Extending Ahakista Pier

Dáil Éireann Debate Thursday 4 November 1982


Question. Written Answers – Ahakista Pier (Cork) Improvement Works

J. Walsh: asked the Minister for Fisheries and Forestry the progress made regarding the carrying out of improvement works to Ahakista Pier in County Cork.

Minister for Fisheries and Forestry (Mr. Daly):  My Department have considered substantial improvement works suggested for Ahakista Pier. On examination it was found that the cost would not be justified in the light of the level of fishing from this harbour.

The possibility of drawing up a scheme which would meet the fishermen’s needs at a more reasonable cost is being examined.

‘You know that they extended the pier in 1997 and a year later Terry Gould decided to sell. He kept it quiet and no-one here knew that he wanted to sell. All he did was put an advert in the back of a paper in London and left it at that. There were plenty here that would have bought the place off him but he kept it quiet and you bought it. There were those here that he got on with and he was not worried about them. But there were others who were greedy for the place and they saw money in it and he had no time for them.’

‘But you bought it and you have kept it as it is and that is what he wanted.’

‘He was a tough man when he wanted to be and he kept a close eye over the place and he looked after it. His big worry was the pier and how it rested against The Cottage there. He would be up here on a evening asking about the fishermen and which one was storing his nets or pots up against the wall of The Cottage or on the ground round the back that lay between The Cottage and the sea and the pourous boundaries that he had to deal with.’

‘Back then before the pier was rebuilt it was just a square stub of concrete sticking out in the water. It was first built over a hundred years ago. You know after the famine they put money aside to build the piers so men could be encouraged to fish and they wouldn’t be starving again when there was so much to eat in the sea. You know before the famine there were 5,000 people that lived around The Sheep’s Head but they lost so many there was only 1,500 left at the end and they eating seaweed and limpets to survive and they were too weak to carry out their boats to the sea.’

‘So the piers were built all along the coast here. The Cove down there was a good place for one protected as it is from the full force of the sea coming up the bay. There were others at Kilcrohane, Dooneen, Ballynatra and Glanalin. They were small those piers but they gave somewhere to tie a boat up and made people’s lives that bit easier but once a boat was in the water there was no slipway to take them out again unless you went down to Durrus or round the heads to Bantry so there was a lot of talk about a slipway being built but it never got done.’

‘But the fishermen here they started to make a business of it and they started to sell their scallops and lobsters and they’d be sent over to Spain and they started to make more of a noise about it. They set up a committee and they started to write letters so the money could be got to pay for it.’

‘Now Gould with The Cottage there hard against the pier he paid those letters close attention. He might have been back in India or at his home in Cheltenham but he followed those letters and asked questions on the plans. When he first had The Cottage there were three blue doors along the back that opened out over to the Pier and you would walk down the pier and straight through one of the doors and inside. That was alright when it was quiet and there was on the pier was a few fishermen but there were more people coming so the doors got blocked up and covered over but it was still open to the pier.’

‘The committee, that was The Ahakista Pier Development Committee  Frank Arundel, Tom Whittey, Paddy Arundel and Tadg Hegarty and those men got to know Terry Gould well over those years. They knew that Gould could object and that would be the end of the pier and he knew that if he put a stop on it then he would be ruined with those men. He wrote all these careful letters to the council in Cork and there must be a great packet of them in an office there and they eventually agreed on what was to be built.

‘They put in the slipway there and a great circle of concrete to get to it from the road and they pushed out the pier another 100 yards or so out into the cove. Then they put in that metal fence along the back of The Cottage and they built up the wall to the back of your garden and they put down a great pile of big stones to protect it all from the sea. And Gould he was there in The Cottage and he would come out and look at that work there were doing and take notes in a black book and then go back inside a sad and worried look on his face.’

‘And when they finished the work and all the noise had stopped it all looked too new and clean in the landscape but it is dirty enough now. But Gould after all that work and care was gone within a year. There was too much change

Beef stew from Edge Butchers

Last November Kristen and I made it to the outside of Barrafina but no further. There was a wait to be able to get in and we had a train to catch and we had already eaten so to go in for more food might have been greedy.

It has been cold and grey all day and the snow is still lying thick on the ground so supper  is going to have to be very warm and sustaining. I was tempted by a recipe for lamb stew with honey – even writing it down now the juices are going – but I knew there would be those who would like it. Galen is quite happy to eat lamb but the girls would kick up a fuss and it wasn’t a recipe that would easily translate into a vegetarian option.

I then came across a beef stew in the Barrafina cookbook made with a bottle and a half of red wine, chicken stock and a good mix of root vegetables. The girls are happier eating beef and the root vegetables would only need a tin of chickpeas or white beans to be added to them to be turned into a vegetarian stew. Do I plumped for that.

Cooking meat is an excuse to go to Edge’s in New Ferry and stock up on bacon for Sunday morning. First I had to go the grocers. There I bought some parsnips, onions, leeks, garlic and the great heft of celeriac. It was then onto Edge’s.

If it is possible New Ferry looks even more run down and forgotten than Birkenhead. Rows of shops forgotten and abandoned the names in the signs just visible and hinting a time when there was some glimmer of optimism for the place. In Edge’s I bought two punds of braising steak, some chicken wings for stock and a dozen rashers of oak smoked bacon for breakfast. There was a small packet of ox-tail on the counter and I got that as well to add a bit of weight to the stew.

