- August 5, 2023
I was privileged, this year, to have my 11 year old daughter as co-pilot. It was her first time to travel from the boundary of the pale towards the sea with us in our little leather currachs. With a method I had learnt years earlier from her brother, Ruarcan, when he perched himself on the rim of the boat and paddled from the rear like an open canoe, while I on the other end, sculled happily and easily down the Boyne. As he got older and stronger I found it harder to keep up with his energy and strength and in a relentless battle of wills to keep the boat straight he would spin me like a cork if I said the wrong thing at the wrong time.
Caer found a far simpler method to temper my resolve and with a lot less energy involved she simply ducked me by lifting her weight forward and with a tip of her paddle from behind when I tried to remind her to paddle. After a few unexpected ducks I learnt to find other, more diplomatic ways to say the same thing. 15kms, 26kms and 18kms for three days, camping beneath some of the most magical locations I’ve ever known. To journey the Boyne in a vehicle is like changing channels on TV, dipping in and out of other people’s lives and experiences. But to travel the river in a leather wicker craft is the same as having hitched a ride with a time traveller.
William Wilde’s old map was quickly unfolded from the back of his book to find where we were on the river, by the bridges we climbed onto or rated its echo qualities from beneath. On reading his descriptions of brutal battles by men, long forgotten by history your respect for the rivers heritage becomes heightened by every mile.
We have it easy, in comparison to the well laboured shoulders we now find ourselves standing upon. Snaking through the dredged remains of the upper Boyne, the south west winds and crossing sun are the only implements available to alert us of the direction we are pointing towards, the river constantly throwing us an event from its past to ponder as we paddle; Gaelic lords and Norman alliances, fairy God battles or great voyages yet unspoken of. The river turns and a new century unfolds, back and forth like mist filled layers of important notes to be held in trust for the ones who have not yet come to pass.
The river sucks you away from the present noise filled world, to see it as it was, and for the few of us, still is, when consumed by the rhythmic noise, that of your paddle, your companions and the river poets’ ripples, that Wilde captured so elegantly in stories. The apple falls not far from the tree, as Oscar Wilde was a progeny of a well-seasoned oak whose roots began their immersion by the grassy banks of the Boyne.