Fishing for mackerel in the rain


I shook off the rain and bundled myself into the pub. It was early evening and I was supposed to be making supper. The rest of the family were sat around the fire reading books or drawing and I thought that before I started on the cooking I should steady the hand with a pint and then perhaps take another down with me to slurp whilst at the stove.

It was a deceptive rain. Looked at from inside it did not look too bad. Heavy perhaps but not likely to soak you on a walk of a hundred yards. But once outside and on the road it was heavy and thick. There were sheets of water on the apron of the pier and the stream by the side of The Butter House was in full spate sending brown water over the stones down by the slipway.

I ran up to the pub without bothering to think on the walk back with a pint to keep still in my hand. The pub was empty but the radio was on, quiet music and hushed voices. I sat on one of the hard stools and waited watching the view outside.

Although it was summer the rain and cloud made everything grey outside. Grey apart from the black. It was so thick now you could hardly see the other side of Kitchen Cove and the rest of the bay was shrouded in mist. The lights were on on the pier. Their watery yellow was the only colour. The green grass and the trees, the reds and blues of the boats were all muted and shut down by the wet and the grey cloud.

An old red Royal Mail van pulled up outside the pub. The marking of The Post Office had been scrubbed away but were still visible on the side. A man got out and unhurriedly shut the car door and walked into the pub.

He looked surprised to see me. ‘Its misty out there’ he said. ‘You’ll not be walking back on a day like this.’

A girl walked through the door from the kitchen and stood behind the bar ‘Now what can I get you’ she said.

‘A pint of Murphy’s’ I said. She started to pour mine and then a second for the man. Once both pints were full she put them onto the tray to settle.

I gave her a note for the two pints. The man acknowledged the pint with a nod as it was put on a mat in front of him.

‘Are you here for the summer’ he said looking out at the rain. ‘Shit its been bad this year. There has never been rain like it. When did you get here. The weekend you say. Fer feks sake it has been better since then. It was dry when was it yesterday for a while but apart from that it has been nothing but wet and feckin’ rain.’

We both looked down at our pints.

The girl behind the bar, I’d not seen her before and did not know her name, she asked him ‘Did you hear when it might stop? It was on the radio before it might get better next week.’

‘It’s not going to stop now’ he said ‘It’ll be be wet for the summer.’

I could see that two of the children had got bored reading their books round the fire. They were walking to the end of the pier, one of them, the eldest carrying the long fishing rod we never use with the luminous line. When they got to the end he shooed his younger sister to a safe distance and unhooked the line. He stood still at the end of the pier and arced the rod back and forward again letting go of the line so that the hook and its weight sailed out an hundred yards or so or more into the water.

Although it was still raining it was still and the weight of the rain seemed to have flattened down the water. We could see the splash of it going in and the line pulled up tight as he started to wind it in.

‘What month is it now’ the man said ‘Is it August. August. Now the fish don’t like the fresh water coming off the hills down there into the bay. You can see it all now dirtying up the water. But they have a dilemma because it is good for the shrimp and if the mackerel don’t eat the shrimp then there’s squid that will do it and the mackerel well they will always eat the squid.’

The boy pulled in the line and it was empty. He shot it out again into the water. He did it another three times and we finished our pints and the man bought me another.

The boy’s sister wanted a go and they argued at the end of the pier. Eventually she got her way and was allowed a couple of goes. She couldn’t fling the rod from over her back but did it from her side the line travelling half of the distance. We could see the frustration in her bunched shoulders. The boy was laughing in the rain. She shouted at him leaving the line to trail in the water as she did so.

She started to reel it in again and as she did so the line quickened. Now she shouted for help and the two of them held onto the rod and he wound it in until the silver thump of a mackerel pulled out of the water and flickered into the light.

I took my third pint out into the rain and muttering  good night walked down to the pier to help them.


A Mackerel Song – one more grip of life

I came across this song on the internet some years ago. I have tried to find it since with a view to piecing together where it might of come from but without any luck.


I like the idea of the mackerel coming into the bay being that one more grip at life. It would make a good name for a book.

And it is easy to forget that under the surface of the land there are any number of old graves hidden away. Drive through some of the back roads of the Mizen and there will be a sign that will take you to an old graveyard, stones hardly there and collapsing back into the green grass.



