Carrick on Shannon Rowing Club
all the Days
Since Homo Sapiens first appeared on this planet , people have competed . They have competed in war , business , the pursuit of power , and in sport . In sport , they have competed on land , in the air and on water . Competed in endurance , distance , height and speed . They have tried to outdo one another in stamina , strength , length , height , and speed .
It is part of the human spirit to compete . In sport , games , contests , matches , exercises abound . They range from the sublime to the 'down-right' idiotic . Well , compare that sublime Irish game of hurling with that slow moving , obscene 'sport' of Sumo wrestling . On water , man has competed at swimming , diving , surfing , sailing and rowing of every description . No one will ever know when two or three people competed against one another on floating objects . Probably a day or so after mankind discovered some material that floated !
It is recorded that rowing regattas were held in Venice in the year 1300 . Well they have enough of water there and one assumes that the Gondoliers raced their gondolas on the canals . In England , the first regatta was held on the Thames near Putney in 1775 , although the longest established sculling race in the British Isles is the Doggett Coat and Badge , which was first rowed on August 1st , 1716 and is still contested annually . Incidentally , the first University Boat Race was rowed on 10th June , 1829 . The Doggett Coat and Badge is called after its instigator , Thomas Doggett , a music hall comedian . The distinction between a boat race and a regatta is very fine . Therefore we can't be certain when the first contest took place in Carrick-on-Shannon . It is likely that impromptu races were rowed for hundreds of years , since row boats first appeared on the river . Competition between townsfolk and country people using the river for travel would ensure that . Then , the local 'gentry' , the landlords would have used their tenants to compete against the tenants of neighbouring 'gentry' . One can well imagine that these people , with a surfeit of ill gotten money , would be only too eager for an event to bet upon .
In the Leitrim Journal of August 17th , 1854 , there is a report of a rowing match at Carrick . Strangely , though the event is described as a match , there were supposed to be two races held with a punt chase concluding the day's entertainment . There were five boats entered for the first heat and two for the second , with a prize of £5.0s 0d . These boats were , of course , ordinary rowing boats . The second race was for turf boats , with a 'purse' of £1.0.0d . Then followed the punt chase . Apparrently the activities started at 1pm and went on all evening and , in the words of the Journal 'crowds of respectfully dressed people thronged the town' . The paper also reported that 'the river swarmed with all manner of small craft' . The day ended with a big nosh up in the courthouse , served by stewards to friends and supporters of the Rowing Match 'from surplus funds in their hands' . A dance followed . One wonders where they got the funds .
The following year (1855) an advertisment appeared in the journal for Carrick-on-Shannon Grand Annual Regatta (not race) and refers to the committee announcing the second of THEIR Annual Regattas . This gives the impression that there may have been earlier committees who ran 'their' races or regattas . This second regatta was a much more ambitious affair, with four races - one for four oared boats not exceeding 25 feet and with a purse of £15.0.0d . The second was for two oared boats , not exceeding 25 feet and with a prize of £7.7.0d (£7.35) . The third race was for single crewed boats, length or beam not specified , and with a purse of £3.3.0d (£3.15) . The fourth and last race was for two oared turf boats. A spacious Stand House was to be erected 'in a commanding position' , Admission 1/- (5p) . A Grand Ball and Supper was to conclude the evening and a military band attended the regatta . Better still , a Grand Display of Fireworks was put on at 8:30pm . Things were improving! The regatta patronage was under that of Charles M. St. George, Esq. 'and all the gentry of the surrounding neighbourhood' .
Harking back again to the earlier regattas , it is interesting to note that in 1851 there was a regatta in Portumna , Co. Galway . This pre-dates Carrick by three years . One , Colour Sergeant Thomas Faughnan (a Leitrim man) , while stationed with the 69th regiment at Banagher in Co. Offaly mentions rowing '14 miles' to Portumna Lake , to a regatta with a boatman and three officers aboard and arriving back at barracks at 2am., a bit the worse for wear , having had to row against the stream in the dark and with a fair supply of poteen aboard ! One presumes that the boatman and Faughnan did the rowing as the officers could hardly be expected to toil .
