Cormac Lowth of Dublin is a one-man Maritime Institute writes W M Nixon. He has an incredible memory, encyclopaedic knowledge, and an exceptional collection of nautical memorabilia. There’s always something of special interest when one of his missives pings into the in-box. It could be about anything, from promoting the works of the 19th Century marine artist Richard Brydges Beechey, to helping a friend who is trying to put together a monogram about the story of the Dublin Bay 21 Oola. And that would be only for starters.
His breadth of interests extends far beyond the maritime. Tomorrow evening (Thursday 24th May at 6.30pm in Books Upstairs at 17 D’Olier Street in Dublin), he’s launching historian Vincent Ruddy’s new book Monster Agitators: O’Connell’s Repealers in 1843 Ireland.
Now we could, of course, claim a sailing connection there, as Daniel O’Connell - a keen sailing man at home in Derrynane in Kerry - was one of those who met in Dublin on 4th July 1846 to revive the Royal Irish Yacht Club. The choice of American Independence Day for the meeting was more than fortuitous, and its ultimate success can be gauged from the fact that by 1851 the club’s remarkable waterfront clubhouse was well on its way to completion on what was then the Kingstown Harbour waterfront.
But that again is only tangential to the many facets of Irish history and current life on which Cormac focuses his generous attention.
Different again is another of Cormac’s interests, the East Wall Water Sports Centre. It’s hidden away on what is rapidly becoming the tree-lined estuary of the Tolka River before it opens out to become the sailing waters off Clontarf. And on its north shore, there’s a hive of activity in and around boats, with everything from initial construction to active use with crew training and competition. We’ll let Cormac Lowth take up the story:
“East Wall Water Sports Centre, which is based off Alfie Byrne Road, had their latest boat-launch on Saturday, May 19th. This boat is a 'Gandelow', a seven–metre long flat–-bottomed rowing boat, of a type that were much used on the Lower Shannon for fishing (and have been frequently mentioned in Afloat.ie in connection with the Ilen Boat-Building School in Limerick) The Gandelow is rowed by three people, each pulling two oars, and these are held in double wooden thole pins, unlike the traditional rowlocks or 'spurs' of the East Coast.
East Wall Water Sports Centre is a community-based club whose aim is to promote rowing, sailing, canoeing, and other water sports among young and old alike. There is also an emphasis on reviving and perpetuating traditional boat-building skills, and this aspect in mainly in the hands of Patsy Whelan, a shipwright and boat-builder who works in the Dublin Port. Patsy in the son of Patsy Senior, one of the last of the traditional wooden boat builders of Ringsend, and he has inherited his father’s wonderful talent and skill in this department. Patsy is passing on many of his skills to the members of the Club, and he is very ably abetted by his two brothers, Martin and Jimmy.
As part of their ongoing inclusive policy of working with local civic and sports groups who use the Port and the Bay areas, Dublin Port have given some time off during each week to Patsy to work on certain boat-building and repair projects within the Club. The East Wall group is one of the newest members of the East Coast Rowing Council, and they compete in the skiff rowing regattas. Some of the projects undertaken recently have included building and refurbishment of their double-ended rowing skiffs.
There is a great emphasis on rowing in the group, and they have taken the innovative step of having public rowing sessions in their skiffs, where anyone can get a row for a fee of €2. All ages are catered for. Currach building and their use are also a part of the group’s activities, and another recent project was the building of two beautiful new 17 ft. clinker-built rowing boats named Cam and Anne by Patsy and the team.
Many of the skiffs of the various East Coast Rowing Clubs were built in times past by Patsy Whelan Senior in Ringsend, and there was a strong sense of links to the past and the future, and indeed to the special boats of the Shannon Estuary too, as the new Gandelow took to the water and glided along, swift, graceful and beautiful, guided by the skillful rowing of a mixed team of the ladies and gentlemen of the East Wall Club.”