Lakeside Jamboree

2006 was the centenary of Fr. Pat O’Loughlin’s arrival in Gurteen. Fr. Pat was a colourful individual,
responsible for many projects in the parish, among them, a series of Sunday afternoon dances on the
islet at the centre of Loughnahinch Lake. Two boats carried patrons to and from the dances and the
all-in fee was 6 pence per person. Fr. Pat owned a boat himself and the other one belonged to Dan
Coppinger, who lived near the lake. A wooden floor was used for dancing and local musicians
supplied the music.
We in St. Kerrill’s Committee decided to mark the centenary of Fr. Pat’s arrival in the parish by
organising a special set of events at Loughnahinch on August 13, 2006. We were delighted with the
response. For weeks beforehand large numbers of volunteers came, wielding slash hooks, spades,
chainsaws and various other implements to clear obstacles, trim hedges and level patches of ground in
order to have things ready for the big day. The road leading to the lake was tidied up: thus making it
eligible for the Golden Mile Awards of that year. Patsy Ruane from Mounthazel, gave us a dance
floor and we felt that it was more practical to put it on the banks of the lake rather than on the islet
The day was bright and sunny and this encouraged hundreds of enthusiasts to converge on
Loughnahinch to sample the delights that were on offer. Some danced, others sat and listened to the
music and more took the opportunity to explore the lake and its precincts. Young and old took to the
dance floor to display their footwork, with Tony McLoughlin from Killuane supplying most of the
music. Tony also gave his caravan which was used as an office. Owen Barrett (Ballymacward),
obliged with free parking for motorists.
A fishing contest took place and there was keen competition among the participants to see who would
come out on top. Other attractions included a barbeque and bouncing castle.
One of the highlights of the day was the trip around the lake. P.J. Ruane, Vermount, The Tuohys,
Ballygreaney and Pat Ward from Menlough gave their boats and services free of charge to bring
passengers to the islet. People paid five Euros per trip and this raised more than 900 Euros for The
Galway Kidney Association. The late Tom Roche sponsored The Queen of the Lake Competition,
which was won by Amy Naughton from Gurteen. All prizes were presented at Mitchell’s Lounge
later. Michael Fahy and friends from Loughrea played music for the occasion.
All-in-all it was a most enjoyable experience. Many of those present suggested that it should be made
into an annual celebration. Taking into account the vagaries of the weather, we decided against it.
Uncertain weather was probably why Fr. McLoughlin and friends abandoned the afternoon sessions
that used to take place there all those years ago.
Loughnahinch still attracts anglers and boatmen but numbers have declined in recent years. Pike and
perch are the main fish found there. In former times locals used home-made tackle to fish for them
after work on summer evenings, as well as on Sunday afternoons. Another big treat was a spin on
Mannion’s boat.
The 2006 outing was an exciting experience for youngsters and evoked many marvellous memories
for seniors. Perhaps some brave adventurers will one day select the lake and its environs again as a
venue for open air celebrations. Its undulating landscape and peaceful waters would provide a
pleasant backdrop for such events.
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