River Reminiscing

I grew up not more than a hundred feet from the Conoboro Bridge, which spanned the River Erkina.
My life is dotted with memories of the river, a river whose banks I’ve walked hundreds of times, a
river whose trout I’ve caught for competitions and sport, a river with its own history and each
individual person their own history of it. In the early eighties the Erkina flooded into the surrounding
fields and days later it froze, creating Rathdowney’s biggest ice rink. We fought over whose turn it
was to be towed over the frozen waters in a large sack. We got battered, we got bruised, we got very
wet but we had the time of our lives.
The large Ash tree that stands on the river’s bank, just down from the bridge, still fascinates me to
this day. After every storm I’d look expectantly to see if it was still standing. It was. It is. Still standing
to this day, defiant and unyielding, despite the Erkina having cut a watery shelf beneath it. At this
very tree I caught my first trout, one pound and three ounces. The excitement in my little heart, I
panicked, struck too quick, and reeled it in too hastily. (I remembered my dad telling me that “Trout”
comes from a Latin word meaning greedy one). This was a greedy one. To my surprise and delight
there it was on the end of the line, lively, sliver, speckled with spots and trying its best to return to
the water.
The River Erkina is steeped in History from the Mass paths to the Mills and Perry’s Brewery. The
Mass paths crossed the river at two areas to provide ease of crossing for those in rural areas to get
to church. One runs from the village of Donaghmore to Rathdowney and crosses the river over what
is called the “A” bridge. It then cuts across a field and up the lane behind present day Moore Street.
The second crossed the river at the back of Church Street and came up to the CYMS. The first Mill
was located on the river Erkina in 1725 by the Perry family which later built and ran a successful
Brewery in Rathdowney for nearly one hundred and fifty years, providing local employment and
encouraging people to settle in Rathdowney.
I was always lucky that I lived so close to the nature associated with rivers, although it is only
recently that I’ve started to realise this fact. There were always swans on the Erkina and always two
at the back of the town building their nest in various places depending on flooding and parading up
and down the river. A Kingfisher could always be seen; it would pass like a flash of vibrant colour and
disappear as quickly as it appeared. Otters, mink, water hens, ducks, eels and even bats all lived in or
around the Erkina.
It is hard sum up the Erkina River as a body of water in under 600 hundred words, but I have to
mention the body. The Body? I hear you say!! A young girl went missing in the town of Rathdowney
in the 1930s circa. Frantic parents searched all the usual places and beyond. Neighbours and
townsfolk joined in the search, but alas there was no sign of the young girl anywhere. The local
priest according to folklore told them to float a candle in a box down the river. Where it snags will be
the body of the girl. They found her body where the candle was snagged in weeds.