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The Ardmore Regatta - 2. Memories Of Larry O'Connor
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Memories Of Larry O'Connor
The "hungry thirties" as they were called because of the hard times, chiefly due to the economic war, caused much hardship, especially to the farming community, but curiously enough it did not hit tourist bright spots especially in the south. Ardmore was very fortunate inasmuch as there was a huge influx of national teachers who had to learn or improve their knowledge of our native tongue and Colaiste Deuglan is remembered gratefully by many a N.T. These teachers invariably brought their families so that every available house was let for most of the summer. Two great attractions took place in midsummer - Pattern Day, in late July, attracted huge crowds of pilgrims doing the 'rounds' at St. Declan's Well, just beyond Cliff Hotel, then known as Kelly's, a very comfortable, homely family-run hotel in a supreme location overlooking the pier and beautiful bay. But for us the youth, as it were, the Regatta was the "piece de resistance". It usually took place on August 15th and the pier itself and the road overlooking it were chock a block from midday on. Somehow, in retrospect, it was always a grand sunny day, at least, I can't recall a bad one.
There was a most efficient, and energetic committee and the pier was full of gay bunting, and decorated small boats, I think that Pollock's big sailer, the Nancy, was the official committee boat for the day. The man I can recall doing trojan work was Jimmy Quain, who seemed to be everywhere at once. He was of course helped by a band of wonderful workers young and old, and the success of each regatta was their reward.
I remember him greasing a huge pole extending out from the pier no rubber gloves or special 'wear' just big handfuls of motorcar grease from a huge can, and then erecting a stiff pole between two boats for the pillow fight. These events, and swimming races, male and female dominated the day's sport and were hugely enjoyed by immense good humoured holiday crowds.
There were several boat races, and one unusual race was a sculling race - just one oar at the stern. Sailing boats were also engaged and one great winner, and most popular one, was Ned Foley, the greatest character in Ardmore, always ready with some wonderful yarns of the sea, U.S. Navy exploits and great tales of storms, and mermaids, all of which, he survived etc.
The sailing events were very exciting, but it was the water events which everyone, young and old understood and could clearly see from the aforementioned vantage point.
Another very attractive event was the duck chase. Two hardy ducks were released some short distance from the pier, and a regiment of swimmers - both sexes, plunged in to try to catch one of the elusive birds. It looked very easy, but I cannot recall a duck ever being actually captured so the prize went to the competitor who got nearest to a duck. Some cute swimmers, hung back in the hope of capturing an exhausted duck, but it never happened, because the ducks could fly if closely menaced.
The Regatta was indeed a red letter day in Ardmore and fun for everyone from tots to centenarians. The day usually ended with a grand dance in Halla Deuglan at which the prizes - cash usually, and most welcome, were presented.
Marvellous fun (free !) and never a discordant note. I hope this gives some idea of the glorious times we enjoyed at the Ardmore Regatta. I hope it may be revived.
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