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Tall Ship Grace O’Malley Debuts in Ireland at Foyle Maritime Festival

26th July 2022
A message from Grace O'Malley - 'Young people of the Island of Ireland - This is Your Ship'
A message from Grace O'Malley - 'Young people of the Island of Ireland - This is Your Ship'

Grace O’Malley or in Irish, Grainne Ni Maille, was the head of the O Maille dynasty in the west of Ireland. She is a well-known historical figure in sixteenth-century Irish history and in popular culture often referred to as "The Pirate Queen" as she is reputed to be one of the most famous pirates and was considered to be a fierce leader at sea.

Far from being a ‘pirate ship’, the Grace O’Malley is Ireland’s most recently acquired Youth Development Tall Ship and made its first appearance on the island last week at this year’s Foyle Maritime Festival following its purchase by the Atlantic Youth Trust charity.

The Grace O'Malley arriving in Derry Photo: Lorcan DohertyThe Grace O'Malley arriving in Derry. It is hoped the ship can become a floating embassy for Ireland Photo: Lorcan Doherty

She was greeted by hundreds of enthusiastic festival goers on Thursday last and moored alongside Meadowbank Quay.

The Atlantic Youth Trust Charity was set up to connect Irish young people with the ocean and adventure while developing sustainability and supporting and protecting the environment.

It was formed by private individuals and organisations throughout the island of Ireland to offer youths an introduction to life at sea and is chaired by Round the World sailor Enda O'Coineen,

The Grace O’Malley is a 164ft long tradewind schooner purchased in Sweden last month to introduce young people across the island of Ireland to a possible maritime career.

She was built as a timber merchant schooner in Denmark in 1909 and was launched in 1980 to host 100-day guests and 37 overnight passengers.

Trainees on the deck of the Grace O'MalleyTrainees on the deck of the Grace O'Malley

The Grace O’Malley left Sweden on the weekend of July 9th for its maiden voyage with its new owners. “It’s a stunning ship and even people who aren’t sailing enthusiasts will be very interested to see it,” explained Catherine Noone from the Atlantic Youth Trust.

“We’re delighted that the first appearance in Ireland is at an event as large and high profile as the Foyle Maritime Festival”.

The Grace O'Malley at Meadowbank Quay in DerryThe Grace O'Malley at Meadowbank Quay in Derry

“The Grace O’Malley has been bought for the young people of Ireland by the Trust to give them an experience of sailing and create a pathway to a wide range of maritime careers,” Catherine continued.

“We want the ship to be as accessible as possible and that is why events such as the Foyle Maritime Festival are so important in reaching out to young people and giving them their first introduction to life on board a ship. It opens up such a wide range of careers to young people and ten days on board a boat with us can also help develop key life skills and provide a much-needed change of perspective.”

Climbing the rigging of the Grace O'Malley at the Foyle Maritime FestivalClimbing the rigging of the Grace O'Malley at the Foyle Maritime Festival

After six days crossing the North Sea from Western Sweden, with 40-knot headwinds at times, the ship arrived in spectacular fashion in Lough Foyle and was piloted from the village of Greencastle on the north bank by Harbour Master Bill McCann, under the Foyle Bridge, the second longest on the island of Ireland.

O’Coineen asked the question, “ Would we fit under the Foyle Bridge?” With four metre clearance they did!

And the Grace O’Malley did prove a big draw at the Festival with a constant queue of people waiting to go aboard.

The schooner left Sweden on July 15 with 20 crew onboard. The ship was captained by experienced and renowned Irish Captain Gerry Burns for its voyage across the North Sea, North of Scotland and then southbound to Derry.

The Grace O’Malley is a Youth Development Ship for all of the young people of the island of Ireland. Young people will experience sailing, teamwork, a change of perspective and also create a pathway to a wide range of maritime careers. This is a project that can truly change lives. H77

As reported in Afloat in January, O’Coineen, a former Director of Coiste an Asgard, says "we have long since championed the need to replace Ireland’s lost sail training vessel the Asgard II in a dynamic and creative new way". It is hoped the ship can become a floating embassy for Ireland at events home and abroad, ranging from Tall Ships races to trade events while all the time fulfilling her core youth and reconciliation mission. It is understood that a " mini-refit" will be required to suit Irish purposes.

According to O'Coineen, she will need some cosmetic work on deck and will need to be repainted. Much of the running rigging, now several years old, will need replacement.

Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down

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