This month we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Athy and District Anglers Club. It was the late Jimmy Higgins who reported in the Leinster Leader on Saturday, 20th June 1959:- ‘Into existence on Thursday of last week came Athy and District Anglers Club. The idea of the Club originated with Mr. Tom Donohoe of St. Joseph’s Terrace, Athy. With the assistance of another noted Athy angler, Mr. Chris Burley, St. Joseph’s Terrace and others, he organised last Thursday’s meeting. Over 40 local anglers attended and enthusiastically formed the Club.’
The South Kildare notes in the same paper also reported on the prize winners in Castledermot’s An Tostal, but pride of place went to the report headed, ‘Athy has Anglers Club’ which noted that Athy’s new postmaster, Mr. Wilf Meredith, was elected Chairman of the Club, with Harry Hegarty as Club Secretary and Pat Mulhall of the Barrowbridge House as Treasurer. The first Committee comprised Walter Hurley, Ted O’Rourke, Albert Duthie, Willie Webb, Joe Alcock, P. Kavanagh and Christy Dunne.
Within a year the new club had 119 members and at the following year’s A.G.M. Tom Donohoe’s part in setting up the Club was recognised with his election as the Club’s first President. Christy Dunne became the Club’s second Chairman, while Harry Hegarty and Pat Mulhall swopped positions with the Barrow Bridge publican, taking over as Club Secretary. The previous year’s committee was augmented with the election of local Solicitor, Tadgh Brennan.
Athy and District Anglers Club manages the fishing on the River Barrow between Vicarstown and the Three Counties at Maganey – a twelve mile stretch offering pike, trout, eels, salmon, perch, bream, rudd and roach. It has restocked the river on four or five occasions, the last time being in 1995 when thousands of young trout were released into the River Barrow and the Moneen.
The lure of fishing is something which completely escapes me, even though I am married to a woman whose early years were spent on a Connemara fishery. She is an expert fisherwoman but I’m afraid the thought of spending hours on end gazing into pools or rivers in the hope of catching a fish at the end of a hook holds no appeal whatsoever for me.
John Shaughnessy who is currently P.R.O. for Athy and District Anglers Club speaks of the soothing experience of fishing early in the morning, especially on the River Barrow. ‘It is just peaceful and relaxing to sit down beside a river or lake’ he says, admitting that he gets up ‘at ungodly hours of the morning’ to start his days fishing.
It is a pastime he shares with 92 other members of the local Fishing Club and the Club which once boasted almost 400 members is continuing to encourage new members to join. The Club organises 11 fishing competitions throughout the year, starting with a coarse fishing competition in April. Several of those competitions have been named to honour deceased members of the Club. Pike fishing competitions are held between September and December and three of these competitions are for cups honouring past members Mick Leonard, P.J. Byrne and Liam Kane. The McStay Cup and the Hughes Cup, named in memory of Tom McStay and Ted Hughes, are presented for trout fishing competitions held on Acalla Lake in County Galway to where the Club members travel to compete in May and June each year. The trout season on the River Barrow starts on 17th March and continues until October and I am assured that despite a falloff in the quality and quantity of trout in the River Barrow in recent years there is still a lot of good fishing to be had on the stretch of the river managed by Athy and District Anglers Club.
Surprisingly, well to me at least, there are few female members of the Club, even though one would imagine fishing to be an activity which could easily cross the gender barriers. Why, I asked, were there so few female members? The explanation when it came seemed unconvincing, posing as it did a female distaste for putting worms on the end of hooks. In any event female members are more than welcome to join Athy and District Anglers Club. Indeed new members are always sought and fishing classes can be arranged courtesy of Club members for anyone wishing to embark on a new leisurely pastime.
One of the greatest concerns affecting the well ordered life of the local fisherman is the amount of illegal fishing currently taking place on the River Barrow. Sad to relate that foreign nationals are apparently engaged in netting fish and in doing so are driving fish stock levels to a seriously low level. During 2008 the Club, with the active cooperation of the Inland Fishery Board, applied for the appointment of river wardens to patrol the local river and monitor fishing activity. The wardens, ten in number, were nominated by the Athy Anglers Club and duly approved by order of the District Court. They are empowered to seize fishing gear and equipment used in connection with illegal fishing. It is hoped that due vigilance will help to conserve fish stocks in the River Barrow and ensure an adequate stock of fish into the future for fishermen and women in the local river.
The current officers of the Club are President, Nicky Cahill, whom I believe is the longest serving member, Chairperson Declan Day, Secretary Christopher Pender and Treasurer Mark Kane. The P.R.O. is John Shaughnessy who tells me that the current committee comprises Jimmy Mullins, Ger Cullen, Jamie Fitzsimons, Paddy O’Brien, Gerry Sheehan, Franz Caffrey, Paddy O’Rourke and Adrian Hyland. The Club’s 50th anniversary celebrations takes place in Athy’s town library on Thursday, 18th June at 7.30 p.m. when an exhibition of photographs and fishing equipment, old and new, will be on display. The photograph accompanying this article shows the members of the Club on a fishing trip to Ballyjamesduff in or around 1984. Can anyone give me the names of the happy fishermen captured on film that day?