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Displaying items by tag: Currach

The currach, with its primitive design of wooden frame and waterproof skin, is the best known of all the Irish boats. By the mid-twentieth century this once common boat was noticeably disappearing from our shores, and rarer still were the currach builders who held a knowledge passed down from generation to generation. In 1968, the National Museum of Ireland recognised the threat to the traditional currach and given the Museum’s role in preserving heritage objects for the benefit of the Irish people, began the process of having one commissioned for the national collection.

When asked by the then Director of the National Museum of Ireland, Dr AT Lucas, the renowned Irish folklorist Ciaráin Bairéad identified Michael Conneely for the job - a carpenter and farmer who learned the craft from his own father, who was mostly self-taught. Michael Conneely was best known locally as Mikey, but he was also known as Mac Johnny Tom Andie (son of Johnny Tom Andie), Mikey an t-siúinéira (Mikey of the carpenter, as his father was a carpenter) and he signed his name Michael Conneely (John). He made currachs for people on the other two Aran Islands as well as the mainland and had the craft well-honed.

Michael Conneely made currachs for people on the other two Aran Islands as well as the mainland and had the craft well-honedMichael Conneely made currachs for people on the other two Aran Islands as well as the mainland and had the craft well-honed

The finished 19 and a half feet, three-man currach complete with mast and sail, over two hundred photographs and video footage documenting the build, along with details logged in the NMI team’s notes and correspondence, have left us with a significant and complete record of the vanishing skill of traditional Irish currach building.

The unique footage, following Michael Conneely carefully and craftfully through the step-by-step building process, is now available to view on the National Museum of Ireland’s website for the first time in an online exhibition called Making a currach – Michael Conneely.

Currach builder Michael ConneelyCurrach builder Michael Conneely

Broken down into nine parts on www.museum.ie , the video documents the process from preparing and fitting the 29 oak ribs that cross under the seats and preparing and nailing 20 laths lengthways, to measuring and fitting the canvas skin, which was then coated inside and out with tar to make it waterproof. Despite the fact that people on the islands didn’t ‘get the sail’ at the time, he also fitted a mast and sail at the request of the Museum, made from calico, a type of unbleached cotton that is lighter than canvas.

Despite the fact that people on the islands didn’t ‘get the sail’ at the time, he also fitted a mast and sail at the request of the Museum, made from calico, a type of unbleached cotton that is lighter than canvasDespite the fact that people on the islands didn’t ‘get the sail’ at the time, he also fitted a mast and sail at the request of the Museum, made from calico, a type of unbleached cotton that is lighter than canvas

Lynn Scarff, Director of the National Museum of Ireland, said; “What is commonplace today, is the history of tomorrow and an important part of the National Museum of Ireland’s remit is take an active and ongoing role in ensuring that our traditions and culture are preserved for future generations. The detailed documentation undertaken of Michael Conneely’s creative process in 1968 is a fine example of this, and our national collection is richer today as a result of his talent, and the foresight of my predecessors at the Museum in capturing it for conservation.

Noel Campbell, curator at the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life, Turlough Park, said, “Mikey Conneely was a well-respected currach builder who received orders for his dependable currachs from the Aran Islands and the coastal communities of counties Galway and Clare. We are very fortunate that over fifty years ago Dr Lucas, curator John O’Sullivan and photographer Brendan Doyle saw the importance of recording one the west coast’s currach building masters. The Mikey Conneely recordings and other boat related material from the NMI’s Archive are currently being researched as part of the development of a new gallery at Turlough Park which will focus on traditional boats of the west coast. The National Museum of Ireland - Country Life has begun a new programme of fieldwork and outreach along our Atlantic coast to further document traditional boats and building techniques. The findings will add to our Archive and greatly inform our future work and exhibits.”

Michael Conneely's currach is on permanent display in the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar’.Michael Conneely's currach is on permanent display in the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar’.

In Making a Currach – Michael Conneely, Michael’s daughter Máire Conneely recalls the excitement from the week the Museum visited their home on Inisheer; “The currach was being made on the sand outside the house, so we children were able to keep an eye on all the work. We were surprised they were so interested in the work, they were writing down every word that my father said. Of course, pictures were being taken of the work. My mother had a job chasing us away, telling us not to be getting under their feet!”

The Irish Folklife collection of the National Museum of Ireland amounts to over 37,000 objects. The collection contains over thirty traditional Irish boats, 19 of which are currachs. Michael Conneely's currach is on permanent display in the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar’.

More here

Published in Historic Boats
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 An Irish currach made entirely from recycled and salvaged material is to be launched by artist and boatbuilder Mark Redden in Barcelona, Spain on St Patrick’s Day.

