Wednesday, 19th March 2008
Waterford Boat Club through one of our older members Michael Hearne, gratefully took possession of a trophy won at the Waterford City Regatta in 1880, just two years after the inauguration of the club. The club came into existence on 23rd May 1878 in the Mayors chambers in the Town Hall as it was called at that time, it comes under the more appropriate name of the City Hall now. The trophy is an individual piece awarded to one of the crew for winning the race.
Originally thought to be silver the staff of the Waterford Treasures Museum identified it as an electroplated piece, numbered and made by Dillons of Waterford, therefore the piece can be traced to the date it was made. The construction of the piece is on the form of a chalice supported by three oars touching together as they cross each other to form the base. The centre point of the oars support a Laurel wreath, the old Roman Empire decoration for victory.
During my conversations with Michael, he made a mention of his time rowing for the club saying that he won the coveted Goff Shield for maiden eights at the Waterford City Regatta of 1941, saying to me that there were five members of that crew alive still. Well now, that could not be overlooked, five still alive after 67 years so we went looking and located Pat Whelan, Paddy Walsh, Billy Grace, and Seamus Breen. Michael, Pat and Billy came along to us on Saturday 9th February to attend a function in their honour. The night went on and we asked all three of them to recall the race of 1941 for us and we saw the glint of competition come back into their eyes as we strived to win this race all over again.
They told us that Cork Boat Club gave them a hard time well into the race before they began to shake them off and that not a stroke could be wasted - there was no room for error. Pat Phelan entertained the gathering with his conjuring skills and while we never believed they were pure magic he held the audience to silence. We understand that Seamus Breen is not feeling too well at this stage of his life and that Paddy Walsh was undergoing a leg operation that weekend and could not attend. Nevertheless they were remembered and while not there in person certainly there in spirit.
Paddy Walsh went on to the priesthood at a later date and served in the missions using an old bicycle to make his way through the rainforest and jungles, he is now recovering in the care of the Missions of the Sacred Heart in Cork.
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