The Barrow Cot

Boats moored at the Jetty on the river Barrow in Athy, county Kildare

My First Boat – The Barrow Cot

Dedicated to the memory of my good friend and the gent that taught me to fish, Nicky Cahill RIP. 

Tied off at the jetty was an old colourless boat we named the Athytanic. The word around a recent campfire was that it belonged to the local legendary angler, Nicky Cahill; who was yet to discover her missing. Our gang, the self styled Barrow Boyz had commandeered it after the unusually late floods washed her ashore below Ardreigh. We’d big plans for her. Clean her down, paint her up and make her unrecognisable to the owner. But in the week we had her, we only managed to keep her tied and hidden under sally branches with a worn scratchy rope, stolen from Mixie’s Piebald horse. It was a strange boat. Strange in that both ends looked the same. In truth, it was more canoe like than anything else. It was completely flat bottomed, and what it lacked in width, it made up for in length. A quick measure put it as long as two and a half teenage men lying flat on their backs. It steadily carried three or less. Any more and she was sure to capsize. Two was the ideal number. This allowed for you to go downstream but yet have the paddle-power to get back up against the current. Two also reduced the danger of a deliberate capsize.
While the Men went back to school after lunch, I had decided to take the afternoon off. It was only French class and I’d no intention of ever visiting France. I climbed in, stowed the fishing gear and set her adrift. The water was still winter cold and the April sun was far too bright for fishing, so I lay back and let the current take me. The river bank was coming to life again. Both the Blackthorn and Whitethorn were wide awake and the Big House stand of Beech had taken on a vibrant green. Among the fresh growth, the black head of a Reed Bunting carried a beakful of nesting material. A Grey wagtail flittered two and fro collecting tiny morsels that emerged from the waterline. His bright yellow breast and underbelly mirrored on the surface. Landing briefly on the boat, he waggled his tail as if to say hello, before bobbing off back to work. While high in a still budding Ash tree, a male Blackbird lifted a melody out across the countryside for the pleasure of every riparian creature. I drifted on, and so too did the day, until nearing Malone’s weir I spotted a blue and white boat coming towards me. Heinrich and his hire boat, the Celtic Prince, kindly agreed to give me a lift back upstream with my boat in tow. As the engine below thumped out a steady beat, my new German friend showed me how to hold and steer the boat using a “tiller”. It was not long before we approached the open gates of Ardreigh lock and as we entered, the lock keeper called out
“You’ve found the Barrow Cot” pointing at my boat.
“Nicky will be pleased. Its been missing since the flood”
I reddened, but my international rescuer call out in broken English “Yes, how you say, it was adrift, yes, adrift”. We both smiled.
The lock keeper put us through Ardreigh and agreed to meet Heinrich at the 28th where he’d take charge of the Cot also. Before pulling out of the lock, I said my goodbye to Heinrich, thanked him and stepped off onto the granite slab. The Celtic Prince then towed my boat away. But as it did, the river began singing, a river song; as if solely for me.

 

Pic’s of Barrow Cots, Birds and Boatmen on the Barrow

 

Other Fishing stories

If you like the above story, here are one or two others that might float your boat. Haha.
Thanks for reading.
Cliff 
A day Pike fishing on the river Barrow
The Barrow Boys – Easter 1916
Boating for Pike on the river Barrow
The River Barrow Pike

 

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27th November 2021

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Clifford Reid

Written by Clifford Reid

4 Comments

  1. thomas cahill

    great story cliff good memory

    Reply
    • Clifford Reid

      Many thank Tommy,
      Glad you liked it. You’re dad was a great guy. Was very kind to me growing up.
      Cheers
      Cliff

      Reply
  2. Sylvester Hutton

    Such lucky men ( boys) like the author actually lived and loved life. Such boats as the Barrow Cot also lived with them, and lived with them. I remember going on a trip by road down along the Barrow to the last bridge sometime in the late 70, s. To where these boats were built, now through aged bleary eyes I must go again, thank you for your lovely story.

    Reply
    • Clifford Reid

      Many thanks Sylvester. Very kind words. Glad you liked it.
      Cheers
      Cliff

      Reply

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