The Camac River

I was born in 1957 and grew up on the Commons Road in Clondalkin village. The Camac
River – also known locally as the Drinker, or the Sandy-hole, depending on which era you
were born into. In my childhood we nicknamed it – the Drinker. The River was synonymous
with all aspects of our childhood. She meandered snakelike through fields and farmlands
through Corkagh demesne, a vast area of woodlands, corn fields, bamboo-lands, ponds and
lakes, dotted with old buildings along the way.
There were several mills situated along the Drinker river which gave life to these mills,
powered by water-wheels in situated ponds beside each mill. As children these mill ruins
were great places to climb and cross over the river. Heading south the Drinker cut right
through Corkagh demesne, with its many old buildings, such as the gunpowder Mills and
adjoining gravesites. We were told stories of an explosion there that killed and wounded
many of the local menfolk who worked there (1700s).
The Drinker was our very own pathway into a vast playground that ran through to Corkagh
Demesne, where we hunted rabbits, collected mushrooms at dawn and dusk (which both went
into a stew for our dinners), and of course we fished. Over the generations the River held
many a story, including my own. Geographically we measured the distance between the
Commons road and the Drinker at approximately two and a half fields away – Billy
Dowling’s and Mr Murphy’s fields divided by Corkagh lane. My childhood years were the
60s and the 70’s, which were spent roaming the river and the fields to Corkagh Demesne.
Our gateway from the Commons Road was across Jack Byrnes field to the entrance at the
start of Corkagh lane, where the gypsies set their horse drawn caravans & canvas tents on
blackberry ditches that aligned Corkagh. Initially I was afraid walking by them as they sat
around an open stick fire, with blackened cooking utensil hanging over it, on boughs of
broken branches. But after a while we got to know them and greeted each other with a nod or
a wave.
And depending on your age, you were drawn to different parts of the river. As very young
children you would play at the southern end, known as the Sandy-hole, for it was only about
a foot in depth, and had a sandy-like feel to the bottom of it, with crystal clear water, and no
weeds. The cattle also drank from this spot, when eventually those pesky kids returned home
for their teas!
Heading further north on the river, as up in age you went, you would swim in deeper, faster
flowing waters, and fish for red-breasted pinkeens’, but you always had to look out for a
horrible blood-sucker-like-creature, with black funnel-like mouth, and slimy to the touch,
which would latch on, and suck the lifeblood out of you (so we were told). We ingeniously
made nets for fishing from our mothers discarded stockings and wire coat hangers crafted
into a loop to hold the net together, tied onto a bamboo cane harvested from bamboo-land up
by Corkagh Demesne to form our fishing nets.
Later I progressed to a homemade fishing rod, with catgut for a line and a juicy maggot held
tight on a hook, then dropped onto the rivers floor, awaiting a spotted trout, or red-breast
perch to gulp the worm down, for me then to whip the line furiously, and hopefully, hook the
fish, which was a bit like fly-fishing in its day!
In the village of Clondalkin the Drinker ran its course by the Paper Mills – which brought it
back to its original name – the Camac River, it continues on to Inchicore, passing by
Kilmainham Jail before entering the Liffey near Heuston Station.
Those fantastic memories, and many more of the Camac River slipstreams into my
consciousness and soothes away my pains today.-