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Gathering of ‘Verolme’ Workers Commemorate 160 Years of Cork Shipbuilding

26th August 2013
VCD Plaque
A touching commemoration to all those who skillfully built ships at the Cork Harbour site since 1840. Standing next to the plaque Vincent McMahon of the Verolme Gathering Committee and Delia Webster of Cobh Tourism. Photo: Jehan Ashmore
Gathering of ‘Verolme’ Workers Commemorate 160 Years of Cork Shipbuilding

#VerolmeWeekend – To mark the finale of Cork Dockyard Workers Gathering Weekend, the last Mayor of Cobh Town Council, John Mulvihill Jnr, attended yesterday a plaque unveiling dedicated to shipyard workers to include Verolme Cork Dockyard in Rushbrooke, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Among the large crowd of former VCD employees, family and friends, was John Brennan who was master of ceremonies at Cork Dockyard, (formely VCD) which is a ship-repair only facility that is part of the Doyle Shipping Group.

Conor Doyle of the Doyle Group spoke of the wonderful history of shipbuilding in Cork Harbour and he said the group remained committed to the dockyard which has the 'potential' for further development should the demands from the offshore energy industry require.

During the proceedings, poetry and song celebrated the lives and workers of shipbuilding yards throughout Cork Harbour in a history that stretches beyond VCD's formation in 1959 but back to 1860.

An anchor was restored recently for the memorial occasion and where a bottle of champagne was smashed against it by Delia Webster of Cobh Tourism.

The Port of Cork, Cork Dockyard, Cobh Tourism and Irish Rail organised the commemorative weekend which involved a shipping lecture programme held in the Commodore Hotel, tours of L.E. Aoife alongside Cobh's waterfront. A mass in St. Colman's Cathedral was held and where a baptismal font was restored by former VCD staff.

Also part of the weekend was a photographic exhibition of ships built at VCD which remains open to the public in the Cobh Heritage Centre until 15 September.

The commemorative plaque was unveiled by Henk Ven der Puil,  son of the late Gerard Van Der Puil, Managing Director of VCD. Father Michael Leamey performed a blessing of the plaque..

At its prime VCD employed more than 1,200 people working in ship-building, ship-repair, offshore platform modules and many other engineering enterprises.

During its quarter century existence, VCD built a total of 33 vessels, mostly for Irish concerns, among them Irish Shipping Ltd (ISL), B+I Line (including the last 'Leinster' as previously posted), Arklow Shipping and overseas clients and notably the bulker Irena Dan.

VCD - Cork Dockyard LE Niamh

Naval ship LE Niamh in dry dock. Photo: Jehan Ashmore

The first vessel built was Irish Rowan, other ships built for ISL included the 75,000dwt Irish Spruce, a 'Panamax' bulker completed in the early 1970s.

L.E. Eithne (P31) was commissioned as the last vessel out of five built for the Naval Service and indeed she is also the last ever ship to be launched from the Rushbrooke shipyard in 1984.

Following the plaque unveiling, nostalgic tours of the dockyard took place which included access to the large series of building halls, the ship launch slipways and dry-dock / graving dock, where the Naval Service OPV L.E. Niamh (P52) was undergoing an overhaul.

VCD building halls

The building halls. Photo: Jehan Ashmore

VCD surviving cranes

The remaining cranes. Photo: Jehan Ashmore


Published in Cork Harbour
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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It’s one of the largest natural harbours in the world – and those living near Cork Harbour insist that it’s also one of the most interesting.

This was the last port of call for the most famous liner in history, the Titanic, but it has been transformed into a centre for the chemical and pharmaceutical industry.

The harbour has been a working port and a strategic defensive hub for centuries, and it has been one of Ireland's major employment hubs since the early 1900s. Traditional heavy industries have waned since the late 20th century, with the likes of the closure of Irish Steel in Haulbowline and shipbuilding at Verolme. It still has major and strategic significance in energy generation, shipping and refining.

Giraffe wander along its shores, from which tens of thousands of men and women left Ireland, most of them never to return. The harbour is home to the oldest yacht club in the world, and to the Irish Navy. 

This deep waterway has also become a vital cog in the Irish economy. 


‘'s Cork Harbour page’ is not a history page, nor is it a news focus. It’s simply an exploration of this famous waterway, its colour and its characters.

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