A Killarney Saga



It was June 1943, the war was raging in Europe, food was rationed and fuel was scarce but for me the worst shortage was the scarcity of bicycle tyres. I was 16v years old and my greatest treasure was a second hand bike, which I had bought from my cousin at a bargain price. I became a repair expert, repairing ball bearings spokes, and chain links – and when the tyres and the wire around rims came apart I glued them back together with adhesive.

Just before the summer holidays two of my schoolmates Mick Fahey and Tom Redmond asked if I would join them for a camping holiday in Killarney. I was delighted at the prospect and we arranged to set out on the third Monday in June. The family was very supportive especially my mother, who built up a food supply with the family rations. Needless to say, my excitement built up towards the departure date. The morning came – overcast and gloomy and the rain lashed down; it was so bad that we decided not to travel until it improved.

 Towards mid day, the skies cleared, the sun came out and we set off with packs on our backs on the 55 mile journey to Killarney. My bike had only one gear and my longest journey up till then was 17 miles to see my cousin in the country. We travelled through Maceroom, Ballymakaeroy, the Irish speaking district and a number of little villages. It got rather hilly as we got into Kerry but I particularly remember the colour and the smell of gorse along the roadside. Conditions were more ideal with little traffic and the odd horse and cart.

 The first crisis arose a few miles from Killarney when the tube came out from my home made tyre rim and burst. My companions were shocked when they saw my tyres but this did not worry me as I had the whole lot mended and back in place in less than 20 minutes. As we neared Killarney, we were exhausted so we decided to try to camp and continue our journey the following day. We knocked at a farmhouse and they gave us permission to camp for the night. They also gave us milk and scones and, having eaten them we climbed into our small tent and slept soundly,The sun streaming into our tent woke us early the next morning, we washed in a nearby stream had a fry up for breakfast and set off to the nearby river to catch some fish for lunch. Mick and Tom were experienced anglers and they caught a good sized trout in less than an hour. We headed back to camp elated with out catch but when we got there we were dismayed to see a cow rooting at our food inside the tent. We shooed him off but too late to prevent much of our scarce supplies being inedible.


After this we decided to move on, having thanked the farmer for allowing us to stay. A camp site had been arranged by Tom’s uncle Pat and his wife. Who was a sheep farmer near Killarney, so we set out to visit him?


This involved cycling up a mountain boreen, which seemed endless. At last we came to a big farmhouse, being greeted, first by a snarling dog – then by pat and his wife. They made us most welcome and insisted that we stay for a dinner of bacon, cabbage and potatoes, which we devoured. After this he showed us around his farm, obviously very proud of it and then brought us by horse and cart to our camp site. The site was on a grassy verge beside the lake and we had it all to ourselves. The view of the mountains and lakes was magnificent and a cloudless sky added to the enchantment. To our delight, he brought us to a large boat which he woned.He took us out on the lake and visited one of the many islands where we cooked the trout caught that morning; we stayed on the lake until the sunset.


This was one of the most stunning sights I have ever seen. The mountains  purple and pink in the waning light reflected  in the still waters of the lake, enchanted by a scarlet sinking sun with the stillness of the night was awe inspiring. We’d lost all sense of time when a church bell ringing at twelve clock reminded us that it was Sunday; we arrived at the small country church rather late. In the porch men were playing pitch and toss and when the priest, who had a speech impediment, went to the pulpit a number of people walked out.



 Was this religion in rural Ireland we wondered? On the way back to camp, we decided to take a short cut across a field. When we were half way across a large horse came galloping towards us. We just got over the ditch before he reached us – just as well because he was snapping his teeth at us; a real scare for city boys.


We spent two weeks in Killarney, not a cloud to be seen with the sun blazing everyday. I am fair skinned and as the days went by my colour changed from white to bright red, fishing on the lakes, visiting the various islands on Pats boat, taking long walks and cycling to many places of interest filled our days. They tried to teach me to fish but in vain- one incident put an end to it. I was casting from the boat when my hook caught in Pat’s sons eyelid! It wasn’t serious but it ended my fishing career


The time came to return home and although it was sad to leave the thought of home cooking lifted our spirits. The boys were worried that my bike would not survive the return journey but I was rather pleased when Tom’s bike had problems, with a loose chain slipping from time to time. Home at last, my mother said that I looked like a red lobster. She put on a huge meal with 10 potatoes in the pot, all of which I demolished, This meal gained a special place in our family history, as my mother would often refer to the time I ate 10 potatoes, Strange, but I lost touch with Mick and Tom as they went to different schools… I often wonder how they are today,

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36-40, F
Feb 8, 2010