Displaying items by tag: Ilen
The return of the restored trading ketch Ilen to Limerick after 92 years has been a matter of quiet celebration among all involved since the 56ft “small tall ship" sailed up the Shannon Estuary from Baltimore at the beginning of October writes W M Nixon. And interest has been such that people from near and far want to meet those involved in every aspect of the 20-year project, which eventually saw the ten years from 2008 until 2018 taken up with giving new life to Ilen at Liam Hegarty’s boatyard at Oldcourt in West Cork, with much of the detail work being done at the Ilen Boat-Building School in Limerick.
With the successful Ilen exhibition being staged in Limerick’s renowned Hunt Museum, the ideal venue for a party is available, so there’s going to be a convivial Come-all-Ye within the exhibition in the Museum on Thursday November 1st from 5.30 to 8.00pm. At it, everyone will be welcome to have a good time and an informative one too – the benign presence of the Ilen in the Ted Russell Dock has brought daily interest and greater awareness in Limerick, and an increased sense of the city’s truly maritime nature, with its fascinating past and developing future
The restored 1926-built 56ft ketch Ilen proudly tells us on her transom that her home port is Limerick writes W M Nixon. And while Limerick may have come to prominence as a raiding base and trading centre for the Vikings at the head of the Shannon Estuary, today it is a strategically-located commercial and manufacturing city where - despite many handsome buildings - you are never far from reminders that this is a place where they make things, and metal-working is often involved.
The Ilen Project’s work has reached the successful conclusion of the re-born “small tall ship” making the passage at near-record speed from Liam Hegarty’s boatyard at Oldcourt near Baltimore in West Cork right up the coast of West Cork and Kerry to the length of the Shannon Estuary and the heart of the city in the Ted Russell Dock. There, further protection is provided by the lock gates necessitated by the large tidal range at the head of the estuary.
In her home port, Ilen and her crew have constant reminders that Limerick is a working place. All sorts of cargoes are coming and going, and though she is in the choice position of being allocated a prime spot beside the official Pilot Boat berth, just across the quayside is the transit point for many cargoes. And at the weekend in the sunshine, it had a mountain of scrap metal ultimately destined for “other places beyond the seas”.
It can be other shipments at other times, but as the Limerick folk are taking the Ilen to their generous hearts, they know that a completely sheltered winter berth is vital, regardless of what neighbouring cargoes may be like from time to time.
With Ilen now securely in place in her home port, the connection can be made with the Ilen Exhibition which has been running successfully at the city’s Hunt Museum, so much so that the Ilen Schools Programme is now booked up until the end of November. There’ll be a further official ceremony on November 1st to link the Hunt Museum Exhibition (which runs until November 14th) with the ship’s presence in the dock, and meanwhile exciting plans for the vessel’s programme in 2019 and beyond are taking shape, all to be revealed in due course.
For the Ilen Boat-Building School team, it will all be a new stage in the process, which reached a high point when President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina made a point of going aboard Ilen during their recent Limerick visit, and meeting those who were both involved in the re-build, and as the delivery crew.
For Project Director Gary MacMahon, the focus of life is under-going a complete change. During the eleven-year re-build, he made the return journey between Limerick and Oldcourt more than 500 times. There are times when West Cork can seem very far away, no matter where you start from…..
As for the delivery passage, it went smooth as silk in light winds, drawing on Ilen’s reality as a motor-sailer. She’s powered by a 150hp Gardner diesel with a 2:1 gearbox which is perfectly in balance with the big propeller, such that at 1,000 rpm the ship is at optimum speed with the engine temperature never going above 60 degrees.
