The Essential History Of St Joseph’s College Rowing Club – 1932 - 1995

[first draft]

© Copyright Mike McCrohan 1993-1999


In his book Reflections on Lough Corrib, Maurice Semple briefly overviewed some of the developments in rowing in Galway from the late 19th century until about 1970. At the end of the rowing chapter he noted that it was not possible for his book to cover the subject in a comprehensive fashion, but hoped that an oarsman might attempt to "compile in more detail the story of competitive rowing on the river and thereby save information that would otherwise become lost."

In 1994 I found myself organising a 25-year reunion of my old Bish crew of 1969, and working closely with the committee of the St. Joseph's club as they planned for a small sprint regatta to commemorate the event. In the process I was fortunate to meet with, amongst others, Stephen Lydon and Frank Cook who had documented a little of rowing at the Bish during the 'thirties and 'forties. Somewhere along this process my old compulsion to chronicle rowing events began to resurface and I decided to try to put together a brief history of the club to coincide with the 1994 celebrations. That narrative, skimpy as it was, was so well received that I decided to do the job properly and have it published. This is the result, and I hope you enjoy it. If you get half as much enjoyment from reading it as I did in researching it, I will be well pleased.

In the brief overview in the following pages I have tried to describe how St Joseph’s College Rowing Club, known far and wide as The Bish, developed from its inception in the1920’s and progressed through trial and tribulation to become the most successful schools rowing club in Ireland. Many of the details listed are from the pages of the contemporary press of the time - the Connacht Tribune and Sentinel especially, but they generally only help fix events in time. It is people that help add the detail, the human element, to the story. Thus, I am indebted to Mr Stephen Lydon who wrote down his recollections of rowing in the Thirties and Forties, and Mr Frank Cooke who filled in some of the blanks in the early Fifties. They provided the initial spark to get me going. I am also indebted to those who loaned me their scrapbooks or photos, and gave of their time as I badgered them for details of their recollections. And thanks to Maurice Semple who blazed the path earlier and left traces I could follow.

Michael McCrohan

Cloon, Claregalway

September 1994

Table of Contents

Introduction *

Foreword *

Genesis - a slow gestation *

1926-1931 *

1931-1934 *

1934-1939 *

The 1940's *

1950 -1959 *

Bish get their own clubhouse/ Passing Adolescence *

The 1960's *

1962 *

1963 *

1964 *

1965 *

1969-1972 - The summit is Reached *

1973 -herehere *

1974 *

1975 *

1976. *

1977 *

Lean years *

1978 *

1979 *

1980 *

1981 *

Back on the winning Track *

1982 *

1983 *

1984 *

1985 *

1986 *

1987 *

1988 *

1989 *

1990 *

1991 *

1992 *

1993 *

1994 - rewrite needed *

1995 *

Epilogue: *

Appendix A: Behind the scenes *


"If the friendly ghosts of past oarsmen like to haunt the scenes of their earthly triumphs, then the clubhouse of the rowing club of St Joseph’s College Galway, known to all and sundry as The Bish, must have its share of visitors from the next world. The boathouse is on rowing hallowed ground, as it is the site of the famed Emmets Rowing Club. Emmets brought the highest honours to their club and to their city at a time when major success at any level in sport was rare in the West of Ireland, by capturing two Senior Championships of Ireland in 1929 when the championship was staged in Galway and again in 1931 when it was staged in Limerick.

"It would be another 57 years before the Senior Pot would return to Galway. Then the UCG senior Eight finally did what had been threatening to happen for a number of years. They finally capitalised on the steady flow of rowing talent emanating from the Galway rowing schools and in 1988 brought the Senior Pot west to Galway again. It was a happy coincidence that the day chosen to unveil a magnificent plaque on Menlo Pier in honour of the heroes of the past coincided with the return from Blessington, in time for the ceremony, of the victorious UCG crew. No less than seven of that championship winning crew were ex Bish men.

"The previous year UCG won the Thames Cup at Henley Royal Regatta, again with seven Bish past oarsmen, and in 1990 all five of the UCG coxed four that won the Britannia Cup were ex-Bish. Earlier Andy McDonagh represented Ireland at the 1975 Worlds at Nottingham, the 1976 Montreal Olympics and the 1980 Moscow Olympics, having secured a Henley medal in 1976 when Garda won the Thames Cup. His brother Tom is the first known Bish Henley medal in 1974 when he won the Ladies Plate with UCD. Tom has also served the club well as both oarsman and coach.

"Going back further, there were no less than five ex-Bish oarsmen selected to Ireland’s first ever national squad in 1972 while they campaigned a senior four from the club under the banner of Old Bish.

"More recently the Galway Rowing Club Senior Eight that regained the Senior Pot in Iniscarragh in 1993 contained no less than five ex-Bish oarsmen, and further championships have been won by past pupils with Tribesmen Rowing Club in 1978 and 1987 and Galway Rowing Club in 1989 and 1990." Thus, Frank cook reviewed the progress of Bish oarsmen and crews over the years during the blessing of a boat at the club in 1992.

"Graduates" of the Bish rowing club have represented Ireland at the world championships in Milan in 1988 and Vienna in 1991 (Neville Maxwell, Malcolm Hosty); at the Junior championships in Munich in 1994 (Kevin O’Boyle) and the world championships in Indianapolis (Neville Maxwell).

And, finally, the Veteran four that won the world championship at Bled in 1987 contained four ex- Bish men.

Certainly this is a proud record. But to fully realise and appreciate the great effort it has taken to put Bish Rowing into the premier position it occupies in Irish Junior rowing it is necessary to go back in time to the very early days of the club and observe the evolution of the club from its very humble origins.

Genesis - a slow gestation

In the late 1920's and early 1930's, rowing in Ireland was localised in pockets throughout the country. The main centres were Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Belfast, with slightly lesser centres in Athlone, Drogheda and a number of other towns. Regattas were somewhat local, or indeed parochial affairs, with little travel by clubs to regattas outside of their own area. This was due in part to the challenges of transportation of the time, and also to the fact that most clubs had little in the way of material or financial resources at their disposal. Furthermore, some regattas, such as Galway, held their regatta on a Thursday which would have made it impossible for a working man (for they were mainly man) to attend.

Galway was well endowed as far as local Rowing was concerned. The Corrib is particularly suitable for rowing, and the lagoon above the weir and the network of canals in the city provided ready access to the water. A number of rowing clubs were formed to exploit this magnificent resource, starting with Corrib in 1864, Commercial a few years later, then, in order, the Royal Yacht Club, St Patrick’s Temperance, Galway Athletic, the AOH - later evolving into Galway Rowing Club, Emmets, St Joseph’s school, St Patrick’s school, Col. Iognaid, UCG, and most recently Tribesmen Rowing Club.

The rowing clubs in Galway reflected the various social strata of those days. The Royal Yacht Club, situated at the junction of the Eglington Canal and the Jail River, had a membership drawn from the "ascendancy". Corrib, at the top of the canal, was generally comprised of the merchants and professional people of the town. Commercial would have drawn its membership from the staffs of the city shops and businesses, while Galway Rowing Club was akin to a Woodquay community centre. Emmets was somewhat different in being an offshoot of the Emmets GAA club and drawing its oarsmen from the village of Menlo, and, for a time, from the Garda Siocana. The decline of a number of those clubs could probably be traced to their inability to change with the times.

Though many of these clubs are now departed from the rowing scene, Rowing is still a vibrant and competitive sport in the city, the traditions being carried on by the two school, the "Bish" and the "Jes", UCG and the two commercial clubs of Tribesmen and Galway Rowing Club.

The strength of rowing in the Bish today belies its modest origins, and many obstacles had to be overcome, and lean years experienced before the club was put on a solid footing.

Competitive rowing in outriggers was well established in St Joseph’s Seminary in the early 1930’s. Rowing by students from the school was at the initiative of individual students who operated from the Commercial Boat Club who sportingly, generously, and without obligation provided the use of their boats, oars, changing rooms, showers, etc., to the Bish crews for many years. The school authorities' sole contribution in those early years was granting permission for the crew to row under the name of he school. The school's competitions were all in fours until the late 1940's when eights began to be used. In those pioneering days it was difficult enough to get four enthusiast together to row, never mind eight!

The earliest origins of participation in rowing by Bish students are faded with time. "Boys Races" for boys of under seventeen years of age in coxed pairs were an established feature of Galway Regatta at least as far back as 1920, and were contested by Commercial, Galway Rowing Club and Emmets. Many of these lads were from the Bish. Certainly, in the early 1930's a number of these boys graduated through the boys races to row outrigger fours for the school.

The situation elsewhere in Ireland was little different. Although schools such as Portora had been rowing for some time, they did so at Maiden, Junior and Senior levels, mainly in regattas or match races in Ulster, with annual forays to Trinity or Metro regattas in Dublin. Rules governing the rowing of schoolboys were formalised by the Irish Amateur Rowing Union in 1927 and rowing schools began to make appearances at Irish regattas soon thereafter.

The History of Boat Racing in Ireland by T.F. Hall, published in 1937 includes a list of Schools rowing clubs affiliated to the Irish Amateur Rowing Union. Three Galway schools are mentioned - St Ignatius College, St. Joseph's Seminary and St. Patrick's Monastery. In a three page section devoted to Schools rowing he traces the earliest instance of schools rowing to Portora in or around 1905, and devotes most of his text to development amongst the northern schools of Coleraine, RBAI and Methody. He goes on to note the affiliation of "St. Mary's College, the Technical School, and St. Joseph's Seminary of Galway", and subsequently St Ignatius to the Rowing Union.

Although the Galway regatta was almost as important a social event as the Galway Races and rowing was held in high esteem, sports reporting was not as comprehensive as it is today. Events for schoolboys, when they were included in the programme, did not always get included in the published reports. That notwithstanding, we do know that there was a race for schools outrigger fours at Galway regatta in 1932 in which St. Joseph's and St. Patrick's raced. This is the first documented appearance of Bish rowing.

While delving back in the old records, one cannot escape making certain comparisons with modern times. For example, the costs associated with rowing have changed, along with most things, over the years. A new boat today will cost in the region of £10,000. In the late 1920's the people of Galway subscribed to purchase a new Eight for the Emmets club, whose clubhouse stood on the site of what is now the Bish club. It was the boat in which they won their championships first in Galway in front of their home village of Menlo, defended it unsuccessfully (as Citie of the Tribes) at Drogheda, and regained it again in 1931 at Limerick. That boat cost £183. The Connacht Tribune of 3 March 1928 has a photograph of the Emmets crew of the day and a caption that notes that they were appealing for funds for a new ’fine four’ which would cost £90.

Amongst the entries for Galway Regatta of 1921, a pair of Neptune and Commercial Maiden Fours to be coxed by "A.Mann" and "I.May". Makes a change from A.N.Other.


Although there appears to be no mention of schools rowing in Galway during this period, a couple of notable items appear in the Sentinel of the time. In July the paper devoted an editorial to rowing. First in congratulating Emmets for winning the Senior Championship, and second in arguing for the regatta enclosure to be moved across the river from Menlo Castle to Dangan. The course was to move up and down the river, upstream and downstream over the years. The Enclosure has over the years been sited at Steamers Quay, Menlo, Dangan, The Iodine, Oldcastle, on the lake at Borrasheen. Doubtless it will probably move again.

The Boys race which was a feature of the Regatta for a number of years was for coxed pairs, and were probably skiffs rather than racing outriggers. A separate race for Schoolboys Outriggers was to appear within a few years. The boys race at Galway in 1929 was won by Galway Athletic over Emmets. Louis Kelly, Frank Kelly and J Mahony(cox) were the Athletic crew, and John Corcoran, T. Morris and Kavanagh (cox) rowed for Emmets. This Galway Athletic pair may well be the seed of what became the St. Joseph's rowing club as their names again appear in the 1933 Bish crew. It is likely that they raced as "boys" in 1930 and as St. Joseph’s in the Schools outrigger on the 1932 crew.

In July of that year there was the Corrib Challenge. Two employees of Moons placed a wager of £5 each on a race to the lake in Randans. Dan Mangan and Tim O’Leary set off from Commercial at 7:00pm to the accompaniment of a large flotilla and with many side wagers. Mangan led for a while and then O’Leary caught him until Menlo Graveyard where O’Leary retired with cramps, leaving his opponent to continue to the lake alone. One wonders whether any of the clubs signed these intrepid oarsmen up for competitive rowing?

In 1930 the Boys race was between crews from Emmets (P O’Grady, T Morris(stk.), P Kavanagh (cox)) and Galway Athletic (P. Vernon, D. Baily, D Reynolds(cox)). Emmets won.


At the 1931 Galway regatta the boys race was awarded to Emmets. The race, however, had been won by Galway Athletic with Emmets second and Galway Rowing Club in third. Emmets objected that the other crews had not produced birth certs, so the others were disqualified and the race awarded to Emmets.

It is ironic that, at a regatta in 1994, an official of the Irish Amateur Rowing Union was heard to lament the need for the formal registration and card checking procedures of today; that this was not needed in the past as "we were all gentlemen". The reality is that not much has really changed through the years.

Contemporary reports also recount the successes of the Corrib Ladies who won at Metro regatta at Ringsend, and were referred to by General Duffy as "the Girls from Connemara".

This was also the year that the Galway regatta course was changed to start at Menlo graveyard and row downstream to the enclosure at the Iodine.

By 1932 there were already established pockets of schools rowing within the Galway clubs. There were three crews entered in Schools Outrigger race at Galway regatta, including the first mention of St Joseph's as a rowing entity. Thus they predated their great rivals over the years, Col. Iognaid, by two to three years. Although Jes were registered in '34 they did not compete until '35. St. Patrick's won the Schools race from St. Joseph's by two lengths. Technical school scratched.

The St. Patrick’s in question was St. Patrick's Monastery, known in Galway as "the old Mon.", and was a primary school. People who know Galway will remember that the Patrician Brothers had two schools in Galway. The secondary school was located in what used be Persses distillery on Nuns Island, while the Primary school was located on Lombard street beside the Connacht Tribune where there is now a car park.

It would have seemed unlikely that a primary school would be racing secondary school boys, and winning, but they did, and were registered with the rowing union in 1924 and documented in T.F Hall's book.

The explanation for this lies in the fact that many less well off Galway families would have been unable to afford to send their children to secondary school in those days prior to free education. Instead, many stayed at the Mon. until they were fourteen or fifteen years old.

The 1933 Galway Regatta had a schools outrigger race to be contested between Athlone, Galway Technical School, Belvedere College, St Joseph’s Seminary and they finished in that order. The "Technical School" four on that occasion was really the St. Joseph's 'B' crew, and was comprised of Bish pupils hosted by Galway Rowing Club. The 'A' crew was hosted by Commercial.

The Bish crews were trained in the early days by Paddy (Baldy) Griffen of Galway Corinthians rugby club fame, and later by Jim Geraghty of Newcastle Road.

bish33.JPG (32534 bytes)

(Above: The St Josephs College Crew of 1933, at the Iodine - racing as Technical College. Bow: B Flaherty, 2: Jimmy Reid, 3:Louis Kennedy, Stk: Frank Kelly, Cox: Steven Lydon)

The Boys race at Galway regatta featured crews, from Emmets and Corrib. Emmets won the race, but the distance is not recorded. The crews were: Emmets: P. Kavanagh (Cox), M. Molloy (Stk), James Fahy (Bow). Corrib: Jack Murphy (Cox), JJ. Kenny (Bow), William Toner (Stk).


The Boys race at Galway in 1934 resulted in Emmets beating Corrib, Commercial and Galway Rowing Club having been eliminated in the heats. The oarsmen in the Emmets boat are listed as being Master J. Pringle and Master P. Kavanagh. Like the Kelly brothers before him Jim Pringle was to follow the path from Emmets Boys to St. Joseph's Schoolboys. However those schoolboys made no appearance that year as there is no mention of a race in either the programme or the results. It seems likely that there was no rowing in Bish that year. Ironically, the club registered with the IARU in 1934.

There were concerns about the dearth of schoolboys rowing in 1935. It was feared that unless they were attracted to the sport that the clubs would wither and that the regatta would die off. This was to be an oft repeated refrain through the years. In the event there were two Boys crews for the pairs race and four crews for the schools outrigger race for fours. Bish had two crews on the water, and would race against Rockwell and Col. Iognaid at the Regatta.

The Bish crew won the race and it is likely that in doing so they registered the club's first ever victory. They defeated the newly formed Jes, Rockwell College and Belvedere College in that order. The Boys race was between Galway Rowing Club, Emmets and Corrib. The result of this race is unknown.

It was decided that the Bish crew should represent the school the Dublin Metropolitan Regatta at Ringsend. Metro was the premier event in Irish rowing at the time and for many years later. Such a foray was somewhat of an expedition. Oars were packed up at Commercial and hand carried to the train station and placed in the guards van for the trip to Dublin. On arrival at Broadstone station in Dublin a horse-drawn cab was hailed, the oars placed on top, and the journey to Ringsend completed.

A win at Metro was regarded as a championship win at a time before most of the official championships had been inaugurated. The Ringsend course was tidal and the cox had to watch out for approaching tankers. Having negotiated the loan of a boat from Neptune some weeks earlier they went out to race in the Bish club's first ever endeavour away from home waters. Rowing was in dreadful conditions, the crew acquitted itself well but were beaten by a length.

1935 was also a year of sadness, for Michael Lawless, famous stroke of the Emmets crew that won the senior championship in 1929 and 1931 lost his sight.

Previewing the 1936 season promised good results as there were many crews on the water. There was a Jes schools four boating from Corrib, and the same Bish four as the previous year, rowing out of Commercial, were praised as easily the best crew on the water, and unlikely to be beaten. The Tribune of June 1936 reported them to be: "Easily the best crew seen on the river ... is the Commercial Schoolboys crew (St. Joseph's Seminary)", "beautiful rhythmic style", " slides like well oiled pistons", "the boat literally jumps out of the water". The Bish crews used the Commercial clubs ladies fine four, and one oarsman of that year recalls the row caused by one of the Bish lads damaging the hull of the boat with his heel.

