Johnny McGrath (New Line) had the important job of firing the starting gun; but anybody who remembers the Regatta remembers above all, William Mockelr announcing the events in a loud clear measured voice over the megaphone, 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 queueing up outside his door to enter for various races.
There was always keen rivalry in the four 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 Rooney's, Jack Barron, 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 Rock 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 Quain 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 besides tigaluinn (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 on got 5/-, no mean amount these 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 grease 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 fought 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 S.J.) 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 Straoilleán, 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 away 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.
This article first apeared in The Ardmore Journal in 1987.
Author: Siobhan Lincoln