“Is fánach an áit ina bhfaighfeá gliomach” (You never know where you will find a lobster) quoted boating specialist and author, Críostóir Mac Cárthaigh, as he helped celebrate the launch of a very special boat.
The launch was held on Friday, September 11th, at the Ringsend Registered Fishermen & Private Boat Owners Association boatyard, Pigeon House Road. It was attended by forty or more boating and rowing enthusiasts, including members of the Ringsend Boat Owners Association, as well as members of the Stella Maris and St Patrick’s rowing clubs. Those who braved an absolute deluge of rain to be there were well rewarded with a memorable evening.
The boat in question is a currach, one of a handful on the Liffey. The man who built it, Edwin Tuthill, is a carpenter by trade and comes from landlocked Clane, Co Kildare. Edwin fell in love with the elegant shape of this iconic boat when he first saw currachs 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, the craftsmanship appealed to the carpenter in him and he wanted to build a currach of his own.
So he set off to Spiddal, armed with only a measuring tape and a notebook. He had no contacts there. He took measurements from the currachs which were, as is the tradition, moored upside down 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.
Ten years later, his friend, Ciarán Healy, introduced him to David Kelly, a Dubliner with a huge interest in currachs, cultivated on his many visits to Inishmaan. David is a familiar sight on the Liffey. He takes his own currachs out on the river three hundred and sixty-five days a year.
Edwin’s first trip on the water, crewing on David’s boat, re-ignited his enthusiasm for the project. It didn’t take long for him to get the hang of the rowing and he’s “flying at it now.”
When Eddie Byrne, secretary of the local boat owners club, heard about Edwin’s boat he offered the use of the boatyard to complete it. With his support and with help from David and other members of the Liffeyside boating community, work on the currach was complete.
Eddie B and his wife Phyllis said that they would host the launch and provide “tea and sandwiches”, which turned out to be a feast, fit for a 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 currach until it’s been blessed.”
The blessing was performed by boating enthusiast Father Derek Harris. Despite the foul weather, the majority of the assembly left the warmth 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 currach 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. They all love the currach; its classic shape, its buoyancy, its agility on the water and the boating tradition it represents. Everyone agreed that “Ed made a beautiful boat.”
It’s hard to find a positive water-based story in Ireland these days but the blessing of Edwin’s curragh is certainly good news. An evening filled with stories and music, the launch was about camaraderie, generosity and the celebration of achievement. Lobsters do turn up in the strangest of places.