The story of the ‘Sk­er­ries cur­rach’


Fingal Independent - - NEWS - By KEN PHE­LAN

A group of friends from Sk­er­ries have got to­gether and built the town’s first ever ‘cur­rach’, an an­cient Ir­ish wooden boat which can be traced back thou­sands of years to the very first set­tlers in Ire­land.

It’s be­lieved the first set­tlers, hav­ing come across Europe, made their home in North­ern Ire­land hav­ing ar­rived in boats much like the cur­rach. The cur­rach dates as far back as the Ne­olithic pe­riod, and even Julius Cae­sar made men­tion of en­coun­ter­ing them when the Ir­ish made in­cur­sions into Bri­tain.

Such was the in­ter­est in this an­cient craft that a mot­ley crew of Sk­er­ries friends de­cided to put their heads to­gether and build one. The group – which in­cluded a pi­lot, a de­sign en­gi­neer, an RTE cam­era­man, a B&B owner, 86-year-old ‘Teddy’ and four oth­ers de­cided to get their feet wet and be­gin work on ‘Cur­rach Na Sceiri’.

As Aer Lin­gus pi­lot and team mem­ber Kevin O’sul­li­van said: ‘It came out of Shane’s head (Project Leader Shane Hol­land); he was from Done­gal and would’ve been in­ter­ested in the cur­rachs; he had a his­tory of the sea, and he was fas­ci­nated with the boats. He al­ways had this de­sire to do some­thing for them, as he knew they were dis­ap­pear­ing from a lot of places along the coast.

‘A cou­ple of years ago, there was a ten­der out for projects for the cen­te­nary of 1916, and he put in a de­sign for a type of cur­rach that had never ex­isted be­fore. He came se­cond in the com­pe­ti­tion, but be­cause he didn’t win, it never went any­where. My­self and Shane just got chat­ting a cou­ple of years ago about the idea, and it was only when one of our friends bought a house with a 20 foot by 20 foot garage that we thought it would be an op­por­tu­nity to take on the project.’

The project it­self, built in a garage on Sk­er­ries’ South Strand, took the men eight months to com­plete, work­ing dili­gently through last year’s bit­ter win­ter. Shane ran his own de­sign work­shop near Drogheda, so he was able to cut and pre­pare the Ir­ish larch they sourced. Ev­ery Tues­day and Fri­day, the friends would work on the boat’s con­struc­tion, all based on Shane’s plans.

Kevin ex­plained ‘Shane had been tak­ing notes for years, and went to look at cur­rachs in Clare Is­land, Kerry, Kil­kee, Done­gal and Achill. There are very few plans around for build­ing a cur­rach so he had to go and try to track them down. There are books, but they’re very sketchy. You re­ally have to see one up close and and take pho­tos, so that’s what he was do­ing.’

When it was fi­nally com­pleted in July this year, the boys marched the 20 foot cur­rach through Sk­er­ries, much to the be­wil­der­ment of the lo­cals. As Mark says, the sight of the lads car­ry­ing an up­side-down boat on their heads must have looked like ‘some sort of bizarre re­li­gious pro­ces­sion.’

Cur­rently, an­other team mem­ber, Mark Brod­er­ick is pro­mot­ing a doc­u­men­tary he made on con­struc­tion of Cur­rach na Sceiri both here and abroad, with, he says, cur­rach clubs open­ing in the U.S., Italy and Spain and other places. To date, the film has been en­tered into both na­tional and in­ter­na­tional film fes­ti­vals for next year, and Mark is hop­ing to have some in­ter­est from Ir­ish mu­se­ums and Ir­ish her­itage cen­tres world­wide.

Speak­ing of the warm re­cep­tion given to Cur­rach na Sceiri in Sk­er­ries it­self, Kevin con­cluded: ‘The re­ac­tion in Sk­er­ries has been great, and very pos­i­tive. Peo­ple just love the idea. We’ve had peo­ple walk up to us and ask if it’s a cur­rach, be­cause it couldn’t be a cur­rach in Sk­er­ries, so it’s re­ally touched on some­thing in the town.

‘There’s so much go­ing on in Sk­er­ries, it just adds to the colour of the place and has re­ally just cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion.

‘It’s all about re­ju­ve­nat­ing the old craft, and what we liked about it is that it’s away from mo­bile phones and com­put­ers.

We’d be hope­ful too that some youth would get in­volved in this, and per­haps have cur­rach races here in Sk­er­ries, which re­ally would be an amaz­ing thing...’

Cur­rach Na Sceirí and its crew on their maiden voy­age. (pic by Mark Brod­er­ick)

Parad­ing the boat to the sea. (pic by Mark Brod­er­ick)

Pulling out of Sk­er­ries Har­bour. (pic by Mark Brod­er­ick)

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