It was on the first Friday in July in 1999 that Rescue 111 crashed in dense fog in the sand dunes of Tramore Beach. That year the first Friday was July 2 but this year it’s today.
The four crew who lost their young lives that night live on in our memories here in Tramore and we continue to live in awe of their bravery.
Tonight, I really want to salute the four men who perished that terrible night and send fondest wishes to their families, friends and colleagues.
Sgt. Patrick Mooney, aged 34
Capt. David O’Flaherty, aged 30
Capt. Michael Baker, aged 28
Cpl. Niall Byrne, aged 24
Sadly, 2017, which marks the 18th anniversary of the loss of the crew of Rescue 111 is also a year which has seen the deaths (March 14) of all four crew members of Rescue 116 in Co. Mayo. This tragedy is still very, very raw and has underlined, yet again, the extent to which those who work in Search and Rescue and risk their lives for the rest of us deserve to be recognised as true heroes and thanked by us all from the very bottom of our hearts.
As the days lengthen, Tramore Beach draws lots of families with young children for some before-bed play time. Often you just see fathers and sons or maybe it’s just me that sees fathers and sons because when son, Harry, was young, he and his father used to go down to the beach and play hurling until it was beyond dark.
Hurling is a BIG sport in Co. Waterford and the beach is a great place for ‘pucking around.’
The other night I spotted this little chap with his father and I wondered if I will be cheering him on to All-Ireland glory with the rest of Waterford in a few years. Even if he doesn’t make the big time, I’ve no doubt that these nights will give him an enduring love of hurling, sea air and a sense of endless dusk that is part of childhood:
Every single day I pass Newtown House in Tramore and it’s like it just doesn’t want to be noticed any more or, worse still, photographed.
It dates back to the 1750s and is described in An Introduction to the Architectural Heritage of County Waterford as follows:
… Newtown House (c.1750), Tramore, a substantial five -bay house with enclosed porch….. This attractive, substantial house of solid massing is historically associated with the Power family; a wing was added in the mid twentieth century and accommodates a private chapel.
One of the lovely features of Newtown House is its location. It has stunning views of Tramore Bay and there are remnants of a walled garden which is now used as a soccer field.
It was converted into Bed and Breakfast accommodation around the 1970s and has falling into complete disrepair, especially after a couple of fires, in the last decade or so.
Deep within the abandonment of the house lies some hints of its past:
Beating one’s way around the back through briars, there are some fairly intact windows that draw ponderings about the former inhabitants and how they must have loved the views of the the Bay when they opened the shutters:
Something that matters hugely to me is that it was the O’Neill -Power family from Newtown House who were responsible for planting my precious Newtown Wood in the early 19th Century when they opened an avenue from the Metal Man landmark to Newtown Cove.
I live in hope every evening when I see Newtown House at sunset that it will experience a new dawn that will see it rise again from its abandoned state.
It was very frosty this morning but there was a tint in the early morning sky that drew me down to the beach here in Tramore.
There’s no where in this world that feels more like ‘my’ place and being there brings me back to childhood days with buckets and spades; summer days when it’s packed with regulars and visitors all mingling with the salty air, scent of coconut suncream, happy screams of kids as they splash in the waves; old-timers with white sun hats and a passion for ‘The Tramore Air.’
Today, there was just me, the sea and the gulls. Same place but a new day, seen through eyes that never tire.
The sea was calm but playful:
And all the while, I knew that Tramore was smiling down on me from her haunts up on the hill:
There’s an awful lot of things I don’t understand and I’m not sure that I need to understand them, especially as I’m a puppy dog and no one expects me to be contemplating stuff.
What has me awesticken today is the way my wood kept changing depending on the time of day and where we were in relation to it.
