Is furasta an scéal seo a mhíniú. Curachaí is mó a dhéantaí in Árainn agus is beag bád adhmaid. Bhunaigh Bord na gCeantar Cúng longcheárta i gCill Rónáin i 1900 ach, ó tharla go mba costasaí iad na báid adhmaid agus go mb’éigean an t-amhábhar go léir a thabhairt isteach – an t-adhmad ach go háirithe – níor mhair sí i bhfad. Nuair nach raibh an oiread sin báid á thógáil in Árainn, agus ó tharla gur beag úinéir báid a bhí sna hoileáin, ní raibh aon chúis mhórtais ag na hoileánaigh mar a bhí ag bádóirí Chonamara.
|Naomh Bairbre ag seoladh trí Shunda Ghríora, 24 Meitheamh 2006|
Bhí an Naomh Bairbre le feiceáil le gairid ar TG4 ar shraith Dhonncha Mhic Con Iomaire, Turas Húicéara.
*Féach: Ní Fhlathartaigh 1976 Clár Amhrán Bhaile na hInse, 179-185; Ó Con Cheanainn 2011 Clár Amhrán Mhaigh Cuilinn, 222-227; Ó Conghaile 1986 Croch Suas É!
Regatta season is upon us, giving us lots of opportunities to celebrate and to experience our West of Ireland icons – the currach and the Galway hooker – and the skill of those who handle them. If the 1934 film Man of Aran wedded the currach to Aran, then the poets of Conamara have immortalized the place of the hooker in their community’s maritime tradition. Their rich body of song compositions* highlights a comparative shortage of songs praising boats in the canon of Aran compositions. This seems strange, for an archipelago. There are local songs about drownings, about the heroics of a lifeboat crew that saved people from drowning, about episodes at sea, and a song scorning a boat, I believe, but it appears that only three songs praise boats; surprisingly, perhaps, they are all about ferries, not sailing boats: Dara Beag Ó Fátharta’s catalogue of compositions includes An Cailín Báire I, An Cailín Báire II, agus Slán leis an Dun Aengus.
This anomaly is easily explained. Aran Islanders built more currachs than wooden sailing boats. In 1900, the Congested Districts Board introduced a shipyard to Cill Rónáin, Árainn, but, as wooden boats cost more to build and all that wood needed to be imported, the yard didn’t operate for very long. With few wooden boats being built in Aran, and with few local owners of wooden vessels, islanders did not have sufficient cause – as did the Conamara boatmen – to laud boats in song.
Nonetheless, Aran islanders respected the hookers upon which they depended for generations for their supply of turf and to export goods. The mutual respect of these two communities for these boats was demonstrated splendidly a few years ago when, on 24 June 2006, a flotilla of c.40 vessels accompanied the Naomh Bairbre through Gregory’s Sound, past Straw Island, and on to Maumeen Pier. At 47ft, the Naomh Bairbre is the largest Galway hooker ever to have been built; Steve Ó Maoilchiaráin of Máimín, Leitir Móir, assembled her in Chinatown, Chicago, using wood from Wicklow, an engine from England, a shaft and propeller from Sweden, oakum and nails from New York, a mast from Minnesota, and sails that were cut for her in Boston. She had just completed an epic six-week voyage through the Great Lakes, down the St Lawrence Seaway, and across the Atlantic via the Azores. Steve’s shipmates included Cóilí Newell, Barney Chóilín Sailí Ó Flatharta, and two Aran Islanders from Cill Éinne, Árainn: Pat Mhaidhle Seoighe and his brother, accordion-player Tom (1958-2007). Tom had sailed the Atlantic once before in 2001 in a yacht from St John’s, Newfoundland, to Ireland. Bonfires were lit in Inis Meáin and Iaráirne to welcome them home and Mayor Richard M. Daley made 4 June “St Barbara Galway Hooker Day in Chicago” to mark the day she was christened in 2004.
The Naomh Bairbre was seen recently in a TG4 series created by Donncha Mac Con Iomaire, Turas Húicéara.
*For songs praising boats, see: Ní Fhlathartaigh 1976 Clár Amhrán Bhaile na hInse, 179-185; Ó Con Cheanainn 2011 Clár Amhrán Mhaigh Cuilinn, 222-227; Ó Conghaile 1986 Croch Suas É!
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