As I have mentioned earlier , there may have been regattas in Carrick before 1854 . Carrick-on-Shannon Rowing Club , because of several factors , among them the fact that their clubhouse was burned down by the Black and Tans during the 'Troubles' and the fact that the actual location of the clubhouse was changed from the Roscommon side of the river to it's present location , suffers from a paucity of records . Added to that , local newspapers were few and far between and strangely enough tended to report world news rather than local events . This leaves it very difficult to trace anything of a local nature prior to 1850 or so . It appears that in the early days that the 'gentry' patronised the sport and that the ordinary folk made Regatta Day a big social event . It was summer time , the crops were saved and they had few opportunities of meeting socially . Gaelic matches were played on an irregular basis , soccer and rugby were 'garrison town' games , played by the upper classes , so the people met only at mass and at fairs . The boat races became a social event of great importance , where old friends met once a year .
Hartley Bridge , that hump backed monstrosity on the Cootehall road was only built in 1917 . Prior to this the river had to be crossed by ferry . The cost was 1d per person , though when a second ferryman went into business , he cut the cost to 1/2d . It was an irksome journey from the Cleaheen and Cootehall areas , and anyway money was money . Most of those who traded in Carrick rowed down and back for row boats were much more plentiful on the river then . It is believed that out of this the first rowing matches developed . Townies against country folk . Parish against parish . The road system was poor and not many small tenant farmers had horses and carts , so that the river was put to far greater commercial use than now . Possibly the 'gentry' saw the possibilities of racing their tenants against neighbouring landlord's tenants . There were many landed 'gentry' in the area and from reading any old newspapers available , they seem to have sponsored regattas financially and to have taken part in them , though in cases , they had their boats crewed by persons , possibly tenants , while they looked on and presumably wagered on the results .
The first newspaper to appear in this area was the Roscommon Journal and Western Impartial Reporter . It was founded in 1829 and was published in Roscommon town . An examination of the early copies fails to yield any information about races or regattas . Strangely enough , like all other local papers of that time and for years after , local news was scarce and the papers concentrated on foreign news - wars , disasters and the like . I find this hard to understand , as those who would be buying the local papers would , in most cases , be in receipt of the Dublin papers and in several cases , the London papers . At two (old) pennies , the local papers were dear for the ordinary man in the street and the Indian Mutiny or the Crimean War would be of little interest to them . I assume that whatever local papers were bought by the 'common' people , were shared and passed through many hands .
As I mentioned earlier , the first report that I can find of competition on the river at Carrick is in the 1854 Leitrim Journal , which was published in Carrick . In this short report , a stand house is mentioned , and though this would appear to have been the first 'Rowing Match' , (to quote the Journal) , the question arises as to why the stand-house was there at all . A committee existed and large numbers of people thronged the quays , and the town 'respectfully dressed' . The river swarmed with all manner of small craft and the Great Western Railway's steamer was crowded with the elite 'of this and neighbouring counties' . If so many attended and a stand-house was erected , there must have been previous 'Races'. Of course , the stand may have been a temporary structure, but how did the organisers anticipate it's necessity?
There is no further mention of races or regattas until the advertisement in the Journal of 22nd July , 1858, in which the regatta is described as 'the fourth of their Annual Regattas'. 1854 to 1858 inclusive is five , so why their fourth? One missed or the committee couldn't count? By 1858, as well as a military band attending and 'A Grand Display of Fireworks', a greasy pole competition had been added. There were four races, four oared, two oared, single oared (one person, not one oar!) and a Punt Chase. A Mr. Thomas Rutherford was Hon. Sec and Treasurer and the Stewards were Pierce Simpson Esq., Capt. Sadlier, late of the 41 Regiment; William Arthur Lauder Esq., J.P., 'Monsieur' Victor S. Levy De L'Herault and Hyacinth Dixon, Esq. The Regatta started at 12 noon sharp. The Regatta was run on a Tuesday 17th August and continued on the following day with 'any races not concluded and Sack Races and Ass races, with other amusements…'. I give hereunder the full report, with it's suggary and patronising terminology, from the Leitrim Advertiser.
