very first thing that strikes you when you visit Clogherhead
is the sea. It strikes you literally. You can hear it. You
can see it. You can smell it. Venture too close and you
will feel it! You can sense its enormous presence, looming
large over life itself. Though it is life. The bringer.
The giver. Sometimes the taker.
In this corner of the Wee County, the influence of the sea
is omnipresent. Its part and parcel of the very fabric
of existence, as much a component of the local people at
their very blood and bones. Of course, the sea itself is
not just a geological phenomenal
it is also a key
natural resource which has served the locals well over the
Traditionally, the men of Clogherhead made a living off
the sea. It generated jobs and spawned whole industries.
Paddy Hodgins and Paddy Rath are two Clogherhead men with
fascinating stories to tell. The former was harbourmaster
in Clogherhead for 46 years; the latter was a prolific sailor
who voyaged around the world on some of the most prestigious
vessels known to man. Through the eyes of these two incredible
men, Wee County 2004 explores the never-ending link between
Clogherhead and the vast expanse of water that simmers below
it to the east.
Master of all he surveyed
Paddy Hodgins was harbourmaster at Clogherhead for 46 years,
from 1950 until 1996. It was a job he practically inherited
as the post was passed down from generation to generation
of his family. The Hodgins family lineage boasts a century
of involvement with the harbour Paddys father
Hugh and grandfather Pat also acted as harbourmasters before
Though its almost a decade since his retirement, Paddy
is as affectionate about the harbour in Clogherhead as he
ever was. In 1986, he initiated a campaign for a large scale
upgrade of the facility and he remains adamant that sweeping
improvements are urgently required:
Clogherhead needs a good, safe, all-weather harbour
to shelter and accommodate our boats. Were very much
exposed to the north and the east. The pier is 120 years
old now and it needs a good job done on it. The fishermen
have formed an association and have been promised £8m
to spend upgrading the harbour, so hopefully that will happen.
For 46 years, working for Louth County Council, Paddys
brief as harbourmaster was to deal with all issues relating
to the harbour in Clogherhead. It was a demanding post,
which required extreme vigilance and total dedication. A
great deal of responsibility rested on Paddys shoulders.
It was he who was charged with lighting the lights, looking
after the boats, and ensuring that everybody got to shore
safely. He notes: As I live right on top of Clogherhead,
overlooking the sea, I could always see the comings and
goings and that was a great advantage, which enabled me
to act as coastguard.
Given his innate love of Clogherhead, it was appropriate
that Paddy became one of the most respected men in the area.
He knows the history of the seaside village well, so its
apt that he has etched a special place for himself in that
Referring to the tremendous seafaring tradition that is
synonymous with Clogherhead, Paddy notes: Clogherhead
has had a great fishing tradition from the time the pier
was built in the 1880s. In the early days, there were 28
boats propelled by oars and sails, with five men in each
boat. They used to fish from Gyles Quay to Balbriggan, and
the fishing was a substantial employer.
The coming on stream of motorised boats in the 1920s, along
with seine netting, improved matters considerably. As well
as herring drifting, the waters off Clogherhead were rich
in cod, whiting, plaice, haddock and sole. Indeed, though
he would later spend most of his life on the mainland, Paddy
partook of a spot of fishing himself, as he reveals: In
the 1940s and 50s I used to go out herring drifting
to Howth and the Isle of Man on the 50-ft boats.
Paddy spent three summers on the sea before restricting
himself to angling and small boat fishing. A lot of
the other young fellas went fishing and worked on the trawlers,
At the height of its popularity, there were 32 fishing boats
working out of the harbour, each with a crew of five or
six men. They used to land every day but now that
the boats are so much bigger they go our for five or six
days at a time. Today, they have to go further afield, to
Howth or Dunmore or even around to Galway.
Fishing is a very dangerous business because you have
to go out in all weather and fishermen have to be very careful.
Times werent always as good as they are now. They
have a lot of state-of-the-art equipment these days, but
its not that long since they didnt even have
Fishing has always been a great tradition in Clogherhead
and I suspect it always will be. At the moment, we have
the most modern fleet of well-equipped boats in the country,
so it will remain a huge part of life in Clogherhead.
A sailor went to see
Paddy Rath enjoyed an extraordinary live on the oceans of
the world. The Clogherhead-born sailor worked on some of
the finest vessels ever built, including the Queen Mary,
the Queen Elizabeth and the QE2. He worked on the deck of
the latter-named ship for 18 years, 1968-86, as an AB (able-bodied
seaman), including when it acted as a hospital ship during
the Falklands War in 1982. Having first taken to the sea
in 1950, Paddy retired in 86. Reflecting on his career,
he says he has no regrets: Ive had a wonderful
You certainly wouldnt think it if you met him, but
Paddy actually turned 82 in March 2004. Hes in remarkable
health. I always kept myself active, he explains.
Ive had lots of good health and the sea contributed
to that. Ive had a great life and I enjoyed it. There
were ups and downs, but mostly good times.
When Paddy worked on the QE2, he was on duty for eleven
weeks at a time, with a month off in between. He estimates
that he has been around the world about 18 times! He also
spent a total of eight or nine years on and off working
on oil tankers in The Gulf, often working in temperatures
of up to 108 Degrees. It sounds like tough going? Ive
had a great life, Paddy says with a twinkle in his
For Paddy, there was never going to be any life other than
one at sea. He explains: The sea is in you and thats
it. All my relations went to sea too my father, uncles
and brothers as well as my friends. I was working
from I was nine years old and left school at 11. I remember
working for eight old pennies a day. I never got any education,
but I educated myself and it was a good life. I was never
out of work.
It never leaves your system. Im still beside
the sea now and I often go to the harbour or out to the
head of Clogher
Often, he looks out across the great expanse of sea to his
east and thinks of bygone times, but there are no regrets
whatsoever: I missed it for a while, but things are
going alright. I can still get about and Im fairly
active, so Im thankful for that. There were lots of
ups and downs at sea but you take the good with the bad.
There were plenty of hurricanes and storms on the Atlantic
in particular and we were lucky to survive those. I nearly
came unstuck on the Atlantic a few times!
I was fortunate in that I got to travel all over the
world. I enjoyed the life and I enjoyed the sunshine. Thats
one thing I miss
you dont get a lot of sunshine
around here! I had a great healthy life and I feel like
a millionaire now because Ive still got my health
and thats the most important thing of all.
These days, Paddy is enjoying his retirement, though he
notes that the old ways seem to be dying out in the area:
There arent as many going to sea now as there
were back in my day. The tradition is dying off. People
are going for other jobs instead. Sailing isnt as
attractive as it was, with all the upset around the world.
Its not safe any more. The old days were the best.
You could travel the world safely and, when you were home,
you could leave your front door open. It was a different
world. Its a sadder place to live in now.
We had little or no money, but we had peace of mind
and a bite to eat. Ive had a marvellous life. I have
great memories and good health. What more could a man wish
Taken from Wee County 2004