Bob Hogg Remembers

Bob Hogg was born in Chapel Hill on 8th of March 1931, one of twelve brothers and sisters, Seamus, Sean, Teresa, Eileen, Fanny, Tom, Mary, Caroline, Michael, Joseph and Patrick, the children of Tom and Julia. (He is placed between Tom and Mary). His father Tom was a plasterer and his mother Julia Flavin had come to Castleconnell from Portlaw in Waterford to work as a cook in Shanacloon.  From the extensive research that Bob’s niece Betty Hogg Noonan has conducted on the Hogg family it appears that Robert Hogg (Bob’s great-great grandfather and his young wife Ruth Gunnell arrived as newly weds in Castleconnell in 1815, having married in St. John’s Church of Ireland in Limerick. He was a fishing rod-maker. The family have been in Castleconnell ever since but it is unclear when they changed religion to Roman Catholic.  

Bob remembers his childhood in Chapel Hill as a simple but happy time. He spent a lot of time with his uncle John, who was the last of the Hogg family to make the greenheart rods which the great John Enright had made famous many years before.

In the days where every fisherman in the area made his own rod, John Enright (grandfather of the famous fly casting champion John, who also made his own rod having learned the craft passed on down the generations) made the greenheart rod which brought fame to Castleconnell all over the world. This rod was so far superior to any other that it became extremely popular and well-known and of course, along with the huge salmon being caught here regularly brought fishermen and gentry from every part of the globe resulting in prosperity for the area. He started his own factory in a converted hayloft in the village in 1840. The doors of this loft were used to test the rod when it was made. The rod-maker would stand at the door and cast out to make sure it was perfect.

John Hogg had learned his trade as a skilled rod-maker from his father before him, the family had been rod-makers for three generations, the craft having been passed on from father to son.  Even as a young child, Bob was fascinated watching his uncle as the greenheart wood was “tempered” over a peat fire to get “a straight true finish.” John Hogg believed that the “supremacy of the rod was in its balance.” In an article in the Irish Independent on Saturday, November 1953, he is also quoted as saying “If the balance is true, when a cast is made the rod will spring from the butt to the tip so that the movement flows along it like music. If the balance is not true, it will kick against the cast. The real Castleconnell rod bends over like an arch of a bridge under the weight of a fish without as much as a jerk.”  Bob says he can still see John as he honed his craft, he didn’t use any form of measuring tool, just his eye and using sandpaper which had his forefinger and thumb imprinted on it and it was finished off polished with linseed oil. “The secret” he said “is the way it is applied with the hand. All the rest is just pure judgement.” Fishermen came from all over to buy these rods as the Enright factory had closed for many years. Although Bob watched and listened intently, he never tried to help as he felt he didn’t have anywhere near the skill needed.

As well as spending time watching his uncle work, Bob spent his early years playing around his back garden and loved running around the field at the back of the house, clambouring over the high wall to climb the many big beech trees and run freely down by the bank of the river. He remembers Woodlands House (The Castle Oaks House Hotel) which was owned by Malcolm Shaw of the famous bacon factory in Limerick and that time, he had a pitch and putt course in front of the house. He could be seen sometimes driving balls down by the bridge. Bob found a golf ball one day and brought it up to the front door of the house. He was surprised when the owner, Mr. Shaw answered the door and gave him 2/= (a florin) for the golf ball. He says that was a lot of money at the time, he was about 8 years old and was so delighted, he put it in his pocket and ran home to give it to his mother.

On Sundays, his father would take them for walks along the banks of the Shannon and on one occasion, he remembers that he brought Tom (his brother) and himself along under Woodlands and Belmont House, past Mick Tuohy’s and on in under Hermitage which was then owned by Willie Moran.  They were crossing over the river by the rocks which stretched across (where the Falls of Doonass were originally), some of the areas to cross were very wide and he remembers his brother lifting him up and handing him over to his father several times as they made it all the way over to Clare. He marvels now at the strength of Tom who was only about eighteen months older than himself. There was a salmon hole out there called the “dancing hole” he explains that this is where the water just falls in and creates all kinds of currents from the pressure of the water going into it.

He was happy enough at school and he recalls that Mr Houlihan was teacher of the senior classes and Mr Edmonds taught the junior children. He also remembers a  Mr O’Meara and Sean O’Sullivan who was a very popular teacher as he played piano and banjo and was a very good singer. They all gathered on a Sunday evening under the tree beside the new Hall and had a sing along with him. This was the highlight of the week!

Bob left school at about fourteen and followed in the footsteps of his three older brothers, Seamus, Sean and Tom and went to learn the trade of plastering from his father. He walked to Newport as the others had done before him and when the work was scarce he worked in the Bog, helping to foot the turf and loading the barrow. This was hard work too and paid about a £1 a week. He also worked for small farmers around the area and spent a lot of his time with Danny Ryan (Mick) in Goiug, in the Bog and also setting potatoes and doing other odd jobs for him. He remembers hunting hares during the week with Michael (Cagey) Mackey and his brother Anthony. At that time, you earned a little money wherever you could.

Then, his father secured work on a private housing scheme near St Camillus’ Hospital in Limerick and Bob went to serve his time as an apprentice plasterer with him. Sean was also working with them at this time. Eventually, that job was finished and every year for the builder’s holidays in August, Bob went to England. He took his tools with him and worked there on the building sites until Christmas. He did this for a few years and then he and Sean got a job working on the original building of the Regional Hospital in Limerick. There he became very good friends with another plasterer called Tony O’Grady. They worked together in the Roxboro area as well and then decided to go to Canada together.

They made their arrangements and booked their tickets through the Limerick Steamship Company. He still remembers leaving the train station in Limerick and his sister Fanny and Mary Bradshaw were standing on the platform seeing him off. They travelled by boat from Southampton and met a few other men from Dublin on the crossing. He stayed in Canada for two years and met and married his wife Moira there. They returned to England and worked there for some years. Work was plentiful there as it was after the war and a lot of building work was available.

They then came home to Ireland and bought The Angler’s Rest in Doonass. Here, they started a bed and breakfast business as Bob worked all over the city and county plastering, Moira ran the business with his help at the weekends. They targeted the coarse fishing fraternity in England and had many visitors over the years, sometimes the wives of the fishermen came to holiday as well. They are still friends to this day with some of those visitors. It was very hard work but the support from their neighbours the O’Briens and the Gleesons was fantastic and they became great friends with them Their three children Dermot, Kieranne and Gavin had an idyllic early childhood growing up on the banks of the Shannon.

After a number of years, they sold The Angler’s Rest and bought a 35 acre farm in Springfield, Clonlara and again, Sean and Bob continued with their plastering and he and Moira ran the farm together.

Bob has had many interests over the years fishing and tying flies among them and he also enjoyed a great reputation as a dog trainer. He attended sheep dog trials in England as a judge at these competitions on several occasions.

Bob and Moira returned to Bob’s native village of Castleconnell when they retired about ten years ago and since then have settled well into village life again. They enjoy all the scenic walks along by the river, Bob has been a member of the Church choir, he had a life-long interest in music and singing and has some great old songs about the locality and the people who lived in it. He learned to play the flute in later life and takes part with a group of like-minded musicians in Guerin’s Pub every Wednesday. They have travelled to America and recently to Spain where they played music, sang songs and had the “craic.”

Bob and Moira share a love of travelling and as well as travelling all over Europe, they have visited Egypt, Australia, Canada and have toured the USA extensively over the years.

They celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary this year and all of the committee of An Caisleán join with their family and friends to wish them good health and happiness as they continue their life journey together.