I remember being in a pub when I was young, the place was packed and there was smoke everywhere. It looked like a bomb had just hit it. To add to all this there was this man smoking a £10 note. It was in the early 1980’s and in my own parish at home in Corca Duibhne (West Kerry). I told this to a man in the same pub around 10 years later and I got an explanation.
Salmon fishing was in full flight at the time and they made so much money some people even smoked it, just like the fish they had caught. In Ireland today due to EU law it is illegal to fish for salmon, so all you can get now is farmed and is a poor substitute.
There are two piers in our parish, Cuas (where St Brendan set sail from and many believe went on to discover America) and Dúinín. Both would have been very busy places up until the 1980’s. My Grandfather Dainín Dan would have fished out of them both as a young boy growing up and more so after coming home from Chicago in the 1930’s. The whole village where we come from would have fished a one point or another.
There are great stories still in the area of men heading to sea in bad weather when you wouldn’t put cat outside the door. Apparently the swell was so high one evening in Dúinín that one fisherman when talking about his days work said he was level with the top of mount Brandon at one stage (Mount Brandon being ‘only’ the second highest mountain in Ireland).
The Russell’s were, and are still, next door to us. John Russell whom I barely remember was a gentle giant of a man. One evening he came looking for my grandfather to go fishing with him. Dainín Dan was puzzled because he had two fine sons who could fish. There is something to be learned from his reasoning. He said ‘Tá John bacach agus tá Dave as a mheabhair’ which means "John was lame, he had hurt his leg and Dave is off his head". You should never leave a mad man out on a boat!
There was another neighbor of mine who had very broken English. He was on the pier at Dúinín another day with a net full of mackerel when a tourist came up to him and asked how many fish he had caught. He replied that he had around two miles of them. The tourist went away scratching his head. He found out later that evening that he man’s answer was lost in translation. Míle in the Irish language means ‘a mile’ and also ‘a thousand’.
I gave around four summers working on the ferry boats to the Blasket Islands and in the morning before we’d pick up any passenger we’d set a few pots. One of the owners of the boats had hundreds of pots and would have a big bag of crab claws for us every evening. The guy got wind that the local pub ‘Krugers’ was looking for them and started selling them for around €5 or €10 for the bag. They annoyed me out of measure. I heard that he have a new pair of shoes and every day before going fishing he’d change into boots and put his new shoes into a shed at the pier. I stole them and one evening about a week later I pulled one of his soaking pots and put the shoes in and dropped the pot to the bottom of the sea again. If he reads this piece he’d know who did it and why.
I was watching "The Deadliest Catch" (one of my favorite shows) the other evening and I noticed how "drama" is really coming into it. In this particular show, Chris the Greenhorn wants off the boat and skipper Keith Colburn is having none of it. Then a little later Chris goes into shock and has to be taken inside and is having some kind of fit. This I believe was real and was worrying for everybody on the boat.
Chris is rescued and taken away by the US coast guard. Before this Chris was the whipping boy on the boat. What really got me going was this deckhand (sounds like) who had treated Chris like crap was sobbing and crying after he was taken away saying that he should have been nicer to him.
The Skipper even though he looked really concerned and worried did seem to over play his role saying that Chris had done well while on the boat. What a pile of BS.
The episode was only one step away from having Kim Kardashian in to cook their meals. Outside this dramatization it’s still one of the best shows on TV, so boys stick to the fishing and leave to drama Kim and her mother.
Fishermen have always had a name for being tough and there is no doubt that these guys have the toughest and of course deadliest job in the world. I’d love to know what the old fella’s from my parish would think of the Bering Sea and all that goes with it.
One think they would have it respect just like all on the TV show.