Carrick-on-Shannon Regatta, 1858 . Last week the annual regatta on the Shannon came off with more than usual eclat. At an early hour the people of the surrounding country poured into town to witness the days' amusements, which the Stewards and Secretary had prepared with no niggard hand. The flags of all nations decorated the banks of the beautiful Shannon, barges floated majestically to and fro, their bows and sterns decorated with flags, banners, streamers, &c. A German Brass Band was in attendance, playing enlivening and stirring airs. The river and it's banks were alive with youth and beauty - fair faces and fairy forms - all classes commingled, the aristocrat and the peasant - on whose countenances beamed the smile of happiness and plenty.
Some uneasiness was manifested at the non-arrival of the four-oared gigs which had been promised, but through inadvertance of the owners did not arrive - however the stewards did all in their power to amuse the assembled thousands who left the place highly satisfied.
The first race, two-oared boats for a prize of £5, second boat £2; best of heats, was well contested, the boats coming in as follows, the winner being ahead six boat's length.
First Race: Mr. C. Moraghan, 1st; G.H. L'Estrange, Esq. 2nd; M. Church, Esq., 3rd. Second Race: Mr. C. Moraghan, 1st; M. Church, 2nd; R. Lawder, Esq. 3rd. Third Race: Catch race of Turf Cots, eleven boats started for the race and after a picturesque and exciting struggle was won by Mr Michael Hagarty, Mr J. McDermott, being second.
The fireworks by Kirby, of Dublin, was magnificent, and was very much enjoyed by the people. In fact, nothing could go off better than the days' sport.
Second Day. First Race: Mr. O'Connor, 1st; Mr. Rutherford, 2nd; Mr. Backhouse, 3rd. Second Race: Mr. McDermott, 1st; Mr. Claney, 2nd. Third Race: Mr. C. Moraghan, 1st; L'Estrange, Esq. 2nd; M. Byrne, 3rd.
In the evening ass, sack and fool races took place and a monster dance. Several prizes were awarded to the lovers of fun.
On Thursday, Charles M. St. George Esq.., Mrs. St. George, accompanied by Miss Helena Hallberg and an officer of the Sardinian Army arrived at Church's Hotel where Monsieur Victor S. Levy De L'Herault had previously arrived.
Throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century, the regattas seemed to have prospered. Contemporary reports and advertisements in the Leitrim Journal and in the Leitrim Advertiser show that it was growing, in that crews were travelling from locations other than Cleaheen, Arrow etc. the regatta or races, as the event was sometimes called, usually took place in mid August. The Midland Railway had been completed in 1862 and excursions were running from Mullingar and Sligo. These excursions were so popular that the 'Advertiser' reported in 1869 that the Mullingar train was so crowded 'that people took seats on top of the carriages'. That's a quaint way of saying that they 'bummed a lift on the roof'. That year the fireworks were supplied by a Mr. Kirby of Dublin and the band of the Leitrim Rifles provided music during the racing. It would appear from the 1869 report that clubs from afar - Dublin, Galway and Athlone had appeared at Carrick-on-Shannon but in that year the Athlone club decided that it wasn't worth the effort of travelling, as the first prize was too small. Athlone did come in 1870 (maybe because of the fact that Mrs. M. St. George had promised to provide a challenge cup, worth £20.0.0'). There is no mention of this cup in 1870 but Athlone won the most valuable race, in cash terms, worth £10.0.0d. The other races had prizes of £5.0.0d and £2.0.0d and there was a special race for army personnel, with a first prize of £30.0.0d. Apparently the army didn't confine their fighting to the battlefield, as the race had to be called off, when a squabble started with the stewards over some aspect of the course. Drogheda and Dolphin and Commercial also had crews at that regatta.
