Ireland’s First Conference On Traditional Boats And Currachs

The first ever conference on traditional boats and currachs in Ireland will take place in Ennis, County Clare, on Saturday, 6 December 2008. "Boats, Place, People" will feature presentations from nationally renowned maritime experts, including writer and broadcaster Críostóir Mac Cárthaigh, TG4 presenter Pádraig Ó Duinnín and Richard Collins of the internationally celebrated West Clare Currach Club.

The event, which is organised by the Clare Heritage Section of Clare County Council, in association with the Heritage Council, will commence with a presentation on the findings of the country's inaugural Traditional Boats and Currachs study.

The completion of the study arrives during a period witnessing an ever increasing interest in the traditional currachs and boats of County Clare and across the country.

The study was undertaken in 2008 by Darina Tully, an expert in the areas of maritime collections, under the direction of the Clare Heritage Section and the Heritage Council.

The pioneering project involved an audit and inventory of traditional boats and currachs in County Clare, and the establishment of a priority list for their future conservation. The study also examined the local variations in traditional boat and currach building, associated customs, and usage and typology.

According to Tomás Mac Conmara, Project Manager, Clare Traditional Boats and Currachs Study: "Together with a tangible renewal of interest across county Clare, the publication of the Clare Traditional Boats and Currachs Study will help explain, in a county Clare context, the distribution, diversity and structural intricacies of Clare's boats and currachs, as well as contextualising their profound role in Clare's history and culture".

Mac Conmara continued: "Although, the study placed an emphasis on the artefact, its greatest achievement will be to reveal the human dimensions of currachs and boats. The boat remains a conduit for understanding far reaching cultural meanings, customs and traditions. Their preservation should be associated with the safeguarding of the communities that used them. It is hoped that this study will contribute in some way to the renewed interest in our enduring maritime tradition".

Richard Collins, founder of the West Clare Currach Club and a member of the Clare Traditional Currachs and Boats Steering Group explained: "Through geographical proximity to the water, interaction with boats has been both a necessary and fundamental part of Clare life. Latterly, this relationship has been reinforced by a conscious effort of groups and individuals across the county to re-engage the people of Clare with their maritime heritage."

Meanwhile, the winners of the "Clare Maritime Photo Competition" will be announced at the conclusion of the upcoming conference.

The competition was organised to stimulate an increased interest in Currachs and traditional boats in the secondary schools of county Clare. Entrants were asked to submit an image that represents the maritime heritage of their local area.

The winning entry will receive a Currach Building Course worth €2000. An expert boat builder will visit the winning school over five weeks and build a currach on site. The winning school will get the chance to participate in the intricate process of producing a water craft that has been for centuries an iconic symbol of Celtic Ireland. The currach will subsequently be launched at the most convenient water source to the school.

The Clare Traditional Boats and Currachs Conference will be held in Cois na hAbhna, Gort Rd., Ennis, County Clare, on Saturday, 6 December 2008. The event is open to the public and admittance is free of charge.

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