Carlingford Curragh Club remember Tom McCann
Over twenty years ago, Tom brought the currachs to Warrenpoint. He acquired four currach boats from Donegal and had them housed in the small enclosure beside the boathouse.
The first few years involved racing across the Lough, including Omeath as a venue and this was promoted by him and a few locals. For fear of missing someone out, we will not name them all, but it is fitting to acknowledge Michael Durkin, a local school teacher, now sadly passed away who worked closely with Tom in what was a new activity for the Lough.
Links with USA
At the same time, Tom was developing strong links with a currach club in the USA based on the Hudson river in Albany, the administrative capital of Washington DC. This Club was the Albany Irish Rowing Club, affiliated to the North American Currach Association which promotes currach racing and the Celtic marine heritage.
Somewhere along the way, probably two to three years into our formation, prompted by Tom and one or two others, we changed our Club name from Warrenpoint Currach Club to Carlingford Lough Currach Club. The thinking was that it better reflected where we do most of our rowing, out on the shared space of Carlingford Lough and Tom, of course, always had his eye on the bigger picture.
These links with America took the shape of exchange visits from officials in Albany who were also members of the Albany Irish Rowing Club and this proved to be fortuitous for us and for what was to be the delivery of the Annual International Currach Championships in Warrenpoint. Annual exchanges across the Atlantic also developed into local Council involvement and St Patrick’s Day invites. We can’t remember which came first, but either way, the support from the Albany Club, in particular, Dick Adair and Mike Conners, and their relationship with Tom, was a catalyst for the formation of the Annual International Currach Championships in Warrenpoint every August and it is now approaching its nineteenth year.
That, I suppose, is one of the sad points in what is otherwise a tale of success and triumph, as Tom was already suggesting, only last month, ideas of how to mark the approaching twentieth year of the event; a mark of the man’s fortitude and enthusiasm for the club and how much he enjoyed the event.
As a brief aside, Tom acquired his degree from the University of Ulster, and from the early 70s into the 80s had a record shop in the town. He would also be seen around the length and breadth of Ireland at numerous fairs and festivals in his entrepreneurial role which could be anything from candyfloss to videos! Many interesting stories were relayed by him regarding these ventures.
He had a tremendous interest in wars and conflicts throughout the world and the role that the Irish played in them, from the Flight of the Earls and their impact on wars in Europe, the American War of Independence and Civil War to the Boer War and the two World Wars. His knowledge, in particular, of World War II was incredible. He compiled a lot of research on this Irish theme and at one stage rang up the North Korean government asking them if they had any records of individual Irishmen involved in their conflict. He jokingly confirmed, in somewhat colourful language, that he got a reply - but it was not helpful!
He was always keen to promote the welfare and interests of people in Warrenpoint and this was evidenced by his involvement in many voluntary community-based groups in Warrenpoint, too numerous to mention over the years. He also developed great lobbying skills and became an expert in drawing down funding for many of these groups.
He was a inaugural member of the new Council Crotlieve DEA Committee and was a proud recipient
of the coveted award from the Council for service to the community. He was able to communicate comfortably and confidently with local government bodies on many issues regarding the Warrenpoint area but could be adversarial when he needed to be if he thought a group or individuals from Warrenpoint were not getting the support they deserved; although officials and others respected his straightforward approach and humour.
The Club now boasts four three-hander currachs, a four-hander and a clubhouse that meets its operational needs.
Thanks to his work, our friends from the USA visit us every year for the Championships and the event has grown to include teams from Skerries, Donegal, East Wall [Dublin], Boyne, Kilrush and Rosmuc.
We can only refer to his legacy regarding the Carlingford Lough Currach Club and for this we thank him. If success in life means making a positive difference to others, we, in the Carlingford Lough Currach Club, confirm that Tom succeeded in this.
This has been a short tribute from our perspective and I am sure other groups and locals in Warrenpoint can add to Tom’s long list of achievements.
We extend our deepest sympathy to his immediate family, neighbours and friends. RIP Tom.