As The Times Ireland reports today, “Saoirse” has been built over the past year by Redden as part of a project to investigate the level of plastic pollution in fish.

Redden has modelled this vessel on the Connemara version while using only materials which were recycled or salvaged.

The award-winning artist has built many currachs since he trained with Jackie Mons of Oughterard, Co Galway.

He also worked with Meitheal Mara, the community boatyard and training project in Cork city, while studying at the Crawford College of Art and Design. 

Saoirse” has been built over the past year by Redden as part of a project to investigate the level of plastic pollution in fish

After he moved to Barcelona in Spain, Redden jointly founded the cultural association, Iomramh (which translates from the Irish as “rowing” or “sea voyage”) in the Catalan capital.

The association has hosted a Mediterranean currach regatta on St Patrick’s Day since 2008, but this had to be suspended due to Covid-19.

Redden says he used his time over the past 12 months to forge links between business, science and the art of boatbuilding to create a project aimed at reducing the volume of waste plastic in oceans.

He is also collaborating with a Welsh-based company TrimTabs, founded by Irish scientist Alvin Orbaek White, and scientists from the Energy Safety Research Institute in Swansea University on efforts to convert “fished-up” plastic into high-end carbon electrical conduit.

Read The Times here

Published in Historic Boats
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A famed adventurer who crossed the Atlantic by currach in a journey inspired by the story of Brendan the Navigator has died at the age of 80, as RTÉ News reports.

Tim Severin set out in 1976 on the epic 7,200km journey in a hand-built currach from Co Kerry, via the Hebrides in Scotland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland to Newfoundland in Canada.

It marked the first of a series of recreations of voyages inspired by legendary events — which included sailing from Oman to China by dhow in the vein of Sinbad, and following the odysseys of Ulysses and Jason and the Argonauts.

But Severin’s connection to Ireland remained as he made his residence in West Cork, where he died peacefully at home.

Published in Historic Boats

A replica of an ancient currach has been set alight in the shadow of Skellig Michael — and all in the name of art.

The arresting image is one of the highlights of Crann, a film directed by Laura Hilliard which will premiere online next Monday 21 December as part of IMRAM, the Irish language library festival.

As RTÉ News reports, the film is inspired by the work of English poet Richard Berengarten — translated into Irish by Gabriel Rosenstock — and follows the life cycle of a tree and its relationship to the environment and culture surrounding it, including being crafted into a currach.

Promo for Crann, screening online as part of IMRAM on Monday 21 December

Co Kerry boatbuilder Holger Lonze provided the handiwork for the Boyne currach — Ireland’s only river currach, comprising hazel, cow hide and twine — that features in the film. RTÉ News has much more on the story HERE.

Similar themes are explored in a new documentary that follows the transformation of an oak tree into an Iron Age replica longboat, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

 

Published in Historic Boats
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When Fergus Farrell was paralysed after a workplace accident, he may never have imagined he would watch the sunrise as he plied a currach across Galway Bay.

However, the former rugby player did just that with close friend and extreme sports athlete Damian Browne this week, when the pair completed a 40 km (25-mile) row from the Aran islands into Galway city.

Transatlantic Currach Rowers

As Afloat reported previously, The row – which took place the morning after Galway city was embroiled in controversy over a large student gathering at Spanish Arch – was completed in less than nine hours.

The pair aimed to highlight their bid to set a new Guinness world record in an unsupported row some 4,937km across the Atlantic in two years’ time.

The two men from Renmore and Athenry have been friends and players with Connacht and Galwegians Rugby Football Club since they were young.

Farrell was diagnosed with a serious spinal cord injury after a workplace accident in 2018.

Transatlantic Currach Rowers

After treatment in the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, he walked 206 km from the place of his accident to the NRH in late October 2019, and raised €70,000  for the hospital.

Browne successfully rowed across the Atlantic solo in late 2017-early 2018, enduring nine-metre high swells, head lacerations, a complete steering system failure, a capsize in a storm and a near-miss from a cargo ship.

He completed the crossing in 63 days, 6 hours and 25 minutes.

He has completed the six day, 257km-long Marathon des Sables across the Sahara, and has climbed five of the seven summits or highest peaks on each continent, with Everest in his sights for next spring.

The record of 55 days and 13 hours for an Atlantic crossing from New York to the Scilly Isles was set in 1896 by George Harboe and Frank Samuelsen. They had none of the satellite communications and safety equipment available now for such ventures.

Transatlantic Currach Rowers

Some 11 pairs have attempted to break that record but failed, with six of the 11 completing the crossing.

There have been 52 previous attempted crossings in an unsupported row, with 18 successfully making land in some part of Europe.

