The Hope Row

This year’s Hope Row took place on Saturday, September 10th. Now in its fourth year, the event is hosted annually by Stella Maris Rowing Club to raise money for good causes. Beneficiaries this year are St Vincent’s Oncology Unit in the Mater Hospital and The Royal Hospital, Donnybrook.

It was great day on the river with bright sunshine and very little wind to impede the rowers as they fought to win in their respective categories. Thirty-nine crews from seven of the eastern seaboard clubs took part. Although this was a charity event, competition between the clubs was as fierce as ever as each crew battled to to pass the finish line ahead of their rivals.

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The Hope Row differs from club regattas. It is not included in the competition for the East Coast Championships Shield, which was claimed once again this season by Stella Maris for the fourth year in succession. Well done Stella! The crews race over shorter and longer distances and they mix it up a bit when it comes to crews.

There was a huge element of fun involved.  Paddy’s Richie Saunders and Stella’s Mick Curry joined forces to challenge the East Coast currach rowers. To see a Paddy’s man and a Stella man in a boat together is rare but they put aside their rivalries to raise funds for these two great Dublin institutions.

The big races at the event were the Men’s Long Race, which was won by the St Patrick’s Men’s Senior Crew, all descendants of the original Hobblers, and the Ladies and Mixed Long Races, which were both won by crews from St Michael’s Rowing Club, Dún Laoghaire who were the overall winners of The Hope Cup. These races were 13 kilometers, far longer than the distance typically raced in regattas, and taxed the crews to their limits.

One of the most exciting competitions of the day saw Stella Maris fathers Liam and Michael Bannable join their respective daughters, Olivia and Chloe, to compete in the Mixed Race, which they won by some distance.

Any report of the event would be incomplete without acknowledging the fantastic work of Sharon Bolger who took on the mammoth task of feeding the crews, and everybody else who happened by, with her delicious burgers and hotdogs. She played a blinder on the BBQ all day with a smile on her face and a word for everybody. Stella’s David Doyle was in charge of the faultless organisation, ably assisted by the club’s members.

Crews and supporters from all the clubs celebrated well into the night with live music and craic in The Poolbeg Yacht Club. They were joined by those who took part in The Hill & Back 7km run/walk/crawl of Irishtown Nature Park, which was part of the event.

The Hope Row marks the end of the rowing season for another year. Soon the skiffs will be cleaned and stored safely for the winter, the oars will be painted and hung on the walls of the clubhouses and the rowers will find gyms and football clubs to get their winter kicks until the season starts again next May.

Skiff racing and the girls of Stella Maris

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It’s skiff racing season and once again these small elegant boats can be seen cutting through the dark waters of the Liffey, powered by teams of dedicated rowers who take to the river daily during the summer months.

Skiffs are based on the small open boats originally used by Hobblers, fearless men who risked all to link up with the ships and schooners making their way into Dublin port laden with cargo. The first boat to reach an incoming vessel and get a hook over the side got the job of guiding her into the Port, tying her up, and untying her when she was ready to cast off again. If they were lucky a team could get up to a week’s work discharging the vessel. It was hard work and tales about the bravery and daring of the men who worked the hobbling boats in dangerous waters are a part of the history and folklore of Ringsend and Irishtown.

During times when employment was hard to come by many local families survived on the Hobblers wages. Hobbling died out during the 1940s, as working conditions in the Port improved and pilot boats and tugs replaced their line of work.

Today, there are two skiff rowing clubs in Ringsend, St. Patrick’s (Paddy’s), which is situated in the shadow of the East Link Bridge, and Stella Maris, which is a stone’s throw away beside Poolbeg Yacht Club.

Skiff racing was very popular when the Hobbling boats operated but almost died out with the job. The rivalry between ‘Paddy’s’ and Stella Maris is largely responsible for keeping the tradition alive. Today there are rowing clubs all along the East Coast from Skerries to Arklow and their teams compete in regattas, hosted by each club, from May until August. Competition between the clubs is fierce.

No longer seen as a macho pursuit, today the sport is popular with men and women, boys and girls. St. Patrick’s and Stella Maris have teams for males and females in Senior, Junior, Novice, Under 18, Under 16, Under 12, Mixed Crew, Juvenile and OAP divisions.

