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Tom MacSweeney’s Weekly Maritime Blog August 21

OLD BOATS AND THE DEDICATION OF THOSE WHO RESTORE THEM

SIMON O’KEEFFE ABOARD THE 119-YEAR-OLD LADY MIN. PHOTO: JOHN DOLAN

What is it that motivates people to take on the task of restoring old boats? Such a task can be very challenging, very expensive and, sometimes, very discouraging. Along the way the great hopes of restoration can be defeated by problems which arise, so the dedication of those who set out to restore old boats and succeed in doing so is immense. This week I have three to bring to your attention – the 119-year-old Lady Min; the 96-year-old Loveen and the Rankins of Cobh.

RANKIN DINGHIES OF COBH, BUILT IN THE 1950s PHOTO: BOB BATEMAN

They are an impressive trio of boats, the restoration of which helps perpetuate Ireland’s maritime history. Reporting these projects is a joy, to hear the stories of why such demanding tasks were undertaken and the pleasure and satisfaction in once again seeing on the water what would otherwise have disappeared from our marine heritage.

THE 96-YEAR-OLD GLEOITEOG LOVEEN – PHOTO JOHN O’SHAUGHNESSY GALWAY HOOKERS SAILING CLUB

THE LADY MIN – 119 YEARS OLD

The Lady Min was built in 1902, making her 119-years-old. She was originally launched in Schull and was re- launched there after a three-year restoration project returned her to the waters of West Cork. It was the culmination of a project in which a family honoured the man who had designed and had the boat originally built. Simon O’Keeffe first told me about his restoration plan for the boat, which was once described as “a thorn in the side of the Cork Harbour yacht racing fraternity,” because she sailed so well, ” when I met him at the Traditional Boats Gathering in Baltimore in 2018. “A very challenging job which I have self-imposed but am determined to complete,” he told me . “If that is achieved it will make her the oldest Irish-designed and Irish-built sailing boat on the water. The Lady Min is a source of pride in our family. Restoration is an expensive process. She is old, but there is nothing wrong with her. I am determined to get her back to sailing condition and ability.” He put the restoration work into the hands of noted Ballydehob boat-builder, Tiernan Roe, not far away from where she was first launched. When he started the project Simon had to decide whether to spend ages working out the total cost or “take the plunge.” Separate estimates came to within €300 of around €40,000. He began spending “a few hundred here and there and then building up.” The O’Keeffe family’s commitment to the boat goes back to it being designed and built by shipwrights at Schull under the direction of Simon’s great-grandfather, Maurice. When the 30-foot gaff cutter was originally launched she was something of a sensation with a hull which was described by traditionalists as having “undoubted speed.” But some questioned whether “she would last very long.” They were wrong. Although many of the, supposedly, more rugged boat types which were her contemporaries have long since disappeared, the Lady Min survives. “And sails well,” Simon said. “She can go fast,” The history of the boat, which he traced, shows that she had been for sale at one stage in Bantry and in 1944 turned up in Castletownshend. The legendary Jack O’Driscoll, another renowned builder of boats, cycled there with two companions from Ringaskiddy in Cork Harbour, bought her and, with their bikes aboard, sailed her to Cork Harbour. She had a concrete keel then. The lead had evidently been sold off because of World War Two needs. Apparently, she was so fast in racing that she was regarded as a “thorn in the sides of the Cork racing fraternity.” She later wound up in Glandore, sank at her mooring, was recovered and stored in a shed there, preserved under cover for many years. “Unusually for where she was built and in the time when she was built, she has a fin keel. Over her first hundred years she had quite a reputation as a fast boat, winning many races against better-known boats such as the William Fife-designed Cork Harbour One Designs,” Tiernan Roe told me. Generations of the O’Keffee family were aboard in Schull for the re-launch of what their forefather had designed and built. “it was an emotional and wonderful moment when we gathered aboard Lady Min.” said Simon. “t is so great that everything has worked out as I had hoped. I’ve heard horror stories about restoration but that did not happen with the Lady Min.” That she has been saved for future generations is the embodiment of the attraction of boats in the life of a family.

THE RANKINS

The revival of the historic Cobh Rankin dinghy fleet reached its high point in Cork Harbour mist and drizzle when 29 of them turned out to honour the founders and builders of the Class at the Cobh People’s Regatta. Competing in these unpleasant conditions underlined how the name of the Rankin dinghies is revered in the harbour and particularly in Cobh where brothers Eric and Dave built these fine boats from the 1950s. Maurice Kidney and Conor English have been driving the restoration of the Rankins for the past few years, during which they have discovered dinghies of the class in several parts of the country.

THE LOVEEN

Galway’s 96-year-old ‘Loveen’ is nearing the end of HER resotration project which has been going on since 2019,sperheaded by Galway Hooker Sailing Club with the enthusiastic support of the Port of Galway Sea Scous to whom the boat was handed over in 2012 after the death of Nicky Dolan, a local boatman, who had become her fifth owner when he bought her the year before he died. The Hooker Club keeps the tradition of these great boats alive in the Claddagh. The Loveen will be returned to the waters of the Corib next month. I’ve reported the Rankins and the Lady Min project in previous MARITIME IRELAND programmes and the Loveen will be our next subject.

KEEP IN TOUCH

Ireland’s connection with the sea is as old as time itself…. The sea around our coastline, our inland waters, our lakes and rivers are all part of Ireland’s maritime culture, history, tradition and development … Socially and economically they are vital to THIS ISLAND NATION ….. The MARITIME IRELAND RADIO SHOW and PODCAST brings together Ireland’s maritime community’ Your views on maritime matters are always welcome. Email: maritimeirelandradioshow@gmail.com Sugegsted for topics to include on the show are always welcome. Text: 0872 555197 Follow on Twitter: @TomMacSweeney

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