Browne and Farrell’s transatlantic bid is named Project Empower, and their ocean rowing boat will be built by master builder Justin Adkin of Seasabre, who also constructed Browne’s vessel for his solo crossing.

Website here: http://www.projectempower.ie/

Published in Coastal Rowing
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Two extraordinary men are set to row a currach from the Aran island of Inis Oírr to Galway city this morning to highlight their bid to cross the Atlantic in 2022.

Extreme adventurer and former professional rugby player Damian Browne and his lifelong friend Fergus Farrell aim to set a new Guinness world record in an unsupported row some 4,937km across the Atlantic in two years’ time.

Weather permitting, their 40 km (25-mile) row today (Tues 27th) launches the project’s crowdfunding campaign and symbolises the last leg of their Atlantic traverse.

The two men from Renmore, Galway city, and Athenry, Co Galway respectively have been friends and rugby players with Connacht and Galwegians Rugby Football Club since they were young.

Two years ago, Farrell became paralysed after a workplace accident and was diagnosed with a serious spinal cord injury.

After treatment in the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, he walked 206 km from the place of his accident to the NRH.

Farrell raised 70,000 euro in his “Toughest Trek” for the hospital in late October, 2019.

Browne has completed the six day, 257km-long Marathon des Sables across the Sahara Desert - also known as “The Toughest Footrace on Earth” - and successfully rowed across the Atlantic solo in late 2017-early 2018.

One of just 60 people to complete the crossing alone, he endured nine-metre high swells, deep lacerations on his head, and a complete steering system failure. His boat capsized in a storm and was almost destroyed by an oncoming cargo ship.

He had lost 28 kilos when he completed the crossing in 63 days, 6 hours and 25 minutes. Browne is also multi-time Irish indoor rowing champion and currently holds the all-time records for the 500m and 1000m distances.

To date, he has raised over €100,000 for Irish and African based charities through his extreme adventures and is a founder and leader of Freezbrury, an international group challenge held annually every February .

He has also climbed five of the seven summits or highest peaks on each continent, and aims to tackle Everest in April/May 2021.

The record for an Atlantic crossing from New York to the Scilly isles still stands since set by George Harboe and Frank Samuelsen in 1896 - taking 55 days and 13 hours.

They had no water makers or satellite phones, GPS, emergency position indicating radio beacons ( EPIRBs) or even a life raft on board, Browne and Farrell note.

Some 11 pairs have attempted to better it, but failed, with six of the 11 completing the crossing.

There have been 52 previous attempted crossings in an unsupported row, with 18 successfully making land in some part of Europe.

Browne and Farrell have initiated Project Empower, which they describe as a “24-month studied endeavour in human empowerment”.

Their ocean rowing boat will be built by master builder Justin Adkin of Seasabre, who also constructed Browne’s vessel for his transatlantic row. The craft will be a “classic design”.

Published in Coastal Rowing
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Musician Glen Hansard has paid tribute to west Kerry poet, farmer and sailor Danny Sheehy with a new video marking the third anniversary of his death.

Film-maker Dónal Ó Céilleachair, who recorded The Camino Voyage documenting Sheehy’s currach trip with the fellow crew from Ireland to northern Spain, has participated with Hansard in the video release.

Sheehy, an award-winning writer, died in June 2017 when the currach, Naomh Gobnait, was caught by a wave close to the Minho river estuary on the Spanish-Portuguese border. He was just 66 years of age.

Hansard said he wrote the piece, entitled Good Life of Song while staying at the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris.

“It’s a tribute to the life of bards and troubadours on their lifelong march through the towns and village of the world, singing and drinking, expressing the sorrows and joys of the age as they court darkness and light with equal knowing,” Hansard has said.

Hansard described it as a “song of gratitude for the gift of singing”.

“I raise it here to the memory of our boat captain, Danny Sheehy,” he said.

Ó Ceilleachair said that “in the face of all the challenges of the present moment, sometimes it is good to pause and give gratitude for the things we do have”.

“With gratitude to your contagious, magnetic, inspiring presence, Danny – Bail ó Dhia ort,” he added, marking the video release with Hansard.

Hansard signed up as crew for the final stage of the three-summer currach voyage from Ireland to northern Spain which was completed in late June 2016.

Sheehy and his close friend, west Kerry musician and oarsman Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich, decided to continue to navigate the Galician and Portuguese coasts in 2017, along with musician Liam Ó Maonlaí of the Hothouse Flowers and Co Cork boatbuilder Padraig Ua Duinnín.

The crew stayed with the upturned craft after its capsize, but Sheehy was taken ill on reaching shore and did not survive.

