Moran’s Poles – a placename, a refuge

I’ve a long association with Moran’s Poles, its provided me with some of my happiest times, and to date, the scene of the worst tragedy in my life. As a child it was a working space, an area where the fishermen hauled out their punts and prongs to dry them out over winter and make repairs and paint them up. It was also a safe anchorage except in easterly wind, and the strongest of SW winds. And there they gathered, the fishermen to work, to smoke, to yarn the short winter days away, and there I sat absorbing all that they said and done and felt part of them.

A summer capture of the sunrise – I have to admit I am surprised at the positive reaction I continue to get to these photos, surprised but very grateful

Now that the fishing has all but gone, and those old fishermen are enjoying their eternal reward, I still cling to the place and still use it to keep the punt safe and overwinter. But there is hardly a day that passes that I don’t walk down and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the place and it was this that started me out on the social media posts, and which on twitter are now found on the hashtag #MoransPolesSunrise. But whether it is dawn or dusk, ships passing, birds flying, swans foraging or young people rowing, I probably take more photos of Moran’s Poles than anywhere else.

Perhaps part of the draw is that it was here that my 8 year old brother Joseph drowned on Sunday 10th August 1980. He set out with an older boy to show him a raft we had made to enter a race in the village regatta. Joesph got onto it, pushed it away from the shore and fell. His lifeless body was retrieved the following Thursday. The people at the time said it was important to have the body back and he was laid to rest in Faithlegg graveyard. But I never feel closer to him then when I am at the Poles. And although I have thankfully passed those years of yearning, of wondering what might have been done different, of wishing I could have been there, of never having made the bloody raft, of, of of… there are still moments.

Nanny sorrounded by her brothers – the boys went to fish from as early as they had the strength to pull the oars. Richard, the eldest is missing from the photo, he emigrated age 16 to New York

The Poles are just below the house where my mother, Mary Moran was born. The name derives from her family and when my grandmother (nanny) was asked she said simply that her father and brothers built the poles as a breakwater. The Moran family, Michael, Catherine (nee Malone – Bill Malone had come in the famine times from Whitechurch on the River Barrow and married a woman named Anne Lynch from the village my grandmother said) Richard, Paddy, Christy, Mickey, Johnny, Willie and the last to be born Maura (aka nanny). I don’t know exactly how many boats the family operated, but I do know there was a punt, a prong and a half decker in the family possession – and there may have been more.

Launching the punt after overwintering and repairs photo includes a pre grey me at the bow, my brother Chris, our father Bob, Gavin and Anthony Doherty and Dermot Kavanagh

The Basic design of the Poles was that it afforded a breakwater to the prevailing westerly winds, but it also did two other things. It maintained a soft mud bank above the poles, where the boats could safely lie when the tide went out and it also acted as a barrier to the carrying of rocks up river when the gales blew and the tides roared and worked their combined attrition on the strand.

Some of the damage that needed to be replaced
Our recent repairs
The crew busy picking up the rocks on the upper side and placing them below the poles

Although some have claimed that the poles are the remenants of an old Scotch weir, I don’t hold with that at all. Not just because I never heard the old lads say it, but because design wise they are not compatible. The scoth weirs poles were futher apart as nets were hung from them, and stretched as far as low water – Moran’s Poles have never gone futher than half way out the strand.

Over the years we have tried to maintain the poles to prevent them disappearing, the most notable work was done with our family, Pat Moran and Maurice Doherty in the 1990’s when we employed a digger to help. In recent weeks we did another patch up job, replacing a number of poles near the shore, and subsquently picked the rocks that had strayed upriver and were a risk to grounding the punts. Its an ongoing job.

The appeal of the Poles on social media has given them a renewed focus. Just as well, as with the loss of the fishery such features and placenames risk being lost to history, and yet such places are rich with it. In recent times I have had several artists share work that has been inspired by the Poles, and most recently Tomás Sullivan used it as a fundraiser for the Darkness into Light appeal. Such attention is welcome and will go some way to maintaing the placename. I also use it as a backdrop for heritage walks and talks. I had hoped to do something similar for this years Heritage Week. However due to the Covid 19 restrictions this is no longer possible. But the Poles will feature, as we have a new idea for this year, an online concept to record the old fishing placenames. More at a later stage.

If you have any thoughts on what you have read, I would love to hear from you at or place a comment on the blog

Passing on the tradtions to the younger crew – no longer able to fish, they can at least learn something of the old ways and keep some of our traditions alive