Galway Regatta saw two Bish crews entered, one drawn against Belvedere and the other against Jes. Belvedere beat the Bish B crew by two lengths, and then Jes sprung the surprise of the day in defeating the much praised Bish A crew and going on to defeat Belvedere easily.

Bish and Jes both travelled to Metro for the unofficial championships where they met in the first heat. Jes emerged victorious by 3l and then dispatched Rockwell by the same margin in the final.

The Col. Iognaid crew at Galway was Austin Caulfield, A Keogh, Colm Riordan, W Murphy (stk.) Kevin Faller(cox).

Jim Pringle had served his apprenticeship in the Emmets Boys crews, and after leaving Bish worked for some of the local newspapers before going on to make his name as a world famous war photographer.

Stephen Lydon had the destination of being one of the first of a stream of Bish oarsmen to put something back into the sport through coaching and administration after his rowing days were over. He was a member of two unbeaten Neptune crews; he coached Bish and Commercial crews; served as president of Athlone Boat Club, and was IARU vice president for several years.

As 1937 got under way there was discussion regarding changing the Galway Regatta course this year to row upriver and finish at Menlo. The course at the time started above Menlo village and had to negotiate the sharp bend at the village within about 10 strokes. This gave the crew on the Dangan station a decided advantage, it was felt. In the event no change was made to the course in 1937.

Contemporary reports highlight training has changed over the years. Today crews regroup after their Autumn rest sometime in late September or early October. In 1937 Corrib were being exhorted to put their famous senior eight on the water and start training immediately. That was in late February. Two months later it was noted that Bertie Kavanagh, one of the founders of Jes rowing and star of Corrrib for many years was to hang up his oar. That did not end Bertie's involvement in the sport. Far from it! He was involved in coaching young lads from Bish and Jes, in both Commercial and Corrib, for many years to come.

As far as equipment costs were concerned, Galway Rowing Club purchased a Sims Clinker Eight that year for £132, and UCG were in process of trying to set up their club and were in dire straits for equipment. They were hoping to buy some second hand boats from Carlow Boat Club which was closing down.

There was a good crop of schoolboys involved emerging. St. Joseph's boated from Commercial, two Jes fours were based at Galway Rowing Club, Galway Technical College from Emmets, and the Royal Yacht club hoped to get a crew from the Grammar School on the water. This latter crew seems to never come to fruition.

Bish, Jes, Technical College and Belvedere College entered Galway Regatta where Tech beat Bish and Jes by 3l; Belvedere beat Jes A by a distance, and in the final dispatched Tech by a similar margin

Very little winter training was done by the clubs. Indeed the first crew on the water in 1938 was one of the St. Joseph's fours, whose photo appears on the Connacht Sentinel during May. There were two Bish fours on the water, an 'A' four and a 'B' four.

The ’B’ crew travelled to Cork with a Corrib Senior eight and two Senior fours. It is unclear whether Corrib had any success, but Bish won. The ’A’ crew went to Metro at Ringsend to challenge for recognition as the best schools crew in the country. They were beaten by Coleraine Acedemical Institute in the heat by a length. That same Coleraine crew went on to win the final easily. The ’B’ crew went on to beat their own ’A’ crew and Galway Technical College at Galway regatta later in the year.

As 1939 got under way the local rowing commentators noted that crews were in training in May, and that one of these was a schools four from St. Joseph's.

Mick O’Donnell left school and was replaced on the A crew by Jimmy Lydon, brother of Stephen. Once again the crew went to Dublin Metro at Ringsend at the end of June where they acquitted themselves well, and were judged to be unlucky not to win. On the evening before the regatta the Bish crew beat the O’Connell Schools A crew and Belvedere 'C' in the heat to qualify for the final. However, on the following day the rowing conditions were so bad that the other heat was dispensed with and the crews given a bye straight to the final. Bish’s luck deserted them and they drew the outside, roughest station as the race was rowed over a shortened course. The crew were nearly swamped. They were leading the final by a length when stroke's seat stuck and the three-man crabbed, allowing Methody, on the inside, calmer station to go through for the win. Bish, with water lapping up to the slides, finished in second ahead of Belvedere 'A'.

The rowing conditions were so bad that this was to be the last Metro to be held at Ringsend, so the Bish crew have the distinction of being amongst the last to have rowed on that course. In subsequent years Bish competed at the last Metro at Islandbridge and the first Metro at Blessington.

Their next outing was in Galway where St Joseph, the only Galway schools crew on the water, faced the might of Presentation Cork in the Schoolboys Outrigger race which Presentation won. The Draw for the regatta also shows a boys open pairs race with entries from Galway Rowing Club, Commercial and Emmets. The result of this race is unknown.

This particular regatta was marked by the fact that it was the first appearance of UCG who were in their first year of competitive rowing - establishing a good name by winning the Maiden eights and fours.

Also noteworthy was a notice in the Sentinel of Aug 8 of the fact that Mr Abby Toft was to give three nights of his amusement showground at Eyre Square toward the fund to help Emmets erect a new clubhouse. This clubhouse was the one from which the Bish boated over the years until it was rebuilt by Bro. Maurice in 196x and again by Bro. Angelus in 1983.

Admission to the enclosure at Menlo was 2s/0d from which the Galway regatta committee fed and entertained its visitors.

Jimmy Lydon who rowed in this boat became sports correspondent for the Connacht Sentinel. He remained a stalwart supporter of the sport right up to his death in 1993.

The 1940's

In an effort to encourage younger members to join and row, Galway Rowing Club reduced its fee for membership in 1940 to 30/- (thirty shillings or £1.50 in today's money).

As most of the crew from the previous year had left school and it became necessary to start again almost from scratch. Bro. Valarian called together a meeting, probably late in 1939, of interested parties which included Chris Ryan, Bow of the 38/39 crew, Enda Coogan, Peadar McGwynn, Kevin Naughton, Johnnie Moloney and Paddy Reney. They started training out of Commercial under the late Seán Turke who was club secretary of Commercial and no mean oarsman in his own right. Later, when Seán had to bow out from coaching due to other committments, these duties were taken over by the late Jim Geraghty of Newcastle. Jim was a "stickler for discipline" who made sure his young charges took their training seriously.

Galway Technical School, being trained at Emmets by Mr Amby O'Halloran of UCG were also in training and were adjudged to be as good as any maiden crew on the water. Bish were to meet them and Rockwell College in the Schools Fours at Galway which Technical won.

However the crew then travelled to Cork where they borrowed a boat, on the slip, from Lee who had won their race. They had been expecting to meet the strong and feared Presentation College four, but that crew scratched. Instead they found themselves with a rematch of the Galway race against Technical College. A very tough race ensued where, despite Technical’s strong finish the Bish four held on to win by a canvas.

The Connacht Tribune of July 19, 1941 reported that there were not enough crews entered for Galway Regatta, held those days on a Thursday. The Tribune further reflected that:

"One of the surprises of the day was the way in which St Joseph’s walked away with the schools outrigger race. St Joseph’s took the lead at the castle and the much favoured Dublin crew was left behind as the Galway crew spurted into a three length lead which they lengthened to six before passing the post."

The crew is recorded as St Joseph’s Seminary. Jes were second and Old Belvedere third.

The Bish success was on of the few bright spots in an otherwise ordinary Galway rowing scene. The Sentinel reflected in the overall poor display by Galway clubs that year and discussed UCG’s predilection of the Fairbairn style of rowing, apparently with disapproval. The writer felt that since the retirement of Emmets that rowing in the town had slipped. However:

"St Joseph’s put a very finished crew of schoolboys on the water and though not favourites won easily at Galway. They should make a good Maiden crew next year."

Indeed the crew did row Maiden- the same year - at Carrick-on-Shannon. They raced against Drogheda and Portadown. They clashed with Drogheda on one of Carrick’s big bends and, as one of the crew remembers... "they were not very pleased and let us know so." The maturity and strength of the Drogheda crew told in the end and they won, but Bish came home a good second ahead of Portadown.

There was concern in 1942 that the future of Galway regatta was in jeopardy due to the dearth of local crews and the inability to attract ’foreign’ clubs. The St Ignatius schools four rowed from Corrib and was being coached by Mr B. Kavanagh, while Mr J. Hickey was in charge of a schoolboy four drawn from St Joseph’s . They were due to race in Metro on July 3rd and Galway on the 9th.

The draw for Galway included St Joseph’s, Technical School and St Ignatius. The Tribune reports that Trinity made a clean sweep, but that:

"The schools outrigger four race was the only one worth looking at. Technical School were much fancied, but coming to the tail of the woods, to the surprise of everyone, St Joseph’s were ahead. As crews came opposite the enclosure (at the Iodine) St Ignatius were racing level with St Joseph’s and a good spurt was taking them into the lead when their bowman crabbed and St Joseph’s shot into the lead to win by ½ a length from Technical School."

[Ref Photo of the crew at the regatta, by Kathleen Reney, Lr Merchants Road.]

The Tech crew was M. O’Connell, R. Langan. M. Griffen, G. Langan, J. Griffen.

The following year, despite the fact that only two crews could be raised from the 150 members of an ’apathetic’ Commercial club, there was a record entry for the regatta this year, with many ’foreign’ crews attending. This was, at least in part, due to the fact that the Junior Eight Championship was in Galway this year.

St Joseph’s, who boated two crews again in 1943, had earlier travelled to Limerick and competed at Under age four where they beat five Limerick crews easily. They did not enter the schools fours event for Galway, but raced underage again. Thus there was no schools race at all this year. Facing the Bish would be crews from St. Michael's, Limerick, and Galway Rowing Club. The regatta resulted in the visitors sweeping the board With the exception of the Underage fours and the ladies race all other trophies left the city. Bish beat St. Michael's in the first heat while Galway Rowing Club rowed over in the second. Bish beat Galway Rowing Club by a distance in the final.

[Ref photo of two crews /SydG and/or Billy McHugh]

With the war at its height transport was difficult in 1944. Thus, although Galway regatta would have 17 races, there were no outside entries. Again the enclosure was at the Iodine. Bish were entered in Underage 4, Schools 4 and Junior 4.

As a second Bish crew had been entered for the schools race, but never got as far as competing at the regatta, it was decided to race the same Bish four in all the three categories, and to give Jes a race in the school’s race. In this, they were informed that they would be disqualified as they were rowing a different crew to the names they had supplied. They insisted in rowing, however, and had a very easy victory over St Ignatius whom they raced away from half way down, to win by a distance. It was a hollow victory as they were automatically disqualified. The Jes crew on the day was B. O’Riordan, F. Forde, S. Timony, J. Mangan (stk.). ??? (Cox).

In the Underage 4 Bish beat Galway Rowing Club, and in the Junior 4 for the Hallett Cup Bish beat Galway Rowing Club ’B’ in heat 1 and Galway Rowing Club ’B’ in the final.

Later in the season they travelled to Limerick regatta where they finished second to Limerick Boat Club in both the Junior and Underage Fours, and also travelled to Athlone and Drogheda.

Periodically there was pressure within Commercial, who had hosted Bish since 1932 or earlier, to withdraw its facilities. This was understandable as they were receiving very little return on their investment. The Bish lads would leave school, join the UCG club, and probably never be seen in Commercial again. Of course there were some exceptions, and the '44 crew was one such. They moved on to Commercial after leaving school, and with Paddy Small replacing Syd Geraghty, had an unbeaten 1946 season with that club at Underage and Junior four. They were coached by Steven Lydon. In the event, Commercial continued to be godparent to Bish right up until the club could locate its own premises in 1954.

As old rivalries were renewed between Bish and Jes in 1945, Jes boating two crews, but it seemed, though, that the Bish crew, the same as the previous year, was "very smooth" and would take some beating. This certainly proved to be the case at Galway regatta.

"St Joseph’s won the schoolboys race from St Ignatius who objected, but the umpire did not agree. St Joseph’s , although the lighter crew were better oarsmen and for such a young combination had well neigh perfect timing. Their victory was well deserved."

The following year the regatta returned to the popular Menlo enclosure for the first time in 15 years. The enclosure was on the grounds of Menlo Castle, directly across from the Dangan enclosure used in more recent years. Contemporary photos attest to the popularity of the sport with the enclosure being well crowded. The only Galway entries were from St Joseph’s and Galway Rowing Club with three crews from the former club.

A cup for competition amongst the schoolboys was presented by Rev. Bro. Athanatius and Mr Jim Geraghty, the cup to be known as the St Joseph’s Challenge Cup. Prof. Murphy accepted the cup on behalf of the regatta committee and paid sterling tribute to Bish and to their trainer Jim Geraghty.

Bish had recently travelled to Athlone where they had been beaten by St. Mary's. They were hoping to reverse that defeat on home waters. In the event, the schools race was the only one with heats on a day of chaotic organisation with most of the regatta committee conspicuous by their absence, foul weather, and the failure by the Limerick clubs to travel.

The best race of the day was the first heat of the schools event between Bish ’B’ and St Mary’s ’B’ (Athlone). They raced neck and neck all the way for St Mary’s to snatch a three foot victory with Athlone Tech a distance behind. Rain ceased before the second heat where the Bish ’A’ crew went into an early lead and striking a steady 30 coming into the enclosure they passed the flag a grand two lengths clear of St Mary’s ’A’ and Bish ’C’.

Bish made no mistake in reversing the Athlone decision in the final, easily beating St Mary’s . They took a length at the start, increased it to three by the grid and won by a distance.

There is very little information available on the 1947 season. There ire very few mentions of the sport in the newspapers of the time. Either not much happened in 1947 or the once reliable club correspondents were on holidays. The sole mention of schools rowing is in relation the Galway regatta Schools fours race that was between Bish A and Bish B - the B crew emerging victorious.

In 1948 the St Joseph’s "prodigies" under the guidance of Jim Geraghty travelled to Limerick regatta at Killaloe and were entered in the Maiden fours event. The reason for this seems to have been the dearth of schoolboy competition at the regattas. Contemporary reports go on at some length about St Joseph’s being the sole standard bearers of Schools rowing in Galway for a number of years. This was the first time in many years that a Bish crew travelled to compete outside the city in "foreign waters".

At Killaloe they were matched up with the UCG maidens who promptly jumped the start and finished just ahead of the Bish boys. However they were disqualified and the race awarded to Bish, ahead of Galway RC and Athlunkard.

At Galway they entered maiden again and found themselves in the heat with Shannon and Limerick. They finished a length behind Shannon. Galway Rowing Club and UCG won the other two heats and Galway Rowing Club led home Shannon in the final, by ¾l. No schools eight is listed and Jes beat Greally's College, Galway easily in the fours. The Bish crew also raced at Athlone where they were beaten in the Maiden fours by Shannon.

Tommy Lydon, who rowed at number three in the boat was the third of the Lydons to row for Bish.

The club went from strength to strength at this stage while Jes kept a low key. Almost the same crew as the previous year was back on the water for 1949, Mickey Brennan being replaced by Vinnie Coyne. In addition, a second four and an eight were in training. This was the first time that a Galway school club had formed an eight.

One four was coached by Jim Geraghty. The other four and the eight were coached by Bertie Kavanagh, one of the founders of the Jes rowing club in 1935, and Jim Lydon, 7-man on the UCG maiden eight, and no relation to the three Lydons that rowed for Bish in earlier years.

The Sentinel of the day reports that one of the fours was breaking with club tradition and adopting the swivel, as opposed to block, rigs, as this is what they would have to use when they went to the School Championships at Metro.

When the Head of the river came round the eight was not yet on the water and the Eights event was won by UCG from Corrib. That afternoon St Joseph’s dead heated with Corrib in the Fours Head and a re-row was organised for the following Sunday. Bish won the re-row in 12m56sec. The Head of the River crew was Gabriel Sarsfield, Vinnie Coyne, Tommy Lydon, Peadar McDonnell(stk.), Buddy Ward(cox).

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Bish crew of 1948: Bow: Gabriel Sarsfield, 2: Peadar McDonnell, 3: Tommy Lydon, Stk: Mickey Brennan, Cox: Buddy Ward.

The Senior Pot was held in Galway on 1949 and was won by Trinity. At the same regatta Bish rowed over the schools VIII, and the fours event was comprised of Bish A v Bish B v Bish C. Jes, who had started the season with an Underage four had disbanded that crew and Bish were once again the sole schools club on the Corrib. There was a lengthy discussion in the press that year about the fairness, or lack thereof, the Galway course with its two major bends. This was a subject that would recur at various courses in the country until it was eventually decreed that championships only be run on straight multilane courses such as found on the lakes of Blessington, Inniscarragh, Coosan or Killyhevlin. Of course, as we well know those courses can be very unfair too, given certain wind conditions.

At Metro regatta the UCG crew won the Maiden pot, and the Bish four ran Methody to within 1½l in the ‘Schools Championship’. They also travelled to Athlone where they were drawn against Marist in the schools eights but received a row-over. The won the fours.

1950 -1959

Although Bish was "once again left to keep the flag flying" for schoolboy rowing in Galway they made no appearance at the 1950 Heads of the River which were won by UCG in the eights and Galway Rowing Club in the fours. However they sent an eight and four to Athlone with some success. The crews were by now being coached by P. Hughes, stroke of the Galway Rowing Club eight and four, and had little trouble in beating St Mary’s Athlone in the Schools Eights race. A broken slide in the fours raced robbed them of the chance of the double.

Back at Galway regatta which reverted to the downstream course because of the huge flow on the river, they rowed over in the eights and raced the three fours in the Schools Fours event.

At Limerick they "put up a plucky display" against North Mon., but were beaten. It is likely that this was the result of the crew not getting the toughness built up by competition, and when real opposition showed up they were out at a disadvantage.

