Grand Canal A Childhood Memory

Growing up in Clondalkin, County Dublin, in the 1960s had by far some great advantages
over today’s children’s lifestyles. We had back then what seemed the freedom of the world
where our countryside and especially our imagination created the excitement for each day.
Clondalkin provided a child many exploratory opportunities from investigating ancient
castle ruins, old mills to robbing the occasional orchard, fishing two waterways, the Camac
River and the Grand Canal.
The canal held a very special interest in that it provided many kids some daring challenges
like diving off the locks on a hot summer’s day. “There was something magic about that
time in our lives. “ Once you had your swim accompanied with your gleeful friends, life felt
just grand.
Our Cul De Sac, Laurel Park was like the turning pages of many adventurous stories bourn
from books, and the memories we took from that made each day very special indeed. Every
season like clockwork our role play changed from cowboys and Indians, to enlisting as
cavalry soldiers up in Old Maggie’s Field. Marbles, Pitch and toss, to konkers. Making racing
gigs, to creating our own ice rings on the foot paths in the chill winter months, frowned on
by many nervous parents as they cautiously navigated themselves to and from the shops
relying on garden walls for support.
It was one beautiful summer evening with my father’s invitation when a group of us poured
into the back of his VW panel Van. In the confines of that enclosed interior as both the twin
blue side doors slammed shut, we sat there with an excited and buzzed anticipation on the
cold metal floor with no seats; the discomfort was no bother to us. This was our great
adventure. Along with me, Horse, Neill Murtagh, Vincent Hegarty and several more
neighborhood kids were driven into the unknown.
Eventually we arrived at a remote destination somewhere along the Grand Canal. With
pinkine nets and jam jars we excitedly scoured the bank disturbing grasses and vegetation
in an effort to seek and capture our prize. Pinkines swam in abundance like challenged
trophies beckoning to be won.
As it would happen, Vincent Hegarty would become the evening celebrity as he suddenly
lost his balance while stretching out in an attempt to capture a large resting perch with his
small net. He fell head first next to a massive tree that arched out and upwards over the
water. Vincent’s tumble naturally chose the opposite direction and down he went to
accompany his resting prey while his splayed arms trashed the water grasping desperately
for hope. But for my father’s quick response that evening, it could have had a very different
outcome indeed. Rescuing Vincent from the canal Dad responded with deftly applied skills.
I remember afterwards he lit a fire and dried Vincent’s clothes. This would take the edge of
his parent’s thoughts of the seriousness of the danger on seeing their son when he returned
As we sat around the flames warming glow Vincent had become our hero and was the
center of attention that evening. We on the other hand tried to absorb the potential
outcome of what could have occurred had my father’s response been slower.
He constantly warned us of the dangers of careless behavior play acting next to the canal.
We all returned home in one piece, and a little more wise. Perhaps a wee bit scared having
experienced a taste of the seriousness of the evening. It was the last time my father ever
invited any of my friends on a road trip again.