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Made with Xara
Dunmore East is a small fishing village on
the south-east coast of Ireland, 16kms from
the city of Waterford.
It sits on the western side of the Waterford
Harbour Estuary, 4.8kms from Hook Head in
Dunmore East, Co. Waterford,
A summer's morning at 5.30 am saw me walking down the new line road through what was
known as Shipsey's field on my way to the village to join Muck Murphy and another day's
salmon fishing. The sun was already in the sky, and the curtains still drawn on most of the
windows. It was mid July in the early seventies and the village was crowded with summer
I looked down to the sea at Flat Rocks. It shone like a mirror, no wind, just a gentle foggy
mist that was already clearing from the Hook Lighthouse. A few anglers with fishing rods
stood at the rocks, casting their lines into the clear blue ocean in the hope of snaring a few
fish for breakfast. If I could re-visit a similar scene today I would appreciate it much better,
my years of being without such a simple spectacle robbing my memory of its beauty and
Shipsey's field had been a short cut for the people of Coxtown for years. On this particular
morning, light morning dew covered its entire area and the smell of freshly cut new mown
hay reached my nostrils. Bundles of hay bales lay scattered in all directions, awaiting the
warmth of the sun to dry their precious contents.
I reached the end of the field and walked down the lane behind the Ocean Hotel and Bill
Power's Pub. I then walked on to the road across from the Post Office and began heading
towards the Bay Cafe, and Muck's house, across the road from the Fisherman's Hall.
There were few cars on the road and no people. The sun was now shining, and the only
sound was that of a few gulls fighting on the Post Office roof over some piece of fish they
had scavenged from somewhere.
I leaned against the cafe wall and smoked a Major cigarette and thought of the day to
come. Maurice Power passed me heading for the dock and a day fishing for lobsters at the
Hook. We shouted across the road at each other, laughing a little, until Maurice
disappeared down Island lane to join Rocky and Billy on the Lydia Ann. It was time, I
thought, to collect Muck.
I knocked on the door and his wife Nellie opened it with a good morning greeting, which
included her reflections on Mucks future, not a good one, as she had decided he would
eventually kill himself with ‘the drink'. “Look at him boy”, she said “I sent him over
yesterday at lunchtime to Bill Powers with some brown bread I baked, and he drank the
proceeds, not arriving here until 10 o'clock last night”. “Come in Boy”, said Muck, “and
don't be listening to that woman”. I sat at the kitchen table with Nellie and Muck, drinking a
cup of hot sweet tea she had poured me, and listening to her tut-tutting which was aimed
at her husband who was puffing on a cigarette at the end of the table.
“We will go now”, announced the afflicted, and so we left the house and climbed into
Muck's Austin A40 to take the short journey to the quay and the beginning of another day.
This will be a Middle Head, back of the wall drift, I mused, as Muck seldom ventured too
far after a heavy day at The Butchers. There were a few boats leaving the dock at the
same time, Paddy Barry, Paddy Dursey, Mick Whittle, Maurice, Rocky, and Billy, and of
course Jack Colfer in Sir Brian Warren's ‘Etoile Filante'. As I climbed down the ladder to
the boat the old familiar smell of the dock assailed my nostrils. I loved that smell, oil mixed
with salt water, and the weather being so fine, a little island made up of bits of rubbish
interlaced with French water bottles brushed up and down on the strand near the skids.
Then we were off, out the dock, past the breakwater, and I could hardly believe it as we
began to steam west, past Black Knob, the Bishops Cave , until finally Muck decided to
cast his nets outward from the mouth of Portally Cove. There we sat and drifted west, the
sun now high in the sky and the sea like a glass mirror beneath the floor of our trusty little
craft ‘The Nina'. The grassy cliffs that reached down to the shore were alive with bees and
butterflies, and even at a young age I knew I was beholding something very special, lucky
to be surrounded by such an environment in the course of my everyday occupation.
We then had a flask of tea and a few sandwiches, and it was during these times I often
talked to Muck about his young years, the days of the steam drifters, and the great herring
seasons of yesteryear when he first began fishing. He was a nice man to fish with, I often
made mistakes and he never once shouted at me, only showed me the correct way of
doing things, and left it at that. Around 12 noon we hauled our nets, which contained about
a half dozen salmon. Muck was happy; the morning had been worth it. We then headed
back to Dunmore and would return in the afternoon for another tide. I walked back home
through the wood, and on to the Coxtown road. By now the village was alive with locals
and tourists, the beaches were beginning to fill and the shops were getting busy. Through
the green leafy wood I ambled; it too had its own smell, and it seemed to have an endless
hum of bees or leaf wasps high in its tree branches.
That was my last year with Muck. It was also my last year fishing salmon. I ended up the
next year mixing concrete in a housing estate in Waterford , and as the years rolled away
my surroundings seemed to become more horrible until they finally faded into city streets
with milling crowds, cars, and people. Then again how could any of these places compare
with the grassy slopes of flat rocks, or a full tide lapping onto ladies cove on a summer's
To the memory of ‘Muck' Murphy.
From the Short Story Writings of Mick D.
A Summer’s Morning
The Short Story Writings of Mick D.