I had grown up on the North Circular Road in Limerick and spent many a happy hour fishing for sticklebacks and minnows, in a tiny stream, down at the bottom of Good’s Lane. With shoes abandoned we would paddle and pore over each catch as it frantically swam around in the bottom of our jam jars.
“One, two, three, four, five once I caught a fish alive,
Six, seven, eight, nine, ten, then I let him go again.”
And we always did!
Barrington’s Pier was another of my childhood haunts where I would roller skate along its ultra smooth pink path and wave at the great steam ships that used to pass up from the Estuary, en-route to Limerick Docks. The Irish Larch, The Irish Spruce and the Irish Pine, large, grey and impressive, they glided past the pier, where they were greeted by shouts of delight especially when a wave of recognition was reciprocated from a watchful sailor or three!
One day a massive hoot of recognition from the great funnel reduced us teenage girls to almost mass hysteria.
My husband Leslie, lived in Castleconnell and during our “whirlwind” courtship of seven years, we used to walk the riverbanks of the Shannon, every weekend.
Each season, had its memories, it was always intriguing, sometimes majestic, often inviting, and yet it could terrify and intimidate.
We loved and respected it.
We often wondered if the family jewels of the Massey family were still at the bottom of the Falls of Doonass where they lay after the tragic drowning of Sir Hugh Massey’s daughter Lady Mary Massey.
The story goes, that one dark night, she persuaded two boatmen, to row her across the raging river, some say to elope with her unapproved lover, others believe it was to make up after a falling out,
She was laid to rest in All Saints Church of Ireland, in the Family vault while the two unfortunate boatmen were buried in a flowerbed in front of the Church.
The village of Castleconnell, just 7 miles from Limerick City, within earshot of the river, was always going to be the location for our forever home.
Any June or August Bank Holiday weekend spent at home, when the world travelled towards the Wild Atlantic Way, and main roads became slow moving car parks, we, enjoyed the peace and quiet of the Shannon with its luminous dragonflies, darting kingfisher and that motionless heron, watching and waiting.
What joy to swim in amber, clear, water and to lie out on hot rocks.
Every season brings its moods and the Shannon is no exception.
We too, have stood and watched with grieving relatives as the Rescue helicopter patrolled up and down the raging floods, searching for a missing person swept away, having underestimated the power and the complexity of a raging torrent, or anxiously watched the rising water levels, knowing that family homes may be flooded, yet again.
Up stream and down stream the river spreads and melts into flooded fields. Boundaries and roads vanish and we watch the weather forecast with trepidation.
Water levels rise above the top of wellington boots and cars rev their engines in low gear as they plough a watery furrow, creating sweeping waves, left and right over unknown depths.
Tarmacadam lifts and blisters in protest and in the shallow water hundreds of doomed and sodden bleached earthworms drown and sink dead white against the dark road.
Homes are destroyed as water continues to rise, smelling of sewage, lifting highly polished wooden floors as family memories are reduced to sodden heaps.
We know that the floods will disappear, farmers will reclaim their lands that the river has borrowed, and yes minnows and sticklebacks will return to jam jars to be studied by fascinated children who will remember too.