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The Ardmore Regatta

The Ardmore Journal

4. The Ardmore Regatta

The Regatta in the thirties was a big event in Ardmore and usually held on a Sunday afternoon in mid August depending on tides. Jim Quain, Tom Walsh and Thomas Foley were the most important in the organising committee, and the Dwyers, principally Frank Dwyer took charge of and paid for the fireworks that night.

Johnny McGrath (New Line) had the important job of firing the starting gun; but anybody who remembers the Regatta remembers above all, William Mockler announcing the events in a loud clear measured voice over the megaphone, a delivery that could well be emulated by many present day announcers. His son Paddy was secretary of the Regatta for a few years and remembers people queuing up outside his door to enter -for various races.

There was always keen rivalry in the 4 oared salmon boat race. Crews came - from Youghal, Monatrea, Clashmore, Aglish for this. Jimmie Rooney remembers Buttimer's boat from Youghal being disqualified because it was a pleasure boat, he also remembers that the Clashmore and Aglish crews used boats owned by Rooneys. Jack Barren, Tom Kehoe and two Cotter brothers, he thinks were crew of the Clashmore boat. Jimmie Rooney himself is remembered as being an oarsman of outstanding calibre.

There was also a sailing race. This started and finished at the pier and consisted of a triangular course with one buoy over near the Black Rack and one buoy near the Head. The sails were mostly home-made, Ned Foley and Pat Troy being adept at this. It was in one of those sailing races that the incident recorded in the "Cork Chronicle" took place (Mrs Dowson records a similar incident which took place later, but not in a regatta; there were two incidents which she has no doubt confused.) Tom Walsh, Jim Ouain and Jack Byrne were in the other boat and Jack Byrne rescued Jimmie Troy, and the hapless crew was taken aboard. Pollock's boat the Infanta sank and was retrieved some weeks later.

Incidentally, Pollock's two boats, the "Nancy" and the "Infanta" were stored for the winter in the garage beside Tig-aluinn (now converted into a dwelling house) and their preparation for launching was of major importance every year. It began months earlier, when Patsy Sullivan came to paint them and began his work by cleaning all the crevices with a small quill. When the paint was applied, one daren't produce a ball on the road outside, or indulge in any activity remotely likely to produce a speck of dust. When launching day came, there was no shortage of helpers, as each one got 5/-, no mean amount those days. It was an exciting occasion, all seen in the accompanying photograph where the housemaids in uniform have come down to witness the event as well as small and big boys and various other onlookers.

But I digress. In the regatta programme, an item eagerly looked forward to was the greasy pole (described by Mrs Dowson and L O'Connor). Jack Brien, Main Street was the acknowledged champion here. Larry O'Connor and Georgie Martin provided great entertainment on one occasion distinguishing themselves at a hard bought pillow fight, sitting astride a pole suspended between two boats, and fighting each other with straw filled "pillows".

We youngsters were very interested in the swimming races. Michael Hurley (now 5.3.) was a winner on one occasion and we cheered ourselves hoarse in the Cove, as the "Corkies" were invariably winners in all those races, and we always figured in the "also-ran", or rather "also-swam". The duck hunt we enjoyed; a bunch of us were let loose in the water from a boat between the pier and the cove at the same time as a duck was released, but no matter how near one got, the duck always outwitted its pursuers

Crowds of spectators lined the pier and the cliff to observe the races and there was a great air of excitement and festivity culminating in the fireworks display at night. Our vantage point was generally down at the Streelan, and from there we watched Catherine Wheels etc, taking brief and colourful shape in the night sky. Tom Walsh remembers the wherewithal for this magic, being bought by Frank Dwyer for £12 which later increased to £14. He also remembers one of the fireworks burning a hole in James Dwyer's Harris tweed sports jacket. We weren't aware of calamities like this, and look back nostalgically to what seemed always sun-filled, glorious regatta days, a kaleidoscope of bunting and boats and gulls and swimmers and just people.

Memories Of Larry O'Connor

The "hungry thirties" as they were called because of the hard times, chiefly due to the economic war, caused much hardship, especially to the farming community, but curiously enough it did not hit tourist bright spots especially in the south. Ardmore was very fortunate inasmuch as there was a huge influx of national teachers who had to learn or improve their knowledge of our native tongue and Colaiste Deuglan is remembered gratefully by many a N.T. These teachers invariably brought their families so that every available house was let for most of the summer. Two great attractions took place in midsummer - Pattern Day, in late July, attracted huge crowds of pilgrims doing the 'rounds' at St. Declan's Well, just beyond Cliff Hotel, then known as Kelly's, a very comfortable, homely family-run hotel in a supreme location overlooking the pier and beautiful bay. But for us the youth, as it were, the Regatta was the "piece de resistance". It usually took place on August 15th and the pier itself and the road overlooking it were chock a block from midday on. Somehow, in retrospect, it was always a grand sunny day, at least, I can't recall a bad one.