This was this morning:
Then, this evening, we were there when it was getting a bit dark and some of the leaves were all crumpled up and ready to fall. I love walking on paths of leaves but I feel sad looking at the ones that are sort of clinging on for dear life:
Jean disappeared onto a cliff when the sun was setting to take some photos of her old friend the Metal Man:
I wondered if I’d ever see her again cos the cliff is awful steep and she gets a bit careless at sunset time. To take my mind off that worry and fretsomeness, I gazed and gazed at the way our little wood was all decorated by the sunset. You’d never think it had any crumpled leaves, would you?
I wonder will that leaf have fallen by tomorrow. If it does fall, I hope it has a nice, soft landing. That’s something everyone needs, I think.
There’s few places that feel more like home to me than The Slip down at Tramore Beach. It’s a place that’s all abuzz in Summer when there’s a bit of sun. You see relaxation personified and lots and lots of colour ~ deckchairs, windbreakers, lifeguards, ice-creams, tanning bodies; and there are the scents of coconut sun cream, fish and chips, seaweed; sounds of kiddies’ excitement and freedom, waves splashing, chatter of old-timers …..
At this time of year, The Slip tends to be quiet apart from a few tourists, regular walkers, joggers and sea-lovers.
I love the solitude you find there in Autumn as the sun is rising. There is the company of the seagulls and the familiarity of it all as this is the place where I spent hours and hours as a babe in arms, with a babe in arms, readying myself for a swim, or just whiling away the hours watching the ebb and flow of the sea.
All this was on my mind as I stood their very early last Saturday morning, having been woken at all hours by the dogs barking at I know not what.
The thing about The Slip is that you can generalise about it all you like but it is never, ever the same as it was even a moment before or after. This is how it was while I was there on Saturday for that stolen hour or so half in my pyjamas, half in in winter woollies:
Tramore is in deep mourning today as the community tries to come to terms with a horrific car crash out along the Cliff Road last night.
A sixteen year old school girl lost her life and two other teenagers are seriously injured.
Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the girl who died and our thoughts are with the injured boy and girl and the driver who, though, not badly injured will clearly be scarred for life.
Every parent lives in dread of these awful accidents which can bring such drastic changes in a heartbeat.
The community is certainly drawing together to try and support those who have been beareved and injured. I guess we all know that this could just as easily be one of our own children and, in a small place like this, where people know each other, there is a sense that we have lost a child who was part of Tramore and its environs.
A sad, sad time here which will live on in the collective memory for a long, long time.
Rest in Peace, Beautiful Young Woman and know that you are held in the most loving arms imaginable.
There’s been a moodiness about Tramore Bay over the last few days that has been hard to keep up with.
I often think that the sea is like me in the way she vacillates from calm to not so calm; from flippant to darkly serious; from thunderous to quiet; from hard to soft-hearted; ponderous to sharply focussed; attention-seeking to intensely private …
Yes, so changeable and that ebb and flow like breathing – sometimes shallow, other times deep.
Here’s how my precious Tramore Bay has been looking when I’ve been around. I can hear her whispering ever so gently as I write and I know that there’s a sliver of moon playing with her.
I sped out of the house around eight o’clock as the sun had just set and found myself down at the Prom looking out over Tramore Bay.
It was one of those balmy September nights when locals and visitors were trying to eke out the very last of the Summer. The ‘Merries’ have closed down, on weekday nights anyway, but there was a big queue at Dooly’s Fish and Chip Shop which is a landmark place by the Ladies’ Slip here in Tramore. Even when you’ve had supper, it’s hard to resist at least a ‘small chip’ wrapped in steaming paper with that distinctive salt and vinegar smell that blends so well with the salty sea air and the splashing of the waves.
Tonight, the Prom seemed to be all about lines. The horizon was sharp, in stark contrast to the dense fog that hung over it early this morning; the waves were like dark pencil lines as they crested; the three pillars out at the Metal Man rose up to lend their shape to the scene; and most of all the Prom railings marked out Tramore as the place that has held me since I was a babe-in-arms.
Just to run my fingers along those railings anchors me like nowhere else. I’ve leaned against them in all-weathers for over half a century now and they always make me think of the millions of hands that have held them as Tramore has won the hearts of people who could be just about anywhere as I write.