Legendary protagonists like Bran, St. Brendan and Maelduin set out, attracted by some mysterious lure, to discover magical islands, encountering mythical creatures and places along the way. The vessel of choice in all these imrama is a forgotten type of boat, at some stage in history the most important water craft in Northern Europe: the skin boat. Welsh coracles are its better known survivors, but the sea-going currachs of the Atlantic seaboard of Ireland, are closer in spirit to the vessels of Bran and St.

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Legendary protagonists like Bran, St. Brendan and Maelduin set out, attracted by some mysterious lure, to discover magical islands, encountering mythical creatures and places along the way. The vessel of choice in all these imrama is a forgotten type of boat, at some stage in history the most important water craft in Northern Europe: the skin boat. Welsh coracles are its better known survivors, but the sea-going currachs of the Atlantic seaboard of Ireland, are closer in spirit to the vessels of Bran and St.

Just a flimsy lattice or basket frame and a thin, vulnerable skin separate ambitious sailors from inhospitable and unforgiving seas. And yet, this fragile vessel has been chosen not only by legendary mariners, but also countless generations of fishermen on the most treacherous seas of Europe.

Its early humble origins in the hide-covered basket are still evident in the Boyne River hazel currach in the east of Ireland. As the only seaworthy craft of the time, the skin boat played a crucial role in bringing the first Neolithic farmers to the British Isles. But this was not the only episode where they played an important role in introducing new ways of life.

Their stories, and those of their pre-Christian predecessors, fuelled the spirit of the imrama. In medieval annals, skin boats had a reputation for a less spiritual purpose. Cattle raids by the early Irish against Britain were successful thanks to the extraordinary qualities of skin boats. Light, seaworthy and extremely manoeuvrable they also have an astonishing load capacity.

Sustainability Currachs still have plenty to offer in our time and have great potential to contribute to a sustainable way of life. Like many other craft traditions they are masterpieces of Design for Sustainability.

They have a simple but ingenious design concept, use regenerative materials and basic building skills. Lightweight frame and cloth structures are often used for objects for transit, from tents and yurts to early aircraft. While sharing this same design ethos, currachs vary widely between regions.

Ranging from 6 to 26 foot in length, lashed wicker frames of hazel or willow exist parallel to timber lattice constructions, while hides have given place to canvas covers, waterproofed with tar and pitch. Materials from local, regenerative resources add to a low embodied energy value and environmental footprint of the boats.

Currachs are easily driven by sail or oar and are inexpensive to make and maintain - characteristics that add to their appeal as environmentally sound leisure boats. With the advent of new technology and economic prosperity in Ireland, many researchers prophesized the disappearance of the currach over the last thirty years.

Indeed, commercial fishing currachs along the west coast of Ireland seem to have shared the same fate as the Welsh coracle: their fleets have almost completely declined.

Today attention is drawn to their value as leisure craft as they are refreshingly different from the slick and expensive cruisers that dominate - and often pollute - our coastline. Their ethos encourages greater participation in water activities that can otherwise be socially exclusive. Future Community groups are forming throughout Ireland to re-kindle local maritime heritage and re-gain community access to the sea.

West Clare Currachs in Kilkee, Co. Clare is making six new currachs in an attempt to stop their local boat culture from disappearing. Meitheal Mara in Cork has been building currachs with marginalised youths and adults, an integrative project that has proven hugely successful.

On the southern shore of Lough Neagh, the largest inland water area of the British Isles, a twenty strong community project is building a fleet of four Donegal currachs. As there is no historic evidence of skin boats in that area, they will make maritime history introducing currachs to the lough. Emblematic of this development is this humble and ingenious little skiff that has been cherished by legendary seafarers, countless generations of fishermen and most recently community groups.

Contemporary currachs are the latest manifestation of an unbroken, millennia old maritime tradition. And the tradition is anything but dead: the change from commercial to leisure use signifies a healthy progress in its development. The enjoyment of its making and use is beginning to be recognised, while its full potential for a sustainable future is yet to be discovered.

The Voyage of Bran ends "from that hour his wanderings are not known". So can be said of this humble little skiff, the currach. It is fair to assume that the skeleton-built skin boat tradition, one of the four principal roots of boat building, originates in the Upper Palaeolithic period.

Historians widely accept that during this period, when hazel and birch was abundant, complex lashed multi-skin and frame structures could, theoretically, have been achieved. Complex basket-framed hide boats, similar to and even larger than the present Boyne currach, were technically possible by using microlith blades during the early occupation of Ireland in the Mesolithic period, about 9, years ago. The development of basic joining techniques in the Neolithic period would have allowed the construction of simple timber frames at that time.

Woven hurdle making was quite common in the early Bronze Age and so were metal fastenings. However, due to the perishable nature of the organic material used throughout the skin boat, no firm archaeological evidence has been found to date.

But historical insight can be gained from the technical development of the boats as well as from literary and pictorial sources. Traditional basketmakers in Ireland continue to employ the unconventional technique of constructing large baskets such as creels upside down, sticking the uprights in the ground in the desired shape. A similar technique was practised by basketmakers in Cornwall and Galicia.

