Monday, August 06, 2018

About the swimmers again ... or none

I was struck during the current spell of hot weather how the use of the river in such conditions has changed since I was a boy, writes Brian Byrne.

For instance, the area I picture above, just over the Jockey Stile (probably better known today as the path to New Abbey Graveyard from the top of the Valley), would be full of groups of young people and families on weekend afternoons through the summer holidays, sunbathing, swimming, and socialising.

The families with small ones would be ensconced further along, on a grassy headland with a small 'beach' and paddle-able water at the mouth of the Mill Stream, accessible on paths through the low green rushes, which now simply can't be reached.

Back at the first bank, though it was steep there were plenty of spots to lay out towels — or, but rarely, more posh rugs — and sit to watch the goings-on, as the local young lads and girls swam in the deeper water, and dived off the board helpfully erected on the bank by the then owner of New Abbey Stud, the late Ken Urquhart.

There were other regular swimming spaces in the area too, on the opposite bank of the river below Castlemartin, and also at Carnalway.

Myself, and most of my childhood friends, learned to swim at one or all of those places. These days it seems that nobody does. And the only young people who find themselves swimming in the river are members of Kilcullen Canoe Club who have capsized, either by accident or deliberately in training.

Of course, I've written about all this before … exactly 13 years ago. So rather than do it all again, here's a link to that 'Where have all the swimmers gone?' piece, still as relevant as then.

The National Heritage Week this year has a focus on telling stories of our past. Have you any like this?

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