The time: 18th August, 1983
The place: Lismore Strand
I’m going to bring you to a beautiful part of West Waterford called Lismore and to a spectacular spot
along the Blackwater River overlooked by our Castle called The Strand.
This particular day was very special because it was my 16th birthday. I had on my new swimsuit,
under a pale green rah-rah skirt, white t-shirt and luminous bangles and loop earrings and I was
obviously the bee’s knees. My friends were already in the park waiting for me with big smiles and a
surprise birthday cake. This was going to be the best day ever.
We made our way down to the strand to set ourselves up for the day. Young kids and toddlers were
already splashing away in the shallows just before the bridge, and you could hear their shrieks and
laughter long before you could see them. Our spot was further on down where the river gets
dammed up for swimming every summer. We set up on a grassy spot just under the oak tree and
laid out our towels before stripping down to our togs. Once we were ready, we raced to see who
would be first to jump in. I always hesitate because the thoughts of the cold water hitting my skin is
always worse than the actual feeling. I shivered at the side until I was rudely splashed and jumped in
holding my nose. Once you’re in the crystal-clear water it’s like you’re a part of it, it’s like you could
stay there forever. We were still in the water when Pat and his gang came along. Pat was in his white
baggy trousers with a black t-shirt, sporting his George Michael hairstyle. He thinks he’s gorgeous
and that every girl fancies him! They were threatening to throw our clothes in the water, but just then
Fr Michael came by on his daily rounds and ran them, it was so funny.
Around 2’clock we were just about to dig into our lunch, and the girls were singing Happy Birthday to
me, when the lads came skulking back around. They threatened to give me the bumps if we didn’t
share with them, but we made them promise to buy us ice-cream, so all was good. We were having a
sing-off after lunch which the girls were winning hands down. We had just finished a rendition of
‘girls just want to have fun’, when Pat jumped up to sing ‘bad boys’ by Wham, and wham, bang he
fell backwards straight into the water. Everybody went motionless for what seemed like forever,
because Pat can’t swim, and we could hear him struggling, I ran and dived in, I grabbed Pat from just
under his armpit and one hand under his chin and started to push upward. He stopped struggling, I
swam to the side where he was pulled out quickly. I hopped out to check him, but he wasn’t moving
and didn’t seem to be breathing, I bent down to open his airways and breathe into his mouth when
he suddenly opened his eyes and started kissing me. I jumped away. ‘Got you’, he said, ‘surprise,
happy birthday’. I didn’t know where to look or what to do, until everyone started laughing. Pat had
been having swim lessons in Dungarvan with this plan in mind that had worked perfectly. He was so
happy with himself it was contagious, and I couldn’t help but smile.
That was the first of our many kisses by the river but none of the others were quite so dramatic.
The time: 18th August, 1983