Family participation in the sport is common and both Stella Maris and St. Pat’s have family members who row for teams in different categories or who competed in the past. The older members help run the clubs. Many are former rowers and still go out on the water occasionally, training new crews and acting as cox for the teams in training. They also teach new members traditional skills such as boat maintenance and oar making.

NewsFour spoke to Stella Maris Under 18 Girls’ team, Olivia Bannable (Stroke), Katelyn Behan (2nd Stroke), Chloe Bannable (Bow) and Ciara Bowden (2nd Bow). The girls started rowing together as a team this season and have been very successful in competition. They have been involved with Stella Maris since they were under 12, encouraged to join by parents and family members who are members of the club. They are great friends and love spending time together every day, practicing, competing and especially winning. As a team they are very competitive and the girls look forward to the regattas. Asked if they are ever nervous, they agree that they sometimes are but not, it turns out, about the water or the weather. The only thing that makes them anxious is that they might not win their races.

The girls make the point that women are as interested in rowing as men these days and say that anyone can do it. “You don’t have to be a certain weight or size and your fitness levels will improve if you are rowing every day,” says Olivia. Even when if the weather is bad and it’s hard to get out they look forward to their time on the water and know that they will come back feeling great. Rowing as a team keeps them fit and disciplined and they ooze energy and excitement when they talk about training and competing. “It’s great for fitness because you can’t slack or stop working on the water. You are part of the team and you have to keep going,” says Chloe.

The four girls agree that they hope to continue rowing with the club for as long as they can. Chloe jokes that she can see herself as the “mammy of the club someday,” like some of the older members who have influenced and encouraged them since they became members. NewsFour will have to check on that in many years to come!

The Game of War

At the time of the 1916 Rising many Irishmen had already volunteered to fight a different war.  The Great War in Europe began on July 28th, 1914, and lasted until November 11th, 1918.

It is estimated that some 350,000 Irishmen served in the British forces during World War One. In all over 30,000 Irish died. Despite being adversaries at home, Irish unionists and nationalists found themselves fighting side-by-side on the battlefields of Europe.

Some Irish men joined the British forces to fight a ‘just war’, as they saw it. Others, such as constitutional nationalists, were committed to the war by their leader John Redmond, on the basis that Ireland had won Home Rule and were duty-bound to defend similar countries, like Belgium, from the threat of fascism.

When the Irish Rebels led by James Connolly and Patrick Pearse rose against British rule in Ireland, proclaiming an Irish Republic and seizing the GPO and various other strategic buildings in Dublin, it was to Irish units of the British Army based in Ireland that the authorities first turned to defend the Capital. Many of the volunteers who had signed up to fight against Germany subsequently found themselves fighting their fellow Irishmen, in some cases friends and family members. It is estimated that Irish members of the British forces outnumbered the rebels three to one at the height of the fighting. As many as 41 of the British military deaths during Easter week were Irish born men, with many more injured.

One of the first to be shot was Frank Browning from Rathmines, Dublin. A barrister-at-law, Browning was 47 years old, a rugby player and former Irish international cricketer who had been capped for Ireland 38 times. He was president of the IRFU and is acknowledged as the driving force behind that organisation’s wartime efforts. When war broke out in Europe up to 300 members of the IRFU, like members of sporting clubs across the British Empire, enlisted en bloc. The IRFU volunteers went on to form the Irish Rugby Football Volunteer Corps – D Company, attached to the 7th Royal Dublin Fusiliers. They were also known as the IRFU Pals Battalion.

Of the 300 members of the Lansdowne club, 130 joined up to fight along with 120 ex-members. In total 72 died in the war, the majority in the Battle of Suvla Bay, Gallipoli and in the Dardanelles.

Browning and a number of his comrades, who remained in Dublin, were caught up in the Battle of Mount Street Bridge. They were fired on by the Irish Rebels as they were returning to Dublin from manoeuvres in Wicklow. Browning was fatally injured and died from his injuries a couple of days later.

A plaque commemorating his death and the deaths of the other members of the IRFU Pals Battalion who lost their lives in WW1 is located just outside the Aviva Stadium media centre in Lansdowne Road.