By Jerry Keating
This story started about fifteen years ago when I met John 'Chippy' Condon in Tony Flynn’s shop in Kilworth. We started talking about fishing, as two anglers will do.
I mentioned to him that I was going to Killarney the following morning and he was welcome to come with me for the day on Killarney’s lakes. He took up my offer straight away, we arranged to meet the following morning at 8.45am at my house. I think Chippy was there at 8.30am.
We set off that morning and stopped at Hickey’s in Rathmore for a cup of tea. We arrived in Killarney around 10.45am and I proceeded to show him the boat. We loaded it and within a half an hour, were on our way out on the lake to the fishing grounds. All I can say is Chippy was ‘over the moon’.
I then brought him ashore on Brown Island to have our lunch and enjoy a break from the fishing. During the rest of the day I recall telling him the names of the islands and the bays around the lake and where the good fishing was, etc.
At the end of the evening we headed back to Ross to unload the boat and head for home – little did I realise that this fishing trip to Killarney would continue as a regular outing for the next ten years.
Our fishing trips to Killarney every Thursday took on a set pattern. Leave Kilworth at 8.45am and all domestic duties took second place! Chippy started to understand lake fishing, as against river fishing. He soon realised how wind direction dictated where and how we fished.
The whole area of the lakes and the mountains opened a new world, the beauty of the lakes, the grandeur of the mountains, the wildlife and the sense of peace that brought tranquility,
Chippy became part of “Heaven’s Reflex”. He loved to see wild deer and the bird life and was lucky to see up close one of the sea eagles.
Fishing in Killarney became a whole new experience to him, I was glad to introduce him to this beautiful world. Friends who fish on lakes develop a very close friendship and enjoy each others’ company in this fishing environment.
Chippy proved to be a great family man. He would talk about his family and especially his grandchildren. His wife, Mary, son Shane and his daughter Colette, were his world and his devotion and his love of them was unquestionable.
The fishing trips to Killarney on a Thursday was the highlight of the week. After the six o’clock news on Wednesday, he would ring me – did I see the forecast and what did I think of the situation for Killarney with regards to the forecast.
This had to be discussed and decisions taken, his usual last words on this, ‘Same time in the morning, 8.45am’. That time was 8.45am. I can assure you he would be there at my house ten minutes before that time, my van had to have the back door open and he would put all his fishing gear in its own place in the van.
Every week, our next stop would be Hickey’s shop in Rathmore on the Cork-Kerry border, and we had our cup of tea and a cake. After that break, next stop would be Ross Castle in Killarney.
I would park the van near the lagoon which made loading the boat quite easy. Once all the gear for the lake was ready, including of course the outboard engine, we started out for the day’s fishing, leaving civilization behind. Lunchtime saw us pull into the Brown Island, this was Chippy’s favourite place to have lunch.
When we decided to cease fishing, I would call on Chippy to take over the engine and take us back to Ross Castle. When we approached the bridge of Ross, Chippy would not take the boat any further and I took over, as he was nervous driving the boat in shallow water under the bridge.
We then unloaded the boat, I would take the boat back to its mooring. When I came back, Chippy would have the van loaded and we would head for Kilworth, both tired, but very happy after a wonderful day on the lakes.
There was always a few trout in our fishing baskets. By the time we got to Rathmore, Chippy would have fallen asleep. When he woke, he would ask me where we were; I would answer Mallow. No comment from Chippy.
After a few years fishing together, one day I said to him let me have a cast with your rod, and I gave him mine. I found his rod rather heavy, but I didn’t pass any remark.
A few weeks later as we were getting ready for the day’s fishing, I presented him with a new fishing rod. He was amazed and he wanted to pay for the rod! I said give me back the rod so – that ended the debate!
When Chippy passed away in April 2013, his wife Mary and his son Shane invited me up to look at Chippy’s fishing gear and to take anything I wanted. I felt uncomfortable about this, but eventually I took flies and also the rod – I felt I would keep it and one of my family who would use it.
When I took the rod, I did not realise the story that was about to emerge. Chippy was very friendly with a local boatman called Battie O’Brien, whom we met every Thursday.
About two years after Chippy died, Battie broke his fishing rod, so I decided this was the man that deserved the rod. I knew Battie was on the ‘dole’, he was almost in tears when I told him the rod was Chippy’s. He too wanted to pay for the rod. I said Chippy would have wanted him to have it, so Battie was over the moon with his new rod.
Some weeks after Battie got the rod, he was fishing near the mouth of the River Flesk when he hooked a salmon and managed to get the fish into the boat. He then put down the rod, stood up in the boat and raised his hands up to the sky and shouted “thank you Chippy”. His partner in the boat asked, “Who is Chippy?” Battie replied, “It’s a long story”.
Battie died about two years ago and his wife called to see me on one of the Thursdays and told me that the rod belonging to Chippy was put into the coffin with Battie. I was amazed when Mrs O’Brien told me the story of Chippy’s rod. I guess Chippy and Battie are in Heaven talking to the big fisherman himself, St Peter, telling him about the wonderful fishing on Killarney’s lakes.
I would like to express my thanks to John’s wife, Mary, for allowing me to write this little article in memory of my old angling partner, John ‘Chippy’ Condon.