Thus the total time for the passage was just 17 hours, and when it became evident they were going to be early, with night upon them they were able to pull into Carrigaholt on the Clare side of the Estuary for a four-hour rest. That was the sweet spot for Gary MacMahon. The anchorage and quay at Carrigaholt are dominated by the distinctive 1480-built castle of the MacMahons, the Chieftans of the Loop Head Peninsula. Maybe it was time for the ancestors themselves to show respect for a wonderful project nearing its successful conclusion……
But few if any of these stories are as special as those shared by the McCarthy family of Cork, whose interest was spurred when Ilen was re-launched. This inspired a heartfelt personal Facebook post by Paul McCarthy, manager of the Firkin Crane Dance Theatre in Cork, and with his permission, we publish it here:
Bursting with pride I was. Bursting with pride. The TV news report was about the launch of a boat called the Ilen in Baltimore harbour in West Cork. The boat had been refurbished locally by passionate enthusiasts, their passion emanating from a legacy laid down when the boat was originally built in Baltimore in 1926 and sailed, by brave West Cork seafarers, all the way to the Falkland Islands, 7,000 nautical miles, straight down the globe, next stop Antarctica. The Ilen would be, for the next 70 years, a supply vessel connecting the Islands. In the1990’s, ready for the junkyard, the Ilen was rescued and transported back to Cork to be restored to her original splendour.
For me, seeing the Ilen for the first time was quite an eye-opener. Like seeing in glorious colour what had only always been available in black and white. Have you ever told something to someone and you know they are impressed but you also know in your heart they don’t have the full picture? Now I realise how my dad must have felt because I had no idea the boat he had been telling me about, was just, so, small.
My dad Patrick McCarthy was an engineer in the Royal Navy between 1939 and 1961. He left Bantry looking for work in Liverpool and enlisted just before the breakout of World War 2. His passion was mechanics, and the Navy provided the opportunity to learn all there was to know about engines. We’ll put aside his WW2 exploits during the Artic and Atlantic Convoys and the Italian and Normandy Landings, because this story is about the good ship Ilen in peacetime, in 1952.
The Falkland Islands are located in the Southern Atlantic 300 nautical miles from the mainland of Argentina. Claimed by Britain, contested by Argentina, the nearest friendly mainland was, and still is, Chile, 700 nautical miles away and around Cape Horn, the most treacherous sea passage in the world, where the Pacific and the Atlantic constantly clash heads.
As a British overseas territory exposed to invasion from Argentina, there was the need for a constant military presence entailing at least one Royal Naval ship at anchor in Port Stanley. In 1952 my dad was the chief engineer on one of those visiting ships on guard duty, the frigate HMS Veryan Bay.
The Ilen by this time had seen 25 years in service bouncing around on the often-foamy waters between the islands. She was in need of a serious overhaul and the nearest facilities were in Punta Arenas in southern Chile, 400 miles straight across the wild open ocean that is the South Atlantic. The regular crew of the Ilen were not seafarers or engineers, and so would not risk the long journey. On a regular basis the Governor of the Island, Sir Geoffrey Miles Clifford, would welcome the newly visiting Navy ships and, usually invited to dinner in the officers’ mess, he would explain about the plight of their local supply boat and enquire if anyone aboard might be able to help. The answer was always no. That was until my dad’s ship arrived. That night at dinner the Captain put the message out around the ship to see if anyone would volunteer to help. Guess who knocked on the door of the officers’ mess? ‘What do ye need?” offered Dad in his never diluted Bantry accent.
The following day he went aboard the Ilen with Sir Geoffrey and looked over the engine, started her up, listened, and turned to the Governor and said he was sure he could keep her going long enough to make the crossing. Sir Geoffrey beamed: “You must come to dinner tonight, I want you to meet my wife and family and we can discuss the practicalities. Thank you so much, Pat. I have gone aboard numerous visiting ships up to now, and no one has offered to help. And the Islanders thank you.”
At dinner that night in the Governor’s Mansion, while his shipmates settled for standard ship’s fare, Dad was treated like a hero. They discussed the route options and they agreed the safest route would be through the Magellan Straits which are named after the great explorer Ferdinand Magellan who, when failing repeatedly to bring his own ship around the ferocious seas off Cape Horn, sought out this inland route inside the tip of South America.
None of the regular crew would agree to the trip, they were after all part-time sailors, mostly farmers, who manned the Ilen whenever supplies needed to be moved between the islands. The Governor said the crew would be made up of a group of five local whaler fishermen, who had sailed the southern oceans crewing other whaling boats. They had saved up enough money to purchase their own boat in Chile, and so agreed to crew the Ilen to Punta Arenas in exchange for free passage. Dad slept in a bedroom that night in style and comfort far removed from his bunk on the Veryan Bay.