Then, as now, the committee couldn't charge people for standing on the bridge or river banks and money was raised by subscription prior to the event. The lists were published and in these lists one can get a mental picture of the social structure of South Leitrim and of the 'pecking order'. For example, the 1870 list is headed by The Earl of Granard, with £5.0.0d, John Brady Esq., M.P. and Major Ormsby Gore, M.P., also contributed £5.0.0d while William Peyton and Patrick Barrett paid £4.0.0d each. After that, the lesser beings include V. Revd. Dr. Dawson, two doctors, Bradshaw and Tiernan; a Queen's Counsel (the equivalent of an S.C. now), C.H. Hemphill and surprise, surprise, T.Y.L. Kirkwood (of Woodbrook). Anyone familiar with the story of the Kirkwoods and their gambling and complete inability to manage money will be surprised to find that T.Y.L. paid that year anyway. He probably promised to pay and eventually did. That was his style. He paid his grocer once a year and then under duress.
For some reason, probably because hand bills were used, no mention appears in the local papers again until 1869. At a meeting of the 'stewards' in the Town Hall, it was decided to hold the regatta on 15th August, on which date it was held. The later report in the Advertiser, is short, but in 1870, a notice appeared at which the 'Stewards' adopted several resolutions. Among these were that the annual accounts be published in the local papers and another resolution was that an account be opened 'in the Bank'. A long list of subscribers is given, with subscriptions from £5.0.0d down through a half Guinea (10/6d or in today's money, 52 and a half pence) ending with one subscription of 1/(five pence). The total collected came to £105.10.3d. The expenses incurred in running the regatta worked out as follows: Prizes £52.0.0d., Fireworks £15.10.0d (£15.50), Band £2.0.0d (bands came cheap then!), Printing, stationery, advertising and other expenses £9.15.6d (£9.771/2). Balance left over £25.4.9d (£25.24). The actual cost of running that regatta was £80.5.6d (£80.28). Among the crews taking part were Drogheda, (who brought their own boat), Athlone, Dolphin and Commercial. The usual ball was held - Carrick was famous for holding balls, though some of them weren't quite the thing. The one in 1855, in the courthouse, the catering for which was done by the Imperial in Sligo, was a flop 'from the ungentlemanly conduct of some would-be gentlemen' and apparently the function had to be abandoned, 'as all respectable people left in disgust'. Were these the 1855 version of skinheads?
Again, for some unknown reason, no mention appears concerning the regatta or rowing until 1879. Again, this may be because either hand-bills or a Town Crier were used to advertise. I don't know if Carrick had a Town Crier but it's most likely that it had at least one. In my time in this county, Mohill had one (that was in the 1960's), The 'Advertiser', (which was printed in Mohill), reported that the regatta came off 'with eclat', under the personal direction of Mr. Cecil C.B. Whyte, D.L., with Mrs. Whyte making the special badges for the stewards 'of silver and blue, with the seal of the old Corporation of Carrick attached to them'. The day was exceptionally fine and there was an immense attendance 'and good order prevailed throughout the day'. The following clubs appeared to have entered crews: Sligo, Pembroke, Commercial, Neptune and 'Kingstone Boat Club'. This may be Kingstown, now Dun Laoghaire. Boyle also entered a crew or crews. A canoe race, as well as the usual turf boat race, was also held. There was a duck hunt, whatever that was and 'a struggle on a greased pole for a pig'. I presume that the pig was the prize and that the unfortunate animal wasn't on the greased pole. The fifth race had to be declared void, as the stewards decided that it was 'foully run' and August 15th was set for a re-run.
Again a long silence in the local paper. The next regatta mentioned is that of 1900. The 'Advertiser' reported that the regatta would be held on August 6th and a later edition reported that the shop attendants in Mohill wanted the day off, instead of the 15th, which they normally got. This was to give the assistants the opportunity of attending the regatta, 'seeing that Mohill is so far behind in the matter of sport'. Another edition of the same paper stated that the Midland and Great Western Railway were selling tickets to Carrick regatta 'on all trains leaving Longford and Sligo'. The fares were at single prices for the return journey. A sample given was ex Dromod, 1st class -3/-(15p), Second Class 2/6 (12 and a half pence) and third class -1/6d (7 and a half pence).