There was a most efficient, and energetic committee and the pier was full of gay bunting, and decorated small boats, I think that Pollock's big sailer, the Nancy, was the official committee boat for the day. The man I can recall doing trojan work was Jimmy Quain, who seemed to be everywhere at once. He was of course helped by a band of wonderful workers young and old, and the success of each regatta was their reward.

I remember him greasing a huge pole extending out from the pier no rubber gloves or special 'wear' just big handfuls of motorcar grease from a huge can, and then erecting a stiff pole between two boats for the pillow fight. These events, and swimming races, male and female dominated the day's sport and were hugely enjoyed by immense good humoured holiday crowds.

There were several boat races, and one unusual race was a sculling race - just one oar at the stern. Sailing boats were also engaged and one great winner, and most popular one, was Ned Foley, the greatest character in Ardmore, always ready with some wonderful yarns of the sea, U.S. Navy exploits and great tales of storms, and mermaids, all of which, he survived etc.

The sailing events were very exciting, but it was the water events which everyone, young and old understood and could clearly see from the aforementioned vantage point.

Another very attractive event was the duck chase. Two hardy ducks were released some short distance from the pier, and a regiment of swimmers - both sexes, plunged in to try to catch one of the elusive birds. It looked very easy, but I cannot recall a duck ever being actually captured so the prize went to the competitor who got nearest to a duck. Some cute swimmers, hung back in the hope of capturing an exhausted duck, but it never happened, because the ducks could fly if closely menaced.

The Regatta was indeed a red letter day in Ardmore and fun for everyone from tots to centenarians. The day usually ended with a grand dance in Halla Deuglan at which the prizes - cash usually, and most welcome, were presented.

Marvellous fun (free !) and never a discordant note. I hope this gives some idea of the glorious times we enjoyed at the Ardmore Regatta. I hope it may be revived.
Memories Of Rosemary Dowson (nee Pollock)

The regatta always created much excitement among the farmers and fishermen, who had come into Ardmore to celebrate. One of the features was the greasy Pole, this was fixed sticking out over the side of the pier above the water, with a basket tied to its far end that contained a token prize. The object being to edge one's way along the pole and take the prize out of the basket before falling into the sea. A young pig or fat goose having been presented as a prize by one of the farmers.

The first excitement in our household was that Patsy Walsh, who helped in the garden and every other way possible, was seen in earnest conversation with my father, Mr. Pollock, as he asked if he might borrow "The Bathing Costume", and bathing costume it certainly was, white with blue stripes. Sleeves below the elbow and legs that came down to mid calf a terribly unbecoming garment!

The Greasy Pole competition was held at high tide when a great half circle of boats would form on the Boat Cove side of the Pier, then one hapless competitor after another would bravely edge themselves forward along the pole only to suddenly lose their balance and with a great flailing of arms fall with a resounding splash into the sea, this amid the spontaneous cheers of the onlookers who then helped the poor fellow out of the water, while waiting for the next adventurous spirit to try his luck.

Of course eventually the pole became less greasy and then some lucky man won the prize for this was definitely a man's sport, but how often Patsy Walsh was that lucky man I don't know!

Then there were rowing races, the salmon fishing boats and their crews competing against each other in four or six oar events. Sadly our Infanta could not enter these races as she was too light to be a salmon boat.

However one year we tried to coach a four oar team who got on wonderfully well, catching up the leading boat as it rounded the Buoy to make for home - furious at this unexpected challenge the occupants of the leading boat stood up and tried to hit their oncoming competitors with their oars and a great battle took place! No boat was able to get round the buoy but also amazingly no one fell into the sea and eventually the race was cancelled.

I don't know if it was during this Regatta, or not that my parents went out in the Infanta with young Jimmy Troy, my mother Mrs. Pollock in a fur coat and large picture hat to keep the sun off her face.

They had only just got clear of the pier when all three realised that the boat was rapidly filling with water and guessed that Jimmy had forgotten to put the cork in the bung hole.

Mrs. Pollock was a wonderful swimmer and, incidentally, the first person to swim across the bay, from the pier to the Curragh Rocks, so she was not frightened but Jimmy could not swim and was alarmed as the Infanta settled in the water. Tho' being made entirely of wood she floated just below sea level.

My parents put Jimmy between them, so that he could hold on to them both and my mother tucked a toe below one of the Infanta's seats so as to keep contact with her. Soon Dr. Jack Byrne saw their plight and came to their rescue, bringing three very wet and dripping people back to the pier, where they clambered ashore amid much laughter.

Author: Siobhán Lincoln

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