Wednesday 21 March 2018

Some 90pc of my business is taking Eastern Europeans out to fish

Councillor Niamh Kennedy looking out to the pier in Killybegs. Photo: Brian McDaid
Councillor Niamh Kennedy looking out to the pier in Killybegs. Photo: Brian McDaid
Retired fisherman Brian McGilloway in Killybegs. Photo: Brian McDaid

Brian McGilloway has spent most of his life either at sea or working on boats. At 74 years old, he now takes visitors out on angling trips on his purpose-built 40ft boat, the MV Meridian.

But on the day we visit, he's going nowhere. The weather, although sunny and breezy on land, is not good for seafaring.

"It's the worst kind of day at sea. The wind is from the south-west and there's a small-craft warning," says Brian

When he was just shy of his 14th birthday, Brian first went to sea to work as a fisherman and he loved it. He made a deal with his father, John, that he would do an apprenticeship as a boat-builder before returning to fish.

In 1959, he went into what is now Mooney's Boat Yard and stayed until 1983. His father before him had been a boat-builder. The demands of raising a family of four girls and two boys meant the steadiness of a solid trade won out in the end, and he didn't go back to fishing full-time. Not surprisingly, his two sons are both seamen, too - one fishes out of Cork and another works on a pilot boat in England.

However, Brian says he always kept his hand in fishing and pledges that he'll be on his boat until the day he dies.

"I have a web page and I take people out fishing. I supply the rods and we fish for pollock and cod. Some 90pc of my business now is taking Eastern Europeans out to fish. They work in the factories and every fish they get goes home with them. We'll always catch something," says Brian.

Brian's daughter, local councillor Niamh Kennedy, was a driving force behind the development of the new 63-berth marina in the town. She says there is a sense of the local community pulling together.

"We used to be a very heavy-industry town because of the fishing industry. You'd see bits of fish lying around. The town is changing, there's more development and new cafés starting up. More people are stopping off and we are going to see a lot more of that," says Niamh.

Like most people in Killybegs, Brian's a slave to the weather forecast.

"It's all very weather-prone. You look at the forecast all the time. Someone could ask me what's the weather like on Saturday and they want to go sea-angling. They arrive here and the weather's bad. It might be good on land. Like today, it's nice on land but at sea it's blowing a six," he says, referring to the Beaufort scale where a six can cause a strong breeze with six to 13-foot waves.

Standing on the slipway, he looks crestfallen that the weather has kept him on dry land. "If I'm onshore for a couple of days, I'd get jittery to get back out again. It's the same as a fix," says Brian.

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