Friday, December 28, 2007

Treasures of the Deep

The Sunday Press, 14th June, 1987

In the summer of 1987 I was part of a diving expedition to search for artifiacts from the lost ship "The Aid" which was wrecked close to the shore at Killoughter in Co Wicklow.

The photograph above was taken a few weeks before the expedition started as part of a publicity campaign. The photo was taken in front of the Dept of Zoology building and I happened to be around to be included - it was published on the back page of the now defunct Sunday Press on 14th June, 1987.

The 10-day expedition was a partial success. Some parts of the wreck were found, but the main body of the ship was not. It had previously been discovered by members of the Dublin University Sub-Aqua Club, but despite extensive searching we failed to locate it. We found lots of ballast stones and a few rusted bits. Probably the most interesting item was a broken lead tube of the type used to transport valuable paintings - it was rumoured that The Aid was carrying a Carrivaggio.

We had a mix of camping and staying in a local B&B - the campsite was located on the beach. There were about 20 people on the expedition altogether.

What I remember most was the heat and the algal bloom that occured just as we started. The bloom spoiled all our ropes and reduced visibility a lot. The sea current was very strong, so diving was confined to mid-tide. On one occasion I was washed down along the beach. I felt safe as I had a life jacket as well as my dry suit on - after a few minutes the expedition's came to the rescue. I wasn't really in any danger, but it did give us a reminder as to what the dangerous current can do. There were some follow-up expeditions, but I did not take part in any.

The article that accompanied the picture was written by Colm Keena, now a well known Irish Times journalist. He also graduated in Zoology the same year (1983) as me - small world.

There is also a report on the expedition in the Database of Irish Expedition Reports web site.

Monday, December 24, 2007

My Motorbike History

Honda 50
My brother Joe bought a Honda 50 from Damian Doyle of Carnew in 1977 so that he could use it to go to school in Bunclody. In one of those "small world" coincidences, Joe's son Niall goes to school with Damian's son Harry in Bunclody!

Of course, I got to ride the Honda 50 as well - I didn't know at the time how uncool this was, or that it would be the first of several bikes that I would ride. I remember feeling particularly cool once when riding home in the dark smoking a cigarette. The tobacco burned down inside the cigarette paper as the wind blew in my face. I was only 18 or 19 at the time, so to me this was cool!

The picture here was taken during a family summer holiday in Cork on which Joe took the bike. As well as the Honda 50, the picture features my Mum, Joe, our dog Pheobe, and me in very fetching flares!

Honda CD175

After the above Honda 50 Joe bought a new Honda CD175 - the picture shows Joe and me with the bike on the day he bought the bike (note plastic still on seat). Look at that hair! The bike is not yet registered - it was later to get the number 8923 NI. I still have the registration book. In the background is a Renault 4 van in which I learned to drive.

Joe bought a car within a few years - I think in 1980 and this bike "became" mine. I loved it and took it to Dublin while I was in Trinity. My landlady, Mary Dillon-Kelly, used to allow me to park it in her front hall! I used the bike to commute from Drumcondra to Trinity, and also going up and down home to Ballingate.

Sadly, this bike was stolen on 8th December, 1981. At the time I was staying in Rooms in Botany Bay at Trinity and used to park the bike in the shed beside the tennis courts. The previous evening I had returned from Ballingate and I remember the weather was really bad. To this day I am not certain that I locked the bike properly - so it was possibly easy to steal. I reported the theft to Pearse St GardaĆ­, but no trace was ever found. My motorbiking days were over for 18 years.

Honda 250N Nighthawk

In September 1999, the QBC on the Stillorgan Road was opened. The significance of this is that my morning commute from Blackrock to Clonskeagh was doubled in time as I used to use the inside lane to drive to work in my car. I didn't have the patience for this. One day I said to Roma "I should get a motorbike again" and guess what - she said "Why not!". In October 1999 I turned 40 years of age - some people think that there is a link here!

I went to a bike shop on Pearse St and after looking at several bikes I settled on a Honda 250N Nighthawk. It was blue and was the same as the one pictured here. I had it for a few weeks before I got a licence and insurance. My first trip on it (to Deansgrange) was very strange and wobbly! It took a lot of getting used to - soon however, I was riding like a natural and started the work commute soon after. One problem with this bike was that it was very light and used to fall over in strong winds when parked. Happy days - I loved the "freedom" that a motorbike provides and was delighted to be back on two wheels again.

Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 Hugger
In January 2000 I was on a SmartForce trip to Scottsdale in Arizona. Now that I was a biker again I decided to visit a bike dealer near the Hotel - Harley-Davidson naturally. I was mesmerised by the colour and style of the Harleys - beautiful machines. I didn't have the courage to hire one. I did buy a denim jacket in the shop and I do remember joking with the Shop Assistant "I suppose I'll have to buy a Harley in order to wear this". I never had a denim jacket before and this was my reason for buying one. I also promised myself that I would investigate Harleys on my return to Dublin.

