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The New Dun Laoghaire? Could Restored Classic Marguerite Point the Way Towards a Reimagined Harbour?

3rd October 2019
The newly-restored Marguerite of 1896 vintage is the latest addition to Dun Laoghaire’s flotilla of classic yachts The newly-restored Marguerite of 1896 vintage is the latest addition to Dun Laoghaire’s flotilla of classic yachts Photo: Guy Kilroy

Anyone sailing in Dun Laoghaire on one of those gentler days which have occasionally punctuated this Autumn’s meteorological extremities could have been forgiven if they thought they were seeing a ghost writes W M Nixon. White of hull – very white – and with antique-style hand-made sails of pale cream, her clipper bow and long counter stern place this elegant little vessel in the High Victorian era as she slips effortlessly along, leaving scarcely any trace of wake in the best ghost-like traditions.

But she was real. Real enough to evoke the time when Dublin Bay Sailing Club was still the newly-formed disruptor which had first appeared in 1884. Real enough to recall that the innovating 1870-formed Royal Alfred Yacht Club was continuing to develop fresh ideas in the forefront of the international codification of the yacht racing rules.

For this little wonder is Guy and Jackie Kilroy’s newly-restored 25ft cutter Marguerite, which first sailed in 1896, but was built by a traditionalist who reckoned the classic yachts of the late 1880s and early 1890s were the peak of naval architectural achievement both for beauty of line, and for performance and seaworthiness. In Marguerite, he built his dream.

marguerite entering port2Marguerite has her first sail in restored form, September 2019. Photo: David Williams

This boatbuilder was quite something. His busy little yard was in Malahide, but though he was called Jack Wellington, that was an adopted surname, for he was actually Norwegian or Swedish, though nobody quite knew which. It was an easy enough confusion to make, for until 1905 they were a united kingdom with Sweden the dominant partner. But in the small estuary community which was then Malahide, it didn’t much matter either way, as they were accustomed to seafaring men who appeared from God’s knows where, and found a peaceful place to settle in the little village, particularly if they were shipwrights before they were sailors, for the little boatyard was always busy.

Eventually, Jack took it over, and was doing well with fishing boat work such that in 1896 it was decided to build a little yacht. Whether it was for a customer or for Jack himself we don’t know, but we do know that for at least a quarter of a century thereafter, Jack Wellington was the main man on board when Marguerite went sailing and racing.

For her lines, he’d persuaded Herbert Boyd across in Howth – who had designed and built the remarkably accomplished 27ft Eithne in 1893 – to lend him Eithne’s very basic drawings, and he simply scaled them down a bit, and Marguerite was a 25ft version of Eithne.

Eithne in 1895 sailing3Herbert Boyd’s Eithne as she was in 1895, flying the Commodore’s burgee of the newly-established Howth SC

Herbert Boyd went on to design the Howth 17s in 1897, and they first raced in 1898. But though he would take the helm of one of them from time to time for a race, Eithne remained his first and truest love. She was possibly the smallest-ever yacht listed as owned by the Commodore of the Royal Alfred YC when he was elected to that role for a distinguished period in office, having by now inherited his father Judge Boyd’s baronetcy to become Sir Walter Boyd Bt. In fact, he kept Eithne from when he had built her in the boatshed beside Howth House in 1893 until his death in 1948, and until the late 1920s her closest rival in racing was often her little sister Marguerite from Malahide.

In time, Marguerite passed to members of the Jameson whiskey family, but continued to be based in Malahide, and in the late 1940s she was being sailed by a young Mungo Park - a direct descendant of the legendary explorer, he was Mungo Park VII - but Marguerite came to him through the fact that his mother was a Jameson. He soon moved on to larger boats, becoming one of the keenest owner-skippers in the Dublin Bay 24 Class, and in 1973 his Chance 37 Tam O’Shanter was the top-placed Irish boat in that year’s Fastnet Race, thereby making Mungo Park the first winner of the Gull Salver.

Marguerite 1896 sailing4Marguerite in 1896, the only surviving photo of her earliest days.

As for Marguerite, she was inevitably showing her age and was sold away from Malahide. But somehow she survived, and in the late 1990s, the newly-retired Tim Magennis of Dun Laoghaire – probably the only Irish sailor to have gone round the world under gaff rig, having done it in the 1960s in the Colin Archer ketch Sandefjord – was looking for a retirement project. He was inspired by the fact that Sean Cullen, the son of his skipper on Sandefjord, had restored Eithne in 1984, and when he got to hear that Marguerite was in Arklow in a somewhat sorry state but still eminently restorable, his life path was mapped out for the next twenty years.

