Jack Mackerel

Did you hear about the feckin’ idiot they started to call Jack Mackerel last summer. He came here for his two weeks and he had determined to catch some fish. He had the small house there round the point and he and his family were there. There was a boat with the house that was tied up to a buoy at the end there with some oars and after a day or so watching boats from the pier come back with their buckets of mackerel this man settled on catching some of the fish himself.

He had a family there with him and they weren’t wanting to go out and catch fish. They wanted the sun to shine and to be on the sand on a beach making castles. But this man wasn’t having any of that. I think he was afraid of enjoying himself.

He took himself down to Wiseman’s in Durrus and he bought himself what he would need. A bright new clean orange line, some hooks and feathers and a weight. He took all that back to the house and tied it all together with the best knots he could. He then clambered out to the boat and got it off the buoy and took himself out in the water.

He came in here later to complain on what a fool he’d been because he’d thrown the line over with a great lead weight and it pulled so hard on the line it unravelled his knots and the hooks and the feathers went straight to the bottom before he had a chance to feel the weight of the feckin’ thing. They’ll be lying there still and there will be good mackerel that get caught on those hooks.

But that didn’t stop him. He was back in Wiseman’s and this time he doubled up on the hooks and weights that he bought in case he lost them again. He tied better knots and he went out on the boat again and he didn’t get far before he threw the line over and he sat back and waited. He didn’t pull in the line but just left it lying in the water and he got lucky then because after a minute or two the line started to twitch and he hauled it in quickly and he had two bright mackerel in the bottom of his boat.

Of course he had nothing to hit them with so he took himself back to buoy and he wrapped the two fish in his shirt so as not to lose them back to the sea and he carried them back to the house to show his family and they ate them that evening.

Well after that he was hooked as hard as a mackerel and he was out there every day to try and catch some more. His family would go off and leave him and after a few days there would be shouting but he would row his boat out and throw the line and wait and for the next seven days he would catch feckin’ feck all. And the longer he caught nothing the longer he would be out there and there would be more shouting from the house as he left in the morning. He promised them their tea one of the days and there was feck to eat in the house so his children only had bread and butter to eat that night.

After those seven days he came down here for a pint. His family came in as well and they sat there in the corner by the fire and the man stood by the bar here to talk. He looked out of the window and could see the sweep of the bay and his boat on its buoy and and the place where he took out his boat and caught no fish.

Tom Cutter was sat in his seat under the bar and he looked up the man. The man’s face was red and hot with the days that he’d been out on the water with the sun beating down.

‘Have you caught many fish?’ Tom Cutter asked him. He said it so fast that the man didn’t catch the words at first and he had to ask Tom Cutter to say them again two times before he had them and when he caught them the man thought of the men who had been stood at the bar here watching him catch no fish and so he laughed about it and said that he caught two fish his first day out and nothing since.

Tom Cutter spoke slowly now. ‘That boat is a small one but if you want to catch mackerel you need to take it further out to the bay round the point beyond where you can see from here. It will take you an hour to pull the boat out there but if you pull beyond Reenmore you can see Kilcrohane Castle with all its windows knocked in and there is a channel there where the fish gather. Line your boat up so you can see green grass through the windows of the castle and the green grass beyond and at the same time you need to be able to see the red door of the house that sits at the end Reenmore. Put you boat there and lay out your line and you’ll catch mackerel there. But take a big bucket to put the fish in and a stick to knock them on the back of the head.’

The man he went back to his family to tell them about the talk that he’d had at the bar.

He left going out in his boat again for a few days but then we were stood here one evening and we saw him at the oars of his boat pulling it back from Reenmore Point. He had been out all day and his wife had been here earlier worried about him being out so long. Tom Cutter went out for the wife in his big boat and it took him tem minutes to find him and he he rowed himself to the point off the Castle. It had taken him two hours to get there and Tom Cutter told him he was an idiot for the mackerel to go out there in a boat with only oars. But the man waved Tom Cutter away and shouted back that he was catching the fish and he was okay.

So we watched him row back and tie his boat up at the buoy. He was tired and his shoulders were let down with the effort.

He came back up here again with his family and he had a great silver bucket of the fish with him. He’d caught 40 he said and each time his line had gone in it had trembled again and there was more of the fish in the bottom of his boat. He’d caught two big pollock as well. He’d gutted them all and his hands were still dark with the stain of their blood and white specks of dried scales were mixed with the salt on his arms.

‘We go home tomorrow,’ he said. ‘We can’t eat all these so please help yourselves.’

He had some bags with him and he put the fish in and passed them round. There wasn’t a man that refused him.

Tom Cutter told him he was an feckin’ idiot again for taking that small boat out so far and then he bought him a pint to go with his first. The family moved away from their corner and they sat with the man at the bar and Tom Cutter bought them a drink as well and the man he bought some more drinks before making his way with his family back to their house.

And after he’d gone someone asked if anyone knew his name and where he came from. We all shook our heads and Tom Cutter said we should call him Jack Mackerel for his devotion to catching the fish.

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