West Cork mast-er of London
A Cork boat named after a West Cork river hit the Thames last week at a special event in London to celebrate Anglo-Irish trade and cultural links.
Cork-based actors Jeremy Irons and his wife Sinead Cusack were among the guests joining the crew of the Ilen, the 96 year old cargo ketch in London last week.
Ireland’s last timber-built cargo ship left Steamboat Quay in Limerick on 23 April for the 750 nautical mile voyage, sailing up the River Thames and berthing at St Katharine Docks in the shadow of Tower Bridge.
“The purpose of this voyage is to celebrate the ancient cultural and trading relationship between the two port cities,” said the vessel’s skipper, Gary MacMahon of the Ilen Marine School.
“It is the culmination of a series of voyages - the Kingship voyages – to many of the Irish towns and cities that have grown from medieval walled settlements built on tidal river estuaries.
“Limerick and London are both highly evolved metropolitan bastions of maritime and riverine heritage and they share a long history.”
Since its re-construction and launch in 2018, the Limerick-registered Ilen has voyaged over 10,000 nautical miles – across the North Atlantic to Greenland and to most of Ireland’s significant ports.
Built in Baltimore in West Cork in 1926, the ketch served for over 70 years, transporting cargo between the Falkland Islands before being brought back to Ireland 20 years ago and restored by a team led by Limerick man MacMahon.
It now serves as a community educational platform.
The Ilen will remain berthed in London’s docklands until 14 May, with the hope that further commercial and cultural collaborations can be arranged.
The cultural event was also attended by Mayor of Limerick, Cllr Daniel Butler, and Alison Gowman, Sheriff of the City of London.