Surviving and thriving for 300 years is an impressive record in anyone's book - a nautical reality they're celebrating later this month at the Royal Cork Yacht Club. Known locally by the acronym RCYC, the club commemorates its tercentenary as the oldest yacht club in the world - offering a lens to the social and political upheavals of Ireland itself over three centuries.
Founded originally as the Water Club of the Harbour of Cork, its maritime majesty got top masthead billing by the Cork Hibernian Chronicle: "Yachts and boats, each vying with each other in gaiety of dress and cheerfulness of appearance, blazed upon the water. Flowing colours, snow-white sails and gilded poops, all conspired to imagine the famed Queen of Egypt sailing down the silver Cydnus."
Not your 'rub-a-dub-dub' kind of stuff, obviously. If the origins of the RCYC were inevitably linked to a colonial and military past, it retained a distinct Irish ancestry running throughout a membership of landowners, merchants and military. People like the O'Briens and Inchiquins, descendants of Brian Boru and Irish through and through, but who changed religion according to the political needs of the time.
As with any mixed body of humanity, the club has known its share of colourful characters, including one JN Beamish from the 1870s - an individual inspired to inflammatory passions over the slightest social infraction. "Sir, I request you be silent and not make such disturbing noise," snuffled a fellow sea dog.
"Sir, do not attempt to address me as you know I have not spoken to you for 12 months and therefore it is most presumptuous of you to speak to me in such a tone or address me at all," came the thundering reply.
In the world of 2020 where female emancipation on and off the water is a given, consider the outraged response from a group of Cobh ladies to an 1831 attempt to stage a rowing race for females during the annual regatta.
"We appeal to your generosity as gentlemen not to see our sex degraded by this unnatural and disgusting exhibition. We entreat you as men of taste and refinement not to take pleasure in viewing the coarse and masculine attitudes of a boatman assumed by a woman."
The ladies were clearly not for turning.
While the RCYC was frequently a club faced with financial ruin through wars, rebellions and pandemics, it survived as a seafaring sanctuary through generations that see the works of the Lord in the wonders of the deep, as Psalm 107 has it. The longevity of the Royal Cork Yacht Club through three centuries of troubled times returns continually to one essential certainty - a love of sailing and the sea.
Jacques Cousteau best understood this maritime magic: "The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever."
A maths teacher friend is not overjoyed about the imminent prospect of remote learning.
"When I ask the question, 'Everybody understand that?' in the classroom, I'll know from the faces the ones who don't. On a video monitor, it's hard to read confusion or puzzlement, and some kids will undoubtedly get left behind."
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