Once again in 1951 Bish failed to compete in the Heads of the River which were both won by Galway Rowing Club. However they were all set to compete for the new trophy for Schoolboy Eights in Galway, the Kavanagh Cup. The Junior Eights championship was in Galway in 1951 and was won by Portora. However, Bish beat Portora for the new cup in the schools eights. It is not clear whether this was the same Portora crew that had won the Junior Pot.

North Mon. beat Jes in the fours and repeated that a couple of weeks later in Cork. Methody beat the Bish eight in Cork.

1952 is marked as the year of the donation of the Colgan Cup for Schools Fours to be raced off between Bish and Jes by Mr Gerry Colgan, B.E., former well known oarsman and then coach of UCG. It is unfortunate that in its inaugural year it was won by default in a race off between Jes A and Jes B.

Similarly at Galway Regatta Jes rowed over in the Schools Eights and two Jes boats competed for the fours.

Galway Rowing Club again won both Heads of the River and Bish had yet to make an appearance. Indeed, it was to become apparent that the club which had done so much for Galway Schools rowing for so long had no crew to put on the water! The fact was lamented in the Sentinel who urged a revival. What ever had happened to a club that had so recently been so vibrant?

Five Bish students, seeing the outriggers from Galway Rowing Club and UCG on the river, thought that they would like to try their hands at this game. They approached Jim Geraghty initially but soon parted with him as the two sides did not quite see eye to eye. They then approached Fr. Eddie Diffiley S.J., who was in charge of rowing at Col. Iognaid, and was also interested in having a strong schools rowing base in Galway. As an ex-Bishman himself he was anxious that rowing get re-established at Bish. Fr. Eddie taught the Bish boys the fundamentals of the stroke on a rowing machine at the back of the Jes school and then began to bring them up the river with the Jes crews.

Soon, discovering that there were four oars belonging to the Bish club of old still in Commercial, they approached that club with a view to borrowing a boat. This was granted on the condition that they have a coach and Brother in Charge. They asked Bro. Morris Murphy, who was teaching in the Monastery primary school at the time, if he could help, and he, in turn put them in contact with Bro. Otteran Mohan, a teacher in the Bish. He agreed to be their mentor.

As before, the Commercial club provided all the critical material assistance within their resources. Bro. Otteran recalls how the Commercial club officials could not have been more helpful and once more the Commercial premises, boats and equipment were put at the disposal of Bish. Help was also forthcoming from Galway Rowing Club and UCG, clearly illustrating that, whatever differences might occasionally between clubs in Galway, they will all pitch in when one of their sister clubs is in crisis.

Michael Hannon of Galway Rowing Club was appointed coach and Jimmy Heaslip captain. The boat was converted from block to swivel rigs and the oars modified to suit, by Mr Charles McCarrick in the Tech. They trained regularly and often received words of encouragement from Fr. Diffiley when they would meet him on the river. Bro. Otteran kept the metaphorical wheels rolling by managing to come up with the petrol money when it was needed.

There was a movement in 1952 for the Col. Iognaid club to take over and revive the old Emmets club. It was noted that the club still possessed some equipment, and that all that would be needed was some enthusiasm and support for the club to regain its former prominence in Irish rowing. This particular move appears to have run out of steam, as had an earlier one a year or two previously. However, the seeds were probably sown at that time for the eventual transfer of the remaining Emmets resources to St. Joseph’s a few years later.

As 1953 opened, the newly reborn crew began to experience success almost immediately. They were also destined to be the source of one of the more colourful stories to be associated with a Bish rowing crew.

They captured the Colgan cup for the first time, and also won the Gogarty which was run as the schoolboys trophy at the Head of the River. At Galway regatta that year there were six schools fours and four eights entered. This was the first appearance in Galway by Christian Brothers School, Limerick and Clonmel High School. St. Nessan's were fresh from recent victory at Cork but would have worthy opponents in the Jes and unbeaten Bish fours.

Bish and Jes were to share the honours after some ’sparkling encounters’. In the fours Clonmel beat Jes by a ½ canvas in the first heat while Bish ’A’ beat Jes ’B’ and St. Nessan's by 2 lengths in the second. In the final the Bish four beat Clonmel by 2 lengths.

In the Eights race for the Kavanagh Challenge Cup Bish beat St. Nessan's by two lengths and Jes beat CBS by ¾length. The final was decided when one of the Bish crew had an oar jump from the block gate of their borrowed boat shortly after the start, and they lost to Jes by a length. The Jes crew on the day also contains some well known names: T. Colleran(stk.), D. Griffen, M. McCarra, N. Carr, J. Joyce, B. Sweeney, T. Conboy, W. Kelly and R. Molloy, (cox)

Buoyed up by their successes the four resolved to compete at Trinity regatta in Dublin for the unofficial, but de-facto schools championship. Trinity was late this year because of the coronation of the British queen. As it was during the Leaving Cert. exams the crew were refused permission to travel. Consternation reigned amongst parents and teachers alike on the eve of the race when it was apparent that the crew had disappeared.

However the five stalwarts had found their way to Dublin with no boat, oars or money. They borrowed a boat from Trinity in the finest tradition of the times, and won the Schools Fours, beating Portora and RBAI on the way. They "cadged" food from the host club and, trophies in hand, started thumbing home. They spent the night complements of Athlone Garda station and the kind hearted Garda Mannion who fed them breakfast in the morning, and then stopped a car and sent them on their way.

The terrible retribution which would have been the inevitable result of such defiance of authority was forgotten in the euphoria born of success, and they donned instead the mantle of heroes.

It is not clear what impact, if any this exploit had on the exam results.

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Their names are still by-words amongst pupils of the Bish of that time: Jimmy Heaslip, Sean McErlean, Jim Mannion, Eamonn Geary and Des Kenny. (photo above). Their coach, Michael Hannon could until very recently be seen casting a critical eye over the youngsters of today - he died in 1994; and Bro. Otteran has only recently retired from an active running career.

Later that year both the four and eight travelled to Metro at Islandbridge. The four defeated St. Nessans in the heat and Methody in the final, while the eight they pushed Portora to within a ½ length in the final. Jes did not participate at Metro as some of their crew were injured in a car crash en route to the regatta earlier in the week. Happily, injuries were slight and all oarsmen were discharged from hospital within a day or so.

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Bish VIII of 1953. Back row: J. Clancey, Eamonn Geary, Brian Callaghy, Jimmy Heaslip, Sean McErlean, Jim Mannion, Seamus Powell, Josie Tyrell. Front row: Des Kenny, Bro. Otteran Mohan, Michael McGrath.


In 1954 Bro. Otteran was transferred to America. On his departure, Bro. Maurice Murphy was drafted in from St. Pats to run the club. It is, perhaps unusual to have had a teacher from the primary running a secondary school club as the two organisations maintained a certain separation of duties from one another. The crossing of lines of demarcation was made possible by the fact that Bro. Columbanus had been a teacher in St. Pats before taking his degree and going to teach in the Bish, becoming headmaster in that school.

Bro. Maurice inherited a club still based out of Commercial, but who borrowed equipment wherever it might be found. He would also be faced with inheriting the Emmets club, but first 1954 had to be navigated.

Bro. Maurice recalls the close links those days between rugby and rowing at the school, in that a high proportion of the boys played rugby early in the year and then rowed later on. Unfortunately the crews could not be kept together all summer as lads left town during the holidays to take up jobs. Thus Bish might make an appearance at the Gogarty, Colgan, Heads of the River, and, maybe, Trinity, but would disband prior to Galway regatta.

Neither of the schools made an appearance at the Head of the River races of 1954, seeming electing to keep their energies for the Gogarty. This turned out to have been a thrilling race with Bish leading the early part of the race until Jes, coxed by Bobby Molloy, had advantage of the bend and went on to win by ¾l. "Two splendid crews" espoused the Sentinel.

Bish travelled to Athlone as the sole Galway representatives and reached two finals. They came home empty-handed, though, beating Athlone by three lengths in the fours before going down by two lengths to CBS Limerick, and, after beating Carrick easily to qualify for the final of the eights scratched due to crew injury. One report quotes a blister as the culprit.

Galway regatta was shaping up to be a good one for the schools. It was to host the unofficial Schools Championships, and it was also to have a new cup up for winning. Standing 25" tall and 11" across the mouth, the Anderson Trophy was made of solid silver and was already 137 years old. It was presented to the regatta committee by Mr Anderson, brother of the late Mr Henry Anderson, former chairman of the regatta committee for many years. The new cup was to be raced for by the Schoolboy Eights. This cup replaced the Kavanagh Cup, whose fate is unknown, and immediately became one of the most coveted cups in Irish rowing.

Six crews contested that first Anderson. In the first heat Methody held off Jes in a tight race with Belfast RC third. CBS Limerick were too strong for Bish and St. Mary's Athlone in the second heat and CBS went on to win the final easily. In the fours CBS beat Methody, Jes beat Bish in a "dingdong" battle, and then beat CBS in the final.

An Athlone boat club Maiden crew travelled to Galway and won the Maiden eights. The coach of that Athlone crew was one Steven Lydon who had rowed for Bish back in '33, '35 and '36.

Later both schools travelled to Limerick and competed in very bad conditions. After Bish crabbed in the fours and eventually retired Jes went on to complete the double.

Bish get their own clubhouse/ Passing Adolescence

As Bish were in need of their own premises it was decided by the Emmets trustees to pass their clubhouse on to St Joseph’s College.

Neither Commercial nor Emmets had put a crew on the water for a number of years and were fading out of existence. Emmets trustees, Niall McDermott, a Mr. Canning, Dr. Powell, Joe Coyne and Paddy Hogan, decided that they should effectively wind up the club. They were anxious, however to do it in a manner that ensured a rowing succession. Dr. Powell approached Bro. Maurice and offered the club to Bish, gratis. Bro. Maurice was astounded, but no less than his superior, Bro. Killian who could not believe that property could or would be offered for free with no strings attached. Furthermore, as members of the religious were forbidden to acquire or dispose of property, the bishop, Dr. Michael Browne, would have to be consulted and his permission obtained. Nevertheless, this permission was obtained, deeds of transfer drawn up, and the transaction completed.

There were come conditions to the transfer of ownership: The site was never to be used for any purpose other than in connected with rowing; and Emmets methods of committee meetings, etc were to be maintained during the lifetime of the two remaining old Emmets oarsmen. The handover happened in April 1955, and Bish inherited a 10ft x 8 ft wooden clubhouse complete with a stove and some chairs, a four, the Meunchen with box rigs and six Randans. And a rowing tradition of almost mystical proportions.

As Emmets did not have a boatshed, their equipment was housed at Galway Rowing Club.

During 1955 the Emmets name was to appear again, with crews entered in the both the fours and eights Heads of the River, and later at Galway regatta. In reality this was naming for tradition as the crews were really Bish.

As usual the Head of the River race for eights opened the racing season on the Corrib. UCG’s first crew won from Emmets with UCG B in third ahead of Galway Rowing Club. Then Jes went on to win the Gogarty in very sad (for Bish) circumstances: Bish could not put a complete eight on the water and boated with seven men! The result, needless to say, was forgone. The fours Head of the River showed Bish third behind two UCG crews and ahead of Emmets, Corrib and Galway Rowing Club.

The draw for Galway Regatta refers to "Emmets Schoolboys(St Joseph’s)" being entered for the Anderson for which there was a good turnout. Col. Iognaid beat St. Nessan's and Clonmel High School in the first heat. CBS Limerick beat St Joseph’s and PBS Carrick on Shannon in the other. Col. Iognaid won the final. The fours race was eventful to say the least! Nessan's, Emmets(Bish) and Limerick CBS progressed to the final from a field that included PBS, Clonmel HS, Col. Iognaid. Nessan's won the final from CBS and Emmets by ½l and a distance respectively. However, objections by Emmets and CBS that they were forced off course led to a re-row being ordered. CBS refused to take part and Emmets won the race by ½l!

As the club moved into their own premises it is appropriate to remember the debt of gratitude the owed to Commercial Boat Club by St Joseph’s Seminary and from St Joseph’s Rowing Club in particular for their unlimited hospitality and encouragement which they gave to the schools rowing in these early pioneering days. Mr Joe Tummon and his committee played no small part in ensuring that Bish rowing survived to grow and prosper. It is entirely fitting that Joe should see five of his sons earn seats on Bish first crews and all race with distinction.

It was decided that the club should have a boathouse and Bro. Maurice set about the task. Emmets had originally planned on building a two-story clubhouse on the site, but had only got as far as completing parts of two walls. With the help of a number of the fifth year students the wall was extended on the Cunningham side. As the old Bish National school on Nuns Island was being demolished, the builders salvaged what they could toward building the boatshed. The old long desks were cut up and the wood used for the rafters and the windows pressed into service for a second time. Two of the Randans were sold and the proceeds used to buy the galvanised sheets for the roof. The Corporation wanted a more pleasing facade, and plans were submitted and approved. Those plans never got executed. This boathouse provided service to Bish crews between 1956 and 1985, and, rudimentary as it was, saw ten Irish championships secured.

Seven eights contested the 1956 Head of the River, but not Bish. They did, however, contest the Gogarty and Colgan the following Sunday and Monday. The crews do not seem to have been ready for competition as Jes A beat Bish B easily in the first heat of the Colgan and Jes B beat Bish A in the other. The final was postponed because of the weather. Mondays Gogarty was not rowed due to a bereavement in one of the crews.

That seems to have the last time a Bish crew appeared that year, is no record of them in Galway, Athlone or Metro regattas.

Whatever ailed the club the previous year seems to have been rectified and Bish reappeared with a bang in 1957. There were two Bish eights, under the guidance of Ruacán Heaney, contesting the Gogarty with Jes, and there was much surprise when the Bish A crew gained an early lead and cruised to a 3l victory. It transpired that the Jes boat suffered a broken slide which might just have slowed them somewhat. Jes got their revenge in the Colgan, however, winning both heats against three Bish fours.

The club also entered two eights in the Head of the River and finished third and sixth. UCG won with Jes second. The At Athlone the eight, despite a good row, was beaten by Jes, and the A four was beaten by Carlow in the heat. The B four was disqualified for being late to the start by the Athlone boat club president, Mr Steven Lydon.

Back in Galway, six eights were entered for the Anderson which was rowed in very bad weather. Bish beat St Michael’s and the North Mon., while Methody pushed Jes to a canvas in the other heat with CBS Limerick third. The final is reported as being a well matched affair with only a last minute spurt separating the crews to allow Jes take their third Anderson in a row by ¾l.

Neither of the Galway crews got to the final of the fours from a field of nine. Crescent won the final from Methody.

Though the club continued to progress, outright success continued to elude them. They were turning out good crews only to be met by slightly better ones from across the river. Still, what goes around come around and the positions would be exactly reversed in a few short years.

1958 opened as ’57 had closed with positions much the same. Ruacán and Bro. Maurice continued to develop the crews but Bish finished fourth at the Head of the River behind Jes and two UCG crews. Jes took the Gogarty again, and the two second crews also raced with similar results. The Colgan was the bright spot in an otherwise gloomy time as the two Bish fours beat the three Jes fours and postponed the final to another day as Jes had done in ’56.

The Anderson turned out to be another exciting contest. The two Galway schools disposed of the out of town competition easily in the heats. CBS Limerick and Jes-B fell to Bish, Crescent College and Methody to Jes to make a local derby of the final. This turned out to be a display of "high powered rowing" where Jes beat Bish with "little to spare". The fours race was similarly exciting. Jes beat Bish A in the heat but met their match in the final with Bish B who had defeated CBS Limerick and Crescent Coll. in their heat. It turned out to be thrilling race with no quarter given or asked. Only in the last few strokes were Jes able to assert themselves and squeeze through and win by the narrowest of margins over a "gallant and worthy St. Joseph’s four.".

Still, it was no disgrace to go down against this exceptional Jes crew that went on to win the Maiden 8 championship in Cork a few weeks later.

The Bish crew also travelled to the last Metro to be held at Islandbridge, but without success.

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Bish Crew of 1958:  Ger Cloherty, Martin Lally,  Don Casey, Eamon McGuire, Marty Flaherty, Paddy Fox, Tim Colleran, Mick McCarthy. Front: Steve Cuningham (Cox).

This year saw the purchase through the good offices of the Past Pupils Union (PPU) of what is believed to be the clubs first new boat ever - a clinker eight to be named Maurice after the brother running the club. The boat was blessed by Rev. G. Quinn and Bro. Maurice, Ruacán and the crew were photographed in attendance. The impact on morale of new, up to date equipment is often underestimated, and it is perhaps in response to this that a very good squad emerged to win the Anderson and also produced a four that took the unofficial Schools Fours title at Metro. Dublin Metropolitan Regatta, to give it its full title, was held for the first time at the new Blessington course.

The crew was largely the same as the previous year with Don Casey, Mick McCarthy and Tim Colleran being replaced by Steve Cunningham, now at stroke, Charlie Fox and Tom D'Arcy. There was a large rugby contingent on the crew, and full focus did not get turned to the crew until the rugby season was out of the way. Nevertheless they trained hard, often both at 7:00 a.m. and again after school. The training paid off as the year progressed.

Bish were classed third at the Head of the river in May behind UCG, CRC and ahead of Jes and Corrib. There were questions regarding the timing with some reports that Jes had been independently timed 40secs faster.

The Emerson of that year resulted in Bish and Corrib clashing in their heat which Bish won. An objection by Corrib resulted in their being allowed through to the final. Jes beat Galway Rowing Club and UCG by a length in the other heat. The final which saw Jes "overcome a determined finish by Bish" and Corrib in third was run in pitch black darkness at 11:00pm.

Injury, perhaps due to rugby, plagued the crew for the Gogarty which saw Jes beat an under strength Bish crew by 2l. The Colgan, run later the same day was even more emphatic with two Jes crews in the final after the Jes ’B’ crew beat Bish ’A’ in the heat.

Bish travelled to Limerick where they contested the schools eights. They rowed well, coming home ahead of Limerick CBS and Crescent, but had to concede first place to the powerful Jes crew.

