The History of Donegal Bay Rowing Club
By Paddy Meehan

Four man oared boat racing is not a new phenomenon to Donegal Town. Records and photographs show at the turn of the 19th century, several County Donegal four man coxed wooden skiffs participating in regattas at Donegal Pier.While punt competitions were regularly held in the Rosses, and from the 1970’s, only intermittently at Donegal Town. But for almost 50 years boat annual racing lay dormant inDonegal Town until April 1973 when a group of fishermen/pleasure boat owners met in the Central Hotel with a view to reviving skiff racing. If memory serves me right and apologies for any omissions – some of those there on that night Liam Kelly, Paddy O’Donnell, Seamus Brogan, Bert O’Neill, Tom Needham, Paddy McGettigan, Michael Hunt, Paddy Meehan, Liam Hyland, Peter Kennedy and his brother Francis Kennedy, Alrick Thompson..Soon others joined, such rowers as David Henderson,Walter Espey, Ray Tierney,Terence Mullin,Laurence McMullin, Eamon and Colm Harvey, Lynn Temple.

Donegal Boat Club was formed and came into existence, competing in two man and single wooden punt events in August of that year against teams from the traditional fishing areas of Inver, Bruckless, Killybegs, Kincasslagh, Arranmore Island. Official shotgun starters at the first regatta-the late Vincent Meehan, Peter Kennedy, a role they continued for almost 15 years. Later that year a wooden skiff was borrowed from Teelin which served as a template for three fibre glass four man skiffs manufactured by fibreglass specialist Jimmy Elvin Enniskillen. These skiffs cost about 1500 pounds each finished and the members spent that winter organising fund raising events, selling tickets door to door countywide, holding concerts etc.. When the word spread, coastal rowing took off big time and soon there were 26 rowing clubs in the county, each owning three skiffs.By now the membership of Donegal Boat Club had increased almost six fold from the original meeting.

The Mens Seniors had three teams, under 20’s five, ladies seniors three, ladies juniors three and during the summer seasons the pier area was awash with eager rowers awaiting their turn for an available free training skiff. For the first year or so Donegal, although competing were not winning any races.All this changed in 1974 when Patrick Brady a former UCD and international rower who set up his own optometry practice in Donegal Town joined the club and immediately set about utilising his coaching skills. Within the following two years Donegal Town were taking on seasoned teams like Kincasslagh, Arranmore Island,Bruckless, Killybegs, Inver, Teelin and beating them, winning county championships on several occasions. This Donegal Mens Senior team, Coxes alternated between Mark Diver/ John O’ Neill/Seamus Brogan, Stroke Pat Brady, Terence Mullin, Raymond Tierney, Paddy Meehan. Some names from the Womens teams(apologies for any exclusions which are not intentional )- Celine Kelly, Kay Sinclair, Alice Stewart, Leah Meehan, Helen McGroary, Paula O’Donnell, Annette Diver, Pauline Daly, Miriam Feely, Mary Murray.

In 1984 Mens Senior County Championships winners at Donegal Regatta, Stroke, Michael Sinclair, Paddy Diver, Declan O’Donnell, Paddy Meehan. In 1978 the club undertook a sponsored row from Donegal Pier to Fintragh Killybegs – this highlight of this – just off St John’s Point less than 100 yards from the skiff a whale popped up her head, as she had just given birth in the area, the dead whale pup washed ashore.The whole whale emerging scenario caught on camera by the late Conor Sinclair in the accompanying rescue boat.During August 1979 a month infamous in Irish History, the club carried out a sponsored row for the Irish Kidney Association, from Rosses Point Sligo to Donegal Pier.Passing the Mullaghmore headland the well known outline of ‘Shadow V’ of Lord Louis Mountbatten was observed fishing. Lord Mountbatten and several others were to be brutally murdered when his boat was blown up later that month. Sometime in the late 1980’s, through lack of enthusiasm, Donegal Boat Club sadly folded, One of the racing skiffs were taken to Killybegs on loan and lay for many years at the old pier area of that fishing town. The two other skiffs were stored at the rear of a house, one eventually given to a temporary warden(from Dublin) of the An Oige( Youth Hostel Ballhill) who decided to sever it in half to make two smaller vessels. Again sadly, a venture which proved fruitless ands both pieces lay there for many years. However in the early 2000’s Donegal Boat Club has been revived, steadily gaining new members and are definitely on their way to winning county or indeed national championships.