Plain sailing for Culmore

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Clergy and parishioners of Christ Church, Culmore, Muff and Saint Peter’s (CCCMSP) have completed a 10-day-long cross-community project to build a fully functioning ancient Irish currach, under the expert guidance of master boat-builder Donal Mac Polin from the Traditional Boats of Ireland co-operative.

The 16-foot craft was completed at the ‘4 R’s’ Recycling Project’s workshop at Pennyburn Industrial Estate in Londonderry, before being transported to CCCMSP’s parish hall, the Acorn Centre.

‘4 R’s’ is a social enterprise initiative which was set up four years ago by the Resource Centre, Derry and its trainees and volunteers were involved in every stage of the boat-building process.

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Ken Good, visited the workshop in the early stages of the boat’s construction, and lent a hand as Resource Centre staff, clergy and parishioners put the finishing touches to the currach’s frame. The team used a combination of hazel, spruce and pine to build the boat’s skeleton, before covering the hull with ballistic nylon fabric and sealing it with pitch.

The CCCMSP project was the brainchild of Rev Katie McAteer who came up with it during the Diocese’s Year of Opportunity in 2016.

Rev McAteer said they had considered a number of projects, involving children, seniors and men – at one stage even contemplating building a men’s shed – before opting for the currach.

He continued: “We would look to get it onto the Foyle for Saint Columba’s Day, on June 9. Holy Trinity Church, Culmore and Culmore Primary School are both celebrating their 150th anniversaries this year. We hope to row our currach along the Foyle to Culmore Point, where it’ll be met by pupils who will carry it to Holy Trinity Church where a Service of Confirmation will be celebrated on Saint Columba’s Day.”

Rev McAteer said the team from the parish were also considering including their new boat in the Foyle Maritime Festival in July this year, while Deacon Intern, Rev Bob Wray, has even more ambitious plans.

He would like to see a party of currachs being sailed from Carlingford Lough, along the Upper Bann, through Lough Neagh, along the Lower Bann and onto Lough Foyle. He added: “If we could get teams of people to row the boats, perhaps camping along the way – carrying the currachs where necessary – it would be a real opportunity to travel through the six counties of Northern Ireland, building partnerships and friendships. The project has already included both genders, many age groups and various denominations, and – pardon the pun – we can push the boat out further.”

The Rector of CCCMSP and Archdeacon of Derry, Ven. Robert Miller, said the currach-building project was enjoyable and enriching for all those involved. Concluding: “It has already rewarded us handsomely in terms of the friendships we’ve made, and the fellowship we’ve enjoyed with our neighbours. Many people have worked hard to build the new craft, but it hasn’t been hard to discern the hand of God at work as well. And now we’ve even more reason to look forward to Saint Columba’s Day on June the 9th and our Confirmation Service in Culmore.”