A close-knit fishing community, Kilmore Quay rallied behind their own once again at the weekend as the news broke that local man Joe Sinnott (65) had lost his life after the trawler he was fishing from sank off Hook Head late on Saturday night.
A family steeped in fishing, the Sinnotts are extremely well respected in the area and Joe, from Seaview, Kilmore, had been fishing since he was a teenager. In recent times he took up with Willie Whelan, for whom a major search operation is still ongoing off the Wexford coast.
Joe's son Michael said that he got a call late on Saturday night to inform him of the desperate situation.
'I got a call at around 11 p.m. to let me know what was going on,' he said. 'I said I'd call my mother straight away and let her know. She had only been talking to my father a couple of hours beforehand at around 9 o'clock. At that stage, he said he was on the last haul and they were going to make their way back to Duncannon then. He said he would be home at some stage during the night, so she was waiting on him.'
At this stage, it is unknown what caused the vessel, the Alize, to go down and Michael says that it's one of those mysteries that may never be solved.
'We don't know what happened,' he said. 'I've done a lot of fishing and I know that they'd been out in conditions much worse than that. There was very little wind. Everything seemed to be going grand and then something must have happened suddenly. It's a mystery. Nobody can give us the answer as to what happened. It must have been some kind of freak occurrence.'
Michael also pointed out that the boats operated by the Whelan family were impeccably maintained.
'Everything was well up to scratch on the boat,' he said. 'All of their boats are well maintained and wouldn't want for anything. You could nearly go down and eat your dinner off the engine room floor they're that good.'
Speaking of missing man Willie Whelan, Michael said that his father had a special bond with him since they started working together a number of years ago.
'Willie was like a second son to him,' he said. 'They were like two peas in a pod. Anytime the two boys were together, you'd try get a bit of information out of them and they'd tell you nothing unless you were miles away and they could have the place cleared out before you got there! They were really close and had a brilliant bond.'
The fishing community in Kilmore Quay once again united and rallied around the Sinnott family in the face of this latest tragedy, which comes just months after another relative Dom Sinnott was recovered from the sea having gone overboard some 60 miles from Rosslare Harbour.
'The fishing community is like one big extended family,' said Michael. 'In tragic situations like this everyone pulls together and people are always very good. The RNLI and Coast Guard and everything have been brilliant as well. 2019 was a tough year. I never thought when we saw the back of it, we would be dealing with something like this.'
Local councillor Jim Codd, who also works as a teacher at Bridgetown College, said that some of the youngsters were turning up for school very upset at the weekend's events.
'The whole community is heartbroken,' he said. 'The Sinnott family is extremely well-known and respected and I suppose this situation highlights the dangers our fishermen are facing on a daily basis. So many families around here are involved in the fishing industry. The lifeboats have been out searching all day yesterday and are back out today again and without doubt, it's safe to say that these crews are heroes of the highest order.'
Joe was described as being a real family man. He was a devoted husband to Mary and the pair had been married for 45 years. He was a loving father to Michael, Siobhan, Bernie and Bridget. As time went on, he became a grandfather of nine, a role which he adored and he took a great interest in the lives of all his grandchildren.
Fishing was something that was in the blood for Joe. Having started at an early age, he worked on fishing boats almost his whole life apart from stints at Irish Ferries and Advance Cleaners. He loved the sense of community, camaraderie and craic that was to be had in the company of fellow sea faring men.
'He was always up for the craic,' Michael said. 'He had that mischievous smile and he was a bit of a prankster. He'd always be pulling pranks on you if you were out for a few drinks or that. He would've been turning 66 this year and was coming up to retirement age. He had planned to take a bit of a step back, but sadly he'll never see it now.'
Joe's remains will repose at Mulligan's Funeral Home, The Faythe, today (Tuesday) from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m. Funeral prayers will take place tomorrow (Wednesday) at 11.15 a.m. followed by removal to St Mary's Church, Kilmore for funeral mass at 12 noon. Burial will take place afterwards in the New Cemetery, Kilmore. Family flowers only. Donations in lieu to the RNLI.
Joe is sadly missed by his loving family, his brother and sister, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, uncles, aunts, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, relatives and a large circle of friends. May he rest in peace.