The Connacht Tribune of July 11 1959 reports that the Galway regatta was rowed down river from Menlo to Oldcastle as the previous year,and noted an innovation on the day where boyscouts were employed to semaphore signals between the start and finish. The closeness of some of the races was also remarked on . Jes entered their first crew in the junior section and raced their second boat in the Anderson. Jes beat Crescent Coll. Limerick by a ½Canvas in their heat of the Anderson and St Joseph’s also won their heat by a canvas, beating Methody. St Joseph’s then produced a shock by beating Jes by three lengths. This was the clubs first win for a long time having "been in the wilderness for three years", and the first time the club captured the coveted Anderson trophy.

This success was not repeated in the fours. They finished third in their heat behind Jes and St. Michael’s. Crescent, who beat Jes B in the other heat went on to win the final.

After Galway they travelled to a windswept Metro at Blessington where a number of events were cancelled due to the conditions. Bish qualified for the final by finishing second to Portora in the heat of the eights. Jes did not finish. RBAI and North Mon. qualified from the other heat, and then the final was abandoned!

Bish revenged their fours loss in Galway with a victory over Portora and Crescent in the Fours. They qualified against Carlow, Portora and St. Nessan's, and Crescent met North Mon and Jes in their heat.

Their guiding lights were Jim (Ruachán) Heaney and Bro. Maurice. One crew member remembers being lined up in front of the club on one occasion, and being lectured at some length by Bro. Maurice on the correct deportment, behaviour, and, in particular, use of the English language by young men. Certain Anglo-Saxon words did not fall within these norms, and a complaint had been received by a neighbour. The crew, and coach listened impassively until the sermon ended, whereupon Ruacán observed that he didn't £%$^ know where they learned it, as it %£5 certainly was not from him!

The 1960's

After Bro. Maurice moved on to Newbridge in 1960, Bro. Paschal inherited the club, if only for a brief time. When Jes won the clinker section at Dublin Head of the River and then went on to win Galway Head of the River ahead of Galway Rowing Club and Jes B with no Bish representation, things must have looked grim. However Bish shocked everyone by beating Jes by 1¼ l in the first heat of the Emerson. CRC beat Corrib by a similar margin in the other heat, and in the final the crew, apparently a bigger, heavier bunch than most, and coached by Bro. Paschal and Michael McGrath were the superior crew, defeating Corrib by 2½l. Jes, however went on to retain the Gogarty and Colgan before they all moved on to Athlone regatta. Here Bish availed of the opportunity presented them by Jes racing the senior events and beat CBS Limerick by a distance in the eights.

Galway Regatta and the Anderson would show the gulf remaining between the Galway and Northern crews, however. Methody had an easy win over Bish and Limerick in the first heat while CAI disposed of Jes and Portora in the other. Methody beat CAI easily. This was first time the Anderson travelled North.

Lack or resources at the school meant that the crew could not be supported in competing at Metro or Cork. Thus in the eleven days between Galway and Metro the crew moved, en-bloc, to Galway Rowing club and represented that club at those two venues. The Metro campaign was complicated by the fact that a number of the crew were in the FCA and at the Glen of Imall [?] at regatta time. A number of army land rovers were pressed into service to ferry the boys to and from the course on the day.

Bro. Fidelis O'Connell, who already had responsibility for football in the school, was asked to look after these rowing people in 1961. Bro. Fidelis immediately found he had somewhat of a problem on his hands. Rowing events, in the main, are held during the summer months when the school is closed; as an activity it was viewed as expensive in those days of very limited resources; results were sparse, notwithstanding the successes in 1959; and when results were achieved they were well neigh invisible as the school was closed for the summer holidays! Furthermore, Bro. Fidelis had to attend courses during the summer and the school management could not risk school activities without school supervision. The end result of all this was the disappearance of Bish crews before the regatta season got properly under way for a number of years in the '60's; they would generally race the Gogarty, Colgan and Head of the River and then be seen no more. Bro. Fidelis was to have management of the club for the next eight years until he was transferred to Dublin just as the club was on the threshold of major success.

The season opener for Bish, after withdrawing from the Head of The River, leaving it to a Jes-Galway Rowing Club two boat race, was the Gogarty. It was the first competitive outing of the season for this young Bish crew, but it was noted that the Jes crew seemed the fitter of the two. Jes won by a decisive 4l in retaining the Gogarty.

The Emerson was contested between Bish, Galway Rowing Club and Leo Wall’s Jes. Jes won by ¾l with Bish "a close third". RBAI won the unofficial schools championship at Blessington from CAI by 2 ft with Jes 2l back in third ahead of Methody. Bish did not travel to Metro, but travelled to Athlone and were second to Jes again.

The regatta in 1961 was to be raced upriver to Dangan, and was to remain on that course into the early 1970’s. Bish were drawn in the Anderson against a CAI crew that the Sentinel described as "an eight of fine physique and no mean skill". CAI won by 1½l. Jes beat Portora in the other heat, and CAI won the final by 2l. In the fours Bish met CAI again and suffered the same fate as before. Jes rowed over their heat and beat CAI in the final.

Athlone and Galway marked the only regatta appearances by Bish in 1961.


There seems to not have been much happening at Bish during 1962. Various race/Regatta reports from the papers of this year elicit few mentions of the club competing. Galway Rowing Club won the Head of the River from Jes, Galway Rowing Club-B with UCG withdrawing due to sinking! Galway Rowing Club also won the Emerson, for the first time, from Jes, with UCG third and no Bish crew entered. The draw for the Anderson lists Nessan's, Jes, Limerick, Villiers School (Limerick), CAI and PBS Carrick-on-Shannon. No Bish. The sole reference to the club is in relation to the aid they, and other city clubs, were rendering to Jes whose boathouse and equipment had been wiped out in Hurricane Debbie the previous September. The Anderson was a two boat race with CAI beating Jes by 3l. The fours was a reversal of that with Jes the victors by 1½l over CAI.


Bish were third in the Head of the River behind Jes and Galway Rowing Club. Positions were only marginally changed for the Emerson which Jes won by 2½l from Bish with Galway Rowing Club third. Then, despite a "gallant effort" from Bish, Jes retained the Gogarty on the Iodine to Steamers Quay course, by 1l, for yet another year.

In the Anderson at Galway, Portora beat Jes in a tight race in the first heat, with Carlow a distance behind in third. CAI surprised Methody by a length, with Bish a distance behind and "trying hard". In the final, CAI and Portora dead heated and agreed to share the trophy six months at a time. Neither Bish nor Jes featured in the fours.


There was "wonderful enthusiasm" at Bish, and they were expected to race two eights at the Head of the River. In the event a single eight took to the water on the day, and raced against UCG, Jes and Galway Rowing Club. UCG won with a very young but polished Jes boat second. Bish, described as "sluggish" at one part of the course took third by three seconds from Galway Rowing Club. However, the Bish crew was learning, and were a lot closer by the Gogarty, which was raced from the Iodine to Steamers Quay, which they lost by only one length. Some observers thought that, had they not gone so wide at one of the bends they might have won.

Bish did not attempt to compete for the Anderson. Instead they set their sights on the Connell Cup for novice Schoolboy Eights. Portora beat Bish by a 3l and beat Jes in the final. The Anderson was a two boat race with Portora disposing of Jes by 2l. Bish were second, too, in the schools fours behind Jes but ahead of Marist.

This was also the year of the inauguration of the "Schools Union Trophy" for schools eights. It was won by Coleraine at Islandbridge

Then, as now, there was a spirit of co-operation amongst the Galway clubs when the need arose. A letter in the Sentinel from Sean Stewart, captain of the UCG boat club wrote to thank the people and clubs who were of assistance to College in its Wylie campaign of that year. "Pride of place", he wrote, "must go to St Joseph’s College rowing club and to Bro. Fidelis of that club. This club has allowed the UCG junior crew to train every morning for the last three weeks in the St Joseph’s clinker eight, while the UCG maiden crew trained in their own boat, thus allowing the two crews to train together."


In 1965 Bro. Robert returned from America and assumed the positions of headmaster of St. Pat's and Superior of the order. Changes in sports policy resulted in Bro. Fidelis being able to stay with the rowing during the summers. And the results were not long in coming! 1966 would prove to be reasonably successful, '67 was moreso; '68 was a building year, and the first pot was won in '69.

With only limited mileage under their keel Bish were sixth out of seven in the Head of the River, and did not race the Emerson at all.

One person remembers being at Galway Regatta in 1965 when it was announced that St Joseph’s has withdrawn from all events - there were no crews. Perusing the Sentinel of the time showed Jes entered in five different events from cadet through to Underage fours. Portora, Athlone, Athlunkard, Bann, RBAI and Fermoy also attended. But no Bish. Things must indeed have been at a sorry state in the club when they could not raise as much as a four. For the record, RBAI won the Anderson from Athlunkard, having beaten Jes in the heat. Athlunkard had beaten Portora in their heat. Earlier in the year UCG won the Emerson from Jes, but there was no mention in the reports of Bish. Nor does there seem to be a report on the Gogarty or Colgan which leads us to surmise that were not held and Jes retained them by default.

Jes had been enjoying a long string of successes over recent years while Bish were in the doldrums. Enthusiasm was high in the club in 1966, and despite getting off to a slow start, the crew was getting down to some serious training under the guidance of Mike Kavanagh, in his first year of coaching. They were training twice a day and were making some obvious progress. This was one of the first years where a concerted training program was in place to put up mileage on the water. By way of comparison, the UCG Wylie crew had done 150 miles of training in '65, the Bish crew of '69 would do 400 by the same time of the year, and today’s crews do even more.

The training would pay dividends, and this year was to prove the turning point. 1966 was the foundation on which the cornerstone of success was eventually to be placed. Although losing to eventual winners Jes in the heat of the Emerson, and being bested in the Gogarty, their win in the Colgan Cup for Fours was the first chink in the Jes’ armour and revived morale. Such was the crews delight at the victory that they neglected to hang on to their oars when giving the traditional three cheers and turned turtle. They completed the three cheers from the water while a rescue was mounted. A visit to Trinity brought no success but valuable racing experience.

At Galway they entered Underage Fours and the Anderson. In the latter they met Portora and RBAI in the heat. They pushed Portora all the way in an impressive performance only to lose by a ¼ length, with RBAI trailing in third. Jes beat Carlow to progress to the final along with CAI who had dismissed Methody and Munchins.

The final was a thriller with Portora edging out Jes by a canvas with CAI a ½ length behind. In the Schools fours Bish beat Carlow and St. Mary's, Athlone beat Methody and Shandon to qualify for the final in which St Mary’s won from Bish. Bish were also entered for the Underage fours but were beaten by eventual winners Athlunkard.

The eight travelled to Athlone where they won the Schools eights from Jes by 2l, and then travelled to Metro at Blessington for the Schools Eights championship. With the repechage system being in operation for the first time the northern crews from Portora and Methody were content to narrowly win against Bish and Jes respectively, the first two from each heat to qualify for the final. That final demonstrated the gulf that existed between the northern and Galway schools. Methody narrowly beat favourites Portora while Jes narrowly beat Bish - but both were well back in third and fourth. Bish also just failed to qualify for the fours final which was won by Munchins.

There is no question that 1966 was a turnaround from the previous year when there was no Bish crew at the regatta. The depths had been plumbed and the only way to go was up from now on. Furthermore it was becoming evident that the new practice of travelling to regattas was beginning to pay dividends as the crew was obviously getting stronger, faster and more competitive with each outing.

Seven of the crew of '66 moved on to college and formed the basis for the college's Maiden eight for Wylie, 1967. That crew acquitted themselves well at Wylie before they ran aground while racing Queens while well in contention. And because it was comprised of Galway based oarsmen, was able to stay together to campaign during the regatta season unlike most of the crews that had preceded them.

The sole remainder back at Bish was Sean Coll. Every indication that the new Bish crew would be a good one as they were generally a heavy and strong bunch. Coached by Dermot O'Neill, with occasional help from Dublin based Mike Kavanagh, the crew started slowly but rapidly improved. Bro. Fidelis and Kieran Burke provided administrative support.

Though they felt that they had a good crew they were thirteen seconds adrift of Jes at the Head of the River, and Jes were going for their eleventh Gogarty cup in a row. A member of this crew recalls that they felt that they had a terrible weight on their shoulders. However oweverHoweversssthey were good enough and took the Gogarty back to Bish. The mould was broken; the breakthrough had been made, and this would become one of the most successful years to date. They affirmed in peoples mind that the championship was attainable. Rowing was again respectable in the school. Young first year and second year Bish boys saw the success and were attracted to participate themselves. Many of those thus attracted were to form the kernel of the club over the next four years.

The crew went on to win at St. Michael’s, Gogarty, Colgan, Emerson, Askeaton, Limerick, Cork, Fermoy, and Carrick. This was the most extensive year of travel yet by a Bish crew, and the trophies they brought back to the school helped give the sport a credibility and exposure it had never had before. Bro. Fidelis fondly remembers the helping hands that were extended to this still fledgling club: Mrs Wallis with whom the crews over the years used stay when in Cork, and who travelled to various regattas with sandwiches prepared for the Bish boys; Neptune who loaned a brand new boat to the crew to help capture the Wallace trophy for the first time; and many, many others.

In the Anderson CAI beat Portora and Jes by ½l and a distance, respectively, in the first heat, and Bish "put paid to Munchins" in the second. Outweighed by a big CAI crew, Bish pressured them all the way in the final, eventually conceding by ¾l. In the fours CAI beat Jes and Limerick, Portora beat Bish, and Munchins beat Marist. Portora had no trouble in the final disposing of CAI and Munchins by 2l, ½l.

Sean Coll was Sentinel Sports Personality of June 13th, the first of many Bish oarsmen to receive that honour.

The crews of 1966 and 1967 have another unique destination. They have produced, arguably, amongst the best and most numerous crop of coaches ever to come in to Irish Rowing. No less than nine coaches were incubated and hatched from these crews and would go on to be the architects behind the winning of many Irish championships from Junior through Novice, Intermediate to Elite, and also a Veteran world championship.

. Mike Cullinane and Paddy Murphy were the only members of the previous years crew to stay for the 1968 season, the rest being raw novices. Equipment in the club comprised the now ageing clinker Eight Maurice, an old training wherry and a very draughty clubhouse. The crew posted no major successes but showed promise. The first of a series of building works at the club was undertaken with the building of showers, which, like the 1955 work, also used the back wall of the never finished Emmets clubhouse.

UCG campaigned at Wylie with sixteen of the eighteen oarsmen involved being ex-Bish lads. This was in marked contrast to previous years where the UCG crews were predominantly ex-Jes. They won the Maiden section for the first time ever.

It was recognised in late 1968 that the potential was there for success the following year, but that this potential had little chance of being realised without investing in equipment. Thus a deputation of Mike Kavanagh, Paddy Tummon, Gerry Small and Tommy Small approached the PPU with a view to purchasing a new Fine Eight. Most PPU members were horrified at the cost of this boat - about £1000. However, Willie Silke asked Mike Kavanagh what will be the result of such a purchase. "They’ll win the championship" he responded. "Buy the boat" said Willie, and the decision was made.

The purchase of this boat would mean that there would be two fine eights in the city - one in UCG and one in Bish. Jes purchased one later in the year to bring the total to three.

The championship was at Coleraine regatta on the Bann. In order for the crew to be able to travel, Tommy Small had a whip around of the various parents and collected £30 to hire a car. The crew slept on the floor of Bann boatclub the night before the regatta. They finished third in the schoolboy Eights behind winners Portora and Coleraine.


1969-1972 - The summit is Reached

Bro. Fidelis was transferred to Dublin in 1969 and Bro. Baptist from St. Pats was put in charge. His term was short lived as the early successes of the crew brought rowing a new credibility within the school. Headmaster Bro. Valarian Whelan got very interested in the sport and ended up assuming responsibility for the club himself for the next few years. One contribution that Bro. Valarian made that is sometimes forgotten, in that he got the parental involvement behind the club - from the PPU, Ladies Committees, drivers etc. These would, for many years, form the backbone of the fund-raising activities needed to keep crews on the water and garner success.

The persistence of those crews who soldiered on and persevered through adversity and many times revived the sport in the school in the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's was about to be rewarded. A schoolboy crew the likes of what had not been seen before was about to emerge and would take high honours, and a full blown second eight was also on the water and would provide a backfill of oarsmen for the first boat at year end.

This was breakthrough year. Most of the ’68 crew were back with the exception of Paddy Murphy. Mike Kavanagh and Sean Coll had been reading extensively about the development of new training methods and rowing styled being promulgated by Dr Karl Adams in Ratzeberg in Germany. Thus the crew trained at a much higher level than was customary at the time, and with a style of short stroke and high rates that were unheard of. Sean worked with the crew during the week and was joined by Mike, who was studying in Dublin, on the weekends. Rowing Commentator Michael Johnston could not believe his stopwatch when he timed the Bish crew still rating over 40 half way through Erne Head of the River.

Such was the intensity of the training that, in the midst of one particularly gruelling series of one- and two-minute training pieces, one crew member looked across at Mike Kavanagh in the coaching launch, took a deep breath, and exclaimed "Mike, why don't you just take out a whip and beat us? Wouldn't it be easier all 'round?".

The new boat was delivered that year. This was a Sims Eight and was named Fidelis after the brother that faithfully looked after the club from 1961 to 1969. This new boat really added zest to the campaign for the championship, and is testimony to the sterling support of Tommy Small, Sonny Hynes the others who persuaded the St Joseph’s Past Pupils Union to fund the purchase.

This boat must surely have the record of service to any club, it was used in the Bish for 20 years, winning three championships, and only in 1993 was sent to Newbridge where it is still being used by Bro. Maurice

Bish and Jes went to Trinity regatta and demolished the Coleraine/Portora/Methody opposition that had never been beaten before. Bish beat Jes in the final, winning a cup at Trinity for the first time in 16 years - the same trophy won by the Bish four of 1953.

