A Weird and Wonderful Day on Coney Island

Sligo Champion, September 16th, 1998

It was a joyful day, all sunshine and smiling faces. Hundreds of people crossed to Coney Island for a summer celebration at the end of August. The Sligo Ploughing Association had organised a competition as a warm up for the All Island Championships next month. And to add variety and loads of fun to the day a whole lot of other weird and wonderful contests took place.

The Narayana Cup, a wooden boat sailing race, was held for the first time, The beautiful floating trophy, designed and made by Dave McLoughlin of Benbulben Pottery, was won by Nicolas Prins, Beltra.

In honour of this occasion, the small cannon which normally stands proudly by the bar in John McGowan's pub on the island, was brought out to start the race. The last time the cannon was fired was over one hundred years ago before the Narayana, the ship on which it was carried, foundered at the back of Coney Island.

As the ploughmen and loy diggers turned their sods at one end of the island, there was much hilarity down at the pier where the greasy poll contest was in full swing. Spectators watched in delighted amazement as one man after another attempted to dislodge Steven Taylor from his perch at the end of the pole, ten foot above the sea.

The grassy banks overlooking the little harbour were dotted with picnickers. For those who hadn't brought picnics there were sizzling sausages and sandwiches, steaming plates of delicious colcannon and mountains of fresh mussels at the food stalls.

The warm food was much appreciated by the women who competed in the Ladies Maritime Challenge - a mad splashing, spluttering race in which each woman had to paddle an enormous tractor inner tube from one beach to another.

The Men's Gas Bottle Race afforded much amusement as lads of all ages and shapes attempted to keep their balance while walking on rolling gas cylinders from one end of a bumpy field to the other - avoiding the cow pats on the way.

The Tug-o-war contest at the end of the day drew a huge excited crowd, many of whom must have woken hoarse the next morning yelling: Lie on it, lie on it, pull, pull!

As the sun set, candles and gas lamps were lit in the island houses. Camp fires began to glow and everywhere there were happy, exhausted, sun-kissed faces. For those who had brought tents there were hours of music and song ahead. For those leaving the island there was the lovely leisurely trip from pillar to pillar across the magical strand... a fine end to a joyful day.


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