Richie Fitzgerald: ‘I often hear it said that surfing saved Bundoran’

The house has stood on the main street of Bundoran since the 1880s, but when Richie Fitzgerald looks through the bay window on the second floor, it does not take him long to slip into his 10-year-old skin and conjure the summer shenanigans along the main street in the early 1980s.

The nightclubs, the fights, the traffic, the shouting, the smashed glasses, the morning clean-ups with Jeyes fluid. Or that night the guy landed in through the family’s livingroom window. On a motorbike. And then started boxing the guards. For a 10-year-old boy, the summer town was Narnia with grit: manic energy, a pronounced Republican edge, mad fun, an undercurrent of menace.

And then came winter. The same window faces directly on to Brighton Terrace, up which Fitzgerald would scoot with a surfboard to hit the ocean in six minutes flat. Sometimes he could spend 10 hours in the water with nobody for company. The church spire, McGovern’s American house, later the corner of Waterworld: these became his co-ordinates. He could get into the water in broad daylight and stay there until the street lights had come on and it was becoming dark and he had left himself just 10 minutes to get out of the sea and at the table for dinner.

“This is the Bundoran of yesteryear,” he says now.

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