge when
it was safe to walk out to retrieve the fishing lines, hopefully with a good
catch. If there was a delay it could mean the seagulls would have a ready
meal waiting for them. When the catch was collected the lads would call to all the
local families and sell their catch, salmon bass and plaice were on the menu.
There was one evening when it got a bit scary, a heavy fog descended while
the lads were out with their lines. It was getting late in the evening and the
dads and mams were very worried. There were no mobile phones in those
days and not everyone had cars. I remember my dad cycling up and down
the Strand Road, another dad drove further towards Ringsend. Thankfully,
there was a happy outcome as the lads did make land safely, a bit off course
but that didn’t matter. They were spotted at Merrion Gates, they could see the
lights there and headed for them. Sandymount Tower was their landmark but
it was hidden by the fog. At Merrion Gates they were met by my father who
said “hello, and where have you been” or words to that effect, according to my
We had wonderful times in our part of Dublin Bay. We learned to swim, we
learned to be aware of tidal movement and lastly we learned to respect the
ocean with all of its beauty and its dangers.