Throwback Thursday: Rowing boat drama off Cork coast

When a little boy’s toy yacht was swept out to sea off Crosshaven years ago, two local men in a rowing boat came to the rescue, says JO KERRIGAN
Throwback Thursday: Rowing boat drama off Cork coast

Children play in the sea at Graball Bay, near Crosshaven, in 1947

DID you ever have a model boat that sailed away and got lost? Noel Dillon has shared his story of just such a childhood event, in our Throwback Thursday.

“Long ago, my small brother Aidan had a toy yacht about three feet long. While young in age, Aidan was very skilful with his hands. He made a lovely sail for the yacht and painted it with great care. He kept this yacht in his bedroom until it was time to go on holidays.

“When July came, the yacht was carefully brought to Crosshaven with the rest of the family. 

"At high tide, Aidan would sail the yacht off the rocks, tethered with a long line, and this gave him many hours of amusement.

“One evening, as I was standing with him on the rocks, the line became limp. It had become detached from the yacht, which then careered on its merry way out to sea.

“I, the elder brother, felt that if I dived in quickly, I could recover the wayward yacht so I made a quick decision to slip out of my trousers and go for it.

“However, my brave decision was quickly reversed when I saw two middle-aged ladies strolling on the beach in our direction. Modesty prevailed, so I quickly zipped up my trousers again.

“All the while, the yacht was going further and further away. Some of our friends began to gather on the rock to share in our grief and sense of loss.

“About then, two beautiful teenage girls, Joan Archer and Mary McCullen, passed by. All our (male) heads were turned in their direction. Suddenly a ‘lightbulb’ flashed in Aidan’s head. ‘Hasn’t Joan Archer’s brother got a boat?’

“Joan’s family had a summer house in a beautiful location at Weaver’s Point facing out to Roches Point lighthouse. Her brother Jim had a small rowing boat which he kept on the beach just above the high water mark for ease of launching.

“Off darted our ‘bright spark’, who raced to the Archers’ house and quickly alerted Jim to the plight.

“With all due haste, the boat was launched and Aidan and Jim set out to pursue the errant yacht. The audience on the rock held their breaths and just gazed after the boat.

“As time went by, the boat disappeared from view over the horizon, and the anxious silence continued. As time dragged on, there was still no sign of the boat appearing, and heartbeats began to quicken. At certain tides, the water in the channel between Crosshaven and White Bay gets quite rough, and this increased our cause for alarm.

A scene from the Crosshaven Regatta held in June, 1977
A scene from the Crosshaven Regatta held in June, 1977

“After a long, anxious wait, however, a speck appeared on the horizon and eventually the shape of the small rowing boat came into view. Our blood pressures began to return to normal. Eventually the two boys came ashore with the little yacht carefully resting on the back of the boat.

“The reason for the long delay was that the two boys were rightly afraid to encounter the rough waters of the channel (neither having life jackets) and decided to row into the calm waters of White Bay and only return when the channel had calmed down. Now that shows good common sense and knowledge of the sea if anything does.

“One wag described the boys as ‘intrepid seafarers’ when the story broke in the village the following day. But the line on the yacht never broke off again!”

A wonderful recollection of a traumatic occasion in young lives, Noel. Thank-you for sharing it.

And it is fascinating how the stories we share in this page every week are read all over the world, and even bring people together who had known each other in childhood but lost touch in the years between.

Breeda O’Connor (nee Galvin), who coincidentally lives in Crosshaven, wrote to say that the Throwback Thursday of January 6, where John Brennan told us of his life growing up in Passage and coming up to the city by bus for school every day, aroused great interest in her household.

“My husband, Austin O’Connor, enjoyed it immensely, as he lived at Victoria Terrace in Glenbrook, and knew the Brennan family very well. He actually does not remember John for some reason but remembers the rest of the family. He would love to know more about them as he hasn’t heard anything for many a long year.

“Austin was born in December, 1945, and is the eldest of 12. He was wondering if there was any chance that John could get in touch with him or email him.”

No sooner said than done, Breeda. We contacted John, and he immediately replied to both Breeda and this writer.

John stated: “I am the oldest of six and lived in the Garda barracks where my father was the Sergeant until he retired in 1963. I left Passage for New York in 1953, which was probably before Austin lived in Victoria Terrace.

“Only my youngest sister Margaret continued to live there and moved to Canning Place when my father retired.

“My mother died in December, 1981, my father in January, 1982. Margaret moved to Carriganaline and died in October, 2013. These were probably the Brennan family members that Austin knew.”

Passage back then, remembers John, had long seen better days, but there was plenty of adventure growing up during the Emergency. 