Better-known in his native Kerry as Domhnall Mac Síthigh, Sheehy won Oireachtas awards for his poetry and storytelling and was a broadcaster on Raidió na Gaeltachta and RTÉ Radio.

He had previously circumnavigated Ireland in a naomhóg with Ger Ó Ciobháin in 1975 and also rowed to Iona in Scotland, while also undertaking several sailing voyages west and north.

Published in Historic Boats
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Skerries RNLI launched to the rescue of a man and two teenagers in the water after their currach capsized off the north Co Dublin town yesterday evening (Saturday 21 September).

Just after 5pm, Dublin Coast Guard picked up a Mayday transmission from the 14ft currach. Skerries RNLI says that at first the location was unclear.

But several 999 calls from concerned onlookers confirmed that it was near the port lateral marker, known locally as the Perch Mark, just off the headland in Skerries.

The volunteer RNLI crew launched their Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Louis Simson to the stricken vessel, which could be seen from the lifeboat station.

Arriving on scene at the same time as the Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116, the crew learned that Skerries Sailing Club’s tender had also picked up the Mayday and, together with another local angling boat, had taken the man and teenagers from the water.

The casualties were then transferred to the lifeboat and brought ashore and to dry off and warm up. Dublin Fire Brigade paramedics attended to give first aid before a HSE ambulance arrived and gave the trio a full checkover.

Meanwhile, Skerries RNLI reports that the capsized currach was returned to the beach and the oars and other items lost overboard were recovered.

“Accidents can happen at sea at any time,” said Skerries RNLI press officer Gerry Canning. “Everyone on board was wearing a lifejacket, and they had a waterproof VHF to raise the alarm, which is really encouraging to see.

“This was a great team effort across multiple different emergency services with everyone playing their part. We’d also like to commend the young man driving the boat for Skerries Sailing Club and the local angling boat for their swift actions.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

On what type of boat did the original settlers of Ireland arrive?

They probably came over 10,000 years ago and began populating the coastal regions.

Could they have come on some type of sailing currach?

The Currach Association of Ireland has been discussing the historic aspects of Ireland’s most iconic boat as they focus on ensuring its protection and preservation for the future. From the paintings of Robert O’Flaherty’s classic film ‘Man of Aran’ through photographs and films, the currach identifies maritime ‘Irishness’ in a way few other symbols achieve.

EXPERIMENTING WITH A SAILING CURRACH VERSION ON THE BOYNEExperimenting with a Sailing Currach version on the River Boyne

“People assume that because they are iconic, with the imagery they have, that the currachs will always be there, but will they, if nothing is done to ensure their future?” That is the focus of the Association.

"Could the original settlers to Ireland have come on some type of sailing currach, 10,000 years ago?"

There is a passion amongst those who love currachs which is uplifting to experience.

They are proud of their boats and the Irish maritime history and culture they resonate. Martin O’Donoghue is one of the leaders who outlines how and why it was founded on my Podcast this week and that it is particularly interested to hear where currachs are used.

CURRACH ASSOCIATION OF IRELAND PRESERVING CURRACHSThe Currach Association of Ireland are preserving Currachs

I was fascinated to hear Claidhigh O’Gibne talk about the research and development of the Boyne sailing currach, made from traditional skin-on-frame. That reminded me of interviewing Tim Severin on television many years ago when he was recreating St.Brendan’s leather boat journey across the Atlantic.

“We are people of the sea, it is our heritage. We must know about our history and skin boats are that history. It is important for young people to understand our history and culture of the sea.” Claidhigh said. He talked about the making of leather sails, the challenge of handling them on a boat and getting that boat to sail.

“The public view is of black boats that all seem alike, but few boats are as varied. There’s enough interest and activity related to currachs going on around the entire island of Ireland, but we have to be certain of preserving their iconic culture and history,” says Martin O’Donoghue on behalf of the Currach Association.

LISTEN TO HIM ON THE PODCAST BELOW

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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Traditional Irish currachs will compete in a Spanish rowing race next week and the crews also hope to will visit the Galician Naomhog exhibition dedicated to the memory of the late poet Danny Sheehy.

Naomhoga Chorcaigh is taking six currachs to Santander next week for a trial version of “Navigatio Santander” – a 22-km rowing race being developed in the fashion of Cork’s Ocean to City Event in Spain.

After the race, the boats will be taken to Vigo where the group that includes Drascombe and traditional boat sailor Jack O'Keefe will visit the Naomhog exhibition reported by Afloat here.

If the weather allows – the currachs will be rowed from Vigo to A Guarda to participate in the 14th Encontro de Embarcationes de Galicia. More here.

As Afloat readers will know, A Guarda is where Danny Sheehy was lost – and the Cork crew intend to pay their respects.

Published in Historic Boats
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