Our Humble River

The Cloghataney River rises in ‘the Captain’s Bog’, in the shadow of Esker Riada,
2 km. north of my hometown of Moate Co. Westmeath. It flows in a southerly direction, through Moate Castle grounds where it undergrounds before emerging in Lower Main Street beside the Old Quaker Mill. It then forms a mill pond and mill race. It reminds us of our rich Quaker heritage that has influenced the development of the town for 250 years. The Cloghataney continues south where it meets the river Brosna, the Brosna flows west to meet ‘the Broad Majestic Shannon’.
The river performs an important function not alone as a parish boundary but also the boundary between the Diocese of Meath and the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmanoise. This boundary creates a divide within the town, there is the ‘old Town’ and ‘the Gap’. When we were young the rivalries were intense. Particularly between the Carmelite school (‘the University’) and ‘the Gap’ school. The football matches were not so much sport, as blood battles. From a territorial point of view ‘the Gap boyos’ controlled the upper reaches of the river. The river banks were high enough so they could form a swimming hole in summer. How we envied it!
We however controlled the southern reaches of the river. Our territory included the mill pond and the wooded ‘lawn’ of Moate View house erected by the Clibborn ‘Quaker’ family in 1735. This area was our playground. Cowboys and Indians, collecting chestnuts for the ‘conker’ season, Picking daffodils for may alters and examining the remains of our Quaker heritage as we explored the remains of the old mill. The jewel in the crown was the mill pond (better than auld swimming ‘hole’ any day!). I remember the day my good friend Larry Gillivan introduced me to boating. He suggested exploring the mill pond by water. Larry was resourceful to say the least; he had good contacts in a local garage and more contacts in a local bakery. These contacts enabled him to secure the inner tube of a tractor tire and a baker’s tray. With these we secured the tray to the tube, got a couple long sticks and our boating careers got off to an auspicious start on the mill pond (‘the Harbour’).
The first thing we learned about small craft was, balance, not once but twice at the cost of immersion in the pond. The second thing we learned was how to control direction. This issue arose when we approached the weir wall without any meaningful control, which would have resulted into a drop into the Cloghataney river. Ever resourceful Larry ordered ‘abandon ship’ and disaster was averted, at the cost of another immersion.

I have met people, through different generations, that remember swimming and playing in the mill pond, and who also enjoyed bare back rides on ‘Dobbin’ Jim Clibborns work horse along the river bank.
Other memories include the purchasing of small fishing nets from Plunketts shop and fishing for pinkin’s and other pond life for observation in the laboratory that was your mother’s jam jar.
The river whispers memories, and for one individual, on a hot and hazy summer’s day in 1976, they lay in the meadow grass with friends, under the dappled sunlight streaming through the surrounding trees, the fresh ‘irony’ smell and the cooling effect of the river and its sound softly reverberating around the lofts and sheds where the mill race ran through and under the buildings where the mills would have been, and listened.
Long may we look and listen to her.