“Its greatest asset was the proximity to Cork city.” Over the years, John has made several visits home, and remained in contact with friends there.

“In fact, I wrote articles about life in Passage for the Holly Bough. The first one, in December, 1984, concerned the efforts of a group trying to get home from the city during the great fog of December, 1946. I believe that Holly Bough articles can be retrieved online.”

To paraphrase an old saying, John adds: “You can take the man out of Passage but you can’t take Passage out of the man.  That is a reason I enjoy Jo Kerrigan’s column. She brings to life another era long since forgotten.”

Well, thank you for that compliment, John!

But Breeda had yet another coincidence to mention. “In the very same Throwback Thursday (January 6), you shared Dan Scanlan’s stories about living over the Sextant pub.

“I knew all the Scanlans. I was born in Jewtown in 1953 and and was very friendly with Sarah and the boys. They lived in a fabulous place over the Sextant, a huge space.

“I loved going up there. They were a lovely family. It’s always the same: we grow up, start working, then get married and our whole world changes. I haven’t come across any of them in years.

“It would be interesting if Dan remembers me. Definitely Sarah and Sean would. Could you please pass on my regards to the family?

“It was great to read both stories in the Echo. Congratulations and well done to you. Many thanks for the articles and the coincidence involved!”

Well, we’ve contacted Dan Scanlan too, Breeda, and we’ll be delighted if we can bring another set of old friends together again.

END OF AN ERA: The removal of the Savoy Cinema organ in Cork in December, 1970, which featured in a Throwback Thursday article almost a year ago, and on an episode of Nationwide last week
END OF AN ERA: The removal of the Savoy Cinema organ in Cork in December, 1970, which featured in a Throwback Thursday article almost a year ago, and on an episode of Nationwide last week

Meanwhile, did anybody see that Nationwide programme last week, which showed what had become of our beloved Savoy Cinema organ, played in all our yesterdays by the legendary Fred Bridgeman?

It is now happily in full working order at the University of Limerick Concert Hall. They have had it for well over a decade, but the restoration took a long time before it could be seen once more in its former glory.

Even finding enough space for all the organ’s 1,200 pipes necessitated quite a bit of building work.

The Nationwide programme covered many of the main points of the organ’s life, from its purchase by Russell Wynn of Kilbrittain Castle through its move to Limerick and the work done on it since. What it didn’t mention, however, was the part played by Cork’s own Con Healy, as highlighted in this page almost a year ago. Here is what Con told us then:

“To let your readership know, I was one of the people to dismantle and remove the organ from the Savoy. 

"It was bought by Russell Winn. He had a R&D facility in Kilbrittain and he lived in Kilbrittain Castle, which he restored. He had a trove of items, which included some lovely old cars, he collected from all over.

“We began the work in the early summer 1975, I remember the first day we arrived to start to dismantle the organ. We weren’t allowed to begin as there was a film being shown in the afternoon, Magnificent Chivalry. So we watched the film as we had to wait around.

“It was the intention of Mr Winn to install the organ in the tower of his castle home. It took us several weeks to dismantle and remove the organ.

“The console was the piece the public saw, but there were rooms full of pipes and air ducts and cables and brackets. It was all stored in a shed at Kilbrittain Castle, another project on the to-do list.”

Sadly, Russell Winn died in a plane crash in 1980. His effects were auctioned off and the legendary Savoy organ was purchased by Limerick University. Now it is in full splendour, and will be heard in many a future concert, we trust. Wouldn’t it be worth going up there to hear it?

Con was also delighted to see the wonderful picture we managed to unearth from our archives to accompany his memories last year, and was even able to identify some of the people in the photograph.

“Don Hurley is the man putting the platform in place to move the main console off of the stage. He is being watched by Russell Winn on the left. The other people in the picture I don’t recognise. The man in the suit could be the manager of the Savoy?”

But where was Con himself when that photo was taken?

“Well, as it happens, I was organising for a forklift from the Examiner/Echo warehouse, which of course was only just around the corner in Faulkner’s Lane (now alas disappeared forever, replaced by Opera Lane), to lift the console onto our truck. So I missed the photo opportunity.”

So De Paper didn’t just get the picture, it got right into the actual logistics of moving De Monster? Doubtcha boy!

Well, Nationwide may not have realised what a major (and heavy) part you played back then, Con, but we Corkonians don’t forget our own. Great memories!

Who knows what stories and friends from the past your own memories may uncover? Email jokerrigan1@gmail.com. Or leave a comment on our Facebook page: (https://www.facebook.com/echolivecork)

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