The two hours that this column recently spent in the company of a remarkable 87-year-old rank among the most intriguing of my 12 years in newspapering.
As he leafed through photo albums, newspaper clippings and reports prepared by his own pen during a fishing career that began in the 1940s, Alan Glanville revealed a fascinating personal story.
The English-born and bred Dunmore East resident, who, with his late wife Suanne made the village their home in 1957, is a multiple record holder with both rod and trawler.
A world authority on fishing, he was the United Nations’s first fisheries expert and installed the first engine in the Sri Lankan fishing fleet in 1951 (the island was then known as Ceylon).
His expertise took him across the world, fishing on both the east and west coasts of the United States, as well as the Bay of Biscay, off Gibraltar and the Canary Islands to name but a few.
Had he a map to pin the many seas and oceans he has fished in, what a populated chart that would be. And fish he still does, out of Dingle these days from the deck of his beloved ‘Carina’.
During Queen Elizabeth II’s recent visit to Ireland, Alan had the distinction of being the only fishing skipper invited to attend some of the ceremonial events held in Dublin to mark the historic event.
“It was a great surprise to receive an invite but also a great honour,” he said, with Dunmore Harbour and Hook Head providing a splendid backdrop from his study.
“But I believe it was my pioneering work in the fishing industry; as the first to trawl for herrings in these waters, as a writer of several technical books on fishing and, in my role as the United Nations’ first fisheries expert, which led to my being invited. And it was a wonderful occasion, one which I was very proud to be invited to – it was the hottest ticket in town!”
The concert held at Dublin’s Convention Centre to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s visit was an unforgettable occasion, one which Alan relished.
“President McAleese did a magnificent job. She’s been preparing for this visit for quite some time, despite a lot of criticism and I thought she conducted herself superbly. She couldn’t have been more presidential and it’s a shame in many ways she won’t be President for too much longer. We’re bloody luck to have had her.
“And the concert, what with the wonderful singing and the fantastic dancing and the eloquence of some of the speeches; Olivia O’Leary’s really springs to mind, and to have all of this topped off with a standing ovation for the Queen – my goodness hasn’t she some stamina? – it was a joy to be there, a truly great honour.”
During our conversation, Alan fleetingly referenced his service in World War II (limited to: “I was in the war as well”) and screen testing for ‘The Blue Lagoon’ starring Jean Simmons in 1949.
“I knew Jean Simmons, Elizabeth Taylor and Hedy Lamarr while I was in Hollywood – but that’s an altogether different world from fishing!”
As our conversation drew to a close, he produced some studio photographs he had posed for during his time in the United States, which he first journeyed to in 1948. And he certainly possessed the looks a casting director would have sought out.
Yet while he dipped his toes in the acting waters, it was the deep blue sea and the pursuit of fish aboard a trawler which was always his first professional love.
“I’ve been interested in fishing for as long as I’ve had memory,” he said. “My grandfather was a fisherman and it was primarily from him that my interest in fishing developed.
“And that interest has brought me around the world, into the employ of the UN, led to my being named in a House of Commons debate and into a few record books along the way. It’s given me a good life and that’s something I’ve always been very thankful for.”
Embarking for Ireland in 1957, with his work for the UN and his time in Ceylon behind him, Alan poetically articulated that first trip across the Irish Sea.
“When I set off for Dunmore, I had my boat, my wife, our cat and no money!” he said with a grin. “We came to Dunmore to trawl for herring – I was the first fisherman in either Britain or Ireland to do so – and to make a home.
“Well, we did both and it’s a place that’s been very kind to us – sadly my wife is no longer with us, but Dunmore and its surrounds are full of wonderful memories for us.”
Sitting in his study, surrounded by models of boats that Alan has fished on during a truly eventful life, he directed my attention to some film he had shot while fishing off Hook Head. With tea consumed and laughs shared, a remarkable morning was about to take another interesting turn.
* Alan had so much to say that one column alone cannot do our conversation justice, so drop your anchor onto this same page next week for a second instalment!