Heritage Foyle Punt to be Built by Northern Ireland Student in Basque Boatyard

The following article was written by Betty Armstrong for Afloat.ie, to read the article on their website please click the following LINK 

The Portaferry and Strangford Trust (PAST) is a charity, based in Portaferry at the mouth of Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland, which aims to promote an awareness of the rich maritime heritage and natural environment of the Lough and the sea in general.

The Trust recently hosted a talk by Orlagh Thompson titled ‘Three years building boats in the Basque country. Orlagh was an enthusiastic speaker. She is in her third and final year learning traditional boatbuilding at Albaola, the Basque Maritime Heritage Association in Pasaia in the Basque Autonomous Community of northern Spain. It is a fishing community and commercial port.

 

Albaola, the Basque Maritime Heritage Association in Pasaia, where Orlagh Thomson is building a Foyle Punt

Currachs

Orlagh rowed currachs with the Causeway Coast Maritime Heritage Group on the North Coast. In 2003, she took part in a circumnavigation of Ireland in the 12-metre currach, Colmcille, which was accompanied by the traditional Basque fishing vessel Amerikataktik. A past student of languages at University College Cork, she has been involved in other rowing voyages.

 

Traditional boatbuilding in Albaola, the Basque Maritime Heritage Association in Pasaia

Albaola

Orlagh started at Albaola in 2021. It consists of a maritime museum, a traditional boatbuilding school and a project to build a replica of the 16th-century whaling ship, the San Juan. Its boatbuilding philosophy is based on ‘thought and action’ and requires self-motivation. The course is free, lasts three years and is based on a 5-day week. The students are from a variety of countries, and many friendships are made. The week begins on Tuesdays with a walkaround to receive an update on all the projects.

 

Orlagh Thompson has spent three years building boats in the Basque country and she told her story recently to The Portaferry and Strangford Trust

Patatxe

Orlagh has been involved in a number of builds with the first being an Ala – a flat-bottomed river boat. She helped build the mast and oars for a Patatxe, an 18th century, 15-metre-long boat with 20 rowers. She described the process of lofting – the conversion of a lines plan to a full size one so that full-size components can be cut. Her task was to cut the rabbets at the stem posts, and the hull is a mixture of clinker and carvel construction. The wood is bought by the Albaola shipyard from local forests.

 

Traditional boat restoration in Albaola, the Basque Maritime Heritage Association in Pasaia

Txalupas

After this, she moved on to Txalupas – these are eight metres in length, were carried in whaling ships and used to catch whales. The plan is to make five of them to be carried aboard the replica San Juan, a three-masted, 27-metre, 300-ton vessel that sank in Red Bay in Labrador, Canada in 1565 in fairly shallow water. It took archaeologists thirty years to excavate and study the wreck. The parts were restored to their resting place when the process was complete. The beech keel for the replica was laid in 2014 and the remainder of the vessel will use 200 oak trees.

Foyle Punt

The Foyle Punt is a familiar sight on Lough Foyle in the northwest of Northern Ireland. The boats built at Albaola are usually from the Basque region but Orlagh has persuaded them to allow her to build this Irish boat in her remaining time there. To research the Foyle Punt, she visited to McDonald’s boatyard in Greencastle Co. Donegal. They have built Foyle Punts and Drontheims, the latter being replicas of Norwegian yawls carried as deck cargo on ships importing timber to the North coast of Ireland in the mid-18th century. They were copied and built as fishing craft in Co Donegal. Orlagh also visited the Inishowen Maritime Museum. Her dream is to then build a Drontheim for which she has line plans drawn by Harry Madill.

James Elliot from the Trust was delighted with the interest in Orlagh’s talk. “I think it may have been the best attended we’ve ever had. Orlagh was enthusiastic and really grabbed everyone’s attention and imagination. We look forward to hearing about progress with the Foyle punt”.

 

 

World War II EIRE Signs at Inishowen Head Restored

The World War 2 EIRE sign at Inishowen Head has been restored as part of a historical signage project undertaken by the Inishowen Maritime Museum.
The project was part-funded by Donegal County Council’s “Small Tourism Works” grant scheme. Directional signs for the museum and 8 historical information signs were researched, designed and installed around Greencastle Harbour and Inishowen Head.
The restoration works to the Eire sign was carried out by the landowner, David McLaughlin and his family.
The Coast Watching Service was established in September 1939 and the Army started to man existing lookout posts on the South coast and to set up new Look Out Posts on headlands around the coast, about 10 miles apart.
Their purpose was to monitor air and shipping traffic around the coast and report any movements to a central military control, in Athlone. Eventually, 83 Look Out Posts (LOP’s) were established around the coast, some in existing buildings, others in bell tents or sod huts.The LOP’s were numbered sequentially around the coast. LOP No 1 was at Ballaghan Point, Co. Louth, and LOP No 82 was at Inishowen Head. For some reason, LOP No 83 was out of sequence, being at Feaklecaly, Dingle. The LOP’s in Inishowen were at Malin Head, No 80, Glengad, No 81, and Inishowen Head, No 82.
By 1940, all LOP’s were connected to the telephone system. The Inishowen LOP’s reported to Fort Dunree for onward transmission to Athlone. Later on, all LOP’s were replaced with standard pre-cast concrete buildings.
By 1943, more and more aeroplanes were being ferried to Britain from the USA and Canada and planes were making landfalls all over the West coast of Ireland. To alleviate the problem caused by planes overflying neutral Ireland, the government decided to have large white signs, EIRE, laid out close to each LOP to indicate to approaching planes that they were entering Irish neutral airspace.
Overflights increased from 700, in 1942, to over 21,000, in 1944. Crash landings and emergency landings in neutral Ireland were increasing and causing diplomatic problems.
At the request of the American government, the identity number of each LOP was added to each EIRE sign, effectively turning them into Air Navigation Marks. For example, Planes making a daylight landfall at a marked site, South of Donegal, could identify exactly where they were and turn to head North until they reached Donegal Bay and picked up the Aero-Radio beacon at Derrynacross, Co Fermanagh. They could then follow the beacon into the official “Donegal Corridor” and on into, or over, Northern Ireland.
There was an un-official agreement between Britain and Ireland allowing overflights of Inishowen, into, and out of, the airfields at Ballykelly, Limavady, Eglinton and Maydown. Air charts, marking the positions and ID numbers of the LOP’s, were first given to the ferry pilots flying in across the Atlantic and were later given to operational pilots liable to be operating near Ireland. They were not provided to the Germans. The Coast Watching Service was disbanded on 09 October 1945. Since then, some of the EIRE signs and their identification numbers have been kept visible by local voluntary groups. All 3 Inishowen signs are still clearly visible. Logbooks from the WW2 Look Out Posts are available to view on the Military Archives website, militaryarchives.ie .