The Story and History of UISCE
It all started during the Summer of 1988 in Fenit Sailing Club, Co Kerry, when Ciarán Ó Murchú, aged 18 at the time, sat in a GP14 sailboat for the first time during his army cadetship adventure training. He immediately knew that he was experiencing a very special moment that would change the course of his life.
Having grown up surrounded by the sea and consistent winds in Belmullet, Ciarán could not understand why he had never been in a sailboat at home. After experiencing the joy and adventure of sailing, he made a personal pledge to bring this wonderful sport back to his hometown.
The high rate of unemployment in the 80s, and the inevitable doom and gloom surrounding it, had a huge impact on the young Ciarán. It was one of his life’s ambitions to inspire people to work and create employment at home.
The final ingredient in the pot was his parents. The native speakers encouraged Ciarán and his 8 siblings to speak Irish at home when they were growing up. Ciarán, as a rebellious teenager, found speaking Irish extremely difficult and didn’t see the point. This changed dramatically in his early twenties while on an Irish course with the civil service in Connemara. The value of Gaeilge as a national asset and a part of our culture and heritage was impressed upon him. Suddenly, he was very grateful for his fluency in the language. Following the course in Connemara, Ciarán decided to embrace the pride he felt for Gaeilge. He decided to spread his enthusiasm and embark on a journey to introduce a “Fun” element to the language. The concept for UISCE was growing – Spórt Trí Ghaeilge.
During the Summer of 1991, Ciarán met a young dynamic engineer from Cobh, John Mc Namara. Both Ciarán and John decided to look at the feasibility of setting up UISCE in Ciarán’s hometown of Belmullet. Four months later, they purchased £10,000 worth of watersports equipment based on the results of the study. There was no turning back now! UISCE was born.
UISCE started its first days in a small house overlooking Elly Bay. The first course was run during Easter 1992 and cost £2 for a day’s watersports.
With the support of Ciaran’s Dad, Gearóid Ó Murchú, a local school teacher, they decided to blend the activities with learning Irish. Ciarán was still working full-time as a pilot in the Air Corps at the time and relied heavily on his family for support in running the business. Tribute must also be paid to Ciarán’s mother Máirín who worked tirelessly on the course administration at the time. She juggled this duty while raising his younger siblings – you can always depend on your mammy to help you out in times of need!
In 2000, Ciarán and his wife Máire decided to leave the safety of their full-time state jobs in Dublin and move west to develop Coláiste UISCE. They were embarking on an exciting journey to establish the first full-time watersports center working Trí Ghaeilge in the country.
With a budget of £600,000, a huge renovation was undertaken to develop the site and the buildings. The work that was due to take two years was finished within nine months, due to the exceptional energy and dedication of local builders. Today, the result of that hard work is seen in this state-of-the-art center with 30 bedrooms, 4 classrooms, a large professional kitchen & dining room, and changing rooms etc. Ciarán and Máire proudly opened the doors of the new centre on 1st June 2001.
Further development followed. UISCE began to operate outside the summer season. They welcomed school groups, watersport competitors, and corporate events from September to June. UISCE continues to break new ground and we’ve since hosted everything from inter-varsity competitions to trips for MBA students.
UISCE has gone from strength to strength since its conception in the early 90’s. Today, there is a skilled and accomplished team at its heart. Many of our staff are past students, prefects, teachers, and instructors of Coláiste UISCE, working together to continue Scéal UISCE.
Some interesting Historic facts;-
- 1740 Riocaird Bairéad (poet ‘Preab san Ól’) and Eoghan Cóir (An Irish Satirist) was born and raised on the site where UISCE is based
- The town land of ‘Barrack was established in the 19th century. During the First World War English soldiers were sent here to take a break in the purpose-built barracks.
- The Irish Coast Guards built a slipway in the 1900s which is still in use today.
- UISCE’s original building, an old doll factory called ‘Crolly Dolls’, was set up by Údarás na Gaeltachta in 1938. This initiative was an important part of the community until its closure in 1971. It is the oldest building under the care of the Údarás.
- The factory opened its doors again in 1973 as a children’s clothes company. Children’s clothing ‘Babygro’ and ‘Childrensworld’ were manufactured until 1983. The building is still known as ‘The Factory’ locally.
- UISCE charged local children £2 to attend a weekend course in 1992! There were 30 students on courses back then.
- UISCE purchased the buildings and the site from Údarás na Gaeltachta in 2000 in order to complete the £600,000 renovations. The completed project cost in access of £800,000.
- Today there are 15 people employed full time at UISCE and the business is going from strength to strength.