It is also the method used to make the hazel basket-frame of the Boyne river currach. Indeed, unlike their Welsh equivalent, the corwgl or coracle, Irish currachs with the exception of the Tory Island type, a recent development are always built upside down, starting with the gunwale.

This key element of currach construction, which distinguishes it from almost all other boat types, may be related to the absence in it of a keel. The currach shares its basic design ethos with other objects of material culture associated with human mobility. A few sticks tied together with twine and covered with a sheet of felt makes an effective shelter against the weather, such as the Yurt used by nomadic Kyrgyzian tribes and the hazel-framed tents of Irish travellers used until little more than a generation ago.

Rods woven into a large basket and covered with skin or cloth make a boat - our currach. Adding a pair of wings to such a superstructure essentially makes a glider. While this may present an over-simplified picture, a common underlying design principle is certainly evident.

Such constructions are not therefore primitive, transitional concepts, but can be the basis of sophisticated and well-adapted design solutions. Two elements - clearly evident in a currach - are essential for such constructions: a lightweight space-frame or skeleton and a dense and flexible sheet material to cover it - functioning like a skin over a rib cage.

They are flexible - moving with and giving way to these forces, reacting with rather than in opposition to them. Flexibility is indeed the secret of the superb seaworthiness of the currach. The gunwale, the latticework of ribs and laths and the canvas seem fragile in themselves, but in combination form a strong, ductile and tensile structure that is able to withstand great forces of wind and wave. Such a combination allows for multi-hide boats of up to 60ft to be constructed, such as in the case of some 18th century Greenland skin boats.



Kabar Welsh coracles are its better known survivors, but the sea-going currachs of the Atlantic seaboard of Ireland, are closer in spirit to the vessels of Bran and St. Currach rowing combines fitness, seamanship, team sports, leisure rowing and the appreciation of the outdoors. De quibus cum audissent, quod de quadam Connactiae parte fuissent, et Hibernica lingua loquerentur, intra navem eos adduxerunt. Currachs are made of wooden slats which are then covered in several layers of tar. Thereafter they disappeared except at the seaward end of the Shannon Estuary. Concerning the publishing the Chasse-Mareewith the help of all the interested Irish britush and among them people like John de Courcy Ireland, Dick Scott, Hal Sisk, Michael McCaughan, Paddy Barry and many others intends to publish a richly illlustrated black and white and colour book, of over three hundred pages, taking stock of the researches on Irish maritime tradition.


British Coracles and Irish Curraghs: with a Note on the Quffah of Iraq

They were propelled by oars or sails according to circumstances. The currach has traditionally been both a sea boat and a vessel for inland waters. The construction and design of the currach is unique to the west coasts of Ireland and Scotland, with variations in size and shape by region. It is related to the Welsh coracle. The plank-built rowing boat found on the west coast of Connacht is also called a currach or curach adhmaid, and is built in a style very similar to its canvas-covered relative.

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British coracles and Irish curraghs

Vijar In certain areas, as in Normandy with the small luggers called vaquelottes, in the roads of Brest with the scallopdredger sloops, in south Finistere with the small luggers called misainiers, in Morbihan with the sinagos — another type of two-masted wnd — in the bay of Arcachon not far from Bordeaux with the so called pinasses, in Roussilion with the Catalonian barques, heterogeneous flotillas arose, inspired, though latecurrach the example of the Irish hookers or the Dutch botters. The festival of Douarnenez 88 was in a certain way the pinnacle of this still scattered and marginal, although promising, movement. How many French ethnologists, at loss irisu a thesis subject, have turned their attention to the cultural treasure represented by Boshiman pottery or traditional basket-weaving from the Sao Paoulo suburbs, while a few steps away from their holiday beaches rot the vestiges coacles a civilisation scorned, ignored, ephemeral, already forgotten. His exemplary work brought him a post-graduate doctorate degree in French curracchs with distinction ;this was the first maritime ethnology diploma awarded by a university on the French coast, in this case Brest; it was also the first thesis presented before irixh warmly appreciative audience of seafaring professionals. For its partinthe association Treizour from Douarnenez — which since had collected, at its own expense, nearly traditional boats which were about to disappear all along the French coast- opened the Musee du Bateau boat museum which some years later was to become the Museum Harbour of Douarnenez, well known today. This page was last edited on 12 Decemberat In every respect the contribution of Francois Beadouin has been parrticularly enriching.


History[ edit ] Reconstruction of a 1 AD skin-covered boat on the Great Ouse in Bedford During the Neolithic period, [3] the first settlers landed in the northern part of Ireland, likely arriving in boats that were the ancestors of the currach. Development in joining methods of wood during the Neolithic period made it possible to eventually create what the currach is today. Hide-covered basket origins are evident in currachs found in the east of Ireland, and using the skins for lining currachs in the Neolithic period likely was how the early Irish were able to make their way over to the British Isles. The flimsy construction of the former makes it unlikely that any remains would be available for the marine archaeologist, but its antiquity is clear from written sources. One of these is the Latin account of the voyage of St Brendan who was born c. Tar was used to seal the places where the skins joined. A mast was then erected in the middle of the vessel and a sail supplied.

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