He managed to get Marguerite moved to a shed in the old ESB pole-field on Dublin’s East Wall Road, where a select group of Poolbeg Y & BC members winterized their yachts, and there he was able to draw on East Wall’s long-established boat-building skills to bring Marguerite back to life. Her original elegant counter had long since been shortened, but Tim wanted it restored. So I was delegated to bring Mungo Park in from Howth for a conference on how that stern had originally looked, which resulted in what must have been the one and only yacht design consultation which had ever taken place in the Wharf Tavern with a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron leading the discussion.

Despite such high-flying advisers, as he lived on his retirement pension Tim was determined to keep the Marguerite restoration within very manageable expenditure and running costs, so paint was readily used instead of expensively applied varnish, and the “new” suit of sails was assembled from anything remotely suitable on the second-hand market – it is believed that the enormous light weather staysail originally graced an International Dragon, while the mainsail was on permanent loan from a Howth 17.

marguerite and eithne5 Marguerite and Eithne together at a Woodenboat Rally in Dun Laoghaire in 2003, shortly after the former’s 1999 restoration. Photo: W M Nixonmarguerite 2013 sailing6Marguerite as she was in 2013, run as economically as possible and using a mixture of sails. Photo: W M Nixon

However, a neat little new engine was installed in order to avail of a tight-fit mooring in the Coal Harbour – not something granted to everyone, but there were many who wanted to help Tim Magennis – and for fifteen years and more, Marguerite in her basically-restored but neatly maintained style was a welcome feature among the newer craft and the utilitarian boats of the Irish National Sailing School in the inner harbour.

Tim Magennis being an enthusiastic member of the Old Gaffers Association, for the season of 2012-2013 he was President of the Dublin Bay OGA when the cream of the OGA fleet came to Dublin Bay as part of their Golden Jubilee, and the little Marguerite gallantly played her role as the flagship of as diverse an assembly of boats as the Liffey has ever seen, with Sean Walsh of the DBOGA becoming the OGA’s President, an international role.

tim magennis7Tim Magennis in his role as President of the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Association. Photo: W M Nixon

In time, Tim Magennis became an Honorary Member of the OGA, but with his 90th birthday approaching, he was acutely aware that continuing to maintain the Marguerite was becoming too demanding, yet he realised that finding the right people to take her on and maybe give her a full-on classic boat restoration was going to be no easy task.

Looking back now, perhaps it’s a pity that Tim’s main career was in the publicity department of Bord Failte in its developing days, for although he was brilliant at his job, he would have been of great value to the Department of Foreign Affairs, as his skills as a diplomat, persuader and selector of People Who Get Things Done are world class. Having observed the remarkable selection of boats taking part in the OGA Golden Jubilee, he had reckoned that Ian Malcolm of the Howth 17s was in a league of his own in his networking abilities, and at some gaff-rigged gathering he took him aside and asked did he know of anyone who might take on the mission of bringing Marguerite to her true glory, and keeping her there.

Not only is Ian Malcolm one of the main movers in keeping the vintage Howth 17s intact, but he is a committed owner-sailor with the classic Water Wags in Dun Laoghaire, and among their number he knew that Guy Kilroy – who thought so much of the Water Wags that he’d had a completely new boat to the 1900 Maimie Doyle design built by Jack Jones of North Wales - but now was showing the signs, readily recognised by a fellow enthusiast, of needing a much more demanding new project.

And that project was right there with the Marguerite, which always needed work done just to keep her seaworthy, but needed a major job to lift her into classic boat status. By 2017 the outline of an agreement had been worked out between Tim and Guy. But the prospects for the project were made no easier by the fact that Guy and his wife Jackie preferred to have the job done in the Greater Dublin area so that he could keep a close eye on it, for decisions would be needed on an almost daily basis.

larry archer8Boatbuilder extraordinaire – Larry Archer is a skilled shipwright in almost every material
Fortunately, that star-of-all-trades in boat-building, Larry Archer of Malahide, had secured himself the use of a substantial shed out in the country behind the back of Dublin Airport, a pearl beyond price in a city almost totally devoid of proper marine industry premises. In it, Larry and his right-hand man Paul Fowley were always busy with keeping the Howth 17s in full working order, building a sweet little dinghy to go with the original Asgard in Collins Barracks in order to match the dinghy seen in the famous photo of Erskine & Molly Childers when they were cruising the Baltic in Asgard, and generally getting on with getting things done things.

