Growing Up By The Water

Water, water – growing up near it, you never want to be away from it.
I was brought up in Sandymount. Well, the address was Sandymount, but to us it was the tail
end of Irishtown, which is the tail end of Ringsend.
My dad had gone to sea as a young man, with Irish Shipping, and due to an accident at sea he
had to have a leg amputated. When the accident happened they were nearer to England so he
was brought to a hospital there. The Second World War was on. He was only seventeen years of
age when he went to see, and twenty years old when he came out. Went in a child and came
out a man. My dad never lost his love for the sea, or should I say senitmentality for it. When
he’d have a few drinks on board he’d sing “Goodbye, old ship of mine, No more I’ll sail the blue,
For my days are through sailing on the blue, Goodbye, old ship of mine”. Christmas morning he
always threw a holly wreath into the sea. He’d tell us it was for all his old shipmates. That was
my dad.
Part of my dad’s compensaiton from Irish Shipping was a job on the docks hiring and ifring men.
He could not do it, so he set up his little business selling potatoes, vegetables, lfowers, chickens,
rabbits, coal, turf, and of course ifsh, from his horse and cart.
Fish was always in my family. My great-grandparents, the Purcells from Ringsend, were
My great-granduncle Daniel drowned ifshing at sea, and when I was a child my Aunt Maggie
used to tell us my great-grandmother would sit in the park looking out to sea, waiitng on her
son to come home. You could see the river from the park.
During the salmon season the men ifshed the river down the Pigeon House Road. My dad also
ifshed it. I could wake up in the night to go to the toilet and the bath would be full of salmon for
my dad to take to the ifsh market early the next morning to sell. Harry, the man who helped my
dad, would arrive with the horse and cart. They would load up and set off. They had to be there
by four o’clock in the morning to make the early morning ifsh auciton.
The yard were the horses were kept was on Cambridge Road. It’s the road where Ringsend
College is now. Other people had their horses there too, so there was always lots of acitvity at
the stables. We kept two horses, one for the light work and one for the heavy work. The heavy
work was mainly the winter work, carrying coal and turf as well as the regular goods. As
children we had to clean the stables and keep everything itdy. When the stables were cleaned
out we would take our handcart and go up the road to a joinery to get wood shavings for the
lfoor. Our greatest joy was to get as many bags as we could carry on our cart and make the
stables cosy for the horses. We really loved them. When I look back, we had no fear, and our
parents never worried about us being there.
Summer holidays were the best. We would wake up in the mornings, get all our jobs done and
head down to the strand or the Shelly Banks, with bottles of tea and batch loaf sandwiches.
Once we near the water we were happy.
Years later, when I moved away from the sea, my house was near a river which I could see from
the house. If I felt lonesome I would look at the river, and the view of the water would make me
feel better.