Another crew member of that year recalls: "Kavanagh brought us around to a number of the smaller regattas and raced us as Maidens. He was blooding us." Mike also had his eye on the Maiden Pot in Cork. One such regatta was Carlow which was not reached without mishap - the trailer broke down and a boat had to be borrowed from St Michael's. The crew qualified for the final and would race against the host club. The Carlow crew, made up of mature adults, did not quite know what to make of this bunch of sixteen and seventeen year olds, and one of them called across offering to have the tea made by the time Bish finished. No redder rag could have been offered to a bull. From the word go Bish set off with a vengeance and "just walked away from them". They never eased off, and there are some who claim that the Bish boat was being lifted out of the water before the opposition finished.

The crew planned on travelling to Cork for the Maiden Eights championship, to be raced on the Marina. Confidence was high as they had met, and beaten most of the main contenders during the year. However, fate was to intervene. The championship was at the tail end of the Intermediate and Leaving Certificate exams and six of the crew were sitting those exams. It was discovered that the English papers had been stolen and the Department of Education rescheduled the English exams, to be sat with new papers. The exams were rescheduled for the Saturday morning, the morning of the Maiden Pot.

Bro. Valarian pulled out all the stops and cashed in a number of favours, and arranged for the six Bish lads to be allowed to sit their English papers in CBS in Cork instead of Galway. Unfortunately it was not enough. The six had a forty-five minutes to get from the exam centre to the stakeboats for their heat. Had any other outcome resulted it would have been a miracle, but in the event it was inevitable and they failed to qualify for the final. To make matters worse, rowing Junior the following day in Limerick they beat the new Maiden champions on the Shannon.

When Galway Regatta and the Eights championship came round, Bish and Jes were consistent 1-2 in the country. Still, Portora and Coleraine were convinced that the Galway crews were mere flashes in the pan. Portora went to Henley rather than go to the championships.

At Galway, Bish were drawn against Portora seconds and Methody. They disposed of them by about 20 sec. Jes drew Coleraine and beat them by 2 lengths, and the final was to be a local derby of Bish vs. Jes.

Bish had the centre station while Jes were on Dangan. Jes made their customary fast start and took three quarters of a length lead that Bish levelled at the Franks. Now Jes had the advantage at the Iodine, but a big Bish push prevented them gaining any advantage here. The rate was 38 coming up the Menlo straight with Bish showing slightly. Bish then raised the rate and gradually pulled away to win by 2 lengths in a time of 6:00:00 - a record for the course. This win broke the monopoly on this event by the Northern institutions of RBAI, Methody, Coleraine and Portora. Of course it added icing to the cake, so to speak, that winning the championship coincided with also winning the prestigious Anderson Cup.

The Bish crew were then selected to represent Ireland at the annual Quadrangular international between Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales in Monmouth, Wales. However Portora first crew returned from Henley and challenged the selection. Bish agreed to a showdown at Blessington where Bish defeated Portora decisively by 2½ lengths to confirm their selection.

The International was to bring the first defeat of the year to the crew. Very nervous from the outset they lost to England and Wales before defeating Scotland in a series of two boat races on the narrow river Wye.

1970 saw the return of most of the previous crew. Peadar McNena, Steve Thornton and Sean Cleary moved on to be replaced by Noel Tummon Declan McDermott and Tony Smyth. Mike Kavanagh also moved on, coaching UCG in their Senior Eights campaign. Thus, Paddy Tummon took over the coaching role for the next two years.

The approach was subtly different this year. The high training mileage, Heavy weights and high rating remained, but Paddy with the benefit or working with a seasoned crew, also focused on improving technique. He also developed a relationship with the physiology department in UCG which ran various fitness, oxygen and other tests on the crew members to better track development.

Once the racing season started the crew took up where it left off the previous year, winning all the local races from Jes, but failing to win Trinity again after being disqualified for being late to the start after a misunderstanding regarding the time. An appeal fell on receptive ears, but, it is said, an objection caused the original disqualification to be upheld and Bish returned to Galway empty handed.

There was a brand new Fours championship this year. Presented by the governors of Coleraine A.I., it was to be held in Galway. Coleraine and Bann had been racing each other to a ½ length either way early in the season, and eyes were on them for the pot. Bish, who possessed no four, borrowed a venerable old boat from UCG the week before Galway regatta and took it for a few spins. Other than the Colgan and the Head Fours, they had never raced a four.

Portora scratched from the Fours, giving Bish a row-over. Bann beat Dublin Commercial, and Coleraine easily dispatched Methody. Bish had the middle station for the final and false started when Ian McCullogh in the Coleraine boat shouted "no" to the "Are you ready" command. At the restart it was over in a matter of twenty or thirty strokes with the Bish four striding home comfortably to win the first Fours Championship by 3 lengths from Bann with Coleraine a further length behind. They had already retained the Anderson, beating Coleraine in the heat and Jes by 2½ lengths in the final.

The Eights Championship in 1970 was at Portora Regatta and Bish, Jes and Methody were drawn together in the first heat. Bish won, 1½ lengths from Jes with Methody in third. Portora had no trouble in beating Coleraine and Commercial in the other heat. Then Bish beat Portora by two lengths in the final.

Such was the strength of this crew that there was no competition for them in many of the regattas they travelled to. Thus they raced Senior, with success, at Limerick, Coleraine and Blessington.

The Coleraine outing was an expedition of sorts. Originally the full eight was due to go but could not due to one of the oarsmen not being able to travel. Furthermore, there was unease amongst parents and teachers with respect to going North in those troubled days. Nevertheless, they borrowed a Morris Minor from cox Sean Heavey's mother, handed the steering wheel to stroke, Noel Leader, and headed off.

On arrival at Coleraine they were met by the mayor and welcomed to the town, fed and watered and then bunked down on the floor of Bann rowing club for the night. The following day brought success in the First Senior Fours, beating Queens and Collegians in the first heat, and Tyne and UCD in the final. Then Trinity approached the Bish lads. They were short two oarsmen and a cox for the Senior eights final. Cullinane, Walsh and Heavey obliged and the composite beat Queens by a canvas in the first heat. The final against Collegians resulted in a deadheat and was re-rowed over a half course. This time Trinity/Bish won by a canvas and the objections were still being heard well into the night.....

In Blessington the crew was entered for Schools VIII and the Saturday, First Senior IV (Blue Riband) and Second Senior VIII on the Sunday.

The regatta was held in vile conditions with many crews being swamped and sinking. Portora and Commercial were defeated on Saturday for the Schools Eights, and on Sunday the championship Four lined up alongside Guards, Yale and Trinity in the first heat of the Blue Riband. This was the de-facto Senior Fours championship - a formal championship not having been inaugurated until 1981. Two boats went forward to the final, and Bish found themselves in third, a canvas behind Yale who, in turn, were a canvas behind Guards. Neptune and UCD qualified from the other heat. A repechage of Trinity, Bish, St Michael’s and Queens finished in that order, Trinity winning by a length and Bish 2 lengths ahead of St Michael’s.

Bish were in their second borrowed boat of the day, the first having been sunk and damaged. UCD used a clinker boat for the final, their fine four being damaged earlier. Given the terrible conditions it was the best thing they could have done. Bish had a good start but got swamped and lost a lot of ground. By 1500m they had worked back to fourth behind UCD, Yale and Guards. In the race to the line they overtook Guards and then Yale but then ran out of time and had to contend themselves with finishing second by 1½ lengths.

Again the Eight was selected for the quadrangular to be held in Molesey in London. Bann were selected in the Fours as the regatta was to be run on a two lane course and it would have been too much to expect the crew to double up and race six international races in a day. The amount of financial resources available for these ventures can best be judged by the sleeping accommodations over the weekend. On arrival in London, the crew spent the night in sleeping bags on the floor of Kingston Rowing Club. A B&B was used the night prior to the regatta, and on Saturday night it was back to the sleeping bags again....

The crew did slightly better than the previous year, beating Scotland and Wales but losing to England.

1971 was to be a year of change and changes. Only three of the crew remained from the previous two years - Mike McCrohan, Tom O’Shaughnessy and Cox Sean Heavey. McDermott and Smyth remained from 1970. The Bish run of wins at early season events was broken first by UCG which had a fast senior eight in training, and by Jes who had caught up and surpassed Bish during the winter.

This year the club purchased a Doneratico four and a restricted eight, funded largely by a very successful sponsored row of 1500 miles.

The sole early season win was in the Colgan, but UCG took both the Heads and Jes took the Gogarty. Six or more major changes were made to the crew during the year, with people being drafted in and out of the second boat until the final combination was decided upon.

Once again Bish and Jes made the trip to Trinity where Bish beat Coleraine by 3 lengths but went down to Jes by ½ length - an improvement over previous weeks. The following week at Limerick Bish managed to turn the tables in a race that members of the crew remember as one of the toughest ever. Bish got an uncharacteristically fast start and then had to defend all the way to the finish as Jes pushed and pushed. The final verdict was one third of a length but seemed less. The hoodoo was broken. After that the crew settled down and with their newly restored confidence were not really pushed by an Irish crew again that season. A visit to Portora brought back the Fours championship for the second time, beating CAI and Commercial in the heat, and CAI, Jes, Portadown and Marist in the final. A novelty race where the winners of the Senior schools, Junior Schools and Cadet events raced on handicap won the club a set of new oars.

The Eights championship race was back at Galway, and again it finished as a Galway derby. Jes beat CAI by 1½l and Commercial easily, and Bish beat Methody easily in the heats. As happened two years previously, Bish had the centre station with Jes on Dangan. Bish started fast and had a length after the Franks and clear water by the Iodine. They held the lead around the bend and controlled the race from there to the finish despite strong pushes from Jes.

bish1971.jpg (83876 bytes)

1971 Crew: Bro. Valarian J. Whelan, Headmaster; Anthony Smith, Padhraigh Keane, Declan McDermott, Joseph Tummon, Thomas O;Shaughnessy, Andrew McDonagh, Michael McCrohan, Eamon Hegarty, Paddy Tummon (Coach). Front: Sean Heavey (Cox).

Two members of the crew, Stroke Mike McCrohan and Cox Sean Heavey had now won five championships in three years. This remains a record for the grade.

Because the Scottish rowing union decided to reschedule the Quadrangular for the same day as the championship in Galway, there was no Schoolboy representation at the international in 1971.

Three of the crew returned for 1972, Eamonn Hegarty, Pat Keane and Joe Tummon. Joe was the third of his family to row for Bish, and would be followed by two more. Paddy Tummon relinquished the coaching job which was taken over by Tom (Boston) McDonagh and Sean Coll. There was also a Junior schools eight and a Colt/Cadet eight on the water. Furthermore, five ex-Bish oarsmen formed a Senior four to compete as Old Bishops for the Blue Riband.

'72 shaped up to be good year for Galway rowing. UCG won their third Wylie in a row and had a serious senior eight, heavily staffed with ex-Bish, on the water, and six of the twelve oarsmen selected for the first Olympic trials were from Galway - five of them ex-Bish. Those five were Mike Cullinane, Willie Walsh, Noel Tummon, Mike McCrohan, Tom McDonagh and Andy McDonagh.

The eight won at Cork Head of the River and at Boyne where the Senior four also won. Limerick Head of the River saw Jes turn the tables in wretched conditions to lead Bish home by 5 seconds, with the Senior four having no difficulty in that section, nor at Galway the following day. But the Bish four was adrift of Jes by a half minute. Then the tide turned again. Jes absented themselves from the eights Head of the River at Galway and were beaten by Bish three feet in a thrilling Mahon cup race.

The annual Trinity outing was a major setback for Galway. The Bish eight lost to Jes who in turn lost to Portora in the Schools race; Bish Senior 4 lost badly to UCD's Animals, and the UCG eight fared no better against the same club.

The Gogarty was a shambles with Bish withdrawing because of cox and illness problems, then meeting Jes as they went to row over, and proceed to race them after all, then lose and object. Not unnaturally the officials did not entertain the objection for any length. Jes repeated the punishment in the Emmets when their second crew defeated their Bish counterparts.

The Emerson final produced another scintillating race with the crews level to the last fifteen strokes before Bish squeezed ahead to win by a ½ length. Leading from start to finish to retain the Colgan for the fifth year in a row completed the tonic for the morale! It was now beginning to look like the eight might be good enough to retain the pot, with any luck.

The next outing was to Limerick at Barringtons pier, and the Maiden pot. Though both Galway schools qualified for the final, it would elude Bish again as Neptune won from Guards with Bish in close attendance in third. Jes were fourth. UCG Seniors beat UCD by 2½ lengths, and the Senior fours was the most exciting of the day with the heavyweight UCD crew and Bish battling neck and neck over the course until UCD squeezed through to win by a canvas.

One crew that caught the eye at Limerick was the Bish Cadet four who had a good win over Cork, Limerick and Jes, this four, comprising Eamonn Fahy, Mike Heskin, Rabbitte, Colin Roddy and JJ Conneely was judged to "have a bright future". So it would prove!

The schools eight and senior four registered further wins at Cork and Galway

The fours championship was in Coleraine, where Bish were the only Galway, and one of the few southern crews to travel in those troubled times. Coleraine had been the class act earlier in the season, and Bish would soon have an opportunity to see how good they were as the two schools were to meet in the first heat.

Mutual nerves caused a false start, but on the rerow Coleraine edged ahead and maintained a small advantage to the end, winning by ¾ of a length. CAI repeated the dose in the Eights, winning by 2½ lengths, signalling what they would do the following week at Athlone where they would complete the double in capturing the Eights title. One good thing came out of Athlone however, the Bish four were selected to represent their country at the Quadrangular in Blessington.

Galway was the day after Athlone and the Anderson was retained by Bish for the fourth year by beating Portora by a ½ length in the final after Portora defeated Jes in the heat. Wins were also recorded in the Junior schools eight, Colt eight and Cadet four, before the club went out to challenge UCG for the Palmer cup. The crew was made up of the Senior four and stern four of the schools eight, and were pressuring UCG well at the Iodine when a fisherman, blithely trolling along the river, crashed into the Bish boat. The verdict was "easily" to college.

Blessington combined Metro and the Quadrangular International. Jes and Bish met again in the schools eights, along with the English international crew. Although the English imposed themselves from the start the tussle between the Galway schools was a classic with Bish edging the verdict in the end.

The senior four was also in action but found themselves up against the bigger Wallingford crew that had recently won the Britannia Cup at Henley. Although they rowed well they could not stop the English crew taking the Blue Riband.

But the best was yet to come. The Bish four justified their Quadrangular selection by taking the lead from England, Scotland and Wales at the 500m mark and stretching to a length at the finish. The first outright win by a Galway crew, and a significant help in Ireland winning the Junior section of the International.

72-TROPHY.JPG (43968 bytes)

Trophies won in 1972 include the Palmer and Anderson cups (Senior and Schoolboy)   at Galway Regatta plus some eighteen others.


For the first time in five years, Bish were to be overshadowed in Galway. At the first meeting of the rival Galway schools at the Head of the River, held on St Patrick's day, Bish finished seventh, some 34 seconds behind Jes. Bish B were 12th of the 16-entry race in which the only dead heat of the event was recorded when the UCG/Corrib composite and UCD both recorded the identical time of 15:25.8 for the course. Jes also won the Gogarty, Mahon and Colgan cups. The annual trip to Trinity was no less successful, going down to losing finalists Jes in the first heat.

Although Bish beat Trinity in the Maiden eights in Limerick, it was Jes who took a Pot in 1973 in winning the Maiden IV championship.

A couple of weeks later they were to meet again at the postponed Galway regatta at Borasheen Bay, near Oughterard. While the Junior Schools eight won their race, that success was not to be carried over to the seniors. Portora took the Anderson ahead of Jes, Bish and Munchins, and took the fours ahead of Jes, Munchins and Bish.

Bish entered a Maiden eight and four for Limerick where the Maiden fours pot was being held. They failed to progress to the final of the fours, but had a fine win in the eights, beating the recently crowned Maiden Eights champions, Trinity, by a canvas.

The eights championship at Blessington was won by Coleraine in a straight final.

Another notable occurred this year when Tom McDonagh and Mike Cullinane, two ex-Bish oarsmen, were selected to represent Ireland in the Senior Four at the Quadrangular International in England.


The age limit for junior rowing dropped from U19 to U18 in this year to bring Ireland into line with international rowing. This change was strongly opposed by the northern clubs, who had a high number of U19 boys in their schools. The change was regarded as good for Bish rowing as the age of final year students in the school was dropping. Indeed , even with the U18 rule there were still boys leaving the club still eligible for junior competition. Anthony Smith was in the coaching role this year.

The year started in an ominous note with Jes taking the Maiden pennant at Dublin Head of the River, had 32 seconds to spare at Galway Head of the River, and then retained the Mahon by 4 lengths and the Gogarty by 3 lengths. Some pride was salvaged with the Bish second crew winning the Emmets. This was a big Jes crew, however, and would take some beating, while the Bish boat was contained six fifth-year students.

Trinity, as usual, was the be the first showdown between the Northern and Galway schools. Bish were drawn against CAI in the first heat of the Schools eights, and despite being led off the start, pushed to the fore and then held on to win by a canvas. Jes progressed through their heat to make it an all-Galway final. Bish got a good start and stretched their lead out to a ½ length, which Jes levelled on their bend. Coming through the enclosure Bish took a small advantage, and with both crews striking 40 past the enclosure, held on to win by a canvas. The Junior Schools crew also acquitted themselves well, winning their final from Bann.

As the action returned to Galway regatta at Baurisheen, Jes were looking for revenge and achieved it in spades. They beat Bish by 2 lengths in the Anderson "after years of playing second fiddle to Bish". The Bish second crew fared no better and also succumbed.

