A massive fire in in Arklow has engulfed and destroyed what most people thought was a large warehouse beside the old Inner Dock writes W M Nixon. But it was in this “warehouse” in the late 1970s and early ’80s that Jack Tyrrell and his men built the 84ft sail training brigantine Asgard II, which he had designed himself and promoted as a developing ideal through much of the 1970s.
In fact, it was the prospect of Asgard II becoming reality in 1977 which prompted the building of the shed, which became a place of pilgrimage, a small but quietly emotive cathedral of classic wooden ship-building for maritime enthusiasts from near and far as the fine ship took shape to fulfill many people’s long-held dream.
For reasons which still have never been fully explained, Asgard II foundered in the Bay of Biscay in September 2008 while on her way to La Rochelle. This was planned to be an extended visit to include three weeks of complete survey and inspection in a shipyard which might well have revealed the damaged seacock which many reckon was the cause of her sinking.
After 27 years of very active service, Asgard’s hull was in any case overdue for replacement. But it was not to be, and Ireland is still without a national sail training ship. As for the capacious shed in which she was built, while the Arklow boat-building industry has moved north of the river and is today noted for its alloy-built workboats, the shed meanwhile had been used for furniture storage and display, and then at the time of this week’s fire, it was storing cardboard.