‘Metal cage’ makes popular bathing spot look like a maximum security prison
Eyesore erected at Tramore site in name of health and safety
Guillamene swimming cove, Tramore, Co.Waterford. Photograph: Mary Browne.
Tramore has always been famous for its Metal Man. The able-bodied seaman points a warning finger at passing seafarers lest they mistake Tramore Bay for the entrance to Waterford Harbour and suffer the fate of the 363 souls who lost their lives there on a bad day in 1816 when the English transport ship, the Sea Horse , went down as crowds watched from the cliffs.
The bay is now attracting renewed attention on Facebook and elsewhere for what one might describe as a “metal cage” which has made an unwelcome appearance on the diving platform of the much loved Guillamene bathing spot, not far from Newtown Head where the Metal Man stands on his lonely plinth. A spot where local children sported and played a few short months ago now resembles a landing in a maximum-security prison.
The outrage is growing, particularly among those of us who grew up in the seaside town and love the Guillamene and the surrounding seascape in much the same way that John B Keane loved Listowel, or Yeats loved Sligo. It’s in the blood.
I have lived in exile from Tramore for many years but no return there would be complete without a walk out the road to the Guillamene and its neighbour Newtown Cove.
I introduced my son to it a few years ago and was delighted to see that it was love at first sight as he celebrated the new discovery with a back-flip off the diving board.
We have been going back ever since.
Last summer we were disappointed to see that the diving board was gone, the victim of a winter storm. It had replaced a previous one that had been snapped off by five idiots dancing on it.
What to do?
Instead of replacing the diving board, Waterford County Council was led by health and safety considerations to acquiesce in a scheme, implemented with EU funds, that has seen the whole of the Guillamene – from the flight of steps to the water’s edge – encased in more stainless steel than you would see in a Belfast shipyard, where it might not look so out of place.
The cornucopia of cutlery culminates in a cattle-pen arrangement on the old diving platform designed to force people to queue in an orderly fashion as though they were waiting to be admitted to the United States at some obscure but dangerous crossing on the Mexican border.
All that’s missing is a ticket machine.
One unintended outcome is likely to be an increase in the numbers of teenagers who dive off perches on the surrounding cliffs, a much more dangerous practice.
One can only speculate whether health and safety concerns will result in similar monstrosities being erected at other popular bathing spots, such as the Forty Foot in Sandycove.
My good friend, local artist Ger Kennedy, has recalled how her late father, the fondly remembered Tramore bookmaker Jimmy Kennedy, used to bring her down to the Guillamene for an early- morning dip in the 1960s when it was men only, and then apologise to any arrivals who might be offended at the gender intrusion.
Since its launch two weeks ago, 1,600 people have joined a campaign on Facebook to “Fix our Guillamene” and more are joining by the hour.
They have also staged a silent protest outside Tramore’s civic offices.
Many are paying tribute to the often unsung work carried out by the Newtown and Guillamene Swimming Club over the past 80 years in maintaining the facilities.
My recommendation to Tramore Town Council and Waterford County Council is that they fess up to this well-intentioned act of vandalism, remove this brutal intrusion and spend any funds they have available on keeping the toilets in the car park open, at least during the summer months when tourists come from far and wide to enjoy this treasured place on our coastline where generations of children have fallen in love with the sea.
Denis McClean is a Geneva-based journalist and is the founder of the Geneva Literary Aid Society: theglas.org