‘Is fánach an áit ina bhfaighfeá gliomach’. This traditional Gaelic proverb (‘You never know where you will find a lobster’) was quoted by boating specialist and author, Críostóir Mac Cárthaigh, as he helped celebrate the launch of a very special boat.
The boat in question is a currach, one of a handful on the Liffey. The launch was held on Friday, September 11th, at the Ringsend Registered Fishermen and Private Boat Owners Association boatyard, located on South Bank Road/Pigeon House Road.
It was attended by forty or more boating and rowing enthusiasts, including members of the Boat Owners Association, as well as members of the Stella Maris and St Patrick’s rowing clubs. All braved a deluge of rain to be there and were well rewarded with a memorable evening.
The man who built the currach, Edwin Tuthill, a carpenter by trade, lives in landlocked Clane, Co Kildare. Like many a man before him, he first fell in love with the elegant shape of this classic boat, about 12 years ago, on visits to the West of Ireland. Notwithstanding the fact that he had never been on one, didn’t row, and didn’t live near a body of water, he longed to build a currach of his own.
Edwin set off to Spiddal, armed only with a measuring tape and notebook, in pursuit of his dream. He had no contacts there. To make his measurements he climbed under the upside-down currachs, which were moored on the beach.
He returned to Kildare with his figures, drew up a plan, and “with a rush of blood to the head” started to build. He made great headway for about six weeks and “half-finished” the boat.
Then he hit a brick wall, builders block, so to speak. He covered it with tarpaulin, stored it at the bottom of his garden and more or less forgot about it. Over the years, he would occasionally look at it from his kitchen window and resolve to dismantle it, but he never did.
10 years later, he was talking to a friend, Ciarán Healy, an enthusiastic rower, who enquired about the currach. Ciarán introduced Edwin to David Kelly, who has a huge interest in currachs, nurtured on his many visits to Inishmaan. David is a familiar sight on the Liffey. He takes his own currachs out on the river 365 days a year.
Edwin’s first trip on the water re-ignited his love for the boat. It didn’t take long for him to get the hang of the rowing and he’s “flying at it now.”
When Eddie Byrne, chairman of the local boat owners’ club, heard about Edwin’s boat, he offered the use of the boatyard to complete it. With the help of David and other members of the Liffeyside boating community, the work was soon finished.
Eddie offered to host the launch, at the boatyard, and to provide tea and sandwiches, which, with the help of his wife Phyllis and other club members, turned out to be a generous feast, fit for a royal wedding. The wine and beer flowed. After all, the boat had to be blessed. As Páraic Ó Flátharta, an Inis Mór native, who lent his expertise to the project, explained, “In the West nobody would sit into a boat until it had been blessed. It’s very important.”
The blessing was entertainingly performed by Father Derek Harris, a boating man himself. In spite of the inclement weather, the majority of the assembly left the warm hospitality of the boathouse to witness the proceedings. Edwin stood by, as nervous as a bridegroom, slightly overwhelmed by the occasion.
All eyes were on the beautiful boat, as she glistened under the boatyard lights in the rain, which was now coming down in buckets. The skiff rowers from the Dublin rowing clubs smiled admiringly, many having had their own flirtations with this wonderful craft. They all love the currach; its iconic shape and superb craftsmanship, its buoyancy, its agility and the boating tradition it represents. Many spoke with enthusiasm of the first time they took to the water in one, describing the “marvellous sensation, so close to the water”, the “great thrill to get in one the first time”, the “challenge” and the “excitement”. “The first time is hard to describe”, enthused Críostóir Mac Cárthaigh. “The buzz is fantastic.”
It’s hard to find a positive water-based story in Ireland these days, but the launch of Edwin’s currach is certainly good news. Everyone agreed that “Ed made a beautiful boat.” An evening filled with stories and music, the launch represents all that is good about us; community, camaraderie, generosity and the celebration of achievement. Lobsters do turn up in the strangest of places.
Eddie Byrne and David Kelly hope to encourage more currach rowing and racing on the Liffey. They would like to build and crew another currach in the near future, if the interest is there.
If you would like to know more you can contact Eddie Byrne: 087 964 2920 or David Kelly: 087 9612803
By Jennifer Reddin