St Hilda’s, Athlone on the Water.
It was a glorious warm sunny cloudless day, the sun was high in the brilliant blue sky and it was only 11 o clock on Friday morning the 5th in June. We all gathered in the Athlone Marina, our meeting point for the first trip of the day. One by one, all the boats arrived and moored, set out their steps, to make embarkation easy, the refreshments to serve to our visitors and the life jackets to make sure each and every one was safe. It was going to be one splendid trip up the lake for all the crews and our visitors from St Hilda’s Service.
St Hilda’s Service is a special day service for people with an intellectual disability in Athlone. A voluntary organisation, St Hilda’s was established in 1964 by the community. St. Hilda’s Services provide a comprehensive quality service to people with mild, moderate and severe intellectual disabilities supporting in excess of 120 service users and their families.
The IWAI Athlone branch St Hilda’s trip is an annual event in the calendar and is very well supported by branch members. The trip has been undertaken in all kinds of weather but on this Friday morning it was a calm warm sunny day. The Viking Ship moored up and over 20 adults and staff boarded. Every year The Viking Ship assists the branch with this event and it allows access for those in wheelchairs to participate in our event. Over the next hour small groups of friends and St Hilda’s staff arrived and were allotted their boat by branch Chairman Brian Corcoran, who co-ordinated the day.
The safety boat was provided by the Athlone Sub Aqua and as each group of friends put on life jackets, boarded the boats and met their hosts, they departed. The convoy of 9 boats slowly winded it way under the railway bridge, past Brick Island and the Jolly Mariner, moving out of town towards the lake.
As the convoy passed the Lough Ree Yacht Club and entered the lake, a slight breeze rose and the singing began. Strains of singing voices could be heard over the water from several boats, featuring songs from One Direction, boating ditties and good old fashioned Irish ballads.
As we rounded Hare Island and in open lake many of our St Hilda’s visitors took the helm and tried their hand at steering the boats. You could hear laughter, and chat with people waving to each other shouting with excitement and joy. Finally as we passed Bay Sports and arrived at Hodson Bay everyone was in great spirits and all agreed this was a fine day for a trip on the river and it was now time for refreshment….a wonderful sit-down lunch provided compliments of The Hodson Bay Hotel.
Thanks to the crews of Leone, Crassy, Sakena, Nite Owl, Ruby, Beau Sabre, Pacific M, Sans Souci and The Viking Ship and of course to the staff and management and clients of St Hilda’s, Athlone. We would also like to thank Pat McManus & Athlone Sub Aqua for providing the on-water rescue services for the day and particularly Michael McDonnell on The Viking Ship who provided his boat free of charge for St Hilda’s.