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A Day in My Life


Martin Simpson Fisherman and musician


A typical day would be…


The alarm is set for 5.55am, and for a particular reason – I need those first five minutes to rub the sleep out of my eyes and properly wake up before listening to the news and the all important weather forecast at 6am. I have been conditioned over the years to rise early and even on holiday, I will be up with the birds.


I sleep on average around eight hours a night but sometimes it could be a lot shorter due to playing a gig somewhere. If the weather is good enough to take the boat out fishing, I will, regardless of how little sleep I have had.


I start the day with a bowl of muesli and if I am going out fishing, I always take the same lunch – sardines with crackers, no butter, and a flask of black coffee. I love good food, as does my wife Christine; who is a great cook and if she is around, I am happy for her take over in the kitchen. After eight hours out on the sea, I look forward to coming in and enjoying what she has prepared. I am not really a drinker, I enjoy a couple of pints or a glass of wine but that would be my limit. Christine is a vegetarian, which means I am too, by default – I do occasionally eat meat, but if I were never to have it again, it wouldn’t bother me, but I couldn’t live without fish.


Due to the fact I rise so early, I tend to fall asleep in the evenings but when I manage to keep awake, I generally spend my evenings playing music and writing songs and perhaps watch a bit of TV.


Growing up…. I was born in Cornwall in southeast England, another location with a rich fishing history and a strong connection to Newfoundland. My family, for generations, have always been connected with the sea through the navy, fishing and as fish buyers. My grandparents were Scottish and at that time the men went out fishing for herrings while the women followed the boats from quay to quay where they would gut and cure the catch.


My father was cray fishing out of Newquay but skin divers came in killing the industry. They could easily pick the cray fish up off the seabed, no match for the passive method of using pots with bait. My father one day read that this practice was banned in Ireland and decided this was the place to move to. He set off in his boat for Cork but got lost in dense fog, eventually coming across the Metal Man where he spoke to two men in a punt – they advised him to make for the shelter of Dunmore East. He never made it to Cork and instead brought all his family to Dunmore East where we all settled


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and to this day both my parents and sister still live here. My brother was also a fisherman but got itchy feet and now teaches English to bankers in Spain, he too is a musician.


I had a colourful childhood and would sometimes be kept off school to help with lifting the full herring nets, I was a boy amongst men and loved it. I wasn’t very academic at school – or so I thought, and feel I learnt nothing of benefit between the ages 10 to 14. However, when I was studying for my skipper’s ticket, I devoured the books and passed with flying colours. I left school just before my fourteenth birthday and went to sea with my father. He was a strict disciplinarian and made sure no favoritism was shown to the skipper’s son, but it has held me in good stead and we have always had a close relationship. We spend a fair bit of time reminiscing when we meet up. My father continued fishing up until he retired in his late seventies and only recently sold his boat.


My interest in music started when I was taught the tin whistle at Killea National School and I was mesmerised by the band playing music between programmes on the first RTE black and white television station. I always wanted to play the guitar and back then nobody in the area could, except Gerry Power, a terrific ragtime player, who did give me some lessons when I was about eleven years old. I play a mixture of music including trad and my own compositions. I took time out from fishing from 1983 to live in Holland and become a part of the music scene there, but I came home in 1989, I suppose this is where my heart is and I love where I live in Ballymacaw.


Greatest achievement…. Being able to always do what I love and for recognising opportunities when they came along and availing of them.


And the future…. Just keep going…………fishing and playing music.


Advise for aspiring, future fishermen…. Unless the Government, or whoever is in power, does anything to improve the fishing industry, think very carefully before entering into it.


Successive governments have imposed rules and regulations that hinder instead of helping what could, and should, be a vibrant scene. It is so tragic, an island nation; steeped in a long and rich tradition and history of fishing, is allowing it to die, with no young blood coming into it. I hope this situation changes but the future is looking bleak.


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