Bringing Marguerite up to a standard which she had possibly never reached in her long life was right up Larry’s street, and in due course she became the main job in the shed, always gradually progressing even as other more minor jobs came and went.

marguerite in shed9Getting there – Marguerite in the shed “somewhere beyond the airport”, Spring 2019. Photo: W M Nixonmarguerite new deck10The new deck, hatch and cockpit set the style for the restoration. Photo: W M Nixon
The ambition was to make Marguerite as close as possible to what she had been in 1896. The boat herself was of course available for the basic concept, but despite that high-flown design conference in the Wharf Tavern twenty years ago, there was a feeling that the counter still wasn’t exactly 1896. As for the coachrooof, judging by the only 1890s photo available, the comfortable little cabin as maintained by Tim Magennis was very different from the rather austere virtually flush deck with sliding hatch arrangement indicated in the original.

As well, Marguerite has rather slim sections aft, which greatly helps her speed in light airs, but it meant that the little engine installed in 1999 tended to make her sit a bit by the stern, so Guy Kilroy was very clear that he wanted a new engine installed further forward.

Regarding the cockpit and deck generally, both were to be finished to the highest standards, while in the hull itself, any timber over which there was the slightest question was to be replaced, the ballast keel was to be new bolted, the hint of a clipper bow in the original was to be very definitely retained, and the question of a classic counter – a vague design area with both the restored Eithne and Marguerite - was solved by replicating as far as possible the counter on the Dublin Bay 21s, as good as was ever seen in Dublin Bay.

marguerite counter restored11At last….inspired by the lines of the Dublin Bay 21, Marguerite finally has a truly classic counter again. Photo: W M Nixon

The original gaff sloop rig was to be re-created using old photos, and the sails and spars in classic style were ordered from Paul Robert’s renowned L’Ateliers d’Enfer traditional marine industry and boat-working school complex in Douarnenez in Brittany, where Ian Malcolm was regularly visiting as it was the location for the re-build on the Howth 17 Anita, lost except for her ballast keel in the destruction of the pier-end boat store shed in Howth during Storm Emma in March 2018.

Thus in the end several different places contributed to the re-birth of Marguerite, but the real focus of the action was in the shed in the unlikely setting of that hugely productive agricultural territory west of the airport, and it was summer 2019 before Marguerite could finally be moved to her designated home port of Dun Laoghaire for the final finishing jobs and the sometimes trial-and-error fitting of the new rig.

She’d been finished in pure white topsides with copper-green underside in proper classic yacht style, but it was expected that the boot-top would have to be raised once she was in full day-cruising trim, and as the photos show, such is the case, and she’ll look even better for it.

marguerite sailing12She moves easily through the water with very little fuss, and when the boot-top has been raised as expected, she’ll look even better. Photo: David Williams

What with other distraction inevitable in a busy sailing season, it was well into September when Marguerite finally sailed again, and there’s still work to be done. But in due course Dun Laoghaire will have yet another addition to its increasingly varied line-up of true classic yachts, and with two official surveys now under way as to the harbour and harbour area’s future, we can only hope that this increasing interest in classics will be recognized as yet another asset for the harbour as it might be.

guy and jackie kilroy13Has it really happened? Guy and Jackie Kilroy on their first sail in their restored 1896-vintage Marguerite. Photo: Ian Malcolm
For Dun Laoghaire is a classic artificial harbour – indeed, it could probably be best described as a neo-classical harbour. A magnificent structure in itself, it is great augmented by the style and vitality of the three waterfront yacht clubs, each a splendid classical building in its own right.
So although new buildings and new boats will be needed for new and useful additions such as the proposed National Watersports Complex, proper attention should also be paid to the potential for a focal point for classic boats and yachts, and their special requirements.

The historic Water Wags are already a great strength of the harbour scene. The attractive International 12s – once such a feature of the harbour in times past – are making a comeback. The first of the restored Dublin Bay 24s – Periwinkle – is now back in the harbour. The reintroduction of the Dublin Bay 21s is only a matter of time. And the clinker-built Mermaids of 1932 and the IDRA 14s of 1946 also spring to mind for possible revival.

peggy bawn and myfanwy14A glimpse of what might be – Peggy Bawn (1894) and Myfanwy (1897) together in Dun Laoghaire in 2017. Photo: W M Nixon
Thus the arrival of Marguerite gives a new dimension to possibilities which were first revealed when Hal Sisk in 2005 brought the superbly-restored 1894-vintage Peggy Bawn back to the harbour which had been her home port since 1919, a dimension which had been emphasised when she got together with the 1897-vintage Myfanwy at the Harbour’s Bicentenary in 2017.