Following breakfast the next day, he headed back down to the port and reporting on board his own ship, he explained the situation to the Captain who released him to make his own way to Punta Arenas where they would rendezvous. The Veryan Bay would sail the 700 nautical miles around Cape Horn while Dad and the Ilen would take the more direct route through the Straits, too shallow and narrow in places for the big ship.
I remember asking Dad what the others on his ship thought of his plans, and he just shrugged his shoulders, “It needed to be done and I could do it. I knew the engine, and plus they knew I spent the war volunteering for everything that came my way, so this was no different.” On another occasion, over a pint with my dad, he revealed that his habit of volunteering early on in the war resulted in lucky escapes on at least two occasions when the ships he departed for volunteer duties had subsequently been sunk in battle, one with all hands lost, so he considered volunteering a natural, positive twist of fate that was being sent his way.
A few days later, while Dad was meeting with his fishermen crew and going over the workings of the Ilen, the Veryan Bay disappeared over the horizon. He was now on his own, an honorary Falkland Islander. They spent several days preparing the boat for the voyage they estimated should take 4 days if the weather held.
It was a fine Friday morning when they motored out of Port Stanley leaving the Governor, his family and a smattering of Islanders on the quayside wishing the gallant men bon voyage. Dad was at the helm and having carried out a rudimentary service on the engine, he was confident she would deliver them safely through the Straits. But before the Straits, there were those 300 miles of open ocean.
It was on Saturday the weather began to change. With the wind gusting from the south, and waves growing in stature, the direct westerly line of navigation had to be abandoned in favour of a zigzag pattern, to avoid being hit broadside by the waves and weather. This more than tripled their rate of progress through the water and the number of days exposed out at sea. The foul weather continued unabated for the next 24 hours and the constant changing of direction was putting an undue strain on the ailing engine.
The darkness delivered even greater danger and required all hands on deck to scan the black horizon for incoming waves. It was a blessing that the engine lasted until dawn. But with the dawn came spluttering and then silence. Dad belted below as one of the crew took over the wheel and the others frantically raced to hoist the sails. Dead in the water in these conditions, she would be knocked over within minutes unless they regained control and direction.
They were now 160 miles from the relative shelter of the Straits and without engine power, under sail relying on the wind alone. Fortunately, the crew were competent seamen and had a fair bit of experience in these waters under sail, but that was in boats designed for heavy weather and with much larger crews. Still, they kept her off the wind and as steady as possible while Dad worked on the engine below. At one point, he recalled, one of the crew appeared by his side offering to help. Dad was grateful for a while but soon sent him back up as he was only getting in the way. I know from personal experience that my dad had exacting standards, and a short temper when things are not going as planned, so the young crewman would have been much safer on deck.
He remembered being tossed about like a rag doll in the engine compartment, sometimes using lengths of strapping, normally used to secure cargo, to tie himself into position while he dismantled the engine looking for the problem. After hours below, he could not remember or was not counting how many hours. As he began to reassemble the engine, he became aware of the increasing violence of the rolling from side to side, and the brute force of the waves crashing over the boat. The storm was getting worse. Then, a crewman rushed below to tell him the sails were blowing out and he should get ready to come up top or be trapped below if they sank. He stayed where he was. He knew he was almost there. Soon after, just as it was getting dark, he restarted the engine. It sounded good. It would hold. He clambered up onto the deck and took the wheel from the sailor who joined his mates pulling in and tying down the remaining sails. He turned the Ilen into the wind and gauging just the right amount of throttle, rode out the remainder of the storm.
With the sun rising on their backs they could just make out the shape of land ahead. By lunchtime, they were scrutinising the charts to find the narrow inlet that was their entrance to the Magellan Straits. Through the next night, they motored gently through the channels. Huge cliffs sometimes closing in on them, and at other times it was wide inland waterways, often as rough as the oceans outside. Dad explained that whatever about the danger of the open ocean this was even more treacherous because if the engine failed again they would be blown into the cliffs for sure.
