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#10yearArrival – The unique venue of Dublin’s only floating bar and restaurant located on the Liffey in the form of MV Cill Airne arrived to the capital a decade ago as of last Thursday, writes Jehan Ashmore.

At that stage Cill Airne was about to embark a new career during the flagging tail-end of the Celtic Tiger era. The economic tide however has begun to float some boats in Dublin, following a visit made last week. Patrons crammed the bars and spilled out onto the sun soaked deck with views of the Liffey landmarks while a deck below diners enjoyed the environs of the timber panelled restaurant.

The former Cork Harbour Commissioners (Cobh) based trans-Atlantic ‘liner’ tender dating to 1962 was according to publicity material accommodated 1,000 passengers, mail and even cars. Among the rich and famous conveyed were Hollywood stars Laurel & Hardy and President Eisenhower. The 501 gross tonnage tender along with elder sister Blarna were built by the Liffey Dockyard. This yard no longer exists nor the business that ran from the nearby graving drydock (No.2) in Alexandra Basin that finally closed this year.

The pair were the last riveted ships to be built in Europe and to a design based on the Mersey ferry still served by fellow veterans, Snowdrop and Royal Iris of the Mersey. As far as the Cork tenders are concerned they had two saloons in which one incorporated a tea-bar served by crew that totalled 10. Such trade was put to an end when jet aircraft took over the regular ‘liner’ era trade between England and the United States.

It was the Cork Institute of Technology that acquired the Cill Airne as a nautical training ship on the River Lee and lower Cork Harbour where in 1996 the ship participated at the Naval Service Jubilee fleet review. This was led by the last ever Verolme Cork Dockyard ship, the flagship L.E. Eithne with President Mary Robinson on board during the ceremony attended by several foreign navies.

Cill Airne became obsolete following the opening in Ringaskiddy of the National Maritime College of Ireland that is equipped with a computer bridge simulator. She was sold to new owners that involved a major restoration project by the Irish Barge & Fabrication Company. However firstly Cill Airne called to Cork Dockyard to iinclude work to remove ugly training equipment followed by internal design work at the Hegarty Boatyard, Oldcourt outside of Skibbereen.

It was upon Cill Airne’s call to Dublin that took place on 25 May 2007 that it was noted that new steel work was added to the upper deck. This in-completed area would become what is now the upper bar that affords wonderful view overlooking the Liffey.

This additional superstructure along with see-through wind-shelter screens has benefitted patrons but in design terms these features have to purist’s diminished the ship’s original aesthetics. The tender originally had only the funnel abaft of the wheelhouse and a pair of lifeboats near the stern.

To those who have a keen interest in rare surviving Irish built ships, there is a photo of Cill Airne depicting the veteran vessel during its incomplete state when covered for a piece contributed to the Ships Monthly issue of August 2007.

In addition to stories covering the restoration project with both exterior and interior shots of the luxurious fit-out appearing in Inshore-Ireland February 2006, and following the veteran venue’s opening captured in issues February and April 2008.

Published in Historic Boats

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