Reports earlier in the year had warned that neither Bish or Jes would travel to Portora regatta for the Schools championships, partly because of a clash with the matriculation examination, and partly because of increased tension in Northern Ireland generally. However they did travel in the end, with the exception of one Jes oarsman, Kennedy O'Brien who could not rearrange his exam schedule.

Eight crews were entered in the fours and both Galway schools progressed to the final to meet the regular adversaries of Portora and Coleraine. Jes went on to win in a straightforward manner with Portora second and Bish in fourth. The eights race was almost a rerun with Bish third behind Jes and Portora. It could be argued that had Jes not had the misfortune to have their best crews appear at the same time as those from Bish that they would by now have seven pots rather than two.

The Junior Schools crew won eights and fours but were disqualified on the basis that one of the crewmen was a maiden oarsman and, therefore, not eligible to row schoolboy!

The season finalé at Blessington had Bish second again to Jes but ahead of CAI. In the Senior eights Two ex-Bishmen, brothers, were in opposing boats. Andy McDonagh rowed 4 in the victorious Garda boat while his brother, Tom was in the runner up UCD crew.


The 1975 training season saw the club put together a strong panel, in an attempt to bridge a 3 year gap in championship wins. Although they would not win the Eights championship that year, an exceptional four had much success. The coaching was taken over by Tim Higgins with two of the architects of previous successes, Mike Kavanagh, who was now coaching a senior crew in Galway Rowing Club, and Paddy Tummon, now based in Dublin, giving valuable assistance and advice. A good winters training was rewarded by very strong performances in the Head of the River season. The crew had success in capturing the schoolboy section at Erne Head of the River where they finished third overall. They were also third in the Galway Head of the River, three seconds behind winners Galway Rowing Club Seniors and 1 sec behind UCG seniors, and had a 30-second lead over Jes. They repeated this at Limerick Head of the River.

The regatta season also opened well for the crew, with wins at all the major events resulting in them being regarded by many as favourite to take the championship. They beat Jes, in a straight final, again at Trinity regatta. Trinity was also the scene of a unique triumph. . This season saw the introduction of Lightweight rowing to the country. Trinity regatta was the first to offer competition at this grade. The event was hotly contested, drawing oarsmen from most of the top senior crews in the country. Such a large entry for 2 boat racing meant that the finalists had to race 5 times, this gave rise to a feast of high quality racing over 3 days. The Bish four, with Eamon Fahey replacing Sean Rabbitte who was over the weight limit, defeated all opposition, beating Neptune, Trinity RBAI in the heats and NIHE in the final, and received the trophy from the newly elected President of Ireland, Cearbhaill O’Dalaigh.

However, by Galway regatta, Jes had made up the difference and retained the Anderson in a straight final with CAI second and Bish third. The Bish four had no difficulty in taking the schools fours from Jes by four lengths. It began to appear that perhaps the eight had peaked too early.

The championships were held at Blessington and the Bish four qualified ahead of Jes, Neptune and Methody. Clonmel won the second heat from Bish 'B', Marist and Cork. They won the final in a straightforward manner from Jes, Neptune, Marist and their own second four.

The Eights race was to prove a different matter entirely, not the least because CAI had drafted in 2 boys from Bann Rowing Club and raced the championship as a composite. This was enough to make the difference and they captured the championship with Jes second and Bish third with a verdict of 1½ and 2 lengths.

The senior championships were held in Athlone that year, and in the absence of an official championship until 1981, the Senior Fours at Athlone was effectively the championship race for 1975. The Bish four was entered for this event which was rowed in atrocious weather. They emulated their 1970 predecessors in finishing second to the Guards crew that were to go to the Olympics and defeated, by a canvas, the Neptune boat that was to represent Ireland at the quadrangular.

The four represented Ireland at the Quadrangular at Castle Semple in Scotland, where they beat Wales and Scotland, and came within a canvas of the English crew, Hampton Grammar. This Hampton crew had earlier taken silver in the championship IV’s at the British Schools Regatta and were the following year to win a bronze medal at the World Junior Rowing Championships.


The lightweight four from the previous season were still under age and the crew came back together with a view to international competition and possible world championship selection. Unfortunately UCG boat club called on one of the crew, who was now a student at the university, to fill a seat in one of their boats, and the four disbanded. Some of the remaining oarsmen trained with the schools first eight, for the winter, but they and some of the other older lads eventually dropped out. The club was faced with the difficult situation of drafting in replacements in the middle of the Head of the River season.

The club’s 1st VIII was now made up exclusively of U16 oarsmen. The dilemma of whether to forgo U18 competition was decided by the oarsmen. The crew raced exclusively at U18 level.

They were behind Jes at the Galway Head of the River, but came to within a ¼ length of them in the heat at Trinity regatta. Portora beat Jes by 2 feet in the final. Success was no better in the Colgan or Emerson, and at Enniskillen the crew were 3rd to Methody and Portora.

did Bish win Gogarty?

The crew was entered as one of four contenders for the Maiden Pot at Limerick. UCG and Galway Rowing Club were eliminated in the repechages, but the two schools crews got through to the final. Guards won, Jes were fourth, and Bish were 5th. They also entered for the Junior championships at Athlone but did not progress past their heat.

The Junior Championships were at Galway Regatta which returned to the river from its four year sojourn at Bourasheen Bay, and was held on the Menlo straight.

The Schools Eights first heat saw CAI beat the Dublin entries of Neptune/St Johns and Commercial by 1¼ and 2 lengths respectively. The second heat was a tight affair with Methody beating Bish by a mere canvas. Jes were third by 2 lengths. Portora easily defeated Marist in the third heat. The final was, reminiscent of earlier years, and all-northern affair with Portora prevailing over Methody and CAI by 2½ lengths.

The Neptune/St Johns composite were the surprise package in the fours pot. They beat Clonmel and Marist in the heat, and Methody and Kings Hospital in the final. Both the Bish fours had been eliminated in the heats, by Methody and Kings.

The Anderson was raced separately and Bish held Portora to a half length in the heat, while Methody defeated Portora by 1 length in the final. The exceptional performance of such a young crew taught the club some valuable lessons about what can be achieved. But the following season taught another lesson of the dangers inherent in a crew coming second too often. Pat Tummon often commented "you can teach a crew to win - you can also teach a crew to lose".


This season started off with confidence and determination. The full crew from the previous year now under seventeen, put in a very strong winters training. This was the first year of the twelve mile New Ross marathon. The Bish crew rowed the course in exceptional fashion at a rate of 28 and passed a number of good senior crews over the course. They finishing 3rd overall behind Garda and Trinity but ahead of a number of good senior crews.

There was a similar performance at Erne Head of the River, they won the junior section and were 3rd overall behind Trinity and Queens. The margin over Portora, Methody and CAI was 20, 22 and 60 seconds respectively. They were first in the Junior section and 6th overall at Galway Head of the River but a mere 2 seconds ahead of the Neptune/St John composite crew.

The Gogarty was to be an interesting race with both Bish and Jes crews under strength. Four oarsmen were at Enniskillen attending national junior trials. Jes got a good start and led for a time, but Bish overhauled them by 500m and went on to win by a 2 length margin. The crew on the day was: F(or Mike) O'Neill, B O'Brien, M. Crowley, Jimmy Ellwood, Sean Rabbitte, Gerry Conaire, Bernie Walshe, Kieran Tummon(stk.) Mike O'Neill(cox).

Methody had made up ground by Trinity, the first regatta of the season. The Final was to between Bish and Methody - the same Methody crew as the previous season. Methody on the north station, took an early lead which they had extended to almost clear water as the crews approached the final bend. Bish held them on their corner and sprinted as the crews approached Guards. The verdict, a half canvas for Methody. Bish won both the Senior- and Junior-Schools Fours.

The crew raced the Maiden VIII championship in Athlone. They were second by a half length to UCD and 2½ L ahead of Queens in the heat. The semi-final saw Bish second to Neptune and ahead of Portora. Neptune won the final with Bish 4th behind Fermoy and UCD, (3l, canvas, 1l). Once more the Anderson was retrieved, along with the Junior A eights and fours at Galway.

Pat Fahey and Billy McCanon were selected to represent their country in the coxless pairs at Nottingham regatta. The club decided to take advantage of this and bring the full crew. This was designed to provide racing experience that was increasingly absent at home regattas. Thus started the practice of attending Nottingham, Chester and other English regattas on a semi regular basis.

The pair, lacking pairs experience due to having no boat to train in, had steering problems in the race. The following season the club purchased its first pair, motivated by this experience. [??result??]

As there was no junior grades at the regatta the VIII and IV were forced to compete at Snr B, they raced magnificently. [details pending??] How did the Eight get on?

A notable feature of this regatta was the first "public" appearance of Sean McDonagh. The cox of the VIII Mike O’Neill was too big for the Doneratico IV and the young Sean took the tiller. Although he never had to opportunity to win a pot for himself he has engineered the winning of seven Irish and one British title to date.

The championships were held on the Marina in Cork. The Nottingham experience had improved the crews performance enormously but the club travelled expecting a tough close race with Methody. Bish were drawn in a two boat heat against Cork BC, who had been racing Jnr B all season. The Cork crew proved very fast off the start and both crews raced neck an neck for the first 500m. At this point the Bish crew put in a strong push. Some of the crew later described this 20 strokes as "the best and fastest piece of rowing the crew had ever done". The crew felt nobody could live with it. They glanced across at the Cork crew and found that nothing had changed, the crews were still level.

In disbelief, panic set in, the crew pushed up their rate of striking and began to lose length and rhythm. Victory was probably within their grasp at almost any stage but they never took control of their rowing and after a dogfight failed by only feet. Methody went on to take the championship.

Why had that historic 20 strokes made so little impact? Well for those of you who know the Cork marina. The race was rowed in the opposite direction to that traditionally used for Cork regatta. The Dunlop Factory (now closed) discharged a large quantity of water into the Lee at the 500m mark. For race after race this could be clearly seen to give an approximately 1 length boost to the crew closest to it. The crew's push had in fact neutralised that advantage. ..... To win a championship many hurdles have to be overcome.

Another event with a strong Bish connection also took place in 1977, the foundation of Tribesmen rowing Club. Captain was Sean Heavey, Bish cox of 1969-71, and president was Leo Wall, ex Jes oarsman and coach. A great many of the founding members were ex-Bish.


Lean years


[bald opening....embellish!]

UCG won Head of the River from Tribesmen with Bish third of 33 crews. This was the first computerised Head of the River run in Ireland.

At Galway Regatta, held in April, the club completed the schools double in retaining both the Anderson, from a Jes/Marist composite by four lengths. The club also won the Senior schools fours and both Junior Schools eights and fours.

Trinity? (only report in sentinel is re: Galway Rowing Club ladies Nov. IV
[Marks on Programme] CAI beat Jes in the heat and Bish beat Portora. Winners of CAI/Bish to race Marist in Final.

The championships were held in Enniskillen, at Portora's bicentennial regatta. Bish beat Kings Hosp. and St. John's in their heat of the fours, and Methody, CAI and Commercial qualified from the other heats. Commercial won the final from CAI with Bish third. In the Eights, Commercial/St. Johns and CAI qualified from Heat A while the Bish crew was eliminated in heat B where Portora and Methody/BRC dead heated. Commercial/St. Johns won the pot from Portora, CAI and Methody/BRC in that order.

Two of the Bish crew were selected to row on the Irish squad at the Quadrangular International in Pontypool in Wales. Kieran Tummon and Pat Fahy were selected to race the coxless pair.

How did they get on?

However, there were signs of problems ahead. The J18 eight were now all Leaving-Cert. students and would not be around any more, and the only other crew on the water was a bunch of first years who had just started rowing. That gap would take some time to fill.

Martin Breen, the five-man in the crew is now in the army and is the prime driving force behind the establishment of the Defence Forces Rowing Association (DFRA) that won their first pot, the Novice fours, in 1994 and are likely to become a major force in Irish rowing in years to come.


This was the first of three lean years which the club would have to negotiate. Schools rowing had reached a nadir in Galway. The crew of the previous year had moved on and there was little to replace them at the Junior-18 grades. There was to be no senior Schools crew from Bish until 1982. Jes were in slightly better shape.

The year started with the previous years novices being the only crew in the club. Made up mainly of second year students and coached by Sean McDonagh, they raced Junior-D at Galway Head of the River and Trinity Regatta. At Trinity they were beaten in the early heats of the Eights and Fours by Marist College, Athlone and Methody respectively. The highlight of their year was in defeating that same Marist crew at Athlone.

The Anderson, at Galway, was left to Jes, CAI, St. Michael's and Marist to compete for. Jes or CAI were expected to take the Anderson, but St. Michael's produced the surprise and beat CAI in the final. That St. Michael's crew would go on to win the championship later in the year. The sole Bish representatives at the regatta were the young Junior-C eight who again beat Marist by two lengths and the less successful Junior-C four that lost to Jes.

Bish were not represented at the championships at Enniskillen which were won by St. Michael’s in the eights and Commercial/Neptune in the fours.


This was to be another lean year.

[I believe the following to be the state of play re: Galway regatta 1980 from trib and H lupton's scrapbook - mmcc]

Now in their third year rowing, the lone Bish crew soldiered on. Christy Griffen, who had just taken up a position as a new teacher in Bish began a recruitment campaign to try fill the void. Most of the lads he got rowing were Inter-Cert. students who also played other sports - especially Rugby. His intent was to try get a J18 crew on the water before the end of the year. That crew raced at a number of Heads and regattas with little success, and most drifted back to their other sports when pressure was exerted on them from other quarters. The last of the line of Tummon brothers, Damien was one of that crew.

The Bish presence at Galway would comprise Junior-D eight and four and a Junior-B eight. The JD8 heat saw them beating Athlunkard and St. Michael's while Marist beat Shannon and another Bish eight in the other heat. Bish beat Marist by a ½ length in the final. They did not manage to repeat this success in the JD4 which was won by Marist. The Junior B eights and Junior C eights were lost to Jes and Limerick respectively, while Jes won the Anderson and RBAI beat St. Michael's the Junior A fours in straight finals. The results were modest, but the groundwork was being laid for the future.


The rebuild continued. The young eight stayed together and were now competing at Junior C.

Names involved included Henry Lupton, M Gaffney, Kevin Garvey, Chris O'Byrne, Wally Walshe, Alan Maxwell, T Ryan, P Scully, P Greaney.

Success was modest for the JC eight, but the good JC4 produced wins at Galway and Fermoy regattas.

At Galway, crews from the club won the Junior C eights and Fours as well as the Junior D Fours, and later in the season they "won the pairs and Junior Eights" at Limerick regatta, but for the third year in a row they did not contest the championships at Enniskillen at which Neptune took both the eights and fours titles for the first time.


Back on the winning Track


The climb back from the doldrums was nearing completion.. They were finally starting the season with two eights in training - one of them a the JC boat of the previous year, now rowing Junior 'A' - the first since 1978. The crew was still predominantly under-sixteen. Alan Maxwell left the crew part way through the year to concentrate on exams and Mike Kavanagh was retained yet again to help with the coaching. He was joined in this task by Sean McDonagh and Tim Higgins. Christy Griffin, as teacher and ex-oarsman was prominent in the backroom.

Gogarty, colgan......Galway Head of the River?

The crew travelled to New Ross Head of the River where they won the schools eights section and were fourth overall. Adding zest to the victory was their one minute lead over title holders Neptune. They then competed at Enniskillen in the Erne Head of the River and repeated the success - this time over Portora and Neptune by nine and nineteen seconds respectively.

The tide turned at Galway when the crew finished 11th overall but trailed Neptune by twelve in the Junior Eights section. Then, at Trinity regatta Neptune, on home waters, handed Bish another ½ length defeat in the final of the Junior A eights, and three lengths in the heat of the fours. The future did not look promising!

Athlone ...Limerick Regattas?

[More detail needed here]

As the club was in a poor situation with regard to equipment they borrowed an Empacher Eight from Galway Rowing Club to row at Nottingham and complete the season. [Details of Nottingham?]

Galway - won Anderson - against who?

The championships were in Enniskillen at Killyhevlin. Neptune were favourites having made up the winter deficit and being victories at Galway Head of the River and Trinity. Portora too had a strong crew.

In the final of the eights, Portora took an early lead with Neptune second and Bish bringing up the rear. By 500m Bish were still in third, ¾ of a length behind as the others battled for the lead. After the 500m mark Bish came with a surge that brought them back into contention with the leaders by 1000m. A further surge put them into the lead by a length by 1200m, and after that they pressed their advantage to widen the gap to two lengths from Portora at the finish, with Neptune coming in third. The drought had ended and the Pot was back in Bish after eleven dry years. Neptune got some little revenge in the fours when they won the Pot from Bish in second.

Then followed one of the more controversial arguments in Irish rowing. The Rowing Union had decided earlier in the year to select the crews for the Quadrangular International at Nottingham on the basis of a squad of juniors from a number of clubs. Bish disagreed and argued that the championship crew should be sent. After winning the championship, the IARU named five Bishmen for consideration. The club refused to put them forward to participate in the assessment session, effectively stating that it would be "all or nothing" - i.e. all of the crew or none of it.

Thus a stalemate ensued with neither side willing to back down. To add fuel to the flames, the club issued a challenge to whatever squad boat might be selected to race Bish at Blessington. The Union initially refused to consider this challenge, but it did take place after all......................... ................., and the crews lined up in Blessington [Time???] and [details of the race here?].

The end result was that [.............................]



The club started the 1983 season in fine fettle. They were the reigning championships with a very young crew, and all but two were back again this year. Newcomers were Luke Nolan and Paul Greaney and cox Dave Moylan. [home races.....] First outing of the year was to Enniskillen for the Erne Head of the River. The crew continued the record of good finished at Erne, coming in third overall and winning the Junior section by 48 seconds from Methody with Portora a further 32 seconds behind. The following week they were fourth at Galway Head of the River, again winning the junior section.

