Bringing More Old Greystones Pics To Life

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March 9, 2016
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March 10, 2016

Greystones Postcard Harbour 1950s
Given that we here at GG HQ live a crazy, jet-setting, fun-filled life with ne’er a care in the world, it’s hardly surprising that we really don’t have the time nor the patience to dig far beyond the surface of all the shiny photographs that we’ve been gathering for our ever-expanding archive of Greystones.

Luckily for us – and for you, my fat friends – there are people like Derek Paine and his son Gary, Frank Deignan and the gang at the Greystones Archaelogical & Historical Society, plus lone wolves such as Gary Acheson, Patrick Neary and Michael Martin, who do dig deep.

John McKenzie, John Redmond & Leslie Redmond early 1950s Source Jago Hayden (JM’s cousin)

And then there are people like Jago Hayden, who dig right down to the fossils of this town, determined to identify and date each person and place in each photograph. If Jago – a local fisherman-turned-novelist – could examine the teeth of these old pics, he would.

We decided, as we began corresponding with Jago, after posting the first volume of his incredible investigative work The Cúl of the Rock, that we really should keep a record of his new findings. Images Jago – real name Seamus, by the way – has spotted here, and beyond, have caught his attention. And his super-sleuth radar started kicking into action again.

We’ll be adding to this post over the months, and maybe even years. For now, here’s what Jago had to say about the image above…

The above photo is one of a number of postcards that were shot about 1950.

Sitting on the wall, left to right, are John Redmond, Jim Brennan, and myself. The girl on the bicycle is a girl named Eve Kelly, from Churchtown, who came on holidays to Greystones for a number of years.

The Peter Slattery photographs above and below are essentially the same, although I think they were taken on different days in the mid to late fifties. Dated as being the 1940s, for anyone who was about at the time, it is the boats that tell the story.

Look at the above image. The mixture of craft include a fibreglass dinghy and two hard chine craft – boats which first appeared in the late 1950s. One of the latter, built in marine ply, is of a very crude design. The other, which as I remember was built of broad planking, but in hard chine construction, was of a very shapely design, and was fitted for a drop keel. It could accommodate a mast and was built for sailing. It was heavy to haul and akward to handle whenever we gave a hand to pull it up.
But it is a fourth boat that really gives the game away.

Some background: When there was a resurgence of interest in skiff racing in the late nineteen forties, Greystones Rowing Club was formed, and John Spurling was asked to build a skiff for the club. As a young man he had built a working skiff, which he named Colleen Bawn – which won all before it. It was said in our time to have failed to win a senior race only twice: one, a dead heat at Wicklow Regatta, which was won by a distance in an immediate row off after a dead heat; and two, to a skiff – The Venture, I think – built by John Spurling to beat his own boat.

The new 1950 Colleen Bawn was a disappointment. On its first outing – at Ringsend Regatta – it was totally outclassed by The St Luke, a new skiff built by Smith of Ringsend for the Irish Glass Bottle Company Rowing Club; also on it’s maiden outing. The St Luke won seven of eight races that afternoon.

The Greystones club ordered a new skiff from Smith, and many in Greystones talked of John Spurling being past it. That hurt, just as much as the new Colleen Bawn not measuring up. Quietly, John Spurling built two new sixteen foot rowing boats in quick succession, modelled somewhat on the Smith racing skiffs. Vertical, or near vertical stems; much more rise in the floors.

The following year, he built a fine craft for me and Jimmy Smullen, delivering on a promise he had made to my father to build a boat for him. I asked that it be modelled somewhat on the Kathleen, which also had a near vertical stem and was of somewhat low freeboard. In the following year, he built a very able sixteen footer for his own family, but it had a raked stem.

That is the fourth boat of note in the mistakenly 1940s-dated photograph. The clincher is the coloured ‘forefoot’ just atop the waterline at the bow.

It was common always among the Greystones boatowners to paint the bottom of their boats a different colour, up to the waterline. Smith of Ringsend did as much on all his skiffs, characteristically finishing the topsides in varnish, and adding a distinctive forefoot in club colours. Red for The Shamrock, the Greystones skiff; green for The St Patrick, for St Patrick’s Club in Ringsend, etc.

There is a nice photograph of the Spurling’s sixteen footer on page 102 of Derek Paine’s 1998 book, his fourth. It shows Johnny and Eric in the boat as they are seining off the south beach, as Leslie walks along the shore holding the ‘swang’ – the bridle frrom the end of the net. The raked stem is clearly visible.

In the ‘1940s’ photo, the raked stem and the distinctive ‘forefoot’ are also clearly visible; as is a considerable amount of weathering of the varnished topsides. The photo is late fifties, I’m afraid.

The second of Peter Slattery’s photos, that taken from the jetty, confirms a fifties date.

The fishermens huts that were built by the County Council towards the mid fifties are there, as is, still, the housing for the slot machines outside Stanley Carlyle’s Anchor Cafe. But, that’s another story.

Delgany Youth 1950 Primrose Dagg, Noeleen Ludlow, Ruth Reade, John Fox, Neville Spurling, David Spurling, Jean Edge, Rhona McLinden, Carrie Taylor Pic Evelyn Hughes

Paddy Redmond & Osborne Spurling Senior Skiff Race Champions (649x1024)The young fellow on the very right front is Neville Spurling, ok.

I don’t see his brother David, who was a number of years younger. But, the top of the head of the fellow standing behind and mostly obscured by Neville looks awfully like his older cousin Osborne. Check out a photograph of Paddy Redmond and Osborne Spurling with Senior Skiff Race trophies on page 90 or 91 of Derek Paine’s second book (1994).

Ozzie always had that distinctive broad forehead and shock of hair.

John McKenzie, John Redmond & Leslie Redmond early 1950s Source Jago Hayden (JM’s cousin)

The copy of this photo in the Greystones Guide Olde Days gallery names John Redmond, who is standing at the bow of the boat, correctly.

The other boy bending over the gunwhale is his brother Leslie Redmond, not Leslie Spurling. The third boy is my cousin John McKenzie who died last year. It was John who gave me the print some time in the 1990s. I don’t know who the three young girls are. The photograph was taken in the earl 1950s.

This photograph was taken by Peter Slattery in 1961, and was the prizewinner in a members photographic competition organised by the Irish Professional Photographers Association in the same year.

The winning print – approx A3-sized – was displayed in the window of Slattery’s Photographic Shop and Studio, near the Carlton Cinema, for months.

Peter Slattery was a brother-in-law of Willie’s, and gave him at the time a proof enlargement of the snap. On one of the last occasions I visited Willie before he died, he gave the print to me; still in its original envelope. It had deteriorated a bit from dampness, but I framed it nevertheless. Later, I had it photographed and restored, and it’s a copy of that, that the Greystones Guide downloaded from an (my nephew Ashley’s website). I had given a 10×8 print to Ashley. Willie was his grandfather.

I decided to trawl back through Derek Paine’s books to clarify info that my brother Billy is picking up on Facebook and Historical Greystones, etc.

On page 116 of Derek’s first (1993) book, I came across what appears to have been the original of the tinted postcard, which appears now to have been a con. Derek’s clean image shows the beginning of damage at the end of the pier, and the gap where the ashlar blocks at the corner of the jetty were dislodged by a schooner in a storm in the late 1800’s – maybe the 1892 one in which the three men named Doyle were drowned; I’d need to check further. Derek had dated the photograph to 1830s

But, there is no sign of the great mound of rubble, nor of the two craft sitting atop the pier and jetty.

Someone has gone to great pains to fake a very old post card. It certainly had me going for a while.

You can explore more old Greystones pics with Jago Hayden right here.

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