ooking through Michael Fields’ old papers, it’s clear we’re dealing with a man who was happiest heading out from Greystones harbour on his boat…
Here was a man who had survived the mighty storm that wiped out his family home on North Beach back in 1930, and who still returned to that same sea, again and again…
Having moved to 68 The Grove after that devastating storm wiped away not only the Fields’ family home but many others beside – many taking refuge in Blacklion, and Rathdown Road – Michael would work the winters on the building sites, but, whenever the weather would allow, he was out on his fishing boat.
And just how life as a fisherman was treating him has now come to light, with Michael’s old papers having recently been unearthed by his nephew, Don McDonald, who now lives at 68, The Grove. Michael was related to the great Tom Murphy of Coolagad, who would spend his days transporting gravel from the South Beach to various shops and individuals, using his trusty old horse and dray.
Perhaps that’s where Michael got his passion for life on the open sea. It seemed to pass by his brothers, Christy and Jim, and Michael’s three sisters, Maggie, Lizzie and Annie.
Mind you, when it came to spreading the love, Michael wasn’t exactly generous. His Member’s Registration Ticket for The Shipwrecked Fishermen & Mariner’s Royal Benevolent Society has just one payment payment in 1936 included. All the other years – from 1935 to 1944 – are blank.
Still, Michael certainly cared enough about his passion to order his fishing equipment from far and wide. His favourite supplier appeared to be Joseph Gundry & Co. Ltd of Bridport, Dorset, where Michael purchased most of his nets and twine.
One typical order, from March 22nd, 1939, has Gundry & Co. letting Michael know that his order of 1 Net from 12 ply Cotton, 44 meshes deep x 18 rows to the yards x 200 yards long, Double Selvaged and Well Barked was going to cost him 30/-d. The packing was free, but, as for transport, Carriage extra if sent alone or carriage paid if sent with other goods now on order. Being smart businessmen, they added the offer, Less 10% discount for cash.
Not that Michael Fields was lucky enough to spend his entire life fishing off the coast of his hometown. Like so many other healthy Irish workers throughout the 20th century, England was the place to go to earn a crust, and Michael’s Travel Permit – No. E94863 – had his occupation listed as Labourer. In 1942, aged 41, Michael’s National Registration Identity Card had him registered as staying with Mrs Smith in Harby, Melton Mowbray, in deepest, darkest Leicestershire.
On that same Travel Permit, we discover that his date of birth is December 9th, 1898, Michael Fields passing away in the early 1970s. Just another Greystones fisherman, but, in some respects, Michael was also every Greystones fisherman. Who knows what he would make of his old harbour today? No longer a fisherman’s world, there’s little doubt that Michael would be sad to see that Greystones tradition fade.
Then again, the man might just love the fact that the harbour is more alive today than it ever was during his time. After all, a true lover of the sea is always going to be opt for a bigger splash over a busted flush…