At Galway Bish captured the Anderson for the second year in succession, defeating Methody in the process, by 1½ lengths. The result of the fours was the same, but after a much tighter race it was Bish by a canvas. The 1983 crew was: Bow: Damien Corr, Paul Walshe, Luke Nolan, Pierce Melvin, Robbie Canavan, Kevin Garvey, Henry Lupton, Wally Walshe(stk.), Dave Moylan(cox)

Beaten at Trinity?

When did Greaney come in to the boat?

In preparation for the junior championships to be held at Limerick Regatta, Bish travelled to Cork regatta at Innishcarragh to measure themselves again with Neptune, Fermoy and Cork B.C. Still smarting from the Trinity defeat they were intent in succeeding this time.

Contemporary reports refer to the tension at the start and compared it to an Olympic final! The first start had to be recalled as there was a clash of oars. Bish made no mistake on the restart and asserted themselves into an immediate lead which they stretched out to three lengths at the end from Cork, Fermoy and Neptune in that order. They had now transformed themselves from underdogs to favourites for the pot.

Thus the stage was set for the championships on the O'Briens Bridge course. The first heat had Bish lined up against Methody and Cork, two to go forward to the final. Bish won the heat and Methody were eliminated, but there were concerns as Cork led to 1000m until the three-man came off his seat. Portora won the second heat from Fermoy with Neptune eliminated.

It was quickly evident in the final that Bish and Cork were the class acts. As they raced toward the 1000m mark they were the only boats in the race, and Bish had carved out a ¾ length lead. Then Cork surged and pushed and started making up ground, but Bish were not going to let them pass and held them off to win by the narrow margin of a ¼ length. Portora were third and Fermoy fourth.

The fours race was almost a reversal of the eights. Bish, Cork and Portora were the finalists. Again it was a Bish/Cork race from the start, and no more than a canvas separated them at 750m. Cork had the advantage and much as Bish pressed over the last quarter of the course they could not come through and Cork won by a ¼ length.

One could argue that being challenged for the right to represent Ireland at the Quadrangular by Methody was a hangover from the events of the previous year. Thus Bish had to race Methody on the Sunday, but dispatched them comfortably, and were confirmed as the crew to make the trip to Scotland.

1983 was also the year of the incredible melting boat. a Carbocraft eight had been purchased earlier in the year, and it had a black hull. Workmanship on the boat was suspect for a couple of reasons. When assembling the boat after transportation it took a considerable amount of time to marry the halves together as the bulkheads were not true. but worse was to come. On warm summer days the black hull attracted the heat and the finish began to bubble and melt. The effect on the structural rigidity was significant, and the boat was often to be seen draped in tarpaulin and/or packed in ice to alleviate the problem. The boat ended up being re skinned three [......] times before the issue was resolved. Yet, Bish won the pot anyhow. Whether because of or in spite of the boat is a matter for conjecture!

The Quadrangular International was held at Strathclyde park and this was the fourth time a Bish crew would wear the green, itchy singlets. Were it not for a clash with the championships in '71 and the selection dispute in '82, this would have been the sixth such appearance.

The omens were not good as the team bus broke down at Dundalk and they missed the ferry. Thus the first time the crews saw the course was the morning of the race. There was great pressure on the various crews to perform well as the previous year had been a disaster for the Irish, not winning a single race.

The competition for Bish included Durham for England, the Scottish national squad, and Monmouth School for Wales. But Bish were to find this easier competition than at home. They shot into an immediate one length lead and were up to 3 lengths by half way. From that point they were cruising and came home easy winners. This was a great victory, made all the sweeter as the Irish won all grades of the competition to make a clean sweep of the event for the first time ever.

The club felt vindicated over the selection argument of the previous year, but in reality it still simmered quietly under the surface.

1983 also marked the end of an era. The old clubhouse, still on the site of the Emmets club of old, and built by Bro. Maurice in [???] was razed to the ground to allow for the building of a bigger, more spacious premises. Unfortunately, in the process the front walls with their ERC and CRE inscriptions also succumbed to the bulldozer and the thread of continuity broken.


Christy Griffen, Sean McDonagh and Tom (Boston) McDonagh had a "brand new" first crew to coach for '84, all of the '83 crew having left school. Though quite young and light they began immediately to pick up from where the previous years crew left off. The annual foray to Erne was again successful with the crew coming in 6th overall, and winning the junior section from Portora and Neptune by 20 and 48 seconds respectively. A similar performance at Galway had them 3 and 7 seconds ahead of Galway Rowing Club and Jes respectively. Signs were good for the championship again.

The nine year jinx that saw no win at Trinity was broken when they beat Methody and Galway Rowing Club in the heats and Clonmel/Dungarvan in the final. They continued the winning streak through Limerick and Athlone, although Kings Hospital gave them a fright at the latter venue. Kings and Galway Rowing Club got away at the start before Bish could overhaul them at the midpoint and go ahead for the win. Hopes of a fours title suffered a setback when Neptune beat them in the Junior A fours. Fennell dropped out of the first boat at this stage and was replaced by Phil Boyle. They also captured the Gogarty and Anderson before travelling to O'Briens Bridge for the championship.

Six clubs were entered for the JA8 championship, and of those, Portora was the dark horse, not having been met by anyone during the year. They were thought to be fast, though. Bish were drawn against Kings Hosp. and Shannon, two to qualify. After a minor scare with a broken rig was fixed just before the start they had a comfortable win by two lengths, Shannon being eliminated. Galway Rowing Club were eliminated from the other heat, Jes and Portora going through to join Bish and Kings in the final.

Similar to the Athlone race, Kings and Jes shot into an early lead off the start and had a ½ length by 500m. However, Bish pulled this back, and once in front, never faltered all the way to the finish, coming in a decisive 1½ lengths ahead of Kings with Jes in third. The much feared Portora never featured. The crew was selected immediately to represent Ireland at the Quadrangular in Blessington in two weeks.

With four Inter Cert. and Four Leaving Cert. students on the crew, and with an average weight of 10½ stone it was felt that they would be up against long odds at Blessington, especially against the English crew, St Paul's from London, who weighted in at over 12½ stone average. The Scots had no crew in the Junior eights, and so, on the sweltering July day, Bish sat on the stakeboat between St Paul's and Monmouth School from Wales.

From the start there was almost nothing in it, though Bish were felt to have maybe a foot advantage up to 500m. There still was nothing in it approaching midway until a Bish surge gained them a ¼ length from England. St Paul's pressed and attacked but could make no impression, and Bish squeezed the difference out to a ½ length by the finish. As a result, Ireland won the Junior section of the championships, and Bish had achieved what no other Irish Junior club had: two back-to-back victories at the Quadrangular International.


With all but three of the crew returning for 1985, another good season was assured. Murray, Curran and Brennan were replaced by Fennel, Enda Harhen and Pat Boyle. the same management team was in place, Coaches Sean and Tom McDonagh and Christy Griffen, with backroom and logistical support from Bro. Angelus ?????? and Liam Quirke.

Status Erne Head of the River and Galway Head of the River unknown

Jes were a threat early in the season, and although Bish won the eights and fours at Trinity, they were hard pushed in the eights final when Jes kept level until within 100m of the line before Bish pulled through by a ½ length.

St. Michael's, too had been progressing, and Bish met them at the final Limerick regatta. Even though they false started they managed to gain the advantage again on the restart, but only slightly. St. Michael's tracked them to half way until Bish eased out a little to take the verdict by ¾ of a length. Patently this Michael's crew was one to watch if they kept improving.

The fours race in Limerick was a thriller, resulting in a dead heat between reigning champions Portora and Bish. Equipment failure on the re-row ensured that the question of who was the better crew would remain unanswered on the day, and Portora rowed unopposed to the finish. The crew saw further success at Galway in beating Jes convincingly in the heat, and the final of the Anderson being an all Bish affair.

The stage was set for an interesting championship at Blessington. St. Michael's had been progressing well and were, if anything, slight favourites to take the eights championship.

Bish and St. Michael's were drawn together with Jes and Limerick in the first of the two heats, three to qualify. Bish won with Limerick eliminated. Galway Rowing Club were eliminated in the second heat allowing Bish B and Carlow to make up the remainder of the final. And what a final it was to be.

St. Michael's took off at the start with a very high rate and quickly established a ¾ length lead. Malcolm Hosty tracked the break but could make no impression as St. Michael's maintained the distance at 1000m. At this point he attacked and began to take back water, finally squeezing ahead by a canvas on the final spurt to the line.

The joy of championship number ten was tempered by a row between the club and the rowing union. The union wished to select a composite crew to represent Ireland at the Quadrangular International at Nottingham, while the club felt that the Bish crew should compete as a unit. It was the 1982 situation all over again. A stalemate ensued. Bish would not make its oarsmen available for selection and the Union was adamant, so there was no Junior crew sent to the International.


One member of this crew comments that they are likely to be doomed to always live under the stigma of being the grew that did not make the five-in-a-row! Only two of the '85 crew were back for this year, but nevertheless it promised to be another competitive boat. Early wins included the Head of the River's at Carrick and Galway, and they also retained the Gogarty and Colgan cups at home. They also won the eights at Trinity, though were beaten by Neptune in the fours, before embarking on a tour of English regattas, returning with wins at Chester and Norwich. Galway regatta was a veritable field day for the club in winning all the Junior-A and -B events.

They may have peaked a little early, though. The championship was in O'Briens Bridge at Limerick Regatta, and had an entry of seven crews. St. Michael's qualified from the first heat, eliminating Carlow and Jes. Methody eliminated Limerick in the second, and Bish beat Galway Rowing Club in the third. The final has been described as a classic with St. Michael's racing into the lead from the start, rating very high, and having a ¾ length advantage by 500m. Repeated attacks from Bish reduced this to less than half a length by half way, but despite the pressure, St. Michael's prevailed in maintaining lead and won by a half from a gallant Bish crew. Methody finished a further 2½ lengths further back.

The last outing of the year was at Blessington where the crew was entered in the Senior B eights and managed to reach the final. At the same regatta UCG won the Senior B eights and fours championships with no fewer than seven of the nine oarsmen involved being ex-Bish oarsmen.


The 1987 eight might have been competitive had it not been for the disbanding of the crew early in the year because some of the oarsmen were smoking. When the squad reassembled it was as a strong four and a weakened eight. This small boat was successful. It was, perhaps, the success of this small boat that was the catalyst for the success of one of the crew, Neville Maxwell, on the international scene a few years later.

Early season indications were not promising and few wins were recorded, although they did retain the Gogarty for the sixth year in succession. St. Michael's beat them by two lengths for the Anderson at a windswept Galway regatta.

Prior to travelling to Blessington for the championships, there was good news from Henley. UCG had won the Thames cup for the first time, and only the third time ever by an Irish crew. Based on the previous years Senior B boat it was mainly made up of ex-Bish oarsmen. On their return to Blessington they were, however, beaten by Neptune for the Senior pot.

St. Michael's, as early season performances indicated they might, captured the Junior eights championship. The Bish four, as one of the crew recalls, was willing to die before letting St Michael’s, or anyone else for that matter, go by. Racing in lane 6, they stormed away from Methody in lane 2 and kept going. Rating very high, observers on the bank felt that they must surely blow up.

With 500m to go Bish were two lengths up but paying the penalty for that scorching start. St Michael’s were coming back as Francis Moylan screamed at his crew to get those last dregs of energy into getting the boat across the line first. The crew responded and the final surge guaranteed the victory on the day, one length from St Michael’s with the rest of the field trailing well back. This was the club's eleventh pot.

The four was selected to travel, along with fellow Galwaymen, the Tribesmen Intermediate four, to represent Ireland at the Quadrangular International at Tallybont on Usk in Wales.

Ireland won the Junior Men and Junior Women's sections, and were second in the Seniors. The most exciting race of the regatta was reported as being the Junior fours. The Scottish boat was their best in years and had recently returned from Amsterdam where they finished second in an international regatta, and the Bish boat reckoned that they had the fastest start in Ireland. They did not get the opportunity to use that fast start on the day, however, as their stage boat drifted and they found themselves still checking their boat when the start command was given. Bish were immediately in third, down two lengths to the Welsh with the Scots somewhere further ahead. The chase was on. They rowed through the Welsh but ran out of time, with the Scots crossing the 1500m finish line a mere two feet ahead of them. That this was the only event lost by the Irish Juniors was hard to swallow, but such are the tribulations of rowing. That Scottish IV went on to win a medal at Junior worlds same year.

Neville Maxwell went on to row a lightweight pair with Neptune and set a world record in Lucerne in 1994. With Tony O'Connor he won a bronze medal at the world rowing championships in Indianapolis in September of that year.

The four went on to form the backbone of the UCG Thames Cup crew of 1988 who also won the Intermediate eights championship that same year.


A new year, a totally new crew. There was little or no early season travel this year and the crew made its first appearance at the Head of the River in Galway. The Head was won by the mainly Ex-Bish UCG senior eight. Bish were well down the field and nineteen seconds adrift of Jes. This made Jes favourites to win the Gogarty the following month.

When that day came, Bish had other ideas and started the Gogarty race with a vengeance, immediately pushing into a lead until stroke fell off his seat, letting Jes back into contention, and they were all level after a minutes racing. Strategic spurts gained Bish the advantage again and they gradually pulled away to retain the Gogarty for the seventh year in succession by a length. Jes got their revenge, to some extent, later when they took the Colgan by 1¼ lengths.

A visit to Trinity where they raced both Junior B and Junior A eights paid dividends. First heat of the Junior B was against an unknown Commercial, but Bish beat them easily enough before progressing to the final against Neptune. In an altogether tighter race, the crews stayed level for the early part before Bish eased away to a 1¼ length victory. Limerick were the opposition in the Junior A race. Bish got an excellent start only to have Limerick pull it back immediately. Bish kept the pressure on, though and began to ease away, finally coming home with a satisfying 3l margin.

Having won all before them, they fell with a crash back on home waters at Galway regatta, when Galway Rowing Club took the Anderson from them by a length, with Jes in third. Nor were they any more successful in the fours, losing to Jes by 2½ lengths. The club did manage four pots at the regatta, taking Junior -C and -D eights and fours. The JC4 was from the first eight.

The championships were at Blessington, and nobody could make an impression on a strong Shannon crew for the Junior championship. The good news from that regatta was UCG winning the Senior and Intermediate Eights championships. It was 57 years since the trophy had last been won by a Galway crew, the legendary Emmets, and it was fitting that seven of the UCG crew learned their rowing skills in the Bish club - a club whose boathouse had been passed down to it by Emmets.

Bow: Kieran Curran, Aengus McSweeney, Nikki Cavelleri, Tom Leonard, Leo Leonard, Roger Daly, Quinten Crowley, Rod Carr, Rudhan Cooke, (Cox)foobar1989


The 1989 crew progressed to a top-class Bish crew whose name does not appear on the IARU record books for that year. With victory in the Gogarty by 2 l, and after winning the Head of the River’s at Enniskillen [Check this] and Galway, the decision was made to enter the Childe Beale section of British Schools Championships at Holme Pierrepoint in Nottingham. The objective was twofold: to sharpen their racing edge for the upcoming Irish championships, and to qualify for the more prestigious Queen Mother Cup the following year. Thus the training and focus was for these championships early in the season. Being somewhat raw and inexperienced the crew did not shine in the heats, qualifying for the final with a second place in the semi final. A change of tactics was decided on, and in the final the went for broke right from the start. They gained water immediately and had a ½ length at 500m from the closest crew, Cheltenham. A further twenty stroke spurt brought them up to ¾ of a length in front. At this point Monmouth, who had been tracking the leading two boats began to move and came through Cheltenham and began to eat into the Bish lead, stroke by stroke. What followed was described by coach Sean McDonagh as a real blood and guts effort to hold off the Welsh in the sprint to the line. This they did, winning by the narrow margin of a ½ canvas. [Check this: They were almost successful in this endeavour, losing the final by a mere 2ft.]

However, on returning home and back into the Irish regatta season, although they retained the Anderson by defeating Jes and Galway Rowing Club, things began to go wrong. It became evident that, In terms of Irish championships, they had peaked too early and the crew was four lengths off the pace in the eights, which was won by Shannon....... and Galway Rowing Club. [Get exact race set-ups]. Still, the entire crew would be eligible for the following year.

Ironically, it was not the only Bish-connection disappointment of the Championships; UCG were pipped by Neptune by one second in the Senior eights pot and narrowly failed to make it a two-in-a-row.

1989 crew: Bow: Rod Carr, John Begly, David Butler, Roger Daly, Nikki Cavelleri, Aengus McSweeney, Vincent Breen, Kieran Curran (stk.), Rudhan Cooke, (Cox)


It was decided to campaign a four and an eight in 1990. The four, was of the older, more experienced lads and would race Junior and Novice four during the year. The eight was essentially a Junior-C boat and entered a number of JB and JC races. The season opened with Bish sending the two crews to Erne Head of the River. The Novice four won its section while the eight finished in eleventh. At Galway Head of the River the eight were some seconds adrift of Jes, but the Novice four was successful with Methody trailing them.

The Gogarty and Colgan would, as usual, give a good indication of the relative strengths of the Galway schools clubs, when they were rowed upriver over the regatta course in May. Bish had held the Gogarty since 1982, but Jes had the advantage of a few seconds at the Head of the River. It turned out to be one of the closest of Gogarty's ever. Jes got a great start and quickly led by a ¼ length, only to have Bish pull it back and lead by ¼ length by half way. However the pendulum swung again and it was Jes that led by a ¼ length into the enclosure, and held on for the victory.

Bish got their revenge in the other two races of the day, however. First, the boated both a Junior-C and Junior-D boat against the Jes Junior-C boat in the Emmets Cup race. The race never climaxed as, half way through the race, the Jes bowman injured his back and ceased rowing, leading to a Bish 1-2 in the event. In the Colgan, that same afternoon, the bigger Bish crew had no trouble from Jes and romped home with three lengths to spare.

