The following article was taken from "Kayak"
magazine October 1970:
|THE LIFFEY DESCENT|
Six months before the Liffey Descent, I regarded canoeing as a pleasant Sunday
afternoon sport for retired gentlemen. After six months of having A.F.A.S. capsize me,
push me over weirs, plunge me into 10' high surfing waves, and generally initiate me into
the gentle art of canoeing; I decided that canoeing is not a sport to be recommended
to retired gentlemen.
I decided to try this "Liffey Descent" that
the canoeing in-crowd talk so much about. So Margaret Sarsteiner and I suggested to A.F.A.S. that
they should sponsor us, and after their gales of laughter had died down, they realised that
we were serious.
Never before have
two people gone into anything that they knew so little about! Our first
step was to drive up to and inspect Palmerstown, Wren's Nest, Straffan and Lucan Weirs, and
promptly to decide that we should portage all four; we then went home feeling that we
had achieved something.
On the week before the event, Leslie Hyland gallantly offered to show us
some of the river. The first night we paddled from Lucan to Palmerstown
in thick fog, and shot the intervening weirs more by accident than by design. On the
second night it was so dark that we could have been shooting Niagara Falls for all
we could see.
So, our training completed, we rolled up on the morning of
Saturday 5th, and gazed at Straffan Weir getting higher and higher, and listened to
the experts debating whether to shoot to the right or left. We silently vowed
that if we came through that bridge alive, we would give up our riotous
living and spend the rest of our lives in sackcloth and ashes in
thanksgiving. When all the others started we stayed behind them debating whether to start shooting or
portaging. When we got into the queue, and saw all the others going over the
top, are took our lives into our hands and shot. It was just great
!!! We felt are had completed the course when we emerged at the other
side of the bridge in one piece and upright. We paddled on and chatted to two
other blokes in our class for about a mile, when one of them suddenly drew
into the bank. And so we all stopped while he produced a plastic
lunch box with sweets and biscuits and cigarettes from beneath his spray cover.
By the time we got to Temple Mills and Vanessa, most of the fleet, was miles
ahead, but our two friends obviously knew the course, so we just followed them exactly and
came out alive.
We folIowed them down Celbridge Rapids and over
the lakes. When we launched again aftter the dam, we discovered that we were alone,
so when we came to the Sluice, we shouted at the people on the
bank to point to the place where least people had capsized and then we
shot. By the time we got to Lucan I was exhausted, and shot at
a spot where there weren't any divers, working on the assumption that they would be standing
where they expected people to go over. After I had shot the crowd began to cheer
madly, and I tried to look like a top-class canoeist as I paddled towards
the bridge. At this stage I thought the cheering was a bit prolonged, and
when I looked around, I saw Margaret swimming round in the water hanging on like mad to
her canoe. No wonder the crowd was going wild! We set off again feeling like
two complete beginners. At Anna Liffey, we had a chat with two men in
a boat about the best way to shoot, and the general concensus of
opinion was to go over the fish pass if we could find it. I found it,
but Margaret decided to see what it was like on the other side of the wall
and promptly capsized.
At this stage, people on the banks were staring goggle-eyed
at us. They couldn't believe that we had left at the same time
as the others, and we had great difficulty preserving our dignity, to a chorus of "Here
come the very last ones". "Gosh, look here are some MORE coming down", and "Put
a shilling in it, missus." At Wren's Nest, the crowd were so experienced in
the right place to shoot that they got us over without any mishap.
At Palmerstown I was so surprised at the length of the weir that I didn't have
time to think about capsizing, and I turned round to watch Margaret coming down. She
looked really professional right down to the end where she spoiled it all by
capsizing, and I nearly did likewise laughing at her. Further down we had,
a short delay when we tried to rescue a scout who had capsized, but I think
we messed him up so much that he was glad when we paddled off and left
him to it.
By the time are staggered. over the finishing line, most people had
changed, showered, stowed their boats and gone; but we were most aggrieved at not getting our
bottle of Coke.
The Descent was great fun and very hard work, but
we feel jolly proud at finishing, even if we did finished near the end, and looked
like Desert Rats.