Arriving at Punta Arenas, the HMS Veryan Bay was waiting. A small party of Dad’s navy crew came aboard the Ilen to welcome the adventurers ashore with fresh food and some beers. The Islander crew, to demonstrate to the navy sailors how close to disaster they had come, unfurled the sails to reveal mostly shredded canvas. My dad recalled the feeling in the pit of his stomach, It had been getting dark when they were stowing the sails at sea, and he had no idea at the time that all that was left was shredded canvas. All agreed it was a miracle that they stayed afloat in such a storm with so little sail, but the hero was the man who would not give up and got the engine running just before the last piece of sail blew out.
Dad left the Navy in 1961, the year I was born. He told me that story many times over the years, usually over a pint after his retirement, but most recently in the nursing home where he passed away only two years ago. I knew the story by heart but not until I saw the footage of the Ilen on TV, the actual boat, all 56 feet of her, did I grasp the magnitude of that achievement. Bursting with pride I am, bursting with pride.
In Memory, Patrick McCarthy, Born 28th September 1920, died 2016.
President Michael D Higgins wished further fair winds for the historic ketch Ilen when he and his wife Sabina went aboard the newly-restored Conor O’Brien ketch during his visit to Limerick writes W M Nixon.
Ilen has been brought back to the Shannon Estuary after 92 years away, with the last ten years being taken up by the restoration as a joint project between the Ilen Boat-building School in Limerick, and Liam Hegarty’s Oldcourt Boatyard near Baltimore, the West Cork port which was Ilen’s birthplace back in 1926.
Ilen is now the last surviving Irish sail trading vessel, and her restoration has developed into an educational project which is also being promoted by an exhibition currently running in Limerick’s Hunt Museum. For the Ilen Network’s Gary MacMahon and Liam Hegarty, it was the very special fulfilment of a long-held dream when they were finally able to walk the decks of the newly-restored Ilen with the President of Ireland in the ship’s home port of Limerick.
As Afloat.ie previously reported, In an autumn of great homecomings for the city, the arrival of the Ilen may not have drawn out the numbers that the Liam McCarthy Cup did but it was, nonetheless, a very special moment for supporters of the project as the 56ft long wooden boat cut the Shannon waters to arrive in style at Limerick Docks.
She was formally greeted by Mayor of the City and County of Limerick James Collins and will winter at the Shannon Foynes Port Company operated docks ahead of a busy first full year back on the water in 2019.
Designed by one of Ireland’s greatest sailors, Edward Conor O’Brien, from Ardagh, Co. Limerick and later Foynes Island on the Shannon Estuary was the grandson of Irish nationalist and MEP William Smith O’Brien. He was captain of the first boat to sail around the world under the tri-colour of the Irish Free State.
Ilen is a traditional Irish built wooden ketch. Not unlike the many ketch which plied their trade on the Lower Shannon in the age of sail, she sailed out from Foynes to the Falklands in 1926 and spent all of 70 years there as an inter-island trader, ferrying passengers, sheep, cattle, commercial goods and all other commodities required by remote island communities.
That was until her distinct lrish profile was recognised on a Falklands War TV news bulletin, over 30 years ago by one of her delivery crew from Cape Clear, Co. Cork.
A campaign, spearheaded by directors of the Limerick-based Ilen Project, Gary McMahon and Brother Anthony Keane of Glenstal Abbey, ensued and 20 years later, following a lot of sweat, funding and craftsmanship, the Ilen is back home on the Shannon.
Welcoming the duo and their 13 strong crew on arrival, Mayor of the City and County of Limerick James Collins said: “We're delighted that the Ilen is back here in Limerick. It's been a labour of love really for the lads that worked on it, funded in part through Limerick City and County Council.
“It’s a ship that was designed in Limerick, it was rebuilt by Limerick people, sailed out of Limerick, recovered by Limerick people, renovated and now it’s back in Limerick and we’re delighted that she is here. It's fantastic.”