I visited Harley-Davidson Dublin soon afterwards and was interested in two second-hand Sportsters. However, they were expensive - one was almost £5,000, while the other was over £5,500. A new one was about £8,000 - so I decided to go for it. I bought a white 883 Hugger like the one pictured here. I was warned that everyone who buys a Sportster sooner or later wants one of the big Harleys.

My longest trip on this bike was to London for the "Last Ever CBT Systems Party!" in October 2002. This was just after SmartForce was taken over by Skillsoft and I had already applied for voluntary redundancy. It took me most of the day to get there and I had a severe hangover for the return trip.

I customized this bike a lot. But on my last trip to Scottsdale in Arizona I hired a Fat Boy and was bitten by the Big-Twin bug. With 2003 - the centenary year for Harley-Davidson - around the corner I decided that I would buy a centenary model Heritage Softail Classic.

Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic

This bike is the King of Bikes and is my most favourite thing that I possess. I ordered it in 2002 for January 2003 delivery so that I would have a special centenary edition. I spent a big chunk of my SmartForce redundancy money on this bike - but it was worth every penny. It looks just like the stock photo here. My number plate is 03 D 1903. You'll see elsewhere in this blog that I have travelled quite a bit on it.

I have added quite a bit of custom material to it. I have changed the pipes, added light covers, and lots of pieces of chrome. It has cost a hell of a lot to maintain - tyres are expensive, I have also torn the drive belt, and once destroyed a new tyre with less than 500 miles on it by riding over a metal peg in Booterstown. I would still like to customize it some more - I'd like higher handlebars that would help me to sit straighter on it. A new saddle would also help.

I don't think I'll ever change this bike for another - it's my dream bike! I don't know what will happen to it when I stop riding. I have promised it to Kate, or maybe I'll have some Grandsons who might be interested in it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Newspaper Clippings

All three of my daughters had notices of their births in The Irish Times. Claire (27th August, 1988), Kate (1st May, 1991), and Vicki (3rd May, 1995) were all born by Caesarean section in the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin.

I don't have a copy of Claire's birth notice, but here are the ones for Kate and Vicki.

I kept the newspaper of Vicki's date of birth and the paper in which this notice appears. I only have a (torn) cut out of the notice of Kate's birth.

I also have had one letter published in The Irish Times on 10th March, 1990. I had been working in CBT Systems in Mount Street at the time and used to cycle from Rathfarnham to work on most days (this was before we got a second car, and long before I got a motorbike).

To be honest, I'm not sure how many punctures I got, or if they were all in February - but there were a lot! I spent a lot of time repairing punctures in the cold - there were all caused by glass. I have always been facinated by the "Is this a record?" letters to the Editor of The Irish Times and decided to have a go myself. Much to my surprise the letter was accepted and published!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ballingate House Upper - Where I Grew Up

I grew up in the townland of Ballingate which is about three miles from Carnew in Co. Wicklow, and five miles from Bunclody in Co. Wexford. It is located here. Mum and Dad built the house where they now live in 1960 and moved in during September that year when I was almost one year old.

The house was built on the site of Ballingate House Upper - I don't recall seeing any photographs of it. For years as kids we played on the rubble of this house which was in a field between the farm and the main Carnew-Bunclody road - this mound of rubble is now gone. I know that the roof of the house was removed due to taxes - I believe in the 1930s or 1940s. Once this happened, the house fell into ruin and was demolished. Much of the outhouses and sheds still survive - they were used over the years as garages, hen houses, and store rooms. Mum and Dad now have their growing room for plants in one of these old sheds.

I came across a reference to Ballingate House Upper on the Buildings of Ireland website. This does not contain much information, but it does have two pictures that are interesting:

The first is a modern aerial photograph that I know is a few years old - this is because you can see two shadows of two Monkey Puzzle trees to the east of the farmyard. One of these trees fell down several years ago - much of the valued timber is now part of the stairs in my sister Kathleen's house in Kells, Co Kilkenny. Click on the photo thumbnail to see the photo on the Buildings of Ireland website.

The second picture is a reproduction of an Ordinance Survey map. Few features of the designed landscape shown on the 1836 - 1846 OS map are visible in aerial photography. It is almost unrecognisable as the house and buildings are long since gone. The layout of the surrounding fields is largely unchanged except that Dad had much of the trees cleared in the 1960s and 1970s. The two fields to the south of the house are part of a hill which is now covered in forestry. Click on the map thumbnail to see the map on the Buildings of Ireland website.

I have printed off a copy of the map and sent it to my Dad to see if he has ever seen it before. I know there is an early 20th century map in Ballingate which no doubt is very similar.