2014 newsmaker: flood victim Brian Keogh

‘As soon as the water went down, I gave the boat back’

Brian Keogh: “It took about three months for the water to go down.”  Photograph: Liam Burke/Press 22

Brian Keogh: “It took about three months for the water to go down.” Photograph: Liam Burke/Press 22

 

This year several severe storms hit parts of the west coast of the country. In some counties, such as Clare, the flooding caused by the heavy rain also extended inland.

Among the people affected by the flooding were Brian Keogh and his family, who live in the townland of Ballygar, near Newmarket-on-Fergus, in Co Clare. Keogh’s was one of a few houses that were cut off for weeks from the road, because of flooding from a complex series of lakes nearby.

When he was interviewed by this newspaper in March, Keogh reported that the roads around him were under more than two metres of water. An active scuba-diver, he tested the depth while wearing his gear. “I went into the water up to my neck, and there was still a load of water.”

At that point the floodwater had been submerging the road for six weeks. So how long did it take the flood to recede?

“It took about three months for the water to go down,” he says. “My house has a bit of elevation, and I can see for three or four miles. All I could see was water. It was more like a sea view than a lake view.”

At the time of the flood Keogh’s twin sons, Dylan and Conor, were still under two years old. “They weren’t able for the walk out, so they had be carried in and out every day.”

The “walk out” consisted of Keogh carrying the twins, one at a time, down his driveway, up a neighbour’s driveway, through a gate, across a field, over a wall into another neighbour’s, down their avenue, across yet another field, into another neighbour’s and out of their gate.

Keogh borrowed a jeep and a boat from friends. He used the boat to ferry groceries – an incongruous aquatic journey across the route he normally walks or drives. The boat had no engine. “I inquired about buying a small engine, but I couldn’t justify the cost for such a short period of time,” he says. So he rowed instead. “The Civil Defence had said that if we gave them notice they’d deliver the groceries for us, but I thought I’d get my own boat.”

He did not want to risk the toddlers in the boat; they would have required lifejackets – more potential cost – and close supervision by an additional adult per child to ensure that they didn’t fall in.

“Even after the water went down we couldn’t use our cars for a couple of weeks. There was debris everywhere. But as soon as the water went down I gave the boat and the jeep back.”

The Keogh family have been in their house for 10 years, and have not made any changes to it since the flood. “There’s nothing we can do. The council are talking about possibly raising the road, but it doesn’t solve the issue of flooding.”

When The Irish Times caught up with Keogh, in mid December, the water in Ballygar lake was rising again. “The lake hasn’t had a proper chance for the water to drain out of it,” he said. “Even in the summer the level of the lake was about one and a half feet higher than usual.” He’s watching it anxiously, hoping he won’t have to borrow that boat for his grocery shopping again.