Kevin Linnane. one of my oldest friends, a great angler and a great fighter in the cause of bass conservation, died, just before Christmas, of a heart attack. The expression, ‘a happy release’ is an overworked one, but in Kevin’s case it’s fully justified. Two years ago he was diagnosed with MND, motor neurone disease, an incurable and progressively fatal illness which had left him unable to breathe or feed without the aid of machines. He was only 59.
The first indication had come almost exactly two years earlier, when the two of us were bass fishing in the surf at Inchadoney in County Cork. Kevin complained that his grip on his beachcaster didn’t feel right. Maybe it was the cold, he said. He pulled on mittens but they didn’t do the trick. After he’d got hone he went to his doctor, was sent for tests and received what was, in truth, a death sentence.
I first met Kevin back in the ’60s when he was appointed by Ireland’s Inland Fisheries Trust (now the Central Fisheries Board) as an assistant to the late Des Brennan, and from then on we formed a threesome that fished all over Ireland together on angling surveys which have since stood British anglers in good stead from the Kerry beaches to the reefs off Belmullet and Achill Island in Co Mayo.
He was always the strong lad of our party (hey, he was just a kid to us) – who uncomplainingly humped the outboard on his shoulders and dug bait. And how he worked. One unforgettable memory I have is of Kevin, heading home aboard Tommy Welsh’s boat from the Stags of Broadhaven off Mayo one wild evening through big seas. We’d been fishing out with Tommy almost every day for six solid weeks and we were tired to the bone. And there was Kevin, stretched out on deck with the the rain lashing down on him. Fast asleep ?
He was indefagitable also in the bass – and later shark and ray – tagging programmes which led to the degree of protection – much more effective than our own – that bass now enjoy in Ireland. Later he’d take up the cause of the Atlantic salmon, travelling the northern seas from Canada to the Faroes for what was by then the Central Fisheries Board. And it was he who began the work on bluefin tuna that culminated in the latter part of 2000 in the first capture of the giants off Co. Donegal.
Tuna fishing off Donegal just over a year ago, in fact, was the last fishing trip Kevin and I went on together, and it was Kevin’s last trip of all. By then, the progressive nature of MND meant that his hands were useless so that I had to do the driving up to Donegal. By then, of course, he couldn’t actually fish. Nevertheless, it was a fitting climax to a great angling life that he was there off Downings, Donegal, aboard Michael McVeigh’s Rosguill for that first, wonderful week of bluefin tuna captures.
A great angler and a great friend. I will miss him for the rest of my life.
(This article originally appeared in BASS Magazine No: 101, Spring 2002)