Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

In association with ISA Logo Irish Sailing

Ketch Ilen is Flagship for MacMahon Family’s Success Afloat

25th March 2020
The restored 1926 ketch Ilen takes her departure for Greenland from the MacMahon stronghold of Carrigaholt Castle on the Shannon Estuary The restored 1926 ketch Ilen takes her departure for Greenland from the MacMahon stronghold of Carrigaholt Castle on the Shannon Estuary

There were several notable Irish sailing families with their names up in lights more than once at Saturday evening’s virtual awards ceremony for the annual achievements in Irish sailing. But none could match the seaborn diversity of an ancient tribe whose ancestral lands are in south county Clare along the north shore of the Shannon Estuary, where they have developed a long and vibrant association with Limerick city.

2 carrigaholt castle2Carrigaholt Castle, stronghold of the Mac Mahons, was built around 1480 – twelve years before Columbus arrived in America.

Yet like all Irish families of note, these days the Mac Mahons (or MacMahon or McMahon) also have a global presence, their most notable expats being in France. There, a descendent of one of the Wild Geese who left Ireland after the defeats of the wars in the 17th Century was Patrice de MacMahon (1808-1893), 6th Marquess of MacMahon and 1st Duke of Magenta, a noted soldier who rose to become a Marshal of France and then, on going into politics, was President of the French Republic from 1875 to 1879.

3 gary mac mahon3Gary Mac Mahon of Limerick aboard Ilen at Nuuk in Greenland
Back home meanwhile, the MacMahons who stayed on in Ireland gradually emerged from the years of conquered oppression to re-build their lives over generations, and they have long since been in roles of distinction in many areas of local and national life. But nevertheless Saturday’s awards were something special in the family’s long history, as Gary MacMahon of Limerick received the President’s Award for his many years of devotion to the cause of restoring the 56ft 1926-built Conor O’Brien trading ketch Ilen with such success that she was able to voyage to Greenland in 2019.

4 eve mcmahon4Eve McMahon of Howth, the new Youth Sailor of the Year
5 eve mcmahon sailing5At home on the water – Eve McMahon with her Laser
In a completely different area of sailing, Eve McMahon of Howth was honoured as Youth Sailor of the Year for taking Gold in the U17 Division in the Laser Youth Worlds in Canada and other successes, while her brother Jamie McMahon was the Junior Sailor of the Month for April on the strength of his victory as Laser Radial overall title-holder in the Irish Youth Championship in Crosshaven.

6 jamie mcmahon6Jamie McMahon, Junior Sailor of the Month for Aril 2019 after his convincing victory at the Irish Sailing Youth Championship at Royal Cork.
7 jamie mcmahon sailing7In control – Jamie McMahon on his way to winning the Youth Championship at Crosshaven. Photo: Robert Bateman
All these successes are very much of our time. But there was a special salute to the Mac Mahon history as Ilen took her departure from Limerick for Greenland in July 2019. Her final anchorage in the Shannon Estuary before taking on the Atlantic was at Carrigaholt, where the stronghold of Mac Mahons in southwest Clare – Carrigaholt Castle built around 1480s – still stands, now maintained by the office of Public Works as a well-preserved if empty shell which eloquently serves – as does Ilen herself – as a tangible link to times past.

8 ilen woodenboat8A Mac Mahon dream fulfilled – Ilen in Greenland provides a very memorable cover image for the current WoodenBoat magazine. Photo: Gary Mac Mahon

Published in Ilen
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 Afloat.ie 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.

Afloat.ie 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

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.

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Car Brands

subaru sidebutton

Featured Associations

ISA sidebutton
ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Events 2020

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
viking sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
sellingboat sidebutton

Please show your support for Afloat by donating