From a correspondent
Killaloe, so long famed in story and ancient chronicle, presented on Thursday last a truly agreeable picture. Thanks to our respectable Stewards, to whose exertions we are principally indebted for the day’s amusement, every arrangement conducive to harmony and good order was consulted for.
A great number of country people and fun-goers, with a goodly array in jaunting cars and carriages, streamed in from the surrounding districts, anxiously expecting the sport to commence.
At this moment the scene was charming in the extreme. Tourists whose interest it is to depreciate every thing national and every thing Irish, vie with each other in the description of their Swiss lakes — Alpine summits and Italian skies, wrapping up under the veil of “mysticism” the legendary beauties of the East with the classic allurements of the West; while they are quite unmindful of their Emerald Isle so fertile in hill and dale, mountain and valley, river and streamlet.
If one of those gentlemen ascended on such a day as this any of the numerous rising grounds in this locality he could behold below that beautiful piece of water, Lough Dergh — the Killarney of our Shannon — smiling beneath the brilliancy of the mid-day sun and bearing on its unruffled bosom hundreds of small craft, each with its joyous occupants.
And he may discern standing out in bold relief from both sides of the lake: the vast range of the Tipperary and Clare mountains rearing up their heads to the golden edged clouds — the fort of Kincora, with all the romantic associations of kingly names of old to recommend it; the handsome modern residences peering out from the dense foliage; the calm serenity of the sky; the gaudy pennons fluttering from the mast heads of the yachts and steam vessels in the harbour; and ever and anon his ear would be saluted with an occasional burst of music swelling out over the rushing river. Here too could be found subjects for the painter or the poet — for the landscapes of a Claude Lorrain, or the verses of a Petrarch.
[A voice, off: “Get on with it!”]
But to the regatta. The first race to come off was that of the gig boats. A stir among the small craft and the crowd on the Pier Head showed that the Stewards had come up; and in a few moments after lots had been drawn for the several positions — the boats were pulled up ready to start.
Some confusion ensued; two of the Commodores having rowed over to set off the rivals, some persons cried out “away” — upon which one of the gigs shot out before the others, without waiting for the gun to be fired as was agreed on. The boat was called back, but no use; on it went — on, on; the stewards consulted and agreed to set off the remaining two; the gun was fired, and the race commenced.
It was a very interesting one. The two boats, one manned by Killaloe and the other by Castleconnell men, perpetual antagonists in aquatic exercises, kept close to each other till they turned the point of Ballyvalley. Here they were met by the large steamer of the Dublin Company, which steamed into the Quay, Behemoth like, threatening to engulph race boats and all in the surge created by her paddle floats. When the vessel was moored, the gigs were seen pulling on bravely, there being a very sensible difference. The Castleconnell boat gained a head, and came up to the winning post with flying colours.
The next race, between flatbottomed or river cots, was not so well contested as the first. The Castleconnell gained the prize in this case also.
The third race was one of the most even and interesting we have ever witnessed. Instead of running up the lake towards Ballyvalley, as in the two former instances, they had now to face downwards, cross the weir wall, pass under the bridge, then down the rapids till they came to the old Friar’s Castle, then pole back against the stream to the place they started from.
Well, the boats were drawn up, the shot fired, and off they went like fury, and soon they neared the weir wall. At this moment great excitement prevailed among the crowds that lined the banks of the river; their very pulses you would say beat time to the hasty strokes of the oarsmen.
And now they are on the very top of the miniature precipice. Cleared, by Neptune, beautifully cleared, like so many hunters — one, two, three — there they are off again — down under the bridge — down the rapids, and arrived at the Friar’s Castle nearly at the same time.
Then all turn back; lay down their oars, and take up the long river poles. Now comes the tug of war. Now the trial of strength — now or never. On they come poling, struggling, slipping, avoiding the sinuosities of the river — the high stream, the sunken rock, or no less dangerous alluvial deposit of sand or weed, encouraging each other by the manes of their mightiest oarsmen, to work for their eternal honour.
The three boats arrived at the bridge; two of them kept side by side, the other three yards behind. They shot out beyond the arches, and it was hard to say which came in first. On they went, and a shot fired from the signal-boat boomed over the water, announcing the well-earned victory of the Killaloe men, who, by their gallant exertions in the last race, retrieved their hitherto immaculate name — a little tarnished by their first two attempts.
A few “squibs” came off during the evening, which continued beautifully fine; and then all our fun goers departed well satisfied with the sports of the day.
Limerick and Clare Examiner 7 September 1850
An 1851 cot race at Plassey is described here.