I have cooking the stew over the afternoon so the house is filled with the smell. Chopping the steak into bite sized chunks and then browning the steak and ox-tail in oil. Removing that with a slotted spoon and then cooking the vegetables, starting with onion and garlic, then carrots, parsnips and celeriac, leaving all that to cook for a while and then adding the leak, some bay leaves and thyme. All the veg were chopped about half an inch square.

Once all the vegetables were cooking a bottle of red wine went in and all was brought to a boil for ten minutes to allow the wine to reduce. The meat was put back in and then all was left to cook on a very low oven for a few hours.

It is almost done and we will eat it with roasted potatoes and greens.

Listening to the new John Grant album and admiring his ability to swear.

Passing some time at Wards

There were three or four inches of snow on the ground this morning. But half a mile down the hill in Birkenhead most of it had gone apart from small piles of black slush at the side of the pavement. I was going to the market to pick up some fish from Wards.

Simon and Nigel were behind the counter offering tea made by Galen. He lurked in the background embarrassed to have his Dad there. I picked up a pound and a half of prime haddock for fishcakes on Monday. As we were talking an elderly man walked up and leaned against the counter next to me.

‘Good morning boys’ he said ‘Are you okay?’ His voice was clipped and far back, not from Birkenhead. The skin on his face was tight around the bones and he had bright lively eyes.

He was dressed in a curly black wig, a red pixie hat and what looked like an old Father Christmas outfit that had seen better days and was badly ripped so it hung round his legs like a skirt. He was wearing two bright green hoola hoops slung around his neck.

‘Now boys,’ he said ‘Now boys these hoola hoops are new. But they are not for me no they are not. These hoola hoops are for the good lady at home, Judith. Boys’ he leaned closer over the counter ‘Now boys I am not a transvestite. I have no objection to them of course and there are a few round here if you look closely enough. But I am not one of those. Let me explain.’

‘Did you see that thing on the telly were they looked at the prostrate. Thats all you need. It fits somewhere between the front of a man and the back part of a woman.’ He laughed and rubbed at his belly with a hand that was covered in a clear plastic glove. ‘I tell you boys they showed it all and if you want to change from being a man to a woman then let have a go at your prostrate, it will wiggle a bit, and after they were done there was no need for any surgery, pills or prosthetics. So that is why I’m not a transvestite.’

He started on a story involving a loose woman who could not be satisfied, a man who loses a watch and another man who loses a coach and two horses laughing all the way through until he got to the end. He then stood back from the counter and re-arranged the hoola hoops around his neck.

‘Boys I have to be off now I will see you again.’ He walked down the ailes.

‘Well he was the first of the day’ said Nigel. ‘Does Galen tell you about the people who come here?’

I asked about Ted, the man I had written about last summer who came for an oyster on a Saturday morning.

“He’s not been back’, said Nigel.

Driving to Ahakista

We normally make the journey down in late July or August when each side of the road, each hedgerow, is coloured and marked by a blaze of red or pink from fuchsia in its full summer bloom and the orange montbretia flowers pushing through to dominate through all the thick green leaves. The fuchsia has been chosen as the symbol for West Cork, but for the lack of an attractive shape montbretia would do just as well, the flowers spill out of every ditch and hedgerow, a surprise that there could be so much colour against all that green.


The road chases back to the land as the swallows cut up, over and through the hedges on either side and then up to and past Rossmore Point, its rambling farmhouse and ruined castle stuck in a plot of land away from the sea the road rises and then falls to cling back to the coast and the view is the full sweep of the bay opened up. Knocknamaddree squat over the Mizen on the left and on the right the mountains of the Sheep’s Head, Rosskerrig, Seefin and in the distance a misty glimpse of Ballyroon Mountain the last stop before the Atlantic and between the two peaks of the bay the straight line that separates sky from water dominating the distance.

If it is late afternoon in summer the sun will be falling behind Rosskerrig and the water is silver fast as the flash of a belly of mackerel. At each beach there is a rush of smooth stones to the water, cars parked and people are swimming or fishing looking for the boiling of water as sprats are chased to the shallows.

Then the bay opens up and fills with the water sliding down from the Atlantic as if it the world is not going to stop tipping and the waves will soon be lapping over the seawall.  On the left the mountains of the Mizen hovering over the back of Doneen Coos mostly shrouded in the mist of distance and the yawning gap of the mouth of the bay.

Now the sea is touching the sky not touching dissolving into a smooth milky blue the eye forever drawn and never quite seeing. The sea still and the bare glimmer of wind rippling the surface, looking out again, perfectly mirrored so water and air seem one. The horizon then disappears and there is space you could move through if only you could just carry on. The sea sits very still and the sky is perfect summer blue dwarfing the clouds through its enormity.

Now the tide is going out. Slipping its suck and leak from the shore. Soon the bay will feel emptied, drawn out and plug gone.

From the Cottage it is not possible to see the head of the bay but boating out of Kitchen Cove to the point off Owen Island it again opens up and the two penisulars – the Sheep’s Head and the Mizen race off to that milky point.