It’s a story that spans 90 years, Conor O’Brien; Ireland’s first round the world yachtsman and a 56ft ketch repatriated from the Falklands.
It is now the focus of a wonderful Cross Community project which has taken place at LEDP.
Following a huge effort O’Brien;s ketch has been rebuilt and is ready to again take to the seas.
It started out when Gary Mc Mahon a local sailor and Graphic artist secured the return of the ketch from the Falkland Islands 20 years ago. He engaged the support of Liam Hegarty a number of sponsors and a great deal of voluntary effort.
After 7 years involving shipwrights and trainees attached to the maritime training workspace in LEDP and at Hegarty’s boatyard in Cork the Ilen is almost ready to start her next phase The Ilen has been fit with ribs of Irish oak, planks of European larch and a sailing rig similar to the original, Mc Mahon says. “Our plan now is to fit it up, step the mast, rig it up and undertake sea trials.”
The plan is for the Ilen to be sailed up the Shannon estuary to Limerick. From here she will be based as a community training ship, alongside a fleet of “gandelows” or Shannon estuary rowing boats which the Ilen project has also constructed as part of its maritime education remit.
Conor O’Brien was a fascinating figure in recent Irish History. O’Brien, an Irish speaker, supporter of Home Rule and of Sinn Féin, was a sailor, mountaineer, naval architect and the author of 14 books. He was a “junior partner” in the gun running by Erskine and Molly Childers in 1914, using his vessel, the Kelpie, to land guns in Kilcoole, Co Wicklow.
He was related to the landowning O’Briens of the Shannon estuary, including the family of Lord Inchiquin, and the Spring Rice family of Foynes. He married and sailed with the artist Katherine Clausen, served at sea with British minesweepers and transatlantic delivery during two World Wars. You can read more about him here