Keeping The Musical Live & Kicking
March 2, 2021
Where Brent Geese Dare
February 28, 2021

here’s no question that, as we get older, our childhood memories grow ever rosier, and sweeter…

Especially when we look back at our teens – the years when you were finally old enough to make some memories all of your own.

Kevin Dillon

For Jago Hayden [pictured above with local nature broadcaster J. Ashton Freeman], it was his years as a young man fishing in Greystones that have come back to both haunt him and thrill him again and again. So much so, he has written both a 2000 memoir, Hair All Curling Gold (all about growing up in this town) along with a history of our seafront, The Cúl Of The Rock: A Glimpse Of The Past (published under his birth name, Seamus).

A man so in love with history that he thinks, writes and talks almost entirely in footnotes, Jago’s accounts of days of old may be twist and turn like ivy on a ruin, but there are eye-witness insights here that take the reader right back to that distant moment in time.

One such moment sprung to Jago’s mind when he read the January 28th press release from Councillor Derek Mitchell, outlining how the proposed Codling Wind Farm Project 13km off our shore might just be a boon for the town. Jago wasn’t all that convinced.

Part of the problem being that amidst the list of potential benefits to the town young Derek included tourist trips out to Codling Bank.

Memories of such a boat trip 65 years ago came flooding back for Jago – one that scared the carp out of him – and an email was soon winging its way to GG’s Kindlestown mansion…

I had a few weather-related problems with my broadband connection recently, so I’m a tardy in responding to the suggestion by Cllr Derek Mitchell, Cathaoirleach of Greystones Municipal District, that boatloads of sightseers take ship for the Codling Bank. I wonder if he knows what that might entail.

Back in the 1950s, when the original varnish on the 16 foot Mac Lir that John Spurling built for me and Jimmy Smullen still had the smell of newness about it, Kevin Dillon and I thought we might explore the off-shore banks to check out if we could fish trammel nets on them, and so got ourselves a chart taking in Dublin to Wicklow.

Boatbuilder John Spurling

Then, on a whim one fine Sunday afternoon, we asked a couple of girls who just happened to be hanging around the pier if they wanted to go for a run, also picking up a pal from Bray, who had just stepped off a bus. The sea was almost mirror calm. As Paddy Doyle said to me, “Jago, it was only a pet day.”

Once clear of the nose of the pier, I set her head for the Moleditch buoy, and when we reached that, continued on the same heading. Both Kevin and I knew our mark from years of scanning the horizon, north to south.

In a foreword to my 2000 memoir of growing up in Greystones in the 1940s and ’50s, I wrote that ‘The Irish Sea in the east was our morning window’. And so it was. And when we were of an age to check out the shipping movements at Dublin port in The Irish Press, we always looked out for the beautiful new ships of the now sadly long-defunct Irish Shipping. Vessels such as The Irish Pine and The Irish Elm, and Cedar and Larch. To be sure we had them right, we sometimes borrowed a small telescope from Bill Spurling, if he were around, or from Paddy Doyle.

By the time we embarked on our adventure to the Codling Bank – it was really the ‘black buoy’ we were bound for – the likes of Kevin and I could pick up almost all the buoys on what was regarded then as the Kish Bank System with the naked eye. The four buoys numbered 2 to 5 were red can buoys – port-hand buoys, that you kept to port when passing on the main stream of flood tide. They were east of the Kish and Bray banks. Indeed, there were days when the bank was awash with white foam, underlining them, as it were. Them, we could see from the top of the slip, or even from the Crab Wall. But to pick up the black Kish no.6 Buoy, we usually needed to walk up to the flagstaff. It showed as just a small pimple on the horizon.

Jimmy Smullen with his daughter, Helen, at Grattan Park

On the Sunday afternoon we ventured towards it, we didn’t make it quite all the way. Already more than an hour beyond the Moulditch buoy, our 4 horsepower British Anzani outboard motor purring away nicely, we were still short by a couple of miles, I reckoned. But we could already feel the current boiling beneath us, and see great swirls of tide as it ebbed through the deep water gap between the end of the Kish system, and the northern ridge of the Codling bank, which runs more or less west-east a further mile or two offshore. It was time to come about. We had bitten off more than we were prepared to chew…

So, I never did get to explore the Codling Bank, and I have no regrets.

I would counsel Councillor Mitchell to be wary of sending any small vessel sightseeing about the Codling Bank.

Jimmy Smullen’s  father Owen – who was born on the Murrough of Wicklow, – had too many stories of men lost in the bad old days when need drove men in open boats for fish in wintertime – or hobbling, as it’s called – in the hope of picking up a schooner to pilot clear of all the banks.

You can check out more distant drums from young Jago right about here.