In 1901 the regatta was held on the first Monday in August and for the first time, a women's race is listed. Carrick had a crew entered but Dolphin won. Carrick lodged an objection, stating that Dolphin crossed into their lane. There is no follow up report as to the result of their objection. In the 1902 event the same cup was won by Lady Elisabeth, with Dolphin second. Trinity and Pembroke, together with University are mentioned, as are visitors from Cork Exhibition and Shandon Boat Club. There was also a 'pair-oared Pleasure Boat Race' and there was a race for four oared Rowing boats. In 1903 I find the first mention of the North Shannon Yacht Club, who had a race of their own for a cup of the same name. Islandbridge B.C. are mentioned also for the first time. The Ladies Challenge Cup was won by University B.C., (the boats used were four oared tub outriggers). By 1904 Carrick R.C. had become Carrick-on-Shannon Rowing and Athletic Club. That year also (according to the Observer), the regatta was held on August 1st, with the first race at 11:30am. There were eight races and the day concluded with a 'Grand Display of Fireworks'. The programme included that day a swimming race and Carrick's Emmet Brass Band attended. A splendid new boathouse had been erected in 1905, the club was soliciting funds to pay for same and for money to buy a couple of new outriggers. This boathouse, which was on stilts, (yes, stilts) was located more or less in the same position as the present boathouse. The area was a swamp, hence the stilts. This left things rather sticky as the Shannon rose and fell. At low water, during the summer, it made launching of boats awkward. The original boathouse was on the Roscommon side of the river, somewhere opposite the Waterfront Bar and Super Valu. Naturally, there are no photos of it and nobody can remember it but one can imagine what it was like. Gym, bar and saunas etc! It was most likely just a shed for storing the few boats that Carrick had. In 1905 the regatta again reverted to a military band, (Emmet Brass Band must have fallen down on the job). August 7th was the day that year and there were eight races, a swimming match and a fireworks display. Strangely, the starter was a Thomas J. McDermott, Esq., C.C. I presume that C.C. indicated (incorrectly) that he was a member of the county council and not a Catholic Curate. A sailing race was included as were races for rowing boats and for the Ladies' Challenge Cup. It's interesting to note that entry fees were being charged and certain races were run under the rules of the I.A.R.U. The holding of balls seemed to have been abandoned. In spite of having a new boathouse, the committee met in the so called Town hall. There probably weren't any facilities in this new boathouse, other than storage space for boats. Mr. Sam Holt was doing his best to get the crews training and a suggestion was made that prize money for local competitors be increased. Apparently, the bigger clubs who competed and won were coming out of Carrick regatta financially well 'done by', though it's doubtful if any of the prize money ever reached home! Also in the 1905 regatta Varsity entered under the name 'Meander', for what reason nobody could understand. Carrick Ladies won the cup for the first time ever. 1905 was an unusual year. The Rowing Club had a dramatic group attached to it, who gave performances in the courthouse. This was a novel way of raising funds. That year they put on 'The Colleen Bawn' and as the Emmet Brass Band had 'died', Boyle Military Band attended and provided the musical accompanyment for this Irish drama.
Again there is a gap in the local papers regarding rowing and regattas until 1912. In that year, Carrick's Junior four won the Carrick-on-Shannon Challenge Cup and £30. The crew was comprised of John Morahan (stroke), Denis Cassidy, John Dunne, Jim Cummins and V. Cox (cox). Otherwise, it was a bad year for Carrick. Constable Conlon of the R.I.C., while cycling home to Keadue, having been on duty at the regatta, was struck by a car near Leitrim. He died shortly afterwards. Constable Conlon was a native of Ballymote, Co. Sligo. On the morning of the regatta Mr James Shaw Notley from Derrybrack, Dromod, while sailing his yacht up river to the event, in which he was to compete, lost his life. His Yacht 'Wild Rose' capsised near a spot called the 'white woman', throwing both himself and his son into the river. His remains lie in Annaduff cemetary close to St. Anne's Church.
In 1909 Carrick R.C. affiliated to the Irish Amateur Rowing Union. It's remarkable that in 1905 the local officials insisted that some of the races be rowed in accordance with IARU rules.
