Growing up by the shores of Lough Mask provided me with a collection of unique and happy memories.
Those hazy summer mornings were spent saving hay with family members, awaiting a trail of young people in twos and threes. Heading back the road with their towels rolled under their arms. No texts to communicate your plans were needed, just go when you felt like it. Towels and togs ready on the line from the day before, waiting for a shout in from the road…”are ya coming?” Joining the rolled up towel trail to sandy bay, filled with conversation, enough to pass the two mile distance. The lake lapped its welcome to your arrival, as you drank in the view. The first shrieks to let you know “it’s freezin” as if a new discovery each day. Bare feet followed, on limestone stones, with sharp edged dimples, just two steps past the waters edge. The short lived welcome of softer sand succumbed to the slow creep of cold water, and you braced yourself in the gap between two pleasures. Happy faces who had already taken the plunge, now inform you that “it’s lovely”! The split second is yours to choose, when to leave those still standing, with the sun on their shoulders, and join the pure sheer freedom of the lake. And you’re in…
It brought the young community together every day of the summer. Teenagers watchful for smaller children, but other than that they were all in it together. No divides, all friends, all free.
The lake also added another dimension to society in the ‘baile beag’. Fly fishing with my father and sister, allowed for capsules of time shared together on Lock Mask’s waves. As children, we played, while out fathers talked and prepared for a day on the lake at the boat house. Each fishing boat left the shore with its little crew. On the trip out of the inlet, your thoughts were your own. Engine noise filled the sound space which would have allowed you to share them. Then reaching a chosen spot, the silenced engine highlighted the crystal clarity of the sounds of nature surrounding you. The reasons for this location thoroughly though through, were now explained, so the understanding of nature gained, could be handed down a generation. Drifting through the rocky pools, the gentle, voice of my father imprinted in my mind, for me to keep.
And hunger steered us to Saints Island, where each little group crunched their arrival on the shingle. Smoke wafting from a fire made from gathered wood and kippens. Our kettle filled with lake water, perched beside the others. Sandwichs taken out, awaiting ‘island tea’, a taste that has never been matched since.
Young and old shared tales and time. No divides, all friends, all free.