My father-in-law, Geoff Cronin was a raconteur with a encyclopedic memory spanning his 93 years. He sadly died in 2017 but not before he had been persuaded to commit these memories of his childhood and young adulthood in Waterford in the 1920s to the 1940s.
The books are now out of print, but I know he would love to know that his stories are still being enjoyed, and so I am repeating the original series of his books that I posted in 2017. I hope those who have already read will enjoy again and that new readers will discover the wonderful colour of life in Ireland nearly 100 years ago.
The Haul Of Bass 1955
One June afternoon in the ’50s I was travelling home from Clonmel – I was “on the road” for Irish National Insurance Company at the time – and my last call of the day was in Carrick-on-Suir. A I was coming back in the car after making the call, I stopped at Francie Mullins fishing tackle shop and saw a cheap fishing rod in the window.
“It’s made out of a tank aerial” he told me, “and I got a dozen of them from a fella dealin’ in surplus war materials. A handy little rod,” he said, “ideal for spinning. Here,” he said, “let me put a spinning reel on it and you’ll see how well it feels.”
He did so, and when I picked it up it just felt right in my hand.
“You could cast with that for the day and your wrist wouldn’t get tired“, he continued. “And here’s what I’ll do with you, a hundred yards of nylon line, a German bait, the rod and the reel, the lot for a five pound note. What do you say?”
“Done,” I said, handing over the last fiver I had in this world.
As I drove home, I felt a whole new phase of my life opening up. Having been brought up by the sea, I knew all about fishing, but since getting married, I had been unable to afford the tackle etc. and at this stage, I dearly wanted to teach my sons all I knew about fishing. When I got home and told my wife about my purchase, she saw the possibilities in terms of food for the table and it was decided to try out the new rod that very evening.
So, after dinner, leaving our eldest daughter to baby-sit, my wife and I set off for Saleen, near Tramore, where a deep sea inlet, called the Rinnashark, came in by a long beach. It was known to be a good spot for Bass fishing and at that time, perhaps in July or August, shoals of Bass would come inshore on occasion and provide good sport for anyone who happened to be fishing at the time.
Tramore Bay & Saleen
However, I was not trying to catch anything that evening as the tide was low and it was a bit early in the season. I just wanted to try casting with the new rod and to get used to the feel of it.
Anyway, on arrival at Saleen I set up the rod and as it was a fine June evening, we decided to walk out along the beach to a place called Bass Point, almost a quarter of a mile distant. When we got to the spot, I made my first cast, which fell short of the channel and as I retrieved the bait, it stopped suddenly.
“Damn it” I said, “I’m caught in the weeds.”
The next second, the rod nearly jumped out of my hand and the reel sang, I was into a heavy fish and he was heading for deep water.
I put on the brake and began to play him. I didn’t think the line would hold, but taking him gently, I had him on the beach in ten minutes.
It was a beautiful Bass, easily seven pounds weight. I was elated and couldn’t wait to make another cast. Again, it fell short of the deep water, and as I wound in the bait, I knew this time I was stuck in the weeds. I gave a hard pull and the water exploded as another huge Bass broke the surface and headed out at speed for the deep channel. I checked him just before he got there, and I eased him down the beach into the slack water, where I beached him. It was a Bass a little smaller than the first one, and though I fished on for another half hour, I caught nothing else.
Geoff Cronin with another “Haul of Bass”
Meanwhile my wife, Joan, had picked up a stout piece of driftwood and some nylon cord from the beach, and we tied the fish through the gills to the stick and holding an end each, we set out to carry our catch back to the car. It should be noted here that Bass normally caught in these waters would be two or three pounds weight.
As we started back, we met two men out for a walk and they stopped us to admire our catch. They asked what weight the fish might be, and I said the big one was about seven pounds and the other one about six. There was not another sinner to be seen on the beach in any direction and we met no one else by the time we reached the car. Anyway, we weighed the fish when we got home and the bigger fish turned out to be seven and a half pounds, and the other one weighed six and a quarter. We congratulated ourselves on the catch, and after having a cup of tea and a chat, we retired for the night.
Next morning I had to go to the bank and while there a friend took me aside and said in a low voice “The Bass are in at Saleen – two guys were fishing there yesterday, and one guy got seven fish and the other guy got six.” He pressed his finger to his lips. When I got back to my office, another man rang me and said he heard that a party fishing at Saleen last night caught seventy-six Bass between them.
By lunch time I could be told that two boats had fished Saleen the previous evening, and one boat took seven boxes of Bass and the other one took six. I told my wife all this when I went home to lunch, and she could hardly believe the speed and the ramifications of the angler’s grapevine. It was likely that the pair we encountered on the beach had ended up in the local pub, and from there the story had grown not only legs, but wings as well.
By tea time, the rumours were flying to the point where we decided to drive out to Saleen after tea to see what the effect had been. We drove out the high road, which overlooked the beach and there they were, almost thirty or maybe forty anglers standing practically elbow to elbow along the beach, thrashing the water with their lines. We went to the local pub for a drink to quell our laughter, and we heard even more fabulous stories about the biggest shoal of Bass ever seen in Saleen. On our way home we stopped at the car park where weary anglers were packing up, and enquiring if they had any luck heard “No, but there was any amount of Bass here last night!” The miracle of the five loaves and two fishes came to mind, and we laughed all the way home.
Descriptions of a mean man:
“You wouldn’t see his heart on a clean plate!”
“If he was a ghost he wouldn’t give you a fright.”
“He was so mean he’d frame a ha’penny.”
©Geoff Cronin 2005
About Geoff Cronin
I was born at tea time at number 12 John Street, Waterford on September 23rd 1923. My father was Richard Cronin and my mother was Claire Spencer of John Street Waterford. They were married in St John’s Church in 1919.
Things are moving so fast in this day and age – and people are so absorbed, and necessarily so, with here and now – that things of the past tend to get buried deeper and deeper. Also, people’s memories seem to be shorter now and they cannot remember the little things – day to day pictures which make up the larger canvas of life.
It seems to me that soon there may be little or no detailed knowledge of what life was really like in the 1930s in a town – sorry, I should have said City, in accordance with its ancient charter – like Waterford. So I shall attempt to provide some of these little cameos as much for the fun of telling as for the benefit of posterity.
Thank you for visiting today and I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse of Waterford in the 1930s and 1940s courtesy of Geoff Cronin. As always your feedback is very welcome. thanks Sally.