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Limerick’s Ilen Restorers Get National Recognition for Success of Their Project

17th December 2019
(L to R) Industrial Heritage Association of Ireland President Paul McMahon, Gary MacMahon of the Ilen Project, ESB Director Nicholas Tarrant, Father Anthony Keane (Ilen Project), and Michael English (IHAI Board Member) at the presentation of the IHAI’s Best Restoration of 2019 . (L to R) Industrial Heritage Association of Ireland President Paul McMahon, Gary MacMahon of the Ilen Project, ESB Director Nicholas Tarrant, Father Anthony Keane (Ilen Project), and Michael English (IHAI Board Member) at the presentation of the IHAI’s Best Restoration of 2019 .

Limerick's Ilen Project has been presented with the Industrial Heritage Association of Ireland's Award for “Best Restoration of 2019” with its visionary management of the rebuilt sailing ship Ilen, and the associated community education work in Limerick. The Association’s President Paul McMahon presented the trophy at the IHAI Awards 2019 in the ESB Archive Building in Finglas. The ESB sponsored the event, and Michael English (IHAI Board Member) read the citation.

The Ilen during 2019 carried Limerick’s flag across the Atlantic to Greenland and back on the Salmons Wake research voyages, and having also confirmed that things are indeed cold within the Arctic Circle, she may set sail southwards for the islands of Madeira in 2020, as it was a port of call for Ilen during Conor O’Brien’s delivery voyage to the Falklands in 1926. The Ilen Project's marine educational programme has already extended to the islands, and the possible arrival of the ship has aroused local interest. It is now some ninety-five years since she last docked there, and her return visit to Funchal is eagerly awaited.

ilen award2Ilen in Greenland in the summmer of 2019. In 2020, a southward voyage to Madeira is an increasing possibility. Photo: Gary MacMahon
The ship has turned out every bit as well as anyone expected. She has handled with equanimity whatever the North Atlantic threw at her this past summer. Her combination of sturdiness, elegance and speed win admiration wherever she goes.

The Ilen has also had a very full first operational season conveying community groups and individuals around the apectacular coast of Ireland. Her utility and attraction as a floating classroom and educational platform give credit to Limerick City and County Council, who provided funding through the Social Intervention Fund, to the JP McManus Benevolent Fund, and to all others who gave so generously of their time and treasure to bring her to where she is now.

Published in Ilen
WM Nixon

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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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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.

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