Dermot Farrelly – an appreciation


Dermot Farrelly – deceased 9/9/2011 – RIP


Tom Sullivan writes: I came to the Boat Club at Longmeadows in 1956. UCD rowing was at its lowest ebb since its foundation. I heard regular references to Old Collegians, and before very long, to us ‘Maidens’, the face of O.C. came to be Dermot Farrelly, Joe Hanly and Jim Meenan. Without their presence and support I often wonder what would have become of the place. If ever a group provided continuity they did. They introduced Peter Spillane to coach the ‘Maidens’ in 1957-58 and some success was achieved. Peter was in full control of coaching in 1958-59, and he brought along Barry McDonnell and between them they put a very good Senior Eight on the water. By 1960 the Pot had been won again by the College, and the rest is on record.

We raced at Cappoquin in ’59 and Dermot travelled to support the crew. I remember that one because it was early days for that crew and Cappoquin was almost ultramontane at the time. And it was that level of interest and involvement that I always admired in Dermot. He was there to watch the rowing; he was there at every post regatta get-together to congratulate us, or commiserate with us. I believe Dermot’s presence through those years stirred renewed interest in many other members of Old Collegians. Michael Hayes, Roughan Banim, Frank McKenna and others became regular faces around the place.

He joined the Boat Club in 1943, having rowed at Dublin Rowing Club before he came to College. He was Captain of the Club in 1945. When College won the Senior Eights Championship of Ireland at Waterford in 1947, he rowed 7 in that crew. He was also the first President of the UCD Ladies Boat Club, when it was founded by Mary Stuart and others in 1974.


Dermot was a family man. He was an architect by profession. But the Dermot I knew was a rowing man. He was the driving force behind the move of the Dublin Metropolitan Regatta to Blessington Lake. He was the force behind the decision of University College Dublin to purchase the Salmon Weir site from St. Patrick’s Hospital to provide a new site for the College Boat Club. He would have loved to see the project completed as he had planned — boathouse and separate clubhouse. Maybe some day.

In rowing he saw two great objectives for the Boat Club —the Irish Senior Eights Championship and victory at Henley. Henley success proved elusive, but again he persisted and invited Geoffrey Page to offer his experience to College rowing. And Henley success came with victory in the 1974 Ladies’ Plate. It used not to be all on the water during Geoffrey’s visits to Dublin. I have fond memories of get-togethers in Neptune and Commercial or in Ryans of Parkgate Street after practice with Dermot, Geoffrey, Peter Linehan, Donal Hamilton, Pat O’Sullivan, Frank McKenna and Barry McDonnell.

The lads from the crews of 1971 and the following years developed great attitudes to training and winning from the enthusiasm generated around that time. After the drinks came food with more drinks and Dermot was never slow to put his hand in his pocket to take care of the tab in places like the Bailey, the Wicklow or the Hibernian. They were the high-end eateries of those days and Dermot was generous to a fault where the Club was concerned.

Dermot was nothing if not persistent. He saw no reason why every objective would not be achieved by persistence and dogged determination. Long before John F Kennedy asked it, Dermot Farrelly was asking “why not”? If you were to win at Henley every other year, Dermot would most likely say “but Harvard win every year”. Impatient and difficult to satisfy Dermot could be.

Where do I see Dermot? I see Dermot in his office at Baggot Street (later at Herbert Street) at 5.30 p.m. of an evening ready for another 0.C. meeting — Dermot pipe in mouth; the office perfumed with tobacco smoke. I see him in Larry Murphy’s after meetings or In the Stag’s Head when meetings were held there. I see him driving in his beige-coloured M.G. into the old Boat Club at Longmeadows of a Saturday evening. I see him afterwards amid the gathering in the Athletes’ Rest.

I recall him and myself in Jim Miley’s company in Miley’s pub in Blessington on Summer evenings after a Metro Regatta meeting in the Downshire.

I see him with Wally Stevens, Eamon Goggin and others working late on the Regatta installations on the lake.

I see him at Henley with Maura observing perfect Regatta decorum in dress and behaviour.

When I think of Dermot I ask myself did I ever see him dishevelled in appearance? Or unruly or Loud-mouthed? Never., Most of us can go overheard from time to time but never Dermot. He just had that innate sense of propriety, He was gentle and mild mannered. He was generous of spirit — incapable of being mean in thought or deed.

I think of him with great affection. He will be Dermot — forever questioning; forever pushing out the boundaries.

May God rest him.




6 thoughts on “Dermot Farrelly – an appreciation

  1. What a great piece by Tom Sullivan.

    There is no doubt that Dermot had a huge efect on those of us who joined UCDBC in the fall of 1958 and onwards.

    I remember him well when our boat was sunk at Metro in 1959 and we all nearly drowned !

    Dermot was a huge inspiration for a great many people both inside and outside Rowing.

    May God have mercy on his gentle soul.

  2. Tom’s comments do great justice to Dermot who was indeed a terrific gentleman and it is fascinating to realise that he was so instrumental in encouraging his peers to support UCD boat club. I have fond memories as an undergraduate of consuming barrels of beer in the old boathouse with the plaque respectfully covered with a dirty towel, singing ditties, mainly improper, in the company of Jim Meenan, Joe Hanly, chief chorus master Frank McKenna, and Dermot. His trust of my young man’s character in proposing me for membership of Stewards was typical of his insightfullness, thoughtfulness and generosity towards us undergraduates and it is because of him and gentlemen like him but the spirit of UCD boat club remains strong today.

    At dheis De go raibh a anam.

  3. Well done Tom .
    You really have highlighted the man that was Dermot Farrelly.
    My memories of my days in UCD Boat Club always included Dermot. He was ever present. He gave more than most to The Boat Club. We are in his debt. May he spend happy days in Heaven by a river in a racing eight.

  4. What a wonderful tribute by the master wordsmith! How lucky were those of us active in UCDBC half a century ago to have DF and all those other great names as our mentors and latterly our friends.

    Nostalgia is not entirely a thing of the past.

  5. Tom you have written a lovely piece about Dad. Thank you very much.

    One of my very first memories of regattas with Dad has little to do about rowing ! At Blessington regattas, Dad was in charge of the mobile toilets. They were constantly a source of trouble and to a 6 or 7 year old at one of my first regattas all I really remember is the constant call over the tannoy for “Dermot Farrelly to the portaloo”. Outdoor toilets are not generally the type of place one likes to hang out and as a little girl I already appreciated that. I wondered what Dad actually had to do when he got to the portaloo. I felt so sorry for him. I think the announcement “Dermot Farrelly to the portaloo” illustrates Dad’s absolute dedication to rowing!

  6. Dermot Farrelly, along with Wally Stevens and Dessie O’Sullivan, were the three stalwarts of Metro, who started the modernisation of Irish Rowing, but who didn’t just start it, they stayed with it for many more years to see it firmly established at Blessington with the first multi-lane, non-tidal course of 2000 metres in the country, the International model. It wasn’t an easy task, and it needed their vision and solid continuing commitment to make it stick.
    There are of course two particular monuments to Dermot’s commitment to Irish rowing, the ‘new’ UCD boathouse at Islandbridge, and the Metro Boathouse at Blessington — both essentially the stages one of what was intended as a start to the new future. The five major clubs of Islandbridge, all winners at Henley between
    1973 and to-day, must work together to build for an even better tomorrow. mj

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