Between 1912 and 1929 nothing appears in the local paper about rowing or regattas. In 1912 Ireland was on the brink of rebellion and the rest of the world on the brink of war. Around that time, motor boat racing became a feature of the regatta. A sports writer noted at the time that 'motor boat racing is the boat racing of the future, and the other forms will just fade away'. How wrong he was! The boats used were rowing boats with out-board engines. Throughout these years, as well as the Great Western running excursions, the narrow gauge line, the C.L. R.Co. was running excursions to the regatta. One could travel from Belturbet via Ballinamore, Mohill and all intermediate stations, to Dromod and there switch to the Great Western line to Carrick.
The Cavan Leitrim Railway Company made quite a good thing out of the regattas. As well as spectators, many northern crews used the line, though they rarely, if ever, brought their boats by rail. Travelling to Carrick regatta was, to many crews, an adventure in itself and every mode of conveyance was used. Athlone R.C. rowed to Carrick on many occasions. The Dublin crews hadn't any great problem because of the railway, but Cork, Limerick and Galway crews had to put quite an amount of effort into reaching Carrick. As motor transport, mostly cars were used, crews couldn't bring their own boats. Carrick R.C. never saw them stuck. This was a feature of Carrick Club - that generosity, plus the natural friendliness of the local people helped to keep the regatta 'alive'. Another mode of transport used was the charabanc, (a horse drawn wagon type vehicle, in which usually the passengers - up to twenty - sat side by side). These would have been used in the pre-train days during the wars. Crews came by motorcycle and side car and some used the Ballinamore/Ballyconnell canal to row to Carrick. Some of the more local crews, Cleaheen, Cootehall, Ballinafad, Rock O'Doon, Carnado and Drumsna either walked or cycled, while their boats came by horse cart. There were tales even of competitors cycling very long distances, say from Galway or even Limerick and competing the same day.
In those early days, accommodation was a bit of a problem and many a crew slept in local hay sheds. In later years, Church's Hotel and the Bush Hotel were extensively used.
In 1919 a Maiden Four won at Dublin Metropolitan Regatta. This was the Blue Riband of Maiden Four racing, as Dublin Metropolitan was the largest and most prestigious in Ireland. The winning crew were John Dunne (bow), M. McGowan, Jim Cummins, T. McGowan (Sen.), and John Morahan (cox). Contrary to common belief, the club functioned during the Great War and it appears that regattas were held. There were no regattas in the years 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924 because of the state of turmoil which existed. The civil War was raging and Leitrim was probably the last county to quit fighting. To add to the club's misfortune, the boathouse was burned down by the infamous Black and Tans. The story is that shortly after the Sheemore ambush (on March 4th, 1921), a party of Tans ran amuck through the town. There had been only one fatality at Sheemore, a Captain in the Bedfordshire Regiment but many of the enemy were wounded. What really hurt the British was the brilliance with which the operation was planned and then carried out. In any case, it didn't take a lot to set the Tans on the rampage. They threw a grenade at the window of the Irish House. It missed the window, bounced back and blew a hole in the street. Continuing on, they turned their attention to the boathouse. They burned the boathouse to it's stilts. Why they picked on the boathouse is hard to imagine, but the Tans weren't that selective. It is on record that around the turn of the century that the club more or less passed from the hands of the so called 'gentry', into the hands of the common people. Consequently, the club would have a fairly large contingent of Roman Catholics, (who, in the eyes of the Tans, were highly suspect), and the Gaelic Athletic Association was connected around this time with the Club. It's also on record that the Volunteers marshalled the crowds during the 1919 regatta. I find this a bit hard to swallow, as the R.I.C. had a massive contingent of men in Carrick. It may be that the Volunteers acted as marshals around the actual site and not on the streets. Any if not all of the above aspects would be sufficient reason for the Tans to burn the boathouse. Around the same time the 'Observer' was partially burned by the same gentlemen. Pat Dunne, the owner, was interned in Ballykinlar for his outspoken criticism of the excesses of the British. His sister continued printing the 'Observer' with