Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Mullaghmore Regatta this Weekend Celebrates Great Irish Tradition

21st July 2020
Mullaghmore Regatta this Weekend Celebrates Great Irish Tradition

They’ve been holding annual regattas at breezy Mullaghmore on Sligo’s northwest coast for a very long time. Probably way beyond 1885, but that’s the oldest regatta poster they’ve managed to unearth. And though it’s just about possible to decipher it, we’ll run it in the “clear modern” style as well to give the flavour of sports and sailing and shore life and country life all being celebrated in a mixed together sort of way all of 145 years ago.

Which, come to think of it, is what domestic life has been like these past few months with Lockdowns and whatnot. But with a tradition like the Mullaghmore Regatta spirit to bring everyone to life, as soon as closures eased even a little bit it was immediately time to dust off the old posters, create a new one for 24th-26th July 2020 (and very stylish it is too), and give us a moment to consider what it was like in 1885.

1885 Mullaghmore Regatta posterRelic of oul decency – we can still identify with much of the information in the 1885 Mullaghmore Regatta poster.


Tuesday, August 24th (Ed’s note: it was 1885)


Colonel Wood-Martin J.W.Tate MD
William Alexander C.R. Kincaid
Bernard Harte
JAMES M’GLOIN, Hon.Sec. and Treasurer

First Race- For boats under ten tons; a flying start at eleven o’clock
Second Race- Trawlers under four tons; start same time
Third Race: Green Castle Yawls; start same time.

Open to Four-oared Green Castle Yawls
The sports will terminate with a Donkey Race.
Entrance Money to be lodged with the Hon. Sec, not later than ten o’clock on the morning of the Races, when the amount of the prizes will be declared. Starting Points and Courses to be arranged by the Committee on the morning of the Races. Decisions of the Committee to be final in any disputed case. Any objector to lodge Five Shillings with his written objection. The money to be applied to the Regatta Fund should the objection prove frivolous.

N. B. Tents will not be allowed on the Green

The first thing we notice is that it was held on a Tuesday. As we’re emerging from a weird period in which one day merged into another until you couldn’t really say what day it is or was, that doesn’t seem quite such a big deal now. But in the times BC (Before Coronavirus) when all was precision and rush and go and stick strictly to timetables, the complete lack of total worship of the Sacred Weekend would have seemed unnerving.

As for the other information in that 1885 poster, much of it speaks for itself, but for the uninitiated, the Green Castle Yawls are the ubiquitous clinker-built double-enders maybe about 25ft long which were based on the imported Drontheim (Trondheim) boats, which were brought from Norway in considerable numbers mostly to Derry as deck cargo, and then copied and beefed up by Irish builders mainly along the north coast, and most notably at Greencastle in Donegal at the entrance to Lough Foyle.

 Classic re-creation of a Greencastle yawl – this is the Portrush-based community-built James KellyClassic re-creation of a Greencastle yawl – this is the Portrush-based community-built James Kelly, named in honour of the local boatbuilder who crafted quality fishing boats and yachts, including two Dublin Bay 21s in 1903. Photo: W M Nixon

In time the tradition spread to local builders on down the west coast, a noted focal point for this being the mysterious Milk Harbour south of Mullaghmore, a secret inlet hidden among the sand-dunes which march along this coast beside the beaches which proved the undoing of the ships of the Spanish Armada.

Yacht racing at Mullaghmore in the sheltered bayRacing at Mullaghmore in the sheltered bay - big country, big sailing, big-hearted people. Photo: MSC

Yet while those Atlantic-facing beaches are notoriously exposed, just a few miles along the coast to the northeast the rugged little headland of Mullaghmore curves round to provide total shelter in the extensive bay to the eastward, ideal regatta racing water with the spice of the open sea close by to give the offshore racers a run for their money. Whether or not all that money still goes into the prize pot, we can only guess. Either way, it’s all happening this weekend at Mullaghmore.

Noted antiquarian bookseller Ed Maggs brings his “modern classic” gaff ketch Betty Alan to Mullaghmore Regatta 2019Distinguished visitor. Noted antiquarian bookseller Ed Maggs brings his “modern classic” gaff ketch Betty Alan to Mullaghmore Regatta 2019. Photo Brian Mathews

Published in Racing, WIORA
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

Email The Author

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.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven't put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open. is Ireland's only full-time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button