'We are finding it hard to keep going': Family of tragic fisherman speak about loss

Yesterday should have been the first anniversary of one of the happiest days of Willie Whelan’s life.
'We are finding it hard to keep going': Family of tragic fisherman speak about loss
Maggie and Joe Whelan, Willie Whelan's parents, Salltmills, Co. Wexford, holding a photo of Willie.

Yesterday should have been the first anniversary of one of the happiest days of Willie Whelan’s life.

Sadly, for his widow Mandy, any joy associated with that day is clouded by the tragedy of his death.

He was one of two fishermen to die when their trawler sank off Hook Head, Co Wexford on the night of January 4.

It was just a few weeks before the world slowly became enveloped in Covid-19.

Many may have now long since forgotten both his and Joe Sinnott’s tragic deaths aboard the Alize.

But for the families they leave behind, the heartache continues.

Willie’s father Joe has spoken for the first time since his son’s body was found of the pain and agony of his friends and family since he died.

To this day, nobody knows why the 12-metre boat sank.

Some believe it was hit by a freak wave. Others - like Mr Whelan - believe nobody will ever know what happened to the boat.

We are struggling at the moment, with losing a son,” Mr Whelan said.

“Every time you get out of bed, you are thinking about him. I just can't get it out of my mind at the moment.

“Everybody is very depressed and we are finding it very hard to keep going every day. We miss him. We miss him a lot.” It took 20 days to recover his son’s body.

“Waiting those 20 days to find him was torture,” Mr Whelan said.

The tragedy is the latest in a long line of harrowing reminders about the perils of being a fisherman in an industry some fear is slowly dying out.

Wexford County Council council Jim Codd, who knows the Whelans and the Sinnotts, said the life of a fisherman is a very very tough one.

“One thing that stands out to me very clearly as a group of people, once one of them is lost or goes overboard everybody immediately stops.

“They down tools and go and search for their friend. They are an example to us all.

“They are a very honourable bunch of men and women.”

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