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The Legendary Mariners Of Ballinacurra

31st October 2018
Ballinacurra historian Ursula O'mahony presents the first Bransfield Memento to Nena Creenan Ballinacurra historian Ursula O'mahony presents the first Bransfield Memento to Nena Creenan

Hello and welcome to my weekly Podcast ….Tom MacSweeney here ….

Creenan’s hostelry in Ballinacurra village, close to the town of Midleton in East Cork is a hallowed place in the annals of sailing. On its walls hang photographs and documents chronicling the maritime history of which the family itself are a major part. Known to generations of sailors, professional and leisure, its history is renowned in the name of the family schooner, the Brooklands, whose trading in Irish waters, without an engine, is legendary. Amongst the famous stories of the vessel is that in 1946 she was the last trading schooner to use sail alone in Dublin Port.

There are many other stories about the Brooklands which I heard from the great Jacko Creenan in an upstairs room of the family pub many years ago and which I regard as one of the most enjoyable radio interviews I ever recorded.

Amongst the famous stories of the vessel is that in 1946 she was the last trading schooner to use sail alone in Dublin Port.

I was back in Creenans to mark a special anniversary this week– that of a mariner from the village whose contribution to Polar exploration has not got the attention it should, but which a dedicated group has been gathering in Creenans for the past two years, intent on changing that – and they have advanced quite a lot in their pursuit.

He was Edward Bransfield who, in the era of the Napoleonic Wars, was a young man 18-years-old at the time, was press-ganged by the British Royal Navy from his father’s fishing boat to fill the crews needed by their warships. Amazingly, he rose to command the brig named Williams, the Royal Navy’s ship on which he became the first man to sight Antarctica.

From the village of Ballinacurra, then a port, now regrettably silted up, no longer commercially viable and even challenging for leisure craft to enter, this is a man to be remembered and acknowledged with pride. Ireland hasn’t done that. It should and the dedicated group campaigning to change that has commissioned a memorial to honour him which will be erected at the village waterside in 2020, two hundred years from the time on the 30th of January 1820 when he sighted the previously uncharted lands south of Cape Horn that are Antarctica.

Marking the Creenan family’s historic maritime connections and the support of Nena Creenan in providing the place where the committee meets and runs its campaign in Creenan’s hostelry, I gathered with them to mark the anniversary of the death of Edward Bransfield on the 31st of October 1852 and for which they presented the first of the mementoes which have been made to honour him..

It was good to be back in Creenan’s again and to be part of the honouring of yet another Ballinacurra mariner – Edward Bransfield.

Listen to the podcast below

Published in Tom MacSweeney
Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney writes a weekly column for He also presents the radio programme Maritime Ireland on radio stations around Ireland.

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