A Safe Haven

Above: Eddie Byrne. Photo by Kevin O’Gorman.

Above: Eddie Byrne.
Photo by Kevin O’Gorman.

If ever you ever have the pleasure of visiting The Ringsend Registered Fishermen and Private Boat Owners Association, you will hear the members before you see them, laughing and joking in their lair – the Clubhouse – which is located beside the Poolbeg Yacht Club by the banks of the Liffey.

The Association was set up in 1993 to facilitate the small boat owners and fishermen who lost their traditional access to the River Liffey, alongside York Rd and Pigeon House Road, when the Tom Clark Bridge (East Link) was under construction.

The Stella Maris Rowing Club and the Poolbeg Yacht Club, which are located beside the Boatyard, had been given the ground they now stand on by Roche, developer of the Tom Clark Bridge and the toll road, which opened in 1984.

A number of local small boat owners and fishermen came together and formed The Ringsend Local Boat Club to ensure that they still had access to the river. The group included Eddie Byrne, John Kane, Tony Pullen, Jimmy Daly, Jim Cullen and Jimmy Nolan. They applied for a patch of derelict ground on the riverside and were successful in obtaining the present spot from Dublin City Council, who had taken over management of the area.

At the time it was just a piece of unsightly ground so the members had a lot to do before the club was up and running. First there was the clean-up. Then they had to raise funds for a tarmac yard and to enclose the area.

They raised money by selling raffle tickets in the locality and from local businesses. At that time Eddie Byrne, current Chairman of the Association and one of the founder members of the Boat Club, worked for Guinness Group Sales and he sold tickets to his workmates for £1 each.

Between them they raised enough to pay for what is still there today, the enclosed tarmacked boatyard and a container which has been kitted out with a kitchen, toilet facilities and seating, pews from the local church kindly donated by Fr. Tonge. This serves as the Clubhouse. They have been there for the past twenty-three years and the boat owners are happy to have a safe haven for their boats during the winter months.

Byrne, who is possibly the most genial host in Ireland, explained that the club is more than just a boating association: “In a way it is the original Men’s Shed.” Members meet at the boatyard every day to work on their boats and spend time together chatting and reminiscing.

Byrne told NewsFour that “seven days a week there are at least five and usually more people around.” At this point, one of the members, Phillip Ryan, interjected: “when you’re not here Eddie the place does be packed,” much to the amusement of the other members who were hanging out in the clubhouse, drinking tea and listening to Byrne’s every word, joining in when they had something to add.

Phyllis, Eddie’s wife, is a legend amongst the members. Byrne describes her as “a very patient lady” who gives him the freedom and all the time he needs to be in the club seven days a week.

The club hosts a number of special occasions throughout the year including launches, the lifting and lowering of the boats and the annual Christmas party. The club meets the costs of these celebrations and Phyllis and daughter Karen are always on hand to do the catering and they certainly know how to throw a party!

An important objective of the club is to pass on traditional boating and river skills, fishing, rope work and boat maintenance to local youngsters. The owners do their own boat maintenance and help each other out when the need arises. Byrne’s son Mark is a great asset to the club and some of the other members such as Brian, Phil, Mick, Keith and younger members such as Darragh Byrne and Brandon Larkin are always on hand.

Byrne and his fellow Director, Jimmy Murray, have applied to the Covanta-financed Community Gain Fund for money to replace the current Clubhouse with a concrete structure. Byrne smiles sheepishly and tells NewsFour: “I know we are hypocrites. I was on the anti-committee for six years but it’s a done deal so we might as well get something out of it.” He went on to say “money is not God in the club. We have about 80 members and that works. We don’t want to be wealthy and prefer to remain small and intimate. The objective is fun and facilitating those who need space.”

By Jennifer Reddin