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Artist-Built Achill Currach Part of Exhibition in Temple Bar, Dublin

29th April 2023
An Mór Ríoghain currach built by Mark Redden
An Mór Ríoghain currach built by Mark Redden

An Achill currach built by artist Mark Redden is part of a project on display for the next fortnight in Dublin’s Temple Bar.

Redden says the project began as a conversation about how a damaged two-handed Achill currach, An Trá Bán, owned by Rosie O’Reilly could “breathe life into a new boat”.

“Taking the beauty of its shape through Rosie’s charcoal rubbings and combining it with a build style that incorporates recycled furniture, hazel rod ribs and twine, An Mór Ríoghain was born,” he says.

The vessel is on display, along with work by both Redden and O’Reilly, at the TØN Gallery, Temple Bar, Dublin.

Seaweed print-Strangers in a middle world by Rosie O'ReillySeaweed print-Strangers in a middle world by Rosie O'Reilly

O’Reilly’s will show a series of black and white film images, developed and printed using chemicals derived from an invasive seaweed, a Japanese kelp as part of an ongoing oceanic research project entitled “Strangers in a middle world’.

Her project had its first home at the terminal building of Porto’s port from Jan-March 2018 where she was artist in residency at the marine research institution CIMAR observing the study of marine invasive species.

Flight of the great fish by Mark ReddenFlight of the great fish by Mark Redden

Redden will show “An island of abundance and poverty”, taking early Irish literary romances as inspiration for this series of paintings and sculptures.

He says the work references the 11th century “Imrama” or navigations; and the voyage of Máel Dúin, which resembles the classical tale of Ulysses.

Redden has been building currachs since 2004, having worked with master boat builder Jackie Mons of Oughterard and Meitheal Mara in Cork.

An accomplished painter and sculptor, he still turns out currachs every now and then to share the joys of currach making and coastal rowing.

He has built boats in Norway, Spain and as far away as Tasmania, as well as all over Ireland and has won the Ocean to City regatta in Cork with a crew he trained in Barcelona.

In 2008, Redden established Iomramh in Barcelona, an association dedicated to currach building, rowing and oceanic awareness.

For the past 11 years, he has organised a regatta and festival around St Patrick’s day in Barcelona, which centres around his fleet of four currachs.

Both Redden and O’Reilly collaborated on a community project to build currachs for the East Wall Water Sports Centre. In 2016, O’Reilly acquired An Tra Bán from a Mayo fisherman.

To celebrate their latest project, a short talk was given last week by Dr Treasa de Loughry of the University College, Dublin School of English, touching on themes of blue humanities and eco-literacy, and this was followed by a discussion with the two artists.

Redden’s currach An Mór Rioghain and the artworks are on view at the TØN Gallery, Temple Bar, Dublin, by appointment from now until May 15th. For information, contact Sorcha Finlay at 085 108 9899 or artist Rosie O’Reilly at [email protected]

Published in Currachs, Historic Boats
Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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About Currachs

A currach is a type of boat unique to the west coasts of Ireland and Scotland. Traditionally, currachs have a wooden frame over which animal skins or hides are stretched. These days, the wooden frame is more likely to be covered in canvas, which is then painted with tar to make it waterproof.

"Naomhóg" is the name given to the type of currach which used by coastal communities in Cork and Kerry. Currachs differ from each other from region to region. Naomhógs are slightly longer than the currachs used in the West of Ireland.
Some believe that currachs first came to the Dingle Peninsula in the early 19th century. They say this type of boat was introduced from Clare, where currachs are known as "canoes". 

Currachs are a unique type of boat that can be found on the west coasts of Ireland and Scotland. These boats are traditionally constructed using a wooden frame over which animal skins or hides are stretched. While this practice is still observed by some, many modern currachs now feature a canvas covering which is painted with tar to make it waterproof.

In coastal communities located in the Cork and Kerry regions, a specific type of currach is used which is known as a Naomhóg. Naomhógs are slightly longer than other types of currachs used in the West of Ireland. It is believed that currachs were first introduced to the Dingle Peninsula in the early 19th century, having been brought over from Clare where they are known as "canoes".

Despite the fact that currachs have been in use for centuries, the different regions in which they are used have developed their own unique variations. As such, currachs can differ from one another significantly depending on their geographic location. Nonetheless, these boats remain an integral part of coastal communities, serving as a reminder of our shared maritime heritage.