- Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 20 Oct 1956
- Full Text
- Corragh ChampionsSchooner Days MCCXCII (1292)
by C. H. J. Snider
'TWAS a sight to send hats over steeples, that home stretch of the Eire Corragh Championships.
Blowing hard and cold it was, right in the bow of the corraghs and the backs of the boys, and them with cloth caps and wool jerseys glued to scalp and skin with freezing spray, while 30,000 on the promenade shivered in winter overcoats that 19th of last May.
But the sight! Four black hulls leapfrogging the Atlantic waves, coming through spray-bursts like hunters taking stone walls, out of view one minute in the trough, all clear of the water if seemed in the next, larger very second, like an oncoming locomotive.
The straight and narrow oar-blades flashed like insects wings, the black bows of the boat shot out like porpoises as the wind blew, away the spray of the oar thrash and the foam feathers of the plunging leaping prows.
Who can tell, for both boats in front have the same Galway county jerseys, deep red like the petticoats of the black-shawled women of the west.
The start was an exciting as the finish.
"Hello, hello! Attintion please! Will the contestants for the finals please take their place? Tis the last call."
This from the loud speaker on the starting stand, after all the eliminations and preliminaries were over.
The Kerry crew from Magharees, cheerful in golden yellow jerseys, lined up. Both the Galway county crews – the Joyces from Lettermore and the Macdonogh brothers and their cousin Michael Folan, from Carraroe – all in white barred crimson jerseys, took their stations.
County Clare's blue shirts from Scattery Island and Kilkee had been eliminated. So had the black jerseys from Achill and from Black Sod Bay. And the white-speckled bawneen clad boys from Aran-though Inisheer, the South Island of the group, had captured the £10 consolation prize after losing an oar and the elimination heat.
Where was Donegal?
All the crews craned heads for the late-comer, and reverted to the sky-blue, fibreglas corragh, light as a feather and smooth as an eel, on display on the shore, It was an added trophy from the manufacturers to the winners in the National Finals.
But where was that black Tyrconnel sea serpent from Gowla Island in Donegal, that squeezed into the finals? A long racy, fast-looking corragh she was, with graceful overhangs and green trim inboard above the gleaming black tar of her topsides, and her crew wearing green jerseys. Where were they?
"Attintion PLEASE," urged the loud-speaker again."Donegal, you have just two minutes. If you're not her in two minutes the finals start without you!"
Around the horn of the landing cove shoots Donegal's dusky snakehead, her green-jerseyed crew pulling rhythmically, tar on their fists and bare arms. To the last second they have been patching a rip in that eighth of an inch of tarred canvas which keeps the whole of the Atlantic Ocean from pulping down the wearers o' the green.
The Joyces are favorites, but the three Corraroe boys still in their teens, who won last year made it a ding-dong battle.
Donegal was now second, now third, as the crimson jerseys fought it out.
Kerry, a favorite last year tired early and scarcely able to hold fourth place fails to finish.
Perhaps it was weight and age, that told; perhaps the difference in the corraghs. One was squared off in the stern and seemed to be shortened and sharpened at the stem. The other was very narrow in the stern, like the Bluenose, Canada's world-champion fisherman, Michael Joyce built the winner.
The all-Joyce crew was, John William, captain 37; John Martin 38, bow, and plain Martin 25 second thwart. Like the builder, Michael, they were all from Lettermore.
Anyway- the Joyces won the championship of all Ireland-and the £50 that goes with it-and the Tostal and corragh racing trophies-and the sky-blue fiberglas corragh.
Carroroe got £25 for second place, Donegal got £10 for the third which should make the tar patch stick. And Kerry had £5 for winning an elimination heat.
The time for the championship was 22 minutes 43 seconds, half a minute faster than last year.
Two miles in 23 minutes, does not seem a breakneck speed. But try to beat it! In a corragh! In rough water!
- Snider, C. H. J.
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- 20 Oct 1956
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Latitude: 53.27245 Longitude: -9.05095
- Richard Palmer
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