A FISHERMEN’S organisation in Castletownbere is planning on celebrating its 50th anniversary by investing in a new respite house for CoAction West Cork.
John Nolan, the managing director of the Castletownbere Fisherman’s Co-operative Society, said the organisation, which was established in 1968, wanted to mark its 50th year in business by doing something that would give back to the community and stand the test of time.
‘At board level,’ he said, ‘we sat down and discussed what we should do to mark the anniversary. On occasions like this you can have big fancy parties, but we decided to do something that would honour our past members: those who started the co-op and those who have since passed on.’
John Nolan is talking about people like Paddy Urhan and Denis Driscoll who was involved in searching for the Seaflower, a Castletownbere boat that was lost with all hands 50 years ago, this year.
He said Paddy and Denis went out on Christmas Eve night in an absolutely raging storm to go around the Dursey to look for the missing Seaflower. The boat sank, the five fishermen were drowned, and their bodies were washed up ashore the next day.
There are other towering figures too like Joe Sullivan and Billy Driscoll. John is of the opinion that ‘all the fishermen who have come through the co-operative over the last half century have been great community people – people that have worked hard, employed people, and kept their community going.’
As part of their celebration, he said: ‘We felt that we should be looking at our own community. The idea came to me one day when I was listening to a man on the radio – I couldn’t tell you his name – but he was crying on the phone, 71-years of age.
‘He had three very badly handicapped children: 31, 32 and 36 years of age. He worked every day of his life to feed them, change their nappies, and entertain them.
‘He was crying because they had no respite for 18 months and I brought that to our board of directors.
‘We might think things are bad but we have no idea how well off we are compared to some people. And one thing that came up was what a wonderful job CoAction do in West Cork. They really do a fantastic job. A lot of it is voluntary.
‘CoAction has a workshop in Castletownbere, but there are workshops all over West Cork. These people work there, and they have houses too where they stay with helpers, so there is fierce dignity to their lives and that is a great solace for their parents.
‘We made a decision at that board meeting that we would built a respite house for CoAction in memory of past fishermen, present fishermen and future fishermen.
‘Because we are from Castletownbere, we are being selfish in that we want it to be built in Castletownbere. We met with the local CoAction committee and the chairman of CoAction West Cork and I spoke to Diarmuid McCarthy, who is an engineer in Bantry. He said he would be willing to design the house for nothing because of his respect for the charity.
‘It is my understanding now that the Council have allocated a suitable site at Tallon Road for nothing and Diarmaid is going to look for planning permission for a house that will meet CoAction’s requirements.
‘After that we will look to put the project out to tender and hopefully get local builders to construct it. Then we – the co-operative – will write the cheque for it.’
Tony O’Sullivan, the vice-chairman of the CoAction committee in Castletownbere told The Southern Star: ‘To get that from the Castletownbere Fisherman’s Co-operative is fantastic. It came out of the blue. We very much appreciate it because we desperately need more respite houses. It means that people can take -weekends out in the respite house, which would be of enormous benefit – not just to the clients but to the families as well.’
John summed it up by saying: ‘West Cork is a fantastic place to live. We have people here that really care about their communities.
‘This will be a fitting tribute to the 50 years we have been in business and all of us believe that CoAction is a shining light of how any charity should be run.’