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Tributes to Michael Moriarty, Pioneer of Irish Scuba Diving

18th November 2022
Mick Moriarty, Army officer and pioneer of diving in Ireland
Mick Moriarty, Army officer and pioneer of diving in Ireland

Tributes have been paid to Col Michael Moriarty, one of the pioneers of scuba diving in Ireland, who died earlier this month.

As The Sunday Independent reports, wetsuits were unheard of when he took up diving, and he once described how “we would just launch ourselves from the shore or rocks, wearing big lumpy woollen clothing, to give us the illusion of being warmer”.

Described by friends and colleagues as “big-hearted”, generous and full of both integrity and energy, the Army officer served on a number of UN peacekeeping missions until his retirement at the rank of colonel in 1992.

Born in Bandon, Co Cork, on December 21, 1931, Moriarty spent part of his childhood in Listowel, Co Kerry, where he was drawn to the sea from an early age.

He recalled his diving career in his first book, Submerged: a Lifetime of Diving, published by Comhairle Fo-Thuinn (CFT), the Irish Underwater Council, in 2001.

Close friend Ronnie Hurley, recalls how Moriarty introduced him to diving "in a lovely rocky cove" off Spanish Point in Co Clare.

Michael Moriarty with the Glaucus trophy for spear fishingMichael Moriarty with the Glaucus trophy for spear fishing

Moriarty gave Hurley a loan of his latex drysuit and showed him how to use twin corrugated-rubber breathing hoses – for this was before development of the non-return valve.

In Submerged, Moriarty charted the revolution in the sport after a French gas company engineer, Émile Gagnan, was asked by the French underwater explorer and navy captain Jacques Cousteau if he could develop a better breathing device. Cousteau then refined the open circuit valve or diving regulator developed by Gagnan.

Moriarty described how The Silent World, which Cousteau co-wrote with Frederic Dumas, became his “Bible”. Spear fishing was popular at the time, and Moriarty and colleagues represented Ireland in several international competitions. After CFT was founded in the Curragh in 1963, Moriarty became honorary secretary from 1964 to 1972 and president in 1973.

Col Michael Moriarty, pioneering diver who served on many UN missionsCol Michael Moriarty, pioneering diver who served on many UN missions

Fellow CFT committee member and former Army officer Shane Gray, who was also taught to dive by Moriarty, recalled that he was a “man of integrity, a big hearted, generous man, honourable, honest and full of energy for his work and for his hobbies, chiefly photography and diving”.

Read more in Afloat here and The Sunday Independent here

Published in Diving
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