Project Director Gary McMahon said that the boat would be for the people of Limerick and, in particular, a learning platform for younger citizens for access to sailing and the marine environment. “It’s a community boat and its new home port is Limerick Docks and we are grateful to Shannon Foynes Port Company for its hospitality. There’s an entire learning aspect to and we will continue to expand our current educational programmes around this project with schools. We are hoping also that the city will embrace the vessel and we will need support with this.”
Said his co-director of the project Br. Anthony: “We've got a very warm welcome today from the people of Limerick who are welcoming back their boat after a long absence. We’ve been working together for the last 20 years, trying to get this vessel to the fine condition she is in today, ready to serve as a portal for Limerick City.
Welcoming its new guest to the Ted Russell Docks, Assistant Harbour Master at Shannon Foynes Port Company Hugh Conlon, which operates the docks, said: “It's a day with a difference in the sense that we've had a ketch come back into the Shannon Estuary, a boat designed by Conor O'Brien in 1926 from Foynes Island. It was built in the area and it sailed from the Shannon Estuary, worked its whole life down in the Falkland Islands and it's finally come back to the Shannon Estuary after many, many years of hard trading in the South Atlantic.
“It took the bones of 20 years to get her finally sailing back into the Ted Russell dock. And we're proud of the fact that we can lend a hand into the future and hopefully winter the boat here as time goes on and let her sail during the summer months.”
The restored Ilen has arrived in Limerick. She was sailed there over the weekend from West Cork, reports Tom MacSweeney.
Conor O’Brien’s historic 1926-built tradition ketch, the last of Ireland’s wooden schooners, originally built in Baltimore, was restored in a lengthy project which took several years to complete at Liam Hegarty’s at Oldcourt near Skibbereen and not far from where she was constructed in the fishing port of Baltimore, now a major sailing centre on the West Cork coastline.
She is now at Limerick Docks, returning to the Shannon, where she arrived at 12 noon today.
Gary McMahon, who has led the restoration project, said he was delighted after the long years of dedicated work by many people and so much help, that the ILEN was back in Limerick where an exhibition about her history is open at the Hunt Museum in the city.
The restored Conor O’Brien ketch Ilen may have had her first sailing sea trials as recently as yesterday off Baltimore in West Cork, but the current spell of settled weather in the southern half of the country has been too good to go to waste with Autumn moving steadily through writes W M Nixon. The task of getting the 56ft trader to her home port of Limerick for the winter could be a real hassle if the weather broke, so Ilen cleared out of Baltimore pronto and this afternoon (Saturday) we received this image of the Great Skellig in County Kerry, seen from Ilen as she makes knots – admittedly under power - in the right direction. This is good work by stealth……
The eclectic new exhibition in the Hunt Museum in Limerick, which outlines the Shannonside city’s maritime connections, its traditional local boats and its links to the historic sail training ketch Ilen, has been proving popular with local schools and their pupils writes W M Nixon. The display attracted more than 1,000 visitors on its opening day, and the staff have been intrigued by the variety of questions they’ve been asked, and the enthusiasm of the young people to interact fully with everything the exhibition has to offer.
The Ilen herself is now nearing full seagoing commission at Oldcourt near Baltimore in West Cork, and the link with Limerick should be made complete in the near future. Meanwhile, in the Hunt Museum the Ilen Exhibition - co–ordinated by Gary MacMahon and the Ilen Network (formerly the Ilen Boat-building School) - will continue until November 14th.
The successful ten-year restoration of the 1926 Baltimore-built 56ft trading ketch Ilen, originally constructed by Tom Moynihan and his shipwrights in West Cork to designs by pioneering global circumnavigator Conor O’Brien of Limerick, has been a continuing story in Afloat.ie writes W M Nixon.
While the heart and soul of it is in Limerick, the ultimate focal point for the restoration work at its busiest stages was Liam Hegarty’s boatyard at Oldcourt near Baltimore. In recent months there, the detailed final work of the restoration has been coming to a conclusion with continuing finishing work on the accommodation and rig, while the painstaking and multi-facetted official process of surveying the ship in order to provide her with a Certificate as a Passenger Vessel has also been undertaken.
