Some might say that one event as a volunteer organiser for Heritage Week is noble, but two may be over the top. The truth is, I was thinking the same myself last week as the time clipped along and the workload seemed daunting. Having committed to do a weir building workshop for Water Heritage Day back in June when Sinead Boyle contacted me and invited me to do something in Reginald’s Tower I had to pause. Years back, I was filled with hesitation about any such invites, but in recent years I’ve started to take a devil may care approach – what is there to lose
But the truth is as a volunteer with a day job, the time that goes into such events does take a toll. But to be invited to talk in Reginald’s Tower. How could a Waterford person refuse?
Now before I tell you how it went, can I just mention that this coming Sunday, August 28th, I am appearing on the new RTE Radio 1 show, the County Measure, hosted by Vincent Woods and produced by Regan Hutchins. The lads came out with me some weeks back and we had a wonderful day on the river talking about the fishing heritage of Cheekpoint, what it was like as a child to grow up here and how the loss of the salmon fishery in particular impacts the community. But I also spoke about the future and how a new pontoon (which is since in place) could be just the resource to help move the village forward again after years of inertia. I will be on for 5 mins, although we spoke for over an hour, so I can’t say what will feature, but listen in yourself shur, this Sunday at 10am. Even if you don’t want to hear me, there will be many other fascinating features about Waterford, including my cousin Breda Murphy of Crooke.
When considering the invitation to Reginalds Tower – my first thought was that I could literally talk about any aspect of Waterford’s maritime history and the Tower would be relevant. However my enduring thought was of the Portlairge, the mudboat, tied up on the river beside it, at the London Hulk. So when I agreed to do it, this was my first choice of topic, which was warmly embraced by Sinead and the Reginald’s Tower team. I decided, in an effort to cut down on time, to go with a reading from my second book but of course, I couldn’t leave it there.
I opted to add a powerpoint show and also to go after as many images as I could of crewmen. I also invited some crew histories from descendants of previous captains – the first Vincent Martin was supplied by Richard Englewood. Fintan Walsh wrote a wonderful account of his dad Willie Walsh the second master who was replaced by Mikey Heffernan. John Sullivan also kindly arranged for me to meet with Sonny Condon who had written a fine article on the mudboat featured in Decies previously. David Carroll, Frank Cheevers, Kay Boland and Liam Ryan helped me with images. All in all a lovely collaboration and well publicised and organised by the Reginald’s Tower gang.
Our second event was the weir building – specifically my experiences of working on the repair and the fishing of the traditional Waterford harbour Head Weir. I suppose deciding to build a life-size model of the structure at Moran’s Poles was slightly over the top, but I think it helped to get a true sense of the building. It was later that Tomás Sullivan contacted me to say that he could bring a number of the participants out to look at the weirs, through the support of the Local Authorities Water Programme. Had I known earlier I might not have invested so much of my time into the structure. Another positive of the day is that the Heritage Council sent along a film maker (Peter) to record the event.
I have a number of speaking commitments for the rest of this year – Booze Blaas and Banter, Imagine Arts Festival, and Old Gaffers online talk amongst others. Book three about shipwrecks and other shipping incidents is in outline and provisionally titled “Every Man for Himself” – often used in the past as the final command when abandoning ship. I’m also looking to establish Tides and Tales as a social enterprise, currently, I’m gathering a Board of Directors around me to support me to do this. I will get back to the blogs for September.