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Ilen – Uniting Ireland's Coastal Communities Through Educational Endeavour

18th February 2015
Ilen – Uniting Ireland's Coastal Communities Through Educational Endeavour

#ilen – As previously reported by Afloat.ie, the good ship Ilen's whiskey plank was jointly nailed home by Minister For The Marine, Simon Coveney, Mrs Kate Jarvey of Ruth Lily Philanthropic Trust, Mr Gerry Boland of JP McManus Charitable Foundation, Rear Admiral Mark Mellett, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces and Gary MacMahon, director of Ilen School.
Minister Simon Coveney praised the educational model of the Ilen School and the quality of it's community work. He also delighted in the high quality of shipbuilding in the ongoing reconstruction of the good ship Ilen.
As a sailor of wooden boats he related his deep appreciation and enthusiasm for the great traditions of vernacular boatbuilding, and further added that there should be many ships in the style of the Ilen plying a new contemporary trade in community education and national tourism on the south and west coast of Ireland. He also remarked on the unique capacity of boats to unit coastal community – in this particular case the communities of Limerick City and Baltimore, West Cork.
– Over 150 guests attended the ceremony in the Cornstore of Hegarty's Boatyard, leaving little room to swing the custom cast bronze maul.
– Brother Anthony Keane of Glenstal Abbey, director of Ilen School, was MC for the occasion and gave a wonderful and numenious address, evoking the great sea myths of Ireland, and, in the immemorial custom of boatbuilding, doused the wooden hull with Irish whiskey, generously sponsored by Teeling Whiskey.
Michael Byrne of Sail Training Ireland also attended the ceremony – his organisation plan to extend their national sail training programme to include youth in Limerick this year in a joint venture with the Ilen School, and go on to place trainees on the Ilen, when with a fair wind she might enter her operational phase in 2017.
The event was also attended by participants and instructors from the Ilen School, the shipwrights of Hegarty's Boatyard, Oldcourt as well as many officanados from the maritime sphere.
The event was also attended by Tom MacSweeney, who interviewed and recorded the principal project personalities for his maritime radio programme This Island Nation.

Published in Ilen
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Ireland's Trading Ketch Ilen

The Ilen is the last of Ireland’s traditional wooden sailing ships.

Designed by Limerick man Conor O’Brien and built in Baltimore in 1926, she was delivered by Munster men to the Falkland Islands where she served valiantly for seventy years, enduring and enjoying the Roaring Forties, the Furious Fifties, and Screaming Sixties.

Returned now to Ireland and given a new breath of life, Ilen may be described as the last of Ireland’s timber-built ocean-going sailing ships, yet at a mere 56ft, it is capable of visiting most of the small harbours of Ireland.

Wooden Sailing Ship Ilen FAQs

The Ilen is the last of Ireland’s traditional wooden sailing ships.

The Ilen was designed by Conor O’Brien, the first Irish man to circumnavigate the world.

Ilen is named for the West Cork River which flows to the sea at Baltimore, her home port.

The Ilen was built by Baltimore Sea Fisheries School, West Cork in 1926. Tom Moynihan was foreman.

Ilen's wood construction is of oak ribs and planks of larch.

As-built initially, she is 56 feet in length overall with a beam of 14 feet and a displacement of 45 tonnes.

Conor O’Brien set sail in August 1926 with two Cadogan cousins from Cape Clear in West Cork, arriving at Port Stanley in January 1927 and handed it over to the new owners.

The Ilen was delivered to the Falkland Islands Company, in exchange for £1,500.

Ilen served for over 70 years as a cargo ship and a ferry in the Falkland Islands, enduring and enjoying the Roaring Forties, the Furious Fifties, and Screaming Sixties. She stayed in service until the early 1990s.

Limerick sailor Gary McMahon and his team located Ilen. MacMahon started looking for her in 1996 and went out to the Falklands and struck a deal with the owner to bring her back to Ireland.

After a lifetime of hard work in the Falklands, Ilen required a ground-up rebuild.

A Russian cargo ship transported her back on a 12,000-mile trip from the Southern Oceans to Dublin. The Ilen was discharged at the Port of Dublin 1997, after an absence from Ireland of 70 years.

It was a collaboration between the Ilen Project in Limerick and Hegarty’s Boatyard in Old Court, near Skibbereen. Much of the heavy lifting, of frames, planking, deadwood & backbone, knees, floors, shelves and stringers, deck beams, and carlins, was done in Hegarty’s. The generally lighter work of preparing sole, bulkheads, deck‐houses fixed furniture, fixtures & fittings, deck fittings, machinery, systems, tanks, spar making and rigging is being done at the Ilen boat building school in Limerick.

Ten years. The boat was much the worse for wear when it returned to West Cork in May 1998, and it remained dormant for ten years before the start of a decade-long restoration.

Ilen now serves as a community floating classroom and cargo vessel – visiting 23 ports in 2019 and making a transatlantic crossing to Greenland as part of a relationship-building project to link youth in Limerick City with youth in Nuuk, west Greenland.

At a mere 56ft, Ilen is capable of visiting most of the small harbours of Ireland.

©Afloat 2020

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