Austin‘s point was clear enough. To our eyes this makeshift water-trough was a ready-made boat at our disposal!
Quickly the trough was dragged down the slope to the water’s edge and then pushed roughly in. Sure enough, it floated. It was our very own boat.
‘It’s not a boat until some one sails in her!’ insisted Theo.
‘Some one small!’
There was just one boy who qualified.
‘No way!’ insisted Noel.
‘I’m not climbing into that rust bucket in my best Confirmation Suit!’
This was only to be expected. It was then that the persuading and cajoling began in earnest.
He would be our very own pioneer.
The first ever to sail the Derrybeg River.
The redoubtable mariner.
‘You’ll be famous!’ we concluded.
He wasn’t easily persuaded. My younger brother held his jacket, neatly folded across his arm. The rest of us had to pull long grass from the nearby bank to cover the rusty bottom and save the Confirmation Suit.
In the end he was half-coaxed, half-forced into the log-shaped craft and a few willing hands pushed the boat out into mid-stream.
To be fair, it did make it halfway across our swimming hole without one sign of bother.
Noel for his part was caught between clinging on precariously and frantically dipping his ‘oar’ – a fallen branch – into the water to expedite the voyage.
Suddenly we noticed that the boat had become alarmingly lop-sided and was swirling round threatening to impact the recently constructed dam at a dangerous angle.
‘Hang on tight, mate!’
‘Don’t panic, Noel.’
There was certainly no shortage of advice – but little in the way of practical aid was offered.
Noel was now emitting a series of low moans. His ashen face bore a sickly look as the listing boat finally impacted the centre of the dam.
We all stood helpless on the bank. Still, from there, we made the only contribution we thought appropriate to the situation.
To the last man we lined up, and saluted the gallant captain as he went down with his stricken ship!
One final despairing moan escaped his lips as he went under.
Afterwards we lit a twig fire in the field to help dry out his clothes. By the time we had to return home he was reasonably presentable again – though there was a ‘high-tide’ mark in his Confirmation trousers.
Luckily it was high enough to be hidden when he donned the jacket.
It was some weeks before Noel was allowed to join us again in our bolder adventures in the fields surrounding The Meadow!
………. end …………