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Leo and mussel fishing on Boyne

The Diary


Bags of mussels from the Boyne. Pic Des Clinton

Bags of mussels from the Boyne. Pic Des Clinton

Bags of mussels from the Boyne. Pic Des Clinton

We lost the great Leo Boyle recently but from time to time he told some great stories, including this one from a few years ago.

The Boyne Mussel Fishermen were an exceptional breed, battling against the tides and the elements. He once heard his grandfather tell a story to a friend that would have occurred during the 1920s.

Apparently there were a number of fishermen dredging for mussels on a cold, bleak winter morning with a severe biting northerly breeze howling down the river. It was just dawn and a craft entered the harbour piloted by a stranger.

As he eased his craft past the fishermen, he shouted at them. Dear God, my good men is there no spike or poorhouse in the vicinity which could take you in?"

Many onlookers would get the impression that the fishermen were insane. The occupation always appeared more difficult to a stranger than it actually was.

During the old days when one had to travel at least three miles from home to get a bottle of stout, some men from Mornington would travel to Baltray, which was eight miles down the road. They had to do this by law back then, no one could legally drink at a pub that was within three miles of their homes.

'To circumvent this peculiar law. the local men who fancied a bottle of stout would cross the river by boat to Baltray, which was a distance ol around one mile.

On one occasion, when my grandfather did this, he moored the boat in a particular spot, ensuring that the boat would be afloat when be returned.

He went to the pub but when he returned to the boat, he found that it was high and dry on the beach. The wind had changed and blown it onto the sand. It was nearly midnight and needing two to lift it, he had to walk for home in the pitch black of the night.

It was around 1am when he was passing Mornington cemetery when he suddenly heard a voice in the darkness - 'have you got a match?'

It turned out to be two men 'airing a vault' for a burial the following day.

He handed the match over and made quickly for home!

Drogheda Independent