Peter McNiff hard at work with a trusty companion.
Wicklowgold.comis the website of local writer, Peter Mc Niff, who regularly posts illustrated stories from the past about Greystones and County Wicklow related to its history. Among the highlights which received an award from Ireland’s Heritage Council is also available at this site is “A brief history of Greystones” by Noel Kennedy, produced by Peter McNiff.
Peter McNiff is author and publisher of “Stories from A Small Town,” An Anecdotal History of Greystones (2003)
The project, which was four years in the making, received awards from the La Touche Legacy Committee and Ireland’s Heritage Council.
It is still in print online and may be purchased online from here.
Michael Mc Ginley published the La Touche Family in Greystones - (the mast of our website is derived from the front cover) in 2004 and is available from the town council office and the local village bookstore
I'm just a collector and assembler' says DerekPaine, Boatbuilder & Town Historian
Derek Paine was born in Greystones in 1931.With his brother Stanley and sister Joan, he was reared at the edge of the sea in Glencoe, an old house that still stands on the North Beach and which was owned by his maternal grandparents, the Thompsons.
Survived the savage sea
Later the family home was Glenkyle, Rathdown Road on land bought in conjunction with the Greystones Utility Society.Reason for the house-remove was coastal erosion.At the time it was assumed Glencoe would end up in the sea like many others destroyed by storms on the North Beach.Glencoe survived the savage sea.
This influenced Derek in a childhood ambition to join the navy.In preparation he studied at the Hibernian Marine School in Clontarf, Dublin only to be disappointed.The blow came after his medical examination for enlistment: he was designated colour blind.He also suffered a serious blood disorder which ended his days at the school.He finished his education at St Andrews School, Bray, County Wicklow.
Most of his working life was spent with a financial company until an asset stripping take-over forced him into early retirement.
In leisure time he developed many skills to the point of mastery, as a sailor and in craftwork.He restored old and damaged furniture.He made model ships and yachts from kits and scrap.He carved blue nosed schooners from ends of wood, rigged them and slid them into liquor bottles, corked and bound them with the neat twist of a Turk's head.
He ventured into boat repairs and eventually built traditional day-sailors from Canadian silver spruce, American oak, and Burmese teak.These were Water Wags, of clinker construction and the oldest one-design sailing dinghy in the world, of which he built four.
Several boats, purchased by the Association from various parts of Ireland and one from Wales, were completely rebuilt and are competing successfully in the fleet..
Tribute to "Skee" Gray
Today his 14-footers turn in record times in Dun Laoghaire harbour, raced by club members of the Royal Irish Sailing Club and the Royal George Yacht Club.
Derek is much sought after for the high quality of his boat work, a limited amount of which he still takes on at a price no one contests is anything but fair.
"I got into boat building because my father made model boats."Derek said, rendering tribute to the late Edwin "Skee" Gray, a boatbuilder who became his mentor and who passed on the mantle he wears today as chief maintenance man for Water Wags. "After the Second World War my father was dealing in bronze, brass and copper and became very friendly with "Skee" a boat builder in Dun Laoghaire.He used to supply him with nails and copper fastenings and bolts.He was a great man with his hands, a great boat builder and a very honest man."
From early manhood Derek took a strong, active interest in the town's community development programmes and for many years was secretary of the the Greystones Civics Association (GCA) in company with its chairman, the late Don McClean. They campaigned effectively for town improvements on everyone's behalf, and in 1967 led a robust team of local mariners on a project that revitalised the harbour for twenty years.
Unfortunately, a number of misdirected people scuppered their later efforts to continue the annual improvements and eventually the harbour reverted to nature. The GCA was a forerunner of Greystones Town Commission and its foundation became one of its most important projects, entailing much research and many meetings with public officials and local politicians. Of his chief interests, boatbuilding and local history, Derek says "I am merely an assembler and collector."
As a "collector", his dogged enthusiasm over a period of Forty years was rewarded by seven books of vintage photographs which published privately.
"My main regret is that I did not start the collection sooner," says Derek. He remains constant in this search, a long and painstaking trawl for documentary and photographic evidence of the town's heritage.
Greystones and this web site is greatly in his debt for the historic materiel collected and assembled for future generations to appreciate.. His books are availab le from the Town Council Office or Contact Us Here at this website