Dun Laoghaire’s past, and the living history of its sailing, become central its future. The story of the restoration of Marguerite, and what she has now become, has been drawn into the Dun Laoghaire Harbour story. And the story of Marguerite and her survival and restoration is a credit to all involved.

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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Dun Laoghaire Harbour Information

Dun Laoghaire Harbour is the second port for Dublin and is located on the south shore of Dublin Bay. Marine uses for this 200-year-old man-made harbour have changed over its lifetime. Originally built as a port of refuge for sailing ships entering the narrow channel at Dublin Port, the harbour has had a continuous ferry link with Wales and this was the principal activity of the harbour until the service stopped in 2015. In all this time, however, one thing has remained constant and that is the popularity for sailing and boating from the port, making it Ireland's marine leisure capital with a harbour fleet of over 1,200-1.600 pleasure craft.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour Bye-Laws

Download the bye-laws on this link here

FAQs

A live stream Dublin Bay webcam showing Dun Laoghaire Harbour entrance and East Pier is here

Dun Laoghaire is a Dublin suburb situated on the south side of Dublin Bay, approximately, 15km from Dublin city centre.

The east and west piers of the harbour are each of 1 kilometre (0.62 miles) long.

The harbour entrance is 232 metres (761 ft) across from East to West Pier.

  • Public Boatyard
  • Public slipway
  • Public Marina

23 clubs, 14 activity providers and eight state-related organisations operate from Dun Laoghaire Harbour that facilitates a full range of sports - Sailing, Rowing, Diving, Windsurfing, Angling, Canoeing, Swimming, Triathlon, Powerboating, Kayaking and Paddleboarding. Participants include members of the public, club members, tourists, disabled, disadvantaged, event competitors, schools, youth groups and college students.

  • Commissioners of Irish Lights
  • Dun Laoghaire Marina
  • MGM Boats & Boatyard
  • Coastguard
  • Naval Service Reserve
  • Royal National Lifeboat Institution
  • Marine Activity Centre
  • Rowing clubs
  • Yachting and Sailing Clubs
  • Sailing Schools
  • Irish Olympic Sailing Team
  • Chandlery & Boat Supply Stores

The east and west granite-built piers of Dun Laoghaire harbour are each of one kilometre (0.62 mi) long and enclose an area of 250 acres (1.0 km2) with the harbour entrance being 232 metres (761 ft) in width.

In 2018, the ownership of the great granite was transferred in its entirety to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council who now operate and manage the harbour. Prior to that, the harbour was operated by The Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company, a state company, dissolved in 2018 under the Ports Act.

  • 1817 - Construction of the East Pier to a design by John Rennie began in 1817 with Earl Whitworth Lord Lieutenant of Ireland laying the first stone.
  • 1820 - Rennie had concerns a single pier would be subject to silting, and by 1820 gained support for the construction of the West pier to begin shortly afterwards. When King George IV left Ireland from the harbour in 1820, Dunleary was renamed Kingstown, a name that was to remain in use for nearly 100 years. The harbour was named the Royal Harbour of George the Fourth which seems not to have remained for so long.
  • 1824 - saw over 3,000 boats shelter in the partially completed harbour, but it also saw the beginning of operations off the North Wall which alleviated many of the issues ships were having accessing Dublin Port.
  • 1826 - Kingstown harbour gained the important mail packet service which at the time was under the stewardship of the Admiralty with a wharf completed on the East Pier in the following year. The service was transferred from Howth whose harbour had suffered from silting and the need for frequent dredging.
  • 1831 - Royal Irish Yacht Club founded
  • 1837 - saw the creation of Victoria Wharf, since renamed St. Michael's Wharf with the D&KR extended and a new terminus created convenient to the wharf.[8] The extended line had cut a chord across the old harbour with the landward pool so created later filled in.
  • 1838 - Royal St George Yacht Club founded
  • 1842 - By this time the largest man-made harbour in Western Europe had been completed with the construction of the East Pier lighthouse.
  • 1855 - The harbour was further enhanced by the completion of Traders Wharf in 1855 and Carlisle Pier in 1856. The mid-1850s also saw the completion of the West Pier lighthouse. The railway was connected to Bray in 1856
  • 1871 - National Yacht Club founded
  • 1884 - Dublin Bay Sailing Club founded
  • 1918 - The Mailboat, “The RMS Leinster” sailed out of Dún Laoghaire with 685 people on board. 22 were post office workers sorting the mail; 70 were crew and the vast majority of the passengers were soldiers returning to the battlefields of World War I. The ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat near the Kish lighthouse killing many of those onboard.
  • 1920 - Kingstown reverted to the name Dún Laoghaire in 1920 and in 1924 the harbour was officially renamed "Dun Laoghaire Harbour"
  • 1944 - a diaphone fog signal was installed at the East Pier
  • 1965 - Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club founded
  • 1968 - The East Pier lighthouse station switched from vapourised paraffin to electricity, and became unmanned. The new candle-power was 226,000
  • 1977- A flying boat landed in Dun Laoghaire Harbour, one of the most unusual visitors
  • 1978 - Irish National Sailing School founded
  • 1934 - saw the Dublin and Kingstown Railway begin operations from their terminus at Westland Row to a terminus at the West Pier which began at the old harbour
  • 2001 - Dun Laoghaire Marina opens with 500 berths
  • 2015 - Ferry services cease bringing to an end a 200-year continuous link with Wales.
  • 2017- Bicentenary celebrations and time capsule laid.
  • 2018 - Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company dissolved, the harbour is transferred into the hands of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council

