Friday, 11 March 2011 10:42
John Walkin expressed his gratitude to the many guests from near and far who turned up to a civic reception in his honour on Friday evening last, welcoming all to 'my town'. Or as he put it: "The best town of its size in the country." He added: "I never lost the passion for Ballina; why, I do not know. It is my
But in granting him a civic reception, the members and executive of Ballina Town Council recognised all John has achieved in helping to put the north Mayo capital on the map.
His most notable achievements, arguably, were in two fields – tourism and fisheries. In fact, for a period he was chairman of both Ireland West Regional Tourism and the North West Regional Fisheries Board at the same time.
To a rapt audience, he explained how he never wanted to be chairman of either body, and never wanted to be president of Ballina Chamber of Commerce either, but he was passionate about the potential of angling in the region, and he won't be happy until all possible avenues for the resource are properly developed.
He dipped his toe in the sea, so to speak, when he was introduced to fishing in the 1960s. He joined Killala Bay Sea Angling Club and helped it organise its first sea angling competition in 1969 – in which 27 species of fish were recorded.
His involvement led to the club hosting the world boat championships and building an angling centre. Mr. Niall Brennan, a former secretary and president of the club, referred to Mr. Walkin as an ambassador for tourism, for angling and for Ballina.
Mr. Walkin said that on the North Western Regional Fisheries Board, one of his proudest moments was when control of the Moy Fishery was transferred back from the Central Fisheries Board to the NWRFB, but one thing he regretted was the last government's handing back of control of local fisheries to a central body in Dublin with the creation of Inland Fisheries Ireland last year.
"I'm convinced the grá, love and passion the North Western Regional Fisheries Board and CEO (Vincent Roche) had for the resource will never be repeated by a board based in Swords, Co. Dublin," said Mr. Walkin.
He added that one outstanding thing he achieved was the ability to travel anywhere in the country and meet a friend. "If nothing else, that is my gold medal," said Mr. Walkin, a notable athlete in his younger years.
Ms. Carmel Murphy, town clerk, commended Mr. Walkin on being a big member of the team that won for Ballina the designation as the salmon capital of Ireland, while the Mayor of Ballina, Councillor Frances McAndrew, recalled John's 'significant contribution' to making the Moy Festival, now known as the Ballina Salmon Festival, one of the best of its kind in Ireland through his involvement in the 1970s.
She thanked him for his contribution to the betterment of Ballina, and wished him and his family – wife Collette, daughter Cleona and son John Bosco – health and happiness.