09 March 2011

A day in Skerries Sailing Club

Turquoise waters and small boats in front of Skerries Sailing Club this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

We spent the day in Skerries, where we had our Ash Wednesday retreat. A sailing club may seem an unusual choice of venue, but Skerries Sailing Club proved to a very appropriate location, and we received a very warm welcome from the manager, Donal Lynam.

The club is located on the narrow isthmus that links Skerries with the harbour and Red Island. No-one no one else was using the club during the day, and we had the most glorious views across the South Strand on one side and the Harbour and the North Strand on the other.

The sea was blustery at times, but the sun kept shining all day, and there was a cheery spring feeling to the whole day. There was generous time and space for beach walks, around the harbour and Red Island – and to drop into the Olive for a cup of coffee

Spring sunshine for Ash Wednesday at Skerries Harbour this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Skerries Sailing Club is a vibrant sailing and boating club set in the scenic island-studded waters off the coast of Fingal (north County Dublin). The first recorded regatta in Skerries took place in 1857 but it was another 76 years before a club was formally founded at a meeting in the local library.

The surnames of the first committee members read like a roll call of famous Skerries sailing names: McDermot, Varian, Derham, Shiels, May, O’Reilly, McNally, Cochrane, Grimes, Clarke and Dardis. Many of those names are still represented through their children and grandchildren who have taken up the call of sail and carry on a great local tradition.

The first fleet consisted of six boats, and the first club flag was proudly hoisted on 13 June 1934 on the flagpole at the old lifeboat house, which was rented as a clubhouse for £20 a year. There was no bar and after meetings the members retired to local harbour hostelries for refreshments.

In 1944, despite World War II, the club bought its first permanent home, Stella Maris, later the Bayview Restaurant, for £750. The club moved in 1948 when Inish Rue and Bay View were bought by the club and Stella Maris was sold for £2500.

In the 1960s, the club was divided over a decision to add a goat’s head to the burgee. The choice was inspired by a local legend about Saint Patrick’s goat, allegedly killed and eaten by locals.

In 1972 Bord Failte made a loan towards the £34,500 cost of building a new clubhouse. It was an investment that paid yields today and we are all indebted to Donal Lynam, for his hospitality, and to Helen McGlinchey for leading our reflections.

At the end of the afternoon, we walked the length of the South Strand to Holmpatrick for our concluding Eucharist. Canon Cecil Hyland, who is looking after the parish during the present vacancy, was there to welcome us and to introduce us to Holmpatrick.

The rain held off until the end of the day, as we headed back home through Loughshinny and Rush.

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