My Dad has been involved in Lee Rowing Club, Cork City, Ireland since 1959. Rowing has always been part of my childhood memories from Saturdays and Sundays at the Club while Dad trained the crews, to making sandwiches on regatta days, to running up the banks of the Lee shouting " Come on Lee" as the crews were reaching the finish line. Summer weekends were spent driving to regatta in places such as Clonmel, Dungarvan, Limerick, Skibbereen to name but a few. I never actually rowed myself but Brian, my older brother, did for many years for both Lee and University College Cork.
For many years Dad was a coach, cox, captain and President of the club. He is the only cox in the history of the club that was never thrown in the water after a win - they were just too afraid to do it!! The crews just didn't realize that under his tough exterior is a big soft loving heart.
On Friday night, Lee Rowing Club, honored my Dad by dedicating a boat in his name. This honor is normally reserved for someone who has passed away but my Dad is so much respected they wanted to show him how they appreciated all he has done for the club in the last 48 years. Here are some pictures taken on Friday night:
There is a joke in my house that Dad loves anything named Lee the most! The river that goes through Cork City is the Lee, his beloved club is called Lee Rowing Club and his only daughter (Me!) is Leona but has had "Lee" as a nick name for as long as I remember! My brothers used to tell me I used to smell like the river which to be honest is not a compliment but I suppose that is what brothers do! My name came from Dad's as he is Leonard.
We as a family have made some life long friends with people we have met through rowing. To name a few:
Mary Keating was like my third grandmother. Dick her husband died many years ago and since then every Tuesday night my Dad had a date with her and was know to everyone as my Dad's girlfriend. Mary's birthday was Christmas eve and we visited her always on this day. Her home was also a place to visit on family occasions such as College graduation etc. My fondest last memory of Mary was dancing with her at Brian's wedding. I last spoke to her on Christmas Eve 2005 and she told me she had her maxi dress all ready to dance at my wedding the following September. Unfortunately she died a few weeks later and never made it to my wedding but we did light a candle for her on the altar that day! My memories of my childhood are filed with Mary and Dick at the club.
Visits to Jim Ryders farm was always exciting. I grew up in a city but only about 15 mins drive away was the Ryder farm. Here I learned where milk came from and remember running through the fields picking blackberries for Mom to make jam. The highlight of any visit to the Ryders house was the smell and the taste of Ita's home baking. Jim died the same year as Mary and one of the boats was also dedicated to him.
From about age 12 I spent my summers at the home of Richard Hosford in Sandycove outside Skibereen. We went for the last two weeks of July for Dads summer holidays. After two weeks, when Dad had to go back to work we always begged to stay longer and mostly went home the last week in August to get ready for school in September. Memories of early morning fishing trips, late nights climbing the cliffs, helping the local farmers bring in the hay, eating Edith's ( Richard's Mother) chocolate biscuit cake and listening to her stories are just a few and have lots more, too many to recount. It was a wonderful place to spend our summer holidays. I also can say that I have been in nearly every house from Lough Hyne to Glandore, as well as fishing Richard's other job was to read electricity meters and I used to go with him in the car. I think I made his work days longer as, of course, I had to chat to everyone!
Len O'Flaherty was honoured on Friday night for his commitment and years of hard work at Lee Rowing Club and my only regret is I was not there to share it. Love you Dad!