In Harry’s Wake, the 50th Shannon Boat Rally by Alison Alderton

In Harry’s Wake

In Harry’s Wake, the 50th Shannon Boat Rally by Alison Alderton As tenants of Dunrovin, my husband Roger and I felt an overwhelming urge to attend the 50th Shannon Boat Rally, we wanted to represent Col. Harry Rice and all he stood for.  A week before the rally commenced we moved our Dutch Barge “Lily” from her base at Dromod down to Lough Ree in preparation for the event and on the afternoon of Friday 23rd July, just like Harry had done all those years before we set out from Dunrovin to follow in his wake and attend what has become the most prestigious of Ireland’s inland As the excitement grew we could hardly contain ourselves, it was an absolute honour and privilege to be departing from the very spot that Harry did and continued to do so year after year despite the most inclement of weather. This often unsung hero has left a deep impact on our hearts and although we never had the honour of meeting the man the story of his life and all he left behind has become forever entwined with our own lives.

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A birthday to remember, Left, Alison on the roof of “Lily” during the pirouette. Right, Alison, Roger and Buster the Beagle at Athlone whilst the fleet rests

Although this was our first Shannon Rally we have in the past attended several IWA National Festival Rallies in the UK.  The difference between the two is vast.  The UK based event is held in one location and centred around a main arena where during the August bank holiday weekend various displays take place. There are hundreds of trade stands, canal societies and organisations touting for business but no real “on water” activities as such.   In fact boats are not permitted to move around unless partaking in the illumination evening, when they are decorated with fairy lights and dressed up in accordance to the year’s theme to parade past the site, so the activities at our first Irish rally were a real eye opener!  The Shannon Rally has taught us some new boating skills, patience and made us realise we are too tightly coiled and need to unwind, take onboard some of the Irish ways of enjoying life and act on them. It may take us a little time but it is something we hope to put into practice during the rest of our time in Ireland and with the new found friends we have made during the rally it will no doubt be made that much easier.

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Dutch barge “Lily” crossing Lough Ree in convoy with bunting flying

We all, even Buster our boisterous Beagle, had a great rally full of so many special moments that they cannot all be mentioned here however, the main ones that will stick in my mind for many years to come are of cruising in convoy with our bunting flying, breasting up with Beth onboard Aqualegia to cruise across Lough Ree, taking part in the Heritage Boats open day, when the doors of our barge “Lily” were thrown open to the public, organising tours of Dunrovin and meeting legends in the making such as David Killeen and Reggie Redmond.  The stories these people have shared with us about their lives, the waterways, of Harry and Cynthia Rice are personal snippets of history I will forever hold dear.

My most precious memories are of the 29th July when on my birthday 17 heritage barges, ourselves included set out from LRYC to partake in a pirouette.  As over 800 tons of steel craft turned in the centre of Lough Ree we were circled by cruisers amongst them Tsunami and Marlou, who skilfully manoeuvred around each other engaged in a water pistol fight as we were all bombarded by the low flying sea plane filming us.  Later that evening moored alongside Bona Spes at Lakeside enjoying my birthday dinner and watching the sun set across the tranquil inner lakes, a member of their crew broke into spontaneous song!  It was a perfect end to a perfect day, truly a birthday, a rally and a first boating season in Ireland to remember and treasure!

We would like to thank the IWAI, especially Dave McCabe also Gerry Burke from the Heritage Boat Association who took us under his wing for the whole ten days.  Finally to all our fellow IWAI members may we say in the words of Harry Rice, thanks for the memory!

Alison Alderton

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