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Superstar Jockey Rachael Blackmore: Is She Descended from a Ringsend Fishing Family?

15th April 2022
Quiet determination – Rachael Blackmore in winning form
Quiet determination – Rachael Blackmore in winning form Credit: courtesy Irish Times

The possibility that stellar jockey Rachael Blackmore, the winner of the Grand National in 2021 and the Cheltenham Gold Cup this year, might just be descended from a noted Dublin nautical family has emerged from traditional boat enthusiast and maritime historian Cormac Lowth’s research into the development of the Ringsend fishing community. He reveals these intriguing insights from time to time to several organisations, including fellow members of the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Association at their gatherings in the hospitable Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club, one of the focal points of modern Ringsend’s friendly interaction with Dublin Port.

Two hundred years and more ago, with the ending of the Napoleonic Wars, the seas of western Europe were becoming safer for fishing fleets to go about their trade. And the port of Brixham in southwest England was the Silicon Valley of fishing development in its day, leading the way in the speedy improvement of boats and equipment to enable a rapid expansion of its fishing areas from 1818 onwards.

Brixham today is mainly for tourists, but 200 years ago it was a developmental powerhouse of the fishing industryBrixham today is mainly for tourists, but 200 years ago it was a developmental powerhouse of the fishing industry

This soon brought the new state-of-the-art Brixham trawlers into the Irish Sea, where they needed a base, and it was Ringsend at the rivermouth of Dublin’s River Liffey that proved most hospitable. So much so, in fact, that many of the Brixham fisherman – the all-powerful skippers and ordinary crewmen alike – married into Ringsend families to add new surnames and fresh vitality to the community. 

INTERACTION BETWEEN DEVON AND DUBLIN

This interaction and regular connection between Ringsend and Brixham lasted for around a hundred years, ended by World War I in 1914 and the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922. But by then, those distinctive Devon surnames like Biddulph, Ebbs, Upham and Blackmore were very much thought of as pure Ringsend, even if in the bigger picture - with Ringsend developing its own fishing industry with boat-building attached – the Murphy family had become dominant, with their mighty Ringsend-built fishing cutter St Patrick of the 1887 being possibly the largest vessel of the Brixham type ever built.

The Murphy family’s St Patrick at Ringsend in 1889. Possibly the largest vessel ever built of the Brixham type, she was constructed by the Murphy family and successfully fished by them for many years.The Murphy family’s St Patrick at Ringsend in 1889. Possibly the largest vessel ever built of the Brixham type, she was constructed by the Murphy family and successfully fished by them for many years.

But while Murphy is Ireland’s most frequent surname, Blackmore ranks something like 3,500th, which makes anyone thus named very special indeed. Nevertheless, there seems to have been a small but strong strain of Blackmores in Tipperary for some time, so Rachael Blackmore’s people may have got there by some means other than the Brixham-Ringsend route.

OPEN HOUSE AT POOLBEG

Either way, it is exactly the kind of topic for discussion enjoyed by traditional boat enthusiasts when they get together to talk of this and that, and on the evening of Friday, May 6th it’s going to be open house at Poolbeg Y&BC as the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Association and their friends gather for the public presentation to Paul Keogh (an Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” in January) of the international Jolie Brise Trophy for his 25 years of selfless devotion to keeping the community-owned Clondalkin-built Galway Hooker Naomh Cronan in good order and in full action afloat.

This return to normal life (after a remarkable two years-plus period in which the DBOGA have been Zoom-meeting pathfinders) will continue in the June Bank Holiday Weekend, with the three day DBOGA Regatta (aka The Liffey Regatta) at Poolbeg from June 3rd-5th, a remarkable festival in a working port.

The “City Haven” – Poolbeg YC & BC in Ringsend with its marina contrasting with the modern curves o the Aviva StadiumThe “City Haven” – Poolbeg YC & BC in Ringsend with its marina contrasting with the modern curves o the Aviva Stadium

WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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