From East pier to West Pier the waterfront clubs are:

  • National Yacht Club. Read latest NYC news here
  • Royal St. George Yacht Club. Read latest RSTGYC news here
  • Royal Irish Yacht Club. Read latest RIYC news here
  • Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club. Read latest DMYC news here

 

The umbrella organisation that organises weekly racing in summer and winter on Dublin Bay for all the yacht clubs is Dublin Bay Sailing Club. It has no clubhouse of its own but operates through the clubs with two x Committee vessels and a starters hut on the West Pier. Read the latest DBSC news here.

The sailing community is a key stakeholder in Dún Laoghaire. The clubs attract many visitors from home and abroad and attract major international sailing events to the harbour.

 

Dun Laoghaire Regatta

Dun Laoghaire's biennial town regatta was started in 2005 as a joint cooperation by the town's major yacht clubs. It was an immediate success and is now in its eighth edition and has become Ireland's biggest sailing event. The combined club's regatta is held in the first week of July.

  • Attracts 500 boats and more from overseas and around the country
  • Four-day championship involving 2,500 sailors with supporting family and friends
  • Economic study carried out by the Irish Marine Federation estimated the economic value of the 2009 Regatta at €2.5 million

The dates for the 2021 edition of Ireland's biggest sailing event on Dublin Bay is: 8-11 July 2021. More details here

Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Offshore Race

The biennial Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race is a 320-miles race down the East coast of Ireland, across the south coast and into Dingle harbour in County Kerry. The latest news on the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race can be found by clicking on the link here. The race is organised by the National Yacht Club.

The 2021 Race will start from the National Yacht Club on Wednesday 9th, June 2021.

Round Ireland Yacht Race

This is a Wicklow Sailing Club race but in 2013 the Garden County Club made an arrangement that sees see entries berthed at the RIYC in Dun Laoghaire Harbour for scrutineering prior to the biennial 704–mile race start off Wicklow harbour. Larger boats have been unable to berth in the confines of Wicklow harbour, a factor WSC believes has restricted the growth of the Round Ireland fleet. 'It means we can now encourage larger boats that have shown an interest in competing but we have been unable to cater for in Wicklow' harbour, WSC Commodore Peter Shearer told Afloat.ie here. The race also holds a pre-ace launch party at the Royal Irish Yacht Club.

Laser Masters World Championship 2018

  • 301 boats from 25 nations

Laser Radial World Championship 2016

  • 436 competitors from 48 nations

ISAF Youth Worlds 2012

  • The Youth Olympics of Sailing run on behalf of World Sailing in 2012.
  • Two-week event attracting 61 nations, 255 boats, 450 volunteers.
  • Generated 9,000 bed nights and valued at €9 million to the local economy.

The Harbour Police are authorised by the company to police the harbour and to enforce and implement bye-laws within the harbour, and all regulations made by the company in relation to the harbour.

There are four ship/ferry berths in Dun Laoghaire:

  • No 1 berth (East Pier)
  • No 2 berth (east side of Carlisle Pier)
  • No 3 berth (west side of Carlisle Pier)
  • No 4 berth  (St, Michaels Wharf)

Berthing facilities for smaller craft exist in the town's 800-berth marina and on swinging moorings.

© Afloat 2020

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