There’s mackerel in the bay, my lads
There’s mackerel in the bay;
Get out your boats and hoist your sails,
And let us haste away.
There’s bread upon the waters, lads,
There’s food for wean and wife,
There’s mackerel in the bay, my lads,
And one more grip of life.
The herring’s gone for good, my lads;
We ploughed the sea lang syne
Whene’er upon the moonlit nights
We saw the silvery shine.
We rushed towards the cobles, lads,
When herring came our way;
But now they’re gone for good, my lads;
But mackerel’s in the bay.
We trimmed the salmon nets, my lads
And darned, and wove, and spun,
Whenever, in the summer moons,
There seemed a goodly run;
But salmon don’t come near us, lads,
Until the season’s past.
There’s mackerel in the bay, my lads;
Let’s go and make a cast.
The white fish were our joy, my lads,
Whene’er the winter came;
We hauled them in hand over hand,
And then made off for home.
But now they’ve got the trawler, lads,
And cables are laid by;
But mackerel’s in the bay, my lads;
Let’s have another try.
The fisher’s life is hard, my lads,
Between the wind and sea;
But what! We’ve chose the fisher’s life –
Jack, Tom, and you, and me.
The fish that were our living, lads,
Are driven far way;
But mackerel’s in the bay my lads
There’s mackerel in the bay.
There’s bread upon the waters, lads,
There’s food for wean and wife,
There’s mackerel in the bay, my lads,
And one more grip of life.

The Cottage on the Pier

A description of the Cottage taken from the survey report prepared by W. Geoffrey Bannister of Glandore, dated 28th January 1973, for the Goulds (from whom we bought the Cottage) before they purchased from Mrs Rachel Leigh-White. The address given for the Cottage was Reenacappul, Durrus, County Cork.

Main Room – originally two rooms, now combined living room and dining room; the plaster work is clearly old lime plaster with many hollow patches and is very rough….the flooring throughout the ground floor is rather rough concrete with a “Tintawn” covering throughout.

North West room – toilet with door onto the quay; frame of external door is rotten, completely at the feet of the frame; it was not possible to force the door open due to moisture expansion; the small window in this door does not appear to be closable (amateur workmanship).

South West room – bathroom; access to the traps and hot & cold water feeds was impossible owing to the complete panelling in of both lavatory and bath.


Consisting of a landing and two small double bedrooms; there is no access to the attic, and so the ceiling is not insulated or sealed; the one and only window in the West bedroom has rot in the cill; it would seem that all the windows are quite the same requiring skarfing new timber into the existing frame and adequate weather protection; general condition of the decoration is poor, most of the paint of the ceiling is peeling off.


The two South facing ground floor windows are rotten both at the feet of the frames and the cills and should be replaced, similarly on the first floor; the South window of the kitchen is rotten at the base of the frames: it would seem sensible to form a French drain between the kitchen and the road; the North window to the living room has rot in the cill and feet of the frame; the original access door from the quay on the North side of the house is completely rotten at the feet of the frames, and it is recommended that, as this opening is now not used it be blocked up.


Mains electricity

Septic tank sewage disposal

The vendor, it is understood, is to provide a new bored well, pump and housing; there was some vagueness as to water storage.

A very rough estimate of costs for putting this house in order would be between £2,000 and £3,000.





Ginger Cake

We have made the sticky ginger cake twice now so maybe it is worth setting out the recipe for next time.


I have a childhood memory of ginger cake. It came in a green wrapper but having just spent 10 minutes with Google I can find no trace of it. If anyone reading this remembers let me know.

The recipe comes from the new food supplement that is part of The Guardian on a Saturday. I know that elsewhere there has been a debate as to how the supplement uses the work of food bloggers to fill itself up without much recompense. So there must be an irony of sorts if I now want to to write about one of the recipes I caught there. What sort of credit should I be giving them? Probably not much given that if we had followed the recipe to the letter we would have been left with not so much of a cake but more of a burnt muddy swamp.

Anyway here it is

  • 250 gr of plain flour (not 25 gr!)
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 285 ml of milk
  • 1 egg
  • 85 gr of butter
  • 85 gr of treacle
  • 85 gr of golden syrup
  • 115 gr of caster sugar

Turn on the oven to a medium heat.

Sieve the flour, spice mix, ground ginger, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt into a mixing bowl. Stir in the milk and egg.

Gently melt the butter, treacle, syrup and sugar in a pan until all amalgamated and dense.

Remember one of the joys of making this is the treacle. We all have a tin of syrup in the back of a cupboard but how often do we get to use its darker more intense cousin. I need to find more things to make with it.

Pour the treacle and melted butter onto the dry ingredients and stir in well with a wooden spoon. Add the milk and egg and continue stirring until all has merged together. Indulge yourself and and dip in a finger and lick it.

Pour this mixture into a 900gr loaf tin which has been greased and lined with greasrproof paper.

Put this into the oven for about 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clea.

Allow to cool then eat. It will taste better a day or two later having been wrapped up in foil.


I had nothing to do with the making. Cora did it all although we both got to lick the bowl. I think some stem ginger chopped up would go well with it.