Ladies and Gentlemen
On behalf of Kilkee Civic Trust and all of the people of Kilkee we welcome you here today. We especially welcome those of you who have traveled long distances to be here for this unique occasion, the families and loved ones of those remembered in this beautiful, sometimes serene and more often wild place.
I stood on a cliff top not far from here on a dark night in November, 2001 and looked out over a scene that was both foreboding and heartbreaking because some hours before I had learnt of the discovery of the rowing vessel ‘Lun’ by local fishermen Gerry Concannon and Tom Walsh; the ‘Lun’ which Dr. Nenad Belic had single-handedly rowed across the Atlantic and which had brought him so close to achieving his goal.
In the gloom of that night I could make out the lights of the rescue boats slowly making their way from here northwards to Kilkee Bay with ‘Lun’ in tow. It was a solemn and humbling occasion and an occasion that, but for chance, I might never have witnessed.
I knew very nothing then about Ocean Rowing or Nenad Belic or those others who, for myriad reasons, never lost the spirit of adventure and tackled feats of mammoth proportions both battling, caressing and paying their respects and homage to the elements.
I know and understand a little more now as my witnessing of this unfolding story about Dr. Belic got to me and for those who know me would say became a consuming interest if not a passion.
Through initial contacts with Dr. Belic’s family, who showed tremendous courage and tenacity both in facing the unknown when he headed East from Cape Cod on May 11, 2001 and during what must have been a roller-coaster of emotions while searching for him, I was absorbed by the whole odyssey. My mind boggled at the enormity of what Nenad knew and understood intimately to be a journey of a lifetime fraught with peril but tinged with the possibility of magnificent achievement. In a small way I got to understand the family’s desperation when, on September 30, 2001 contact was lost with him, I also got to understand the enormity of what he had achieved and to understand what devastating closure and finality the family experienced when ‘Lun’ was found here.
Yet Nenad did not fail. For anyone to have been alone and survived across almost 3000 miles of the Atlantic Ocean for 5 months with nothing but the lonely sea and the sky, tenacity, self-belief and many thoughts is, in itself, an epic achievement.
Through contact with the Ocean Rowing Society and Kenneth Crutchlow I have got to know of the others who are commemorated here, of their stories, their personal quests and achievements which were different but, in no sense less laudable.
To put Ocean-Rowing in perspective, over 175 people have successfully reached the summit of Mount Everest, a dozen people have successfully rowed the Atlantic.
In these days of heightened world tensions and short tempers we are gathered in this place to commemorate REAL HEROES who attempted to get to know and understand the world, their environs, others and themselves in greater detail; they are the ultimate diplomats. David Johnstone and John Hoare, Kenneth Kerr, Andrew Wilson, Eugene Smurgis, Peter Bird and Nenad Belic are people who have achieved immortality in their tenacity. The world needs their spirit more at this time than any other.
We here in Kilkee are honoured that this place is the location in the world where the achievements and memory of seven of the world’s great explorers are celebrated and remembered with this fitting monument, chosen, PERHAPS, by Nenad Belic.