Friday 22 September 2017

'Fishing was their lives and livelihoods'

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

ON SATURDAY afternoon the Bolger brothers could be seen with lobster pots laid out on the green in front of their home at Blynd Quay.

Enjoying the blistering sunshine, they went through a process they'd done countless times, as did generations of their family before them.

They were cementing the cages so they'd sink to the lobster-rich sea-bed off Dunmore East.

Just four days later, Paul (50), Kenny (47) and Shane (45) were drowned after the boat they used to retrieve their catch capsized, leaving their family utterly devastated.

All three men had entered the fishing industry as soon as they left school, following in the footsteps of their late father, Johnny, who fished the Suir estuary and surrounding coastline for salmon and lobster for decades.

Fishing was was also in the blood on their mother, Margaret's side of the family, as it is for so many in the grief stricken community of Passage East, Co Waterford.

Locals gathered in the community centre, itself a former herring processing plant, to sign a book of condolence. One local woman, Deirdre Barry, recalled that the Bolger brothers' love of fishing dated back to their early childhood.

She told the Irish Independent: "They always fished. In primary school they'd be calling the roll book and the teacher would say 'Kenny Bolger' and they'd say, 'no sir, he's gone fishing'. When the salmon season was on, Kenny wouldn't go to school."

She said he was a "character" in the village. "If you came to Passage you'd go away knowing Kenny – even if you were only here for an hour."

SING-SONGS

Locals remembered how he turned up to his local pub, Furlongs, wearing a Manchester City football shirt in a village of United fans and how his party piece during sing-songs was a rendition of Bruce Springsteen's song 'The River'.

Kenny lived with his mother at the family home in Passage East. Older brothers Anthony, a fisherman himself, and Michael were there last night along with their sister Lynda.

Another sibling, Paula, the twin sister of Paul, was returning last night from her home in Amsterdam.

Paul had one daughter, Rachel; and Shane had two children, Calum and Martha Kay, with his wife Lucy.

Their neighbour, Sandra Mason, described the Bolger brothers as "very, very family-orientated. They were very much into family and one another."

And she remembered how they had helped when tragedy struck her family four years ago after her father, Paddy Mason, was also lost to the sea near Hook Head.

She said they were one of the first boats out of Dunmore East as part of the search party when her father didn't return from his fishing trip.

Paddy Mason was found shortly after he went missing, but Sandra said that on other searches during the all too-frequent fishing tragedies in the region, the Bolger brothers "went out in their own boats every single day on the tide and came in with the tide" searching until the missing fisherman was retrieved.

She said Shane played 'The Lonesome Boatman' on the tin whistle during her father's funeral procession, adding that: "They were the best neighbours that anyone could ask for."

She said their family have been left "devastated and heartbroken" and that there was a "sense of disbelief" that the three men had been lost.

Sandra described Paul as a hard worker, "a great old slogger", who had only recently returned to lobster fishing after working as a labourer.

She added: "They come from a long family of fishermen. His father and his father before him. That was their livelihood. They really didn't know anything else."

Irish Independent

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