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2005 Season

 

Tragedy on The River

By Des Smyth

On Friday evening , May 19th , 1933 an appalling drowning tragedy occurred on the River Shannon near Carrick-on-Shannon when a Senior Crew from the Carrick-on-Shannon Rowing Club out for a practice row , got into difficulty near the "Four Poles" , resulting in the loss of three lives . The two survivors were George Rogan who died some years ago and Paddy Harvey . Any day that is fine Paddy* can be seen down by the river and never misses the Annual Regatta . Paddy recalled for me the fateful evening of 61 years ago .

PADDY HARVEY - Regatta Day 1993

Paddy , himself , was born in Glasgow , where his father was manager of a Pub . He saw so much drinking in his young life that it left a lasting impression on him , so great in fact , that he was never to take a drink himself . When he was 14 years of age he came on holiday to Carrick-on-Shannon . His uncles , the Morohan Bros . were boat-builders . Although it was not his intention at the time , he was to spend the rest of his life in Carrick-on-Shannon . Paddy was very fond of the river and boating , and it was not long before he joined the Rowing Club .

Paddy remembers very well that Friday sixty-one years ago . He was near the boathouse playing a game of cards when Willie McNutt came to him and asked him if he would go for a row with a senior four . He told him that Paddy Rooney and Guard Conneely were the other two . Paddy went on : We went into the boathouse where we changed our clothes . We launched a "deal" four-oared outrigger . We asked for a cox , and young George Rogan came along and acted as coxswain . I was in the bow position ; Paddy Rooney was No. 2 ; Guard P. Conneely was No. 3 , and Willie McNutt was stroke . We then left the boathouse and rowed in the direction of Hartley Bridge . We went to a point opposite Toomna , where we turned . Everything appeared to be alright , and the crew were going grand . I thought there was a slight "list" to the stroke side . As we were coming back , we met another crew going up . It was cold , with a slight drizzle of rain falling . It would now be about 9 o'clock the visibility was not good . Near the "Four Poles" , the boat suddenly lurched and took a lot of water . I think one of the boys must have caught "a crab" ; the boat filled up very quickly , and we were up to our chests in water . The other three left the boat and I shouted to them to remain in the boat . Young Rogan was in hysterics . I was excited , too , but I remained in the boat . The other crew had by this time come up , and pulled in on the Roscommon side . They were Alan Dunne , John Davitt , Eugene Phelan , John Leonard and Patrick O'Beirne was cox in that boat . Alan Dunne swam over to our boat , but there was nothing he could do . Alan got in on the Leitrim side and went through the woods to the boathouse to raise the alarm . Eventually , our boat drifted in to the Roscommon side , where myself and George Rogan got safely ashore . I cannot remember much more of that night but I know that very early next morning the bodies were recovered in less than an hour , just a few feet from the shore , and were taken to the Boathouse .

On that evening 61 years ago John Davitt was in the second boat , in the bow position . Eugene Phelan was No. 2 ; John Leonard was No. 3 . Alan Dunne was stroke and Patrick O'Beirne was cox . They were about four lengths behind the other crew . When they got to the bend of the "Four Poles" , Patrick O'Beirne shouted that the other crew were sinking . They rowed up on the Roscommon side and saw some of the other crew in the water . Alan Dunne swam over to the Leitrim side , but by this time the boys had disappeared .

John rowed at Carrick Regatta the same year , with Jim Packey Boylan ( stroke ) , also in the boat were Jack Leonard , Willie Henry and Eugene Phelan ( cox ) . the club reckoned that rowing in Carrick was finished if they didn't put out a crew that year .

THE VICTIMS

The three victims of the tragedy were the finest types of manhood in the town and district ; of a popularity which was undeniable , and were ardent and all-round sportsmen . They were :

William McNutt (29), Building Contractor , Shannon View , Carrick - on - Shannon ;

Guard P. Conneely (29), a native of Oughterard , Co.Galway ;

Patrick Rooney (26), Keeneghan , Carrick -on - Shannon , a motor mechanic and a driver with Mr. John Lowe , Carrick - on - Shannon .

Mr. McNutt belonged to the firm of McNutt & Sons , who were well known Building contractors at the time . His brother , Chancellor Albert McNutt , officiated at the ceremony in St. George's Church a few weeks earlier .

Guard P. Conneely was a popular member of the Gardai in Carrick - on - Shannon for close on twelve months , and competed at many regattas before his transfer to Carrick , and on that day , had given evidence in a case heard at Carrick District Court .

Mr. Paddy Rooney was a splenid specimen of Irish manhood , equally at home on the Gaelic football field , as he was with the rowing crews of his native town and had made many friends for himself wherever he went .

Small wonder it was then that when the sad news circulated through the town that all who who knew the victims were stunned and felt that on their passing they had sustained a personal loss . There was a rush to the boathouse of relatives and friends , hoping against hope that none of their family was among the missing . The town was plunged into gloom , as there was hardly a family in Carrick who hadn't some connection with the Rowing Club .

When the bodies were recovered on the following morning , they were laid out in the boathouse . A blue curtain , which was used to curtain off the changing area for the men was allegedly used to cover the remains . Hundreds passed through to pay their last respects . All three were ardent sportsmen . An inquest was later conducted , Garda Supt. McKenna representing the authorities . The Coroner , who sat with a jury was Dr. Walsh and a verdict of "accidental drowning" was returned . The crew of the second boat all gave evidence , as did Paddy Harvey , who broke down in tears several times while giving evidence . The jury and Coroner highly praised the actions of Mr. Alan Dunne , the Coroner remarking that he hoped that the authorities would suitably reward him for his bravery .

All business premesis in the town closed for the funerals . Garda Conneely was brought back to his home at Oughterard , where he was accorded full Garda honours . Mr. McNutt was buried in St. George's ; Canon Beresford officiating . Mr. Rooney was buried locally . In each of the two local funerals , the coffins were bourne first by members of the local club and then by members of other clubs . Practically every club in the 32 counties either sent messages of sympathy or representatives to the funeral . The G.A.A. marshalled the huge crowds lining the streets and the coffins were draped with the club colours - blue and white . Leitrim County Council adjourned it's meeting . As mentioned elsewhere , Carrick ran their Regatta the following August and entered a senior four . The officials figured that rowing was finished forever in Carrick if they didn't make this gesture . Strangely enough , there is no monument commemorating these young men in town* , which is a great pity .

At the inquest it was deposed by several witnesses that one of the oarsmen "caught a crab" . It was also suggested that the boat was not evenly balanced because of the varying weights of the crew members . To this day , many local oarsmen believe that two members of the crew caught a "half crab" , thus causing the boat to list badly to one side . Had the three deceased remained with their semi sunken boat , they would have been rescued . The boat was only about ten yards from the bank and the second boat was close at hand . So ended the lives of three fine young men .

 Since this article was written , a monument has been placed on the gable wall of the newly constructed boathouse commemorating the lives and deaths of the three oarsmen who drowned tragically while on a practice row on Friday May 19th 1933 .

 Paddy Harvey has also passed away since this article was written . R.I.P.