Sailor, scuba diver and community activist, Sgt Tony McCarthy is a well-known face around West Cork, writes Jackie Keogh
A POPULAR Skibbereen sergeant, who has played an active role in the community for almost two decades, has retired.
Tony McCarthy (59), who is a native of Barryroe, served the community of Skibbereen for 19 years, up to his retirement on January 14th.
Over the years, Tony was involved in numerous organisations, such as the Connonagh Community Development Association, and was well known for writing on a variety of topics for several historical publications throughout West Cork.
Tony’s contributions to the publications are predominantly about World War 1 naval battles, but he also put his genealogy diploma to good use in tracing family histories and their historical context.
Tony, who lives in Connonagh with his wife Mairin and their three children, Roisin, Padraig and Kate, said: ‘One of the projects that I most enjoyed was the development of the Cellmount Loop Walk, which is widely used by visitors and locals alike since it was established five years ago.’
This was the recipient of a presidential award as part of the National Get Involved Community Initiative in 2013, having been nominated by The Southern Star.
Tony is also a keen sailor, having sailed extensively in the Mediterranean. He even did a solo journey, four years ago, in his own boat from Castletownshend to the Clyde in Scotland.
Over the years, Tony has shared his knowledge as part of a sailing programme for local national schools, which was run by Glandore Harbour Sailing Club.
When he lived in Dublin, Tony was a scuba diving instructor with the Garda Sub Aqua Club and the Kish Sub Aqua Club.
It was training that he put to good use when he liaised with the Garda Underwater Unit during the search for the five fishermen who went missing off the Tit Bonhomme in 2012.
‘It was amazing that we got all five of them back,’ said Tony, ‘especially as the weather conditions were so challenging and the area was so exposed.’
Tony said: ‘The level of volunteerism and co-operation from voluntary organisations, such as the Civil Defence, the Irish Coast Guard, the RNLI, West Cork Women Against Violence and the AA, is extraordinary in West Cork.’
He said: ‘The professionalism of these volunteers was of great assistance to me, and my colleagues, over the last 19 years. They deserve greater recognition for the work that they do.’
At a retirement function at the Tanyard Bar in Skibbereen on Friday, January 5th, Tony was surrounded by a lot of these people, as well as his colleagues from all over West Cork and he thanked them for their ‘friendship and loyalty.’
Shortly after joining the Garda Siochana in July 1982, Tony was stationed in Dublin, where one of the key incidents of his career was a shoot-out on the Nass Road.
He was part of the squad who captured a lieutenant of Martin Cahill who was on his way to commit an armed robbery.
After 10 years of service, Tony was promoted and sent to Pettigoe in Co Donegal. He spent a year there before being transferred to Waterford Garda Station and in 1999 he came to Skibbereen.
‘It was a privilege to work for the people of Skibbereen and an honour to serve here,’ he said. ‘I always got great co-operation from the public and I could not have asked for a better town to live and work in.’
Tony said that over the last three decades he had seen a great many changes in legislation. ‘When I joined the job, we were dealing with English legislation that had transferred to the Free State, but that has changed over time and our own legislators are now making our own laws.
‘Society has changed, too. There are more serious offences now being dealt with in the district courts, but I still remember dealing with offences such as noxious weeds, using a bicycle without a light, and wandering cattle.’
As for the future, Tony said: ‘It is my intention to return to college in September and do a Masters in local history.’