Paddy Picks A Winner  (or showing off up the Slaney)

 Many’s the boating bore in Ireland that will extol the virtues of the mighty Shannon or go on about the length and breadth of Lough Ree, or the state of the art locks on the Ballyconnell Canal but few are the privileged who can speak from experience of the magic of the beautiful Slaney!

 Such is the case for the lucky band of Wexford boaters who set out last Saturday morning on their annual pilgrimage up their beloved river.  Some 60 participants of all ages, young and not so young on 20 boats large and small left WHBTC in flotilla formation in pursuit of their rejuvenated chairman, Paddy Hatton.

 Strange how an uninitiated observer watching the boats during the hours before the off would think that the rally was starting the following day and suddenly the lead boat sets out and whatever their state of readiness or lack thereof, the rest are obliged to follow.Forget the homemade elderberry wine, the sundried tomatoes or the fuel cap which staunchly refuses to open – we are on our way, have the tee shirts and the sheer fun of it starts immediately.  We had hoped for a good day’s weather on Saturday forgetting that Paddy hadn’t just picked the best tides but would also arrange the special rally weather – the hottest for years. 

 Lunch with strawberries and cream at Killurin was its usual success although the late arrival of the presidential yacht skippered by David Killeen bearing honoured guests Donal O’ Siochan (Ex-national President of IWAI) and his wife Maeve remained shrouded in mystery until sometime the following day.

 The afternoon saw us motoring through the most picturesque part of the river.  Made up of a series of mini-lakes and islands most of which are not visible from any road or path, it remains unknown to most Wexfordians.  The exact location of a narrow channel in a place called ‘The Patches’ also remains a bit of a mystery to some of the boating community.  This terror of the river was negotiated like nervous elephants holding onto each-other’s tails and all boats got through without a hitch.  One boat did try to wrap itself around a large green buoy that even a blind man could have seen but thanks to the vigilance of ‘’Superman’ (alias Phillip Scallan) in his outrider rib, major trouble was averted.

 Our arrival in Enniscorthy was greatly facilitated by the advance party of pontoon towers and fixers so we were tied up and ready for fun on the banks in no time.  Some fruity wine and a delicious cheese board got the evening off to an excellent start in these idyllic surroundings.  We whiled away this warm summers evening with a succulent barbecue followed by music and chat around a log fire until the stars came out.  Imagine the scene on the river bank at Enniscorthy at around midnight as those who had failed to secure a berth on board retired to their tents and even motor-homes.  I should say that the many dog-walkers, joggers, courting couples etc. who don’t usually share this lovely facility with non-residents were bemused by this happy bunch, but all wished us well.

 As a backdrop to all this poetic stuff, the young mariners who probably didn’t notice the scenery at all were having a whale of a time ‘hitting the river’ in their petrol-guzzling dinghies under the watchful eye of Syl O’Brien.  Their arrival in perfect formation around their mentor was a sight to behold.

 A very bright and sunny Sunday morning (and Father’s Day) saw the dutiful Paul McCormack tending his family’s cooked breakfast on the still glowing embers of the previous day.  In fact, the hot sun and excitement about the forthcoming line-heaving and boules competitions got everyone off to an early start.  Some disappeared temporarily to seek help from the Almighty, while others sought ringside seats in the shade as the preliminary rounds got underway. 

 Line Heaving seems to involve a lot of posturing and puffing and blowing, except of course by the competitors who are any good at it.   Derek Joyce looked like the gentleman’s winner for a long time only to be pipped at the post by Burke Corbett, while Isabel Mahon’s expertise was never in doubt as she became the Lady’s winner.  All in all, a nice civilised event in an ideal location – Whereas ‘Les Boules’ seemed to be the subject of a lot of nasty vicious underhand stuff, some of which was enacted by some prominent people in the boating world who claimed they’d never played before despite their apparent ability to win with ease.  Had rumours of D. Killeen’s boules practise in WHBTC carpark been the real cause for his delay???  Tidal concerns prevented the chief-umpire Helen Scallan from bringing this ill-tempered event to a satisfactory conclusion and we understand that according to the B.A.A. (Boules Athletic Association) Regulations the final will have to take place within the calendar year at a neutral venue – (perhaps Boulogne).  For health and safety reasons a penalty throw-out is not permitted.

 Lunch was a sunny affair with wine chilled in the river overnight, exciting salads and a lot of last minute adjustments to Jim McGuire’s infamous quiz.  This year we had our prize-giving in Enniscorthy.  Chairman, Paddy Hatton opened proceedings with a minute’s silence for our long-time member and friend Neville Greated who had died suddenly earlier in the week.  Neville had taken part in many previous Slaney Rallies and indeed many other rallies as far back as the 1960’s.

 The winners of this year’s prizes were as follows: Young Mariner – Emily Mahon; Junior Mariner – Kieran Joyce; The Cecil Millar Trophy – Fred, Sue and Barney Crampton on Inisfree; Lady’s line-heaving – Isabel Mahon;  Gentleman’s line-heaving – Burke Corbett.  Fred and Sue’s very popular win was helped along by their colourful bunting and sun umbrella as well as their quiz prowess and strawberry purchasing.  Thanks were extended to Paul McCormack for the wine, Tommy and Ann Duggan for the cheese and of course Mary Hatton for the almond slices.

 The trip back to Wexford was magical.  The Slaney showed off unashamedly the whole way home.  We believe that the loud bang heard over ‘The Patches’ was actually a celebratory bottle and NOT somebody’s prop hitting the proverbial rock.  Rally rules don’t allow any alcohol on board, but witnesses say that this sound was heard very close to the good ship Boogaloo.


Photos from the 2005 Rally
Slaney Branch Home Page