Memories and Reflections in Connemara

The euphoria commenced as my father remarked, “who’s coming down to the Connemara shore with me to do a spot of sea-fishing?” One by one we all filtered out of my Aunt Peg’s house down the garden to the first small stone wall. Over we spilled into the field. The excitement was palpable among us all as we threaded our way around the fern bushes and rock outcrops scattered in the field up to the second stone wall.
Hop, skip and a jump and over we went one by one. My cousins from Spiddal knew the lie of the land and quickly led the way. We spotted a hare running across the adjacent field and an array of birds such as blue tits, coal tits, great tits and my favourite a robin redbreast. Onwards we ran noticing a horse in a field and cows in another field further along.
We conquered the marshy area where we strategically used the raised stepping-stones to avoid sinking into the muck!
And at last we reached our destiny, the “shore”. From memory we were greeted by small stones peppered throughout the upper shore. As we clambered onto the mid-shore rocks, many rockpools became visible. An abundance of life dwelled therein the shallows such as sea urchins, minnows, dog whelks, limpets and barnacles had set up home in these pools of water to our delight.
My father cast his line out to sea first. Then my uncle followed. By late August the mackerel were almost jumping out of the water onto the hooks. My maternal grandfather, Padraig mentioned that at this time of year it is common for the mackerel to be so near the water’s surface. My father ventured near the water’s edge, seemingly displaying no fear. The occasional “careful where you step” was called out in our direction to deter any of us kids venturing too near the edge, and safeguard any of us succumbing to the tide. Nevertheless, we pulled our trouser legs up to our knees and into the rockpool we stepped without delay. The water was not too cold. My father would approach us in the pools and later drop a few mackerel into the pool to keep them fresh until our departure, some time later. To help protect biodiversity, small fish caught were tossed back into the sea.
As the waves rolled over the rocks, we were at peace looking out to sea at the horizon. On a clear day like this we could see the Aran Islands. We had caught a total of forty mackerel and pollack, which we carried with us upon our return home. On our ramble home back through the fields, my cousins and I planned what our adventure would be the next day. There was no better way to spend a summer’s evening I recalled. The freedom and space the fields and shore offered were unsurpassable. Not one of us had a worry in the world, as it should be for all children.
When we arrived home, mam had the frying pan at the ready to cook the fillets. The remaining fish were salted and put in the freezer. A delicious tea was enjoyed by all following our day’s endeavours on the seashore. This is one of my favourite vivid childhood memories, that remains with me to this day and for many years to come I hope.