The Ilen restoration has reached this successful stage through a parallel work effort between the Oldcourt Boatyard in West Cork and the Ilen Boat-building School in Limerick, a community project inspired and operated in the city by Gary MacMahon and several other dedicated supporters and helpers. They began by introducing hands-on training projects in the city such as building traditional Shannon gandelow workboats, and the CityOne sailing dinghies to a novel but very practical design by the late Theo Rye.
For the Ilen herself, the workshops in Limerick built many of the detailed features of the restored ship, notably the deckhouses and hatchways, while also shaping the massive new spars to re-create her rig as originally designed by Conor O’Brien. In addition, the school provided the focal point for the many marine engineering challenges which were integral to the project.
"a new Ilen Exhibition installation in the renowned Hunt Museum"
Now the Limerick element of the project has been brought centre stage, with a new Ilen Exhibition installation in the renowned Hunt Museum in its classic 18th Century former Customs House building on the waterfront in the heart of what was formerly the Shannon port’s centre of maritime trade.
The Shannon Estuary’s impressive and increasing levels of shipping may have moved downriver to nearby Limerick Docks, and further seaward still to Foynes Port, but at the old Customs House the Hunt Museum provides the ideal setting to display, study and celebrate Limerick’s many centuries of commercial interaction with the sea, and particularly the great days of sail. The new Exhibition, which was informally opened to the public on Friday (September 14th), is a self-contained unit in the Hunt Museum’s impressive Gallery Room, and will run until November 11th.
The restoration of the Ilen may have been a project of fascination to serious maritime historians and students, and indeed to anyone who is interested in traditional sailing craft. But one of the Ilen’s main functions in future will be as an important maritime educational focal point, particularly in bringing to life Limerick’s long and often colourful interaction with ships and the sea.
With this in mind, four large Limerick primary schools are already on board for close involvement with the interactive educational opportunities that the restored Ilen will provide, so visitors to the Ilen Exhibition in the Hunt Museum will find it a fascinating mixture of Limerick-built local-style boats on display beside instructional panels which may be aimed at all levels of interest, from precise adult information on Limerick’s maritime history and the Ilen story, to a primary school child’s vision of Ilen’s prospective voyage back to her home port of Limerick.
It is a modern museum feature using several novel techniques, and as it was Gary Mac Mahon in his role with Limerick’s highly-regarded Copper Reed Studio who created it, we’ll let him have the final word on this very special display:
“It is a light and colourfully-styled exhibition, which draws upon many of Limerick cultural and historical elements; rich maritime elements which uniquely converge at Limerick’s Custom House building - home today to the Hunt Museum.
The Custom House riverside aspect is no accident of 18c urban planning - under its roof, the City’s vital activities of sailing ships, maritime trade and associated custom collections were regulated.
The exhibition takes as it central theme, the ten-year adventures of the Ilen community boat building project, and its chief prize the sailing ship ‘Ilen’, which sails beautifully rebuilt towards Limerick this October, after an absence of 92 years.
Many of the maritime traditions of Limerick, which this exhibition seeks to explore through the work of the Ilen Project, are universally shared with many other riverine port towns.
Drawing upon humour, illustration and tradition, the exhibition offers the young and not-so-young among us a convivial opportunity to partake in a renewed awareness of Limerick’s age-old connectivity with the world, through the inimitable ways of river, sea and ocean, and the beautifully crafted wooden ships and boats which plied their trade upon them.
Integral to the exhibitions offering is the opportunity for hands-on engagement - learning the ropes, so to speak: visitors will be certain to depart with a new found aquatic awareness.”
A video, by Paul Fuller, features the restored historic ketch Ilen motoring down the Ilen River towards Baltimore for her celebratory launch last week at the Wooden Boat Festival in the West Cork town.
Conor O'Brien's famous traditional vessel, that has been faithfully restored by the boat building school of the same name at Hegarty's Boatyard, was splashed the previous day, and with time running out the launch crew took her down river with a little less for ballast - consequently, as keen observers will note, she was floating a little high.