what machinery was left. Unfortunately, no copies of the paper were lodged with the British Library for most of 1920, all of 1921 and 1922. Consequently, it isn't possible to obtain microfilm of these papers from any source. The 'Leitrim Journal' had ceased publication in 1872 and the 'Advertiser' (printed in Mohill) ceased in 1924. Copies of this paper for the years 1917 to 1922 including most of 1921 are not available either. This leaves a 'gap' from 1917 to 1922, where there is no record at all of the goings on in the county.There was so much activity, with the end of the Great War and the struggle for independence in Ireland, that it's doubtful if any paper would be bothered with the rowing scene in Carrick. In 1916, the year the Rebellion started, the regatta officials were Dr. K. Delaney, Chairman; Tom Murray and Sam Holt, joint Secretaries and Thomas J. McDermott, Starter. Some of the committee were John J. Flood, J.J. Duignan (father of the late Ging), Bernard Reynolds, Canon O'Reilly, Fathers O'Reilly, Fathers Newman and Foley (both Curates), 'and many others'. This is from the ' Leitrim Observer' and the 'many others' indicates that the 'Observer' wasn't that interested in the activities of the regatta committee. Even though there were no regattas from 1920 to 1924, rebuilding of the boathouse commenced and was completed in 1923. It was relocated on solid ground and consisted of a single large galvanised shed without toilets or meeting room. 1925 saw the regatta resumed and it ran through the thirties and World War II without interruption ever since. There were good years and bad years. Money, or rather the lack of it, was always (and still is), a problem. The Club was fortunate in having many benefactors. One of these was the aforementioned Pat Dunne. He literally 'carried the club on his back' at times and a win of any sort, anywhere, was cause for celebration. No one knows if any or all of the money he provided, in the bad years, was ever repaid. Another benefactor was the Building Contractor, Joe Murphy, now no longer resident in Ireland.
The Divine Service conducted in St. George's Church of Ireland church evolved in 1948. The Protestant community, at the time, held an evening Service and members of the Northern clubs attended. Gradually it became a Regatta Service, to which every club sent it's members wearing their R.C. blazers, ties etc. Crossed oars were displayed as were the colours of the various clubs taking part in the regatta. I'm sure that Canon Slator, who is retired but fortunately still with us, will forgive me for mentioning that he always liked the Roman Catholics, or as many as possible , to take up the collection. He figured that they would collect more than members of his own persuasion. And he was right too! After Service, refreshments were provided in the Victoria Hall. All of this enhanced Carrick's reputation for hospitality and civility and made the regatta a 'must' for practically every club in Ireland.
Carrick's Golden Era began in 1969 when that brilliant International Coach, Aidan Nangle commenced coaching School Girls. A crew went to Bedford Regatta in that year. The four were then all under 14 years old. They also competed in 1970 and 1971. On each visit to Bedford, which is an International Regatta, they reached the finals. On their disbandment one girl continued on as a single sculler. Mary Reynolds won the Irish Girls Championship in 1972. She went on to take silver at the Home Countries Regatta in Nottingham in the same year. In 1973 and '74, she took home the gold medal. A Girls' Coxed Four, also trained by Nangle went unbeaten in 1975 at seven regattas. They went on to take gold at the home Countries Regatta at Bedford in the Under 18 Championship.
Then came Frances Cryan. Her story is told elsewhere, with it's ups and downs, (she had more ups than downs). Her worst down was that dreadful decision not to send her to the Los Angeles Olympics and ended her career. Frances and Nangle together were a wonderful combination, both utterly dedicated and prepared to give their all.
The club still survives, struggling, as always with financial problems. A new clubhouse was officially opened by President McAleese in July of 1998. The course now used is 500m long and is suitable only for sprint racing. The original course was one and a quarter miles long but was shaped like an 'L' or 'U' and was considered unfair. In any case, modern day boats wouldn't be able to manage the bend on it. The waters around Carrick are considered excellent and are used by many clubs for training. The last adult crew that Carrick put on the water was in 1986, when a Novice Eight took part. This was a crew trained by Gabriel Cox.
