Tramore’s August 15th

August 15th is a highly significant date around the world in both religious and political terms. Here in Tramore, Co. Waterford, ‘the 15th’  has long been associated with the height of the tourist season and always falls on the week of the Tramore Racing Festival. Horse-racing in Tramore has been a huge attraction for over 200 years now and draws vast crowds from all round the south-east and beyond. This is a week when the population of Tramore swells, but mainly with people whose families have been coming here for generations.

In the normal course of events, the sun is shining, the beach thronged, the Merries in full swing with people of all ages taking turns in the bumper cars, the Hall of Mirrors and even the little train that runs around the Amusement Park.  With the races due to start tomorrow, one would be likely to come across a farmer from the Midlands enjoying his annual dip in the sea and happy to share tips for likely winners over the week’s racing.

Today brought a different kind of 15th with a huge storm blowing and torrential downpours.  All appeared to be lost but after tea there was a break in the sky and Tramore came alive with people converging out along the Cliff Road, The Guillemene and Newtown to take in the magnificence of the waves.  The sense of community was palpable. This was ‘our’ place; ‘our’ Bay and we were there together standing in awe. I doubt there was a person there who didn’t wish that they could have shared that special moment with people from past generations for whom Tramore was also very special.

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Even when the rain started to fall again, and the spray was cutting into our faces, there was good humour and sheer wonderment at the vista that lay before us.

I just had to see Garrarus, which is one of my little sanctuaries about three miles on along the coast. Just at the turn down to the beach, the sky took on an orange tint and there was a hint of blue trying to blend its way through the dankness.  Just one car at Garrarus, a father with his two kids and their dog.  A sweet, sweet calm and hope that the races will go ahead with all their excitement and colour.  But I know that memories of this August 15th will linger long in the collective memory of all who felt its force in and around Tramore this evening.

Sunset at Garrarus

The Turning Tides of Tramore


 The turn of the year in Tramore always makes me think of the turning tides on the beach; those moments when you watch the sea withdrawing to reveal clear golden sands beneath or when you realise that the sound of the sea and the waves are pressing forward to embrace the naked shore. We can either look back and remember, or look forward and hope.

Galloping on Tramore Beach

Two of the New Year rituals that spell ‘Tramore’ in my mind certainly bring this notion of past and future together in very different ways. At about ten o’clock on New Year’s Eve, my son and I make our way out to Newtown Cove to cast what we call our wishing stones. Usually we’re lucky and the moon is bright, allowing us to choose the stones which we feel are just right for us – it’s all about size, colour, texture and finding a stone that feels as if it symbolises those elements of life that are fundamentally important to us. Then in turn, we each cast our stone as far as we can out towards Brownstown and make a secret wish for the year ahead. We’ve always had the Cove to ourselves for this important ceremony in which Newtown is like a perfect amphitheatre, with its sloping cliffs, rugged rock formations, and natural acoustics. Far away, we can see the circling shadow of the light beaming from historic Hook Lighthouse.

Wishing Stones

Back home, we wait for the stroke of midnight, and then it happens. Like an ancient tribe, marking the turn of the year, three or four generations of a family across the road burst forth from their house, banging saucepans with metal spoons. Within seconds, the rest of the neighbours are out and the procession circles once, drawing the community together, and then all is silent waiting for the New Dawn.
Reading a 1940s book called The English at the Seaside that I bought at an auction in Keighery’s of Waterford, I was stunned to find the name Dr Richard Russell popping up in relation to founding the fame and fortunes of Brighton through his advocacy of the health benefits of sea-bathing. Dr Russell has always been mentioned as a key person, along with Bartholomew Rivers, in influencing the development of  Tramore as a popular seaside spa and resort from around 1750 onwards.
This little bit of history, coupled with a nostalgic look through pictures of bathing huts, bands on Promenades and the evolution of bathing costumes, including the ladies two-piece, which seems to have been around since antiquity, but only as a bikini since 1946, plunged me into thoughts of the coming season.

Tramore – Annestown Road

The lengthening days, the first tentative show of early snowdrops and crocuses and the opening of the racing calendar for 2012 at Tramore Racecourse, with the blaze of jockeys colours, give us a glimpse of what is ahead. What immediately springs to my mind are the daffodils that will line the road between Tramore and Annestown, the bluebells in Newtown Wood, people eating al fresco at the Vee Bistro, Gallwey’s Café and Chris’s Pancake Shop; the return of the lifeguards and the flags to advise the multitude of bathers; the colourful buckets and spades of happy children playing on the beach; the reappearance of the newly painted boats at the Pier; the array of kites and kite surfers who will join the hardy all-year surfers in the wavey sea; the whirring colours and lights of the Merries; circuses from all round the world;  blankets of sea pinks on the Back Strand; the ripe sweet-smelling fruit on the familiar table of the Strawberry Man on Priest’s Road, whose big green umbrella and warm smile will tell us that Summer has truly come.

Sea Pinks