The crew raced with modest success in the Junior B grades at Limerick and Athlone, but they were never going to be competitive with the older crews from Shannon, tribesmen, Neptune and others, a fact that was aptly demonstrated with Neptune winning the Anderson from Shannon in Galway

Galway crews were shocked at the championships at Blessington. The unbeaten UCG Senior-B eight lost form on the day and lost their unbeaten record to Cork; the College Senior 4 was eclipsed by Trinity and Cappoquin; Tribesmen's unbeaten Junior A 4 were pipped by CAI by less than 1 second, and Neptune took the Junior A Eights. Bish did not enter a crew for the eights pot, however the Bish cox, William? Burke was chosen to represent Ireland at the Quadrangular at Nottingham where they won their section.

Junior-C Eight: Fergal Duignan, Michael Crowe, Derek Kearney, Joe O'Toole, Richard McGrath, Jason Connolly, Aaron Kelly, Tommy Madden, Sean McGrath(cox)


Much of the crew from the previous year were available for '91. The first outing was to Erne Head of the River where two Bish eights finished first and second in the Junior Eights section, and a Bish four took the Novice Fours. what became of this crew later? what's the story? At Galway Head of the River the first crew repeated their Erne success but the Novice four was second to Tribesmen.

The signs were on the wall, however when, at Galway Regatta, Neptune took the Anderson with
Bish second and Tribesmen in third. Winning the Junior B 8 from Portora was scant consolation.

The championships were at Blessington and Neptune and CAI captured the Junior Eights and Fours respectively. Tribes won Novice Fours and there is no mention of Bish, jes in ja8, ja4 or nov4.

[must be more to the year than that?!]

Erne Head Nov. 4: Brian Hosty, Derek Cooney, Mark O'Dea, Tommy Bradley, Sean McGrath(cox)


The build-up of the past two years began to bear fruit and produced this exceptional Bish crew. They won at Enniskillen Head of the River, but suffered a setback at the hands of Limerick at Galway in being defeated in the eights. They did win the fours, however. They retained the Gogarty and Colgan [??] , and won the Anderson at Galway, avenging the Head of the River loss by beating Limerick by 1½ lengths. The club had an overall great day at Galway, also winning JB8, JC8, JB4, JD4.

They then travelled to the British Schools Championships at Nottingham and performed excellently, being beaten by a mere 3ft by Kingston.

Athlone was another bonanza where Bish won JA8, JA4, JB4, JC4, JD8 and best overall club. In the Junior A eights they beat Neptune and Limerick, reinforcing the Galway success. The first crew also entered the Senior B eights where they qualified second to Shannon. In the final they trailed, battling for third with Methody until half way. A sport at that point brought them to second, a length behind UCD. The sprint to the line saw them making up water very quickly, but they had to be content with second place - by a mere 6ft.

Once again the championships were at (a windswept) Blessington. The Bish eight qualified against Neptune/Kings, RBAI and St. Michael's easily, and faced Limerick yet again in a final. This time, though Bish led briefly from the start, it was Limerick that led by ¼l at 500m and ¾l at 1000m. A major push by Bish at this point brought the crews level by 1500m, and then Bish ahead by a canvas. Over the last 500m Limerick attacked and Bish defended, and so the margin remained at the end, with St. Michael's and Neptune filling the minor placings.

The Fours was a less frantic affair and they won easily from St. Michael's. Thus the club had completed its first double since 1971. Blessington was good for Galway that year with Tribesmen taking the other two Junior events (Pair, Scull), the Novice four, and the Jes girls taking the junior women's eight/four double.

Six of the Bish crew and three from Tribesmen were selected for the Quadrangular in Scotland where they won gold in [eights and fours?]

Four: Joe O'Toole, Philip Hassell, Paul Martin, Jason Connelly(stk.) ,Martin Forde(cox)


Bish sent a four but not an eight to the championships at Enniskillen.

..Campaigned a J16 Eight and J18 VIII

J16 VIII: P Gallagher(Bow), C. Ó'Conghaile, C. Loughnane, Ronan Gaughan, Jason Harty, R. Murphy, Darach O'H-ici, J.P. Cavalleri,(stk.) A. O'Sullivan(cox)

1994 - rewrite needed

A very young Bish crew - mainly Junior-16’s entered the 1994 season. Although talented and fast they were faced with two tough contenders in Methodist College Belfast, and fellow Galway club, Tribesmen, and were hampered by the loss of the experienced Kevin Boyle who decided to cross the river and don the all-black singlet of Tribesmen early in the year.

Head of the River

Coached by Tim Higgins and Sean McDonagh, they had few outings early in the season. Though quick off the start in most cases the experience and weight of the other crews generally told in the end. Bish led Tribesmen for much of the course at Galway before being overhauled over the last 500m in the final of the Anderson.

The championship remained in Enniskillen for 1994, as it would for a few more years. Competition for the Eights was intense. Methody had beaten all comers save a canvas in Tribesmen’s favour at Castlewellan; RBAI seemed strong; and 1994 champions, St Michael’s were much weakened from last year but could not be discounted. In the Fours, Tribesmen were unbeaten all year and looked to be a safe bet for the title.

Bish decided to concentrate on the Eights and thus were not participants in a thrilling final where Tribesmen beat Methody by four feet after a magnificent tussle.

The eights race was one of the most controversial in years. Bish, Tribesmen, Methody and Shandon qualified for the final. Most pundits foresaw a Methody-Tribesmen race, but Bish were not to discounted. Events were to take an unusual turn, however. Shortly after the start Methody veered into the Bish lane and almost clashed oars. After returning to their own lane for a while they again entered the Bish lane, the race was stopped and Methody disqualified.

The race was then re-run with the three remaining crews with the young Bish boat gamely pursuing Tribesmen to the finish, a length and a half down but ahead of Shandon. Though success eluded them, the seeds for future success were surely sown.

Bow: Cathal Loughnane, Ross Kelly Jason Harty, Gordon Joyce, Darach O’H-ici, Tim Lohan, Gordon Reay, J.P. Cavalleri,(Stk), Martin Forde, (Cox)


Most of the crew returned for ‘95 and early form suggested a good Eight and an exceptional Four. Portora also had a very big and very fast Four, and these two first met at the Tribesmen Head of the River in Galway. Based on early indications Bish and Portora were seeded high in the draw and justified that seeding handsomely. The two schools finished ahead of all Intermediate fours, with Portora pipping the Galway lads by a mere ½ second. The Eights was inconclusive as Portora damaged their boat on the course and Bish took the Eights pennant.

An outing to Neptune regatta also brought mixed fortune. They captured the Junior-18 eights without much trouble, but the four, which had qualified for the final in great style, were shocked by a very fast Fermoy crew who led them home by a ½ length.

Bish travelled to Nottingham for the British National championships. They travelled to a litany of disasters. They borrowed a boat from neighbours, Tribesmen and set off in the new school minibus. Gearbox trouble left them stranded in Northern England. On reaching Nottingham the weather was atrocious and the programme severely disrupted. They gained some respectable places on the Saturday, and then found themselves with nothing to do Sunday as all racing was cancelled. Far from being an opportunity to hone racing sharpness, the weekend was virtually wasted.

The next big outing was Athlone where the club won the J18b fours and Novice eights. The J18 eight was third to Portora and St Michael’s, but was not, perhaps the strongest crew the club could have put on the water. The following day the club had a field day at Galway winning, amongst other things the Anderson Trophy. Although it is always a great honour to win the Anderson, many observers lamented the fact that the best crews no longer travel to Galway, and that the competition for its magnificent trophies is no longer as keen as it once was.

Returning to Enniskillen for the championships, spirits were high. The Four had been going exceptionally well, and the eight was in great form. The fours final lived up to its reputation for delivering close races. For the last four years no more than a half length had separated first and second. This time it was to be closer. After 1400m of neck to neck racing between Bish and Portora they could not be separated on the line. A dead head was adjudged, the first ever in Junior-18 championships, and a re-row ordered.

This time, however, Portora took the advantage and had clear water advantage at the finish. The crew was disconsolate, and considerable damage was done to the confidence of the eight for the following day. However, after pep talks by Sean Mac and Tim Higgins the crew rallied and set out to face the next days racing.

The club had taken delivery of a new eight just a few days before the championship, and hoped it would bring them luck. The opposite seemed to be the case as the stern was damaged in transit to the championships and had to be patched up on the day of the race.

Championship details here

The club also travelled to the Senior championships where they contested the Intermediate championship, and in a novel departure teamed up with the Tribesmen championship Intermediate four to race in the Senior pot. Although they did not make the final they finished a very creditable third in their heat.

A novel event took place in September of that year. To celebrate the twenty fifth anniversary of the winning of the club’s first IARU championship. A small regatta was organised in honour of that event. Oarsmen from crews of the ‘50’s, ‘60’s, seventies and eighties participated. Pride of place was the row past of the crew of ‘96 who, it was observed, still knew how to row. The boat they used, borrowed from Tribesmen was called The Mike Kavanagh, fittingly enough, and the crew had come from far and wide for the reunion.


how many crews in the club?

Tim and Sean Mac had now been coaching Bish crews virtually full time for a number of years and made an effort to reduce their involvement. But old habits die hard, and as the season developed they continued to be very much in the coaching seat again. Backing them up were Eamonn Hegarty, Peadar o’hIci and ***** who endeavoured to keep the financial wolf from the door. A repeat of the 25-year reunion/fund-raiser was planned - this time for the 1971 crew.

The new boat, purchased for the ‘95 championship was proving unsatisfactory, with a number of defects surfacing, and the club returned it to the manufacturers. To add further woe in the equipment front, a four fell off the trailer on the way to Limerick and was damaged beyond economical repair. A replacement Eight and four were now needed and were ordered.

The ageing slip was rebuilt and extended by the corporation, and the bottom dredged, returning it to a usable fashion after many years of neglect and decay.

Winter training progressed for the first crew, and they seemed to be going well. A trip to Erne Head showed that work remained to be done to reverse a 20-second deficit. This was achieved by Tribesmen Head in Galway, with Bish having overtaken Portora by the Graveyard. Somewhat ominous, though, was the fact that Cork were a mere two seconds adrift of Bish who had the home course advantage. Furthermore, the young Galway Rowing Club juniors were not too far off the pace either.

Dublin Head of the River saw a good result by the Four, while the Eight, comprised of a first-crew/second crew mixture finished second to Portora. This did not prepare them for the shock at Limerick. Whether it was pressure of exams, loss of concentration, or whatever, Bish were pushed into third place behind a Fossa/Muckross composite and Galway Rowing Club, and into fourth place in the fours behind Muckross, Fossa and St Michael’s. Cork regatta proved that this was not a one-off, with Bish third behind Cork and GRC yet again. It was time to reconsider the strategy for the year. It was quickly becoming evident that this was going to be as competitive a season as any seen in recent years. The "Kerry composite" were going well as were GRC and Cork, but St Michael’s were improving apace; Portora could not be ignored, and Methody could be expected to mount a serious challenge. At least seven good contenders with another two or three also in the wings.

The new eight and Four arrived from Sims in time for Athlone where Bish opted to miss the Eights, leaving it instead to St Michael’s. There was mixed fortune in the fours with Bish winning the Jnr-A and losing the Jnr-B to Cork to lead home St Michael’s, Portora and GRC Athlone also signified a resurgence of the Jes Junior Men’s fortunes by beating Bish in the Junior-16 event after being un-competitive at this level for some time. There was also a welcome appearance of a competitive J18 2- who pushed favourites Neptune to a canvas in the pairs.

Galway, the following day provided for the first outing in the new eight. A Tribesmen/Bish composite raced it in the heat of the Senior Eights, finishing within a length of UCD. Worryingly, St Michael’s beat Bish in both Jnr-A and Jnr-B fours. The Eight turned in a classic performance for the eights, retaining the Anderson a length from Mick’s and GRC a further length adrift. Obviously the work put in by Sean McDonagh and Tim Higgins since Limerick was bearing fruit. There would still be two more weeks of very hard work needed, and further improvement needed if the Munster crews were to be kept at bay.

The club entered crews in the Eights, Fours and Pairs for the championships in Enniskillen. Much training had been done in the big boat, and despite the fact that training in the four was hampered by the loss of that boat at Limerick, Spirits were high. The pair was first to compete, but would have to contend with the Neptune crew that had made the running all year. Bish had raced them to a close finish at Athlone, but Neptune were experts in the small boats.

Neptune won the second heat from Bish by a canvas, both qualifying to meet the two St Michael’s boats from the other heat. Neptune made the better start in the final, establishing a half length by the 500m mark, but Bish had this pulled back by 1000m. Though a cross wind played havoc with the steering of all the boats, it was the relatively less experienced Bish boat that weathered conditions the best to extend their lead by 2½ lengths by the finish. This marked the first win by the club in one of the small boat classes.

In the fours the two Killarney clubs were the ones to beat given early season form. Both these fours won their respective heats to qualify, along with Bish and Portora, for the final. And form held out. The two Muckross boats stamped their authority over the course of the race to take first ("Fossa") and second, with Bish in third.

The eights contest included as numerous and as high a standard of boats as had been seen in years with nine boats entered and some very close racing to take place. Bish won the first heat from main threat Muckross. Galway RC were eliminated. Portora had a facile victory over Methody and RBAI in the second heat, while the third heat was the direct opposite with a canvas covering the three boats - Methody and Cork qualifying and St Michael’s eliminated.

Bish, Muckross, Portora and Cork made up the final four. Muckross had done their homework over the day. They had noted Bish’s fast start and were determined to counter it. They did this successfully, and by half way began to ease ahead gradually. Though Bish countered with all their might they could make no dent in the lead and had to content themselves with second place, a length down on the Killarney composite.

Though disappointed, it is recognised that there could be no disgrace to lose to these excellent crews, and a landmark win in the small boat had been achieved. Perhaps the club would have further successes in these classes in the forthcoming years.

1996 Crew: D O’Byrne, J Concannon, J Naughton, G Joyce, M Wilson, T Lohan, R O’Connell, R Kelly (Stk) K Hayes (Cox). Four: , M Wilson, T Lohan, R O’Connell, R Kelly (Stk) K Hayes (Cox) Pair M Wilson, T Lohan.



















Frank Cooke probably said it best:

"Lest people should think that rowing is all about winning I hasten to disabuse them of that idea. Winning is sweet and is usually only the just return on investment in hard work and discipline.

"Secretly I believe that what rowing is all about is being on the river on a flat calm day in early Summer, the boat is sitting up well, the calls of the water birds all about, the smells of growing things in the nostrils, and being part of that camaraderie forged of mutual dependence and trust that is reserved for oarsmen."

Appendix A: Behind the scenes

Success, indeed mere survival, could not and would not have been attained without a dedicated group of people in the background organising, managing, fund raising, or coaching. The list is long, but some in particular gave years of time an effort behind the scenes of the Bish Rowing Club.

Managers and Coaches

1932 Paddy Griffen

1933 Paddy Griffen

1934 Paddy Griffen

1935 Paddy Griffen

1936 Paddy Griffen

1937 ?

1938 ?

1939 ?

1940 Bro. Valarian Sean Turke, Jim Geraghty

1941 J Hickey

1942 ?

1943 ?

1944 Jim Geraghty

1945 Jim Geraghty

1946 Jim Geraghty

1947 Jim Geraghty

1948 Jim Geraghty

1949 Jim Geraghty, Bertie Kavanagh

1950 P Hughes

1951 ?

1952 Bro. Otteran Michael Hannon

1953 Bro. Otteran Michael Hannon

1954 Bro. Otteran Michael Hannon

1955 Bro. Maurice Ruachán Heaney

1956 Bro. Maurice Ruachán Heaney

1957 Bro. Maurice Ruachán Heaney

1958 Bro. Maurice Ruachán Heaney

1959 Bro. Maurice Ruachán Heaney

1960 Bro. Paschal Michael McGrath

1961 Bro. Fidelis ?

1962 Bro. Fidelis ?

1963 Bro. Fidelis ?

1964 Bro. Fidelis ?

1965 Bro. Fidelis ?

1966 Bro. Fidelis Mike Kavanagh

1967 Bro. Fidelis Mike Kavanagh

1968 Bro. Fidelis Mike Kavanagh

1969 Bro. Baptist Mike Kavanagh/Sean Coll

1970 Bro. Valarian Mike Kavanagh

1971 Bro. Valarian Paddy Tummon

1972 Bro. Valarian Tom McDonagh/Sean Coll

1973 Bro. Valarian ?

1974 Bro. Valarian Tony Smyth

1975 Bro. Valarian Tim Higgins/Kavanagh/Tummon

1976 Bro. Valarian Tim Higgins

1977 Bro. Valarian Tim Higgins/Terry Brennan

1978 Bro. Valarian Terry Brennan/Pat Fahy

1979 Bro. Valarian ?

1980 Christy Griffen Christy Griffin/?

1981 Christy Griffen ?

1982 Christy Griffen Tim Higgins/Sean McDonagh/Kavanagh

1983 Christy Griffen ?

1984 Christy Griffen Sean McDonagh/Tom McDonagh

1985 Bro. Angelus Sean McDonagh/Tom McDonagh/Griffen

1986 Bro. Angelus Sean McDonagh

1987 Bro. Angelus Sean McDonagh

1988 Bro. Angelus Sean McDonagh

1989 Bro. Angelus Sean McDonagh

1990 Sean McDonagh

1991 Sean McDonagh

1992 Peadar O'Hici Sean McDonagh

1993 Peadar O'Hici Sean McDonagh

1994 Peadar O'Hici Sean McDonagh/Tim Higgins

1995 Peadar O'Hici Sean McDonaghfoobar

As the club got larger there was support needed at many levels. The Committee and members of Commercial are owed a particular debt for hosting the club during the early years. Later, there were many people who worked tirelessly behind the scenes procuring the equipment and finances needed to keep things going. Tommy Small and Sonny Hynes were two such people from the late 'sixties well into the 'seventies. [other people mention here]