Pictured at Thursday’s protest were Paddy "Buggy" Ryan, John Collins, John Devereux, Pat "Captain" Dunne, John "Bunners" Regan, Jimmy "The Hoover" O'Brien, Kevin "Action Man" O'Loughlin, Mark Keogh, Leo Barnes, Noel Curran, Trevor and Pauline Simpson, Billy "The Bull" Flynn, Paddy “Hedderball” Ryan and Joe "Steam Engine" O'Loughlin.
A GROUP of cockle pickers staged a protest last week over a right of way dispute at a laneway leading to Tramore’s Backstrand.
The protest, which was held on Thursday last at Lisselan on the R685, was the second time this year that the concerned cockle pickers have taken such action.
As revealed in The Munster Express last May, the cockle pickers became concerned after a lock was placed on a gate at the top of a laneway which they have used to access the Backstrand for many years.
Traditionally, the owner (now deceased) of a property adjoining the laneway had allowed cockle pickers access the Backstrand via the laneway.
The cockle pickers had been permitted to use an area along the laneway to park their cars.
However, they now claim that a new owner has placed a lock on the gate which restricts access to the Backstrand.
A new ‘No Parking’ sign has also been erected recently.
The group say that because access is being denied they will have to park their cars on the busy roadway.
This has caused security concerns, while there are also concerns for some elderly members of the group who will have to walk an increased distance in order to access the Backstrand.
“We’re worried that one day we’ll wake up and we won’t have any access at all,” said Paddy ‘Hedderball’ Ryan.
The cockle pickers maintain that a right of way exists as they claim to have seen documentation which proves this.
After the first protest in May, the men received notification that the issue was being addressed by the new owner.
However, the cockle pickers claim that they have had no engagement from the owner.
Cockle collection on the Backstrand goes back generations and the area is regarded by many as being the best cockle bed in Ireland.
In the recent past, the tradition of cockle picking on Tramore’s Backstrand faced a challenge when attempts were made at large scale harvesting.
Cockles now cannot be harvested at the Backstrand for sale, but the tradition of cockle picking continues on a small scale.
Cockle picking is a much loved hobby for the men who were present at Thursday’s protest.
“If you come here in the summer, you will see families of all ages enjoying picnics and carrying on the tradition of cockle picking,” said Mr Ryan.
Meanwhile, Kevin ‘Action Man’ O Loughlin recalled cycling down the laneway to the Backstrand with his father, while Paddy ‘Buggy’ Ryan said his mother, grandmother and aunts all sold cockles and travelled to the Backstrand from Passage East on donkeys and carts.
Cockle sellers were a common sight in both Tramore and Waterford City up until the 1950s and 1960s.
Also in attendance at the protest were Trevor and Pauline Simpson who only became aware of the issue when they brought a Spanish family to pick cockles on the Backstrand during the summer and were surprised to find that the gate to the laneway was locked.
Many of those in attendance at the protest have been picking cockles for decades, including John ‘Bunners’ Regan (50 years), Jimmy ‘The Hoover’ O’Brien (60 years) and Billy ‘The Bull’ Flynn (45 years).
The group hope to form a committee and will hold a meeting tonight (Tuesday) at 7pm in The Exchange Bar, Ballybricken and say they will explore legal options if necessary.