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Sails in the Attic, Sails on the Ilen & Plastic on the Islands

17th January 2019
The Square sail set on Ilen in Limerick The Square sail set on Ilen in Limerick Photo: Gary McMahon

Joseph Conrad wrote many stories and novels with a nautical setting, based on his time in the British and French merchant marine and in the old sailing ships. They depict trials of the human spirit and one of his memorable quotes is – “The mind of man is capable of anything.”

Perhaps so too is the mind of a marine journalist, because several current images have been coming to its surface.

I am the only Irish marine journalist who was present at the reappearance of the legendary Conor O’Brien’s Ilen when it was brought back to Dublin from the Falkland Islands on the deck of a freighter. I have followed it through the great restoration at Liam Hegarty’s boatyard near Skibbereen, not far from Baltimore where it was originally built.

SQUARING UP ON THE ILENSquaring up on the Ilen

When the square sail, the last of the seven made for it, was raised quietly (shown above) and with not a lot of public attention, in Limerick Port where Ilen is based for the Winter. A very capable, four-sided sail last deployed on the good ship some 92 years ago… an image invoking an emotive sense of pride in the achievements of those who restored and rehabilitated her….

People can do wonderful things in the marine sphere and that was added to when I was sent the other photo here, from Clare Island, because the offshore islands are not, in my view, given the attention they should get and it has been overlooked that, in the current battle against plastic pollution of the oceans they are amongst the first recipients of this waste…

"Listen to the Podcast to hear more about how the offshore islands are dealing with plastic and other pollution"

Listen to the Podcast below to hear more about how the offshore islands are dealing with plastic and other pollution that is increasingly washing up on their shores and particularly Clare Island, a lovely island to sail into… and also about my third image… what do you do with old sails?

Clare Islanders have built a bungalow from waste plastic bottlesClare Islanders have built a bungalow from waste plastic bottles

Listen to the Podcast below

Tom MacSweeney

About The Author

Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney writes a weekly column for He also presents the maritime radio programme This Island Nation on community radio stations around Ireland.

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