New book 2019 – Stories from the Aft Oar

2019 is upon us, and whatever about new year resolutions, one promise I’ve made myself is to publish a second book.

I had planned to write a new book during this year but having had the good fortune of working on a rebrand of Faithlegg House combined with a wonderful sun filled summer and three week holiday in Canada…it all fell through. The intention was to write a maritime history of Waterford but the project was too vast and it will have to wait for a few more years, or another writer.

But I have scoped out a project for myself, one that’s achievable I think once my other commitments such as work, family and community don’t get in the way.

My working title is Stories from the Aft Oar. And here is an abridged introduction and chapter layout to give you a sense of the project.

Salmon fishing at Cheekpoint 2006
Andy Cunningham & Sonny Doherty
Photo Tomás Sullivan
A potential cover for the book
Andy Cunningham and my uncle Sonny Doherty hauling salmon driftnets at Cheekpoint 2006
Photo courtesy of Tomás Sullivan

The Irish have an old phrase for the passing along of local culture and lore.  Ó Ghlúin go Glúin, or from knee to knee.  In short, that stories told to children on the knee of their elders are in turn passed along to the next generation by the same process.  So strong was this connection that the Gaelic word for generation is the same as knee.  But in a fishing community such as mine, and particularly as the old ways were breaking down in my youth, these tales or yarns were told to me while drifting for salmon, in the company of fishermen.  Hence the working title, as we rowed the punts using oars, and the skipper always sat at the aft oar.

The greatest source of my stories has been my father, Bob Doherty; sailor, fisherman, factory worker, gardener and raconteur extraordinaire.  But my father’s ability to tell a story has sometimes caused me difficulties, specifically credibility because when I start with “According to my father…” I have to acknowledged that he was noted for his tall tales.  Pat Murphy, a friend of his who worked with him at the Paper Mills factory in Waterford in the 1970’s recalled to me recently one such tale.

Pat had a car and as they shared the same shift, he brought my father with him to work. One very frosty morning Pat stopped at the collection point but there was no sign of my father. A few weeks later Pat was in the canteen in work and thought he’d blackguard my father and so he mentioned to some of his colleagues about Bob sleeping it in some weeks previous.

My father came straight over and made answer “Well now mates, Pat Murphy don’t believe it, but I have since rectified the problem. I was out on the road one day not long after the incident and I met a man and we fell to talking. I mentioned how on frosty nights the clock don’t work so good. Well the man was an engineer and he was very interested and insisted on seeing it, and after carefully examining it, told me it was a tropical clock. Christ I said, I bought it when sailing overseas in Egypt, but the chap never mentioned that. A few days later a lagging jacket arrived by post from the engineer, and do ye know what? – it hasn’t lost a second since”

According to Pat each of the men looked from one to the other and then to him. But my father wasn’t done yet. “And I’ll tell ye now mates, I haven’t been late for Pat Murphy since”

And all Pat could do was agree, he hadn’t. He was regularly asked by his ex work colleagues for years after if Bob Doherty’s tropical clock was still keeping time.

My father Bob on the left, sailors tattoo proudly displayed

So my father had a bit of a reputation when it came to stories, but over the years I have found more than a grain of truth in many of them as indeed I have found similar in much that I was told as a child.  There’s no stories of tropical clocks here, but who knows maybe there will be in the future!

A prospective outline of the book and chapters


Tides and Tales



Chapter 1              Press Gangs – my father

Chapter 2              Buttermilk Castle – nanny (NLI Photo)

Chapter 2              Mail Packets – Cheekpoint quay and the village Andy joe and others

Chapter 3              Paddle Steamers – Early transport – Christy Doherty (NLI Photo)

Chapter 4              Captain Cook and the Lady that was buried twice (Church photo)

Chapter 5              Dollar bay pirates – walking on the strand

Chapter 6              Weir Wars (photo of Castle Weir – Johnny Moran as a child)

Johnny Moran, a gran uncle who emigrated and died in America. Photographed at the Castle Weir 1930
Photo by Fr Michael Doyle
I got the original from America recently from my cousin Brian Moran to help with my work

Chapter 7              Alfred D Snow – Big Patsy Doherty (painting – Brian for permission)

Chapter 8              Quarantine Station – Eamon Duffin

Chapter 9              Hobblers –

Chapter 10            Coast Guard – Jim

Chapter 11            Spider Light – John –

Chapter 12            Darkie Burns and the Schooner B I – Ellen – (Photo of BI Pat?)

Chapter 13            Banshee Attack at Coolbunnia – Halloween times

Chapter 14            Captain Tebbenjoahnnes lucky escape  (sketch of UC class?)

Chapter 15            Coningbeg & Formby – (Source a hi res image)

Chapter 16            Captain Udvardy – nanny (PM maybe for an image?)

Chapter 17            Escaping the cairngorm

Chapter 18            Pat Hanlon/Altmark my father

Chapter 19            The boys that lassoed the mine and saved the Barrow Bridge

Chapter 20            Campile Bombing -my father

Chapter 21            The Great Western – Tom Sullivan  – (NLI photo?)

Chapter 22            Minaun Hill Cross – my father  (via Brian Moran)

Chapter 23            MV Ocean Coast – Maurice Doherty yarn (Fathers award)

Chapter 24            Building Great Island Power station – Pat Murphy yarn

So my plan this year is to work on creating this book for self publication in the summer. However, I might also submit an outline with some sample chapters to publishers in the hope of securing a book deal. It never entered my head with my first book, Before the Tide Went Out, but my experience is that without publicity and the support of a publisher it is difficult to get the book seen at a national level. I’d certainly recommend self publishing to anyone, but I’m no businessman and a publisher might take the hassle out of stocking, publicity etc which takes so much time.

If you have any comments, feedback or encouragement I’d love to hear it. Here’s to a wonderful 2019 for us all, a year of good health, safety and wonderful stories of local maritime history. Thanks for all your support. Andrew