20th Trip Report

As I write, I'm phoning DIT Caving Club “grown-ups” to sort out transport arrangements for a New Year's trip to Fermanagh.  We're spending a long weekend in Kiltyclogher with cavers from DCU and Queen's, and perhaps UCD.  There's a whole lot of “where are the furries” and “who's getting the shopping” and a glorious dash to bagsie beds.  So far nobody has raised the problem of batteries, but to paraphrase Churchill, that's a problem which will will argue for itself.  


DIT Caving Club's twentieth year is going well.  We ran three trips so far this year, and the fourth on New Year's will put us out well ahead of the target of one trip a month during the academic year. We signed up sixty members at the start of the year, and about twenty of those have trained or caved with us.  We even have a permanent store on the new campus site at Grangegorman, or at least until they bulldoze it to build the new college.  


DIT's caving tradition is older than DIT itself – Kevin Street Caving Club's first trip in October 1992 took place two months before DIT was formally amalgamated as an institution.  That's really what caving is at DIT – a tradition.  It permeates everything we do, from the perennial Wednesday night in the pub to the Petzl Crolls stamped with “KEVIN ST” and the Bolton Street comfort sack.  I had the privilege of lighting my first caving trip with an Oldham T3, and the privilege of retiring the club's stock of ancient lights as Equipment officer the next year.  


It was that living history that we celebrated at the end of November with a weekend of caving and carousing in Doolin, Co. Clare.  Just down the coast from the site of the club's first trip to Fanore is the charming Hotel Doolin. Thelma Cantlon, a nice UCD girl who married into the DIT family secured a cracking deal for the anniversary celebrations.  With a cheap function room, its own beer, and two pubs between it and the self-catering holiday homes down the road, the hotel Doolin was the perfect storm.


About fifty students and graduates of the club came to Doolin for the function, as well as staff from the DIT Sports Office and some DCU cavers.  The students filled a house around the corner from McGann's pub, and the grown-ups booked out the hotel.  


Saturday morning saw trips to Faunarooska and Poll na Gree by hotel dwellers and their progeny.  House people had enjoyed a house party, and so it was a little later by the time we made it to Pollnagollum.  For some, caving was curtailed by college assignments.  Shane Fitzpatrick and Petie Barry spent Saturday around the kitchen table doing architecture. They were at it when we left and were still at it when we were showered and dressing for dinner several hours later.  


I'm not sure what Stephen Brandon's excuse is, but our glorious captain didn't cave at all on the weekend. I'm going to assume he was rehearsing for his job as MC at the gala dinner.  On Saturday night, John Potter and Des McNally [ed please factcheck names] gave talks and presentations about the club through the years.  Petie Barry brought the adults up to speed with what the kids' doings in recent times, and Dr. John Duncan might have mentioned the SUI before launching into a fantastic anecdote about a caver who once acquired a bicycle in unusual circumstances.  


Looking the pictures I imagine our forebears faced the same challenges before the first Kevin Street Caving Club trip to Fanore, Co. Clare in the autumn of 1992.  I won't claim to know much about the early history of the club – like I said, the hotel had its own beer – but the pictures gave an insight into what student life was like at the end of the last century.  The picture is so very similar to today; although the Hoo's murals were painted over, we still and sit drinking and chatting around the fireside and still cram into the beds upstairs.  


“Good luck and safe caving,” said John Kavanagh Sr. in an email to the committee after the 20th weekend which extolled the virtues of the ammo box over the tackle bag. “Select your partners carefully. You might need them not only as cave exploration aides, but like me, and a number of others buddied up underground you may end up settling down with them, married and produce your own army of cavers.” 


I understand the 'Sr.' stands for 'Starter'. I wouldn't dare call anyone who was in college 20 years ago 'senior'.  However, for the last two years we have trained up DIT cavers younger than the club itself.  Maybe that doesn't sound all that old, but the amount of times I've had to rephrase that point to minimise chortles about our founders spawning themselves a new generation of freshers suggests otherwise.


Steven Bourke