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Historic Arklow Trading Vessel to Be Demolished in Liverpool

15th May 2023
The De Wadden, the historic Arklow schooner in Liverpool
The De Wadden, the historic Arklow schooner in Liverpool Credit: Merseyside Maritime Museum;

The De Wadden, the historic schooner which sailed out of Arklow, the County Wicklow town once described by maritime historian Dr John deCourcy Ireland as the “most maritime town in Ireland”, is to be demolished at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool.

The renowned three-masted auxiliary schooner is the last of its kind to operate on the Irish Sea. The Museum bought the ship in 1984, and it has been dry-docked in its Canning Graving Docks ever since, with regular conservation work being carried out. However, exposed to the weather and other conditions, it has deteriorated beyond sustainable cost.

“We do understand there may be people who find this decision around De Wadden upsetting, but disposal is an essential part of healthy collections management, and these decisions are not always easy. We know not everyone will agree,” a Museum statement said. “We are reviewing what elements might be suitable to retain as part of the Museum’s collection or for other potential users.”

The De Wadden in her sailing days Photo: Merseyside Maritime MuseumThe De Wadden in her sailing days Photo: Merseyside Maritime Museum

De Wadden was built for the Netherlands Steamship Company in 1917 and, after World War One, was sold to Richard Hall from Arklow, Co Wicklow. It was used as part of his merchant sail vessel fleet until 1961. Over that time period, De Wadden carried bulk cargo from Liverpool to various Irish ports. It was captained for 20 years by Richard Hall's son Victor before being sold for use as a leisure charter fishing vessel in Scotland.

The Director of National Historic Ships UK, Hannah Cunliffe, described the Museum’s decision as “disappointing” and said deconstruction must record and preserve her story.

The Museum said it had carried out a year-long consultation and feasibility study and had received several expressions of interest from individuals and organisations, but none was
“compliant” with what it would require. “Transfer was not a realistic option and dismantling is the only option,” it says.

The primary historical significance of the De Wadden is as an example of an Irish Sea trading vessel. Measuring 116 feet in length with a steel hull and a single deck, she was built along with two sister ships to take advantage of trading conditions created by Dutch neutrality in the First World War. She operated in the European short-sea trades till the early 1920s.

After being sold to Arklow, the De Wadden carried bulk cargoes such as grain, china clay, mineral ores, and especially coal from Liverpool and the River Mersey area to various Irish ports.

During the Second World War, she provided a vital lifeline carrying supplies to Ireland.

While the vessel had a small motor, she almost always operated under a combination of sail and motor. As a motor schooner, she had a flat bottom and shallow draft that maximized cargo capacity and gave her the ability to enter small harbours. The design required the push of the motor because the hull shape did not sail very well, but with the motor, which gave her an original speed of five knots, she was a versatile and economical cargo ship.

De Wadden had a practical design, including wide hatches which facilitated the loading and discharge of cargo.

The museum had previously been undertaking efforts to reverse later alterations and restore her to look as she did sailing on the Irish Sea between 1922 and 1961.

Published in Historic Boats
Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney writes a weekly column for He presents the monthly programme Maritime Ireland on Podcast services and Irish radio stations.

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