Looking back through some old documents, I see that in the 1925 regatta, when the event rose like a phoenix from the ashes, that the sailing boat event was still on as was the Ladies Challenge Cup. In the sailing race, there were five entries, O'Hara's of Athlone, Moffatt's of Annaduff, Duignan's of the same address, Kavanagh's of Roosky and Lyttle's of Ballinafad. All had to be members of the North Shannon Yacht Club and the first prize was a silver cup and the second was a silver tankard. There was also a motor boat race but entries were only taken on the day. Ordinary rowing boats had a race, with £4.0.0d as first prize and one pound as second prize. There was also a swimming race, a punt chase and a water tournament, whatever that was. St. Joseph's Brass and Reed Band from Boyle attended and the third number was that Damnable tune one hears the Irish and English singing in every pub and night club in every holiday resort. It is and always will be. They call it 'La Paloma'. A dance was held in the properly named County Hall (the 'Town Hall), with O'Hara's Syncopated Orchestra. Why O'Hara's syncopated, I don't know. I suppose it was the done thing then. (Syncopated is defined in Chambers as altering the by transferring the accent to a normally unaccented beat!). Now you know! Admission was Ladies 7/6 (37,1/2p), gents 10/- (50p), and a couple 15/- (75p).
The head of the River, mentioned earlier, was in 1986 and was to celebrate 150 years of rowing in Carrick. Every major club in Ireland sent crews, Harmac, the recording company, were main sponsors, while Digital from Galway electronically timed the event. Galway Amateur Radio looked after communications. An English crew, Marlow entered. Their stroke was Stephen Redgrave, a four times Olympic Gold Medalist. The course was 3 and a quarter miles and the landing place was Leitrim Village. It was a huge success. It was the last major 'fling' Carrick R.C. had, as the regattas though still being held, are lacking badly in support from the public. TV and other sporting events are pulling the crowds away.
Today, the club has no adult crews. Shifting population, the sheer strenuousness needed and the dedication and time needed all keep would be members away. Luckily however, the younger generation are more sportsminded and the club has quite a large number of school boys and girls in training. A very dedicated committee still runs the show, headed by the President and Coach, Tony Keane. He gets plenty of assistance from the rest of the committee.
During the fifties and sixties and up to recent times, the club, as a method of raising funds, ran so called 'carnivals'. These were dances (not balls), and were usually either in the Gaeity (Cinema), or in a marquee. These large tents, were rented from the late Pat Heeran, Leitrim Road and were stewarded by club members. In 1956, for example, the famous Flying Carlton Band and Trevor Jenkins Broadcasting Orchestra played at dances. The same year, Jimmy Compton (from Belfast), also provided the music, as did the local Frank Murray's band. These functions went on all night. They usually started around 10pm and ended at 6am. They made some money for the club. Apart from this aspect, they provided entertainment for the visiting oarspeople and the local people. Unfortunately, the discos put an end to the ballroom dancing and 'singing pubs' were no help either.
The Regatta Service died a natural death about seven years ago. Carrick's rector, Rev. Canon Biggs, was transferred to Boyle and wasn't replaced. Crews came the morning of the regatta, raced and went home. And as a local Church of Ireland member remarked 'who wants to go to Church nowadays'. It is a pity that this side of the regatta died, as it was very much part of the 'goings on'. The Church of Ireland school, which was located where the AIB car park is now, was used extensively as accommodation for visiting crews earlier on. The Anglican Church always had a strong connection with the regatta.
The Garda R.C., which is still in existence, was founded by an ex Carrick oarsman, Jim Maguire. As a result, Garda and Carrick were very close and took part in each other's regattas on several occasions. Carrick oarspeople are always very welcome at the Garda Club at Islandbridge. The the Commissioner of the Gardai was very sports orientated and gave the R.C. every encouragement. Garda was one of the three who voted for Frances Cryan's entry for the Los Angeles Olympics.
Carrick's regatta is now but a pale shadow of those held in the good days but it still survives. It's reassuring to know that it's the oldest institution in the county, if not in the province. It was in existence before the formation of the GAA (founded 1884), the I.R.F.U. (1879), the F.A.I. (1878) and the I.A.R.U. (1899) and it's continuity has never really been broken. Even during the twenties, when the country was in the throes of war, both for independence and later during the Civil War, oarsmen continued to train, even though no regattas were held. The present committee is very active and the fact that they have so many youngsters in training augurs well for the future, The town of Carrick is proud of it's Rowing Club and support it financially and morally. Long may it be so.