Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Aidan Tyrrell 1941-2022

22nd March 2022
The master at work – the late Aidan Tyrrell effortlessly on the wheel in a brisk run back from West Cork, avoiding the irksome use of oilskins through his skill in ensuring that no white water breaks on board
The master at work – the late Aidan Tyrrell effortlessly on the wheel in a brisk run back from West Cork, avoiding the irksome use of oilskins through his skill in ensuring that no white water breaks on board Credit: W M Nixon

Aidan Tyrrell of Cork was about as far as it was possible to be from the status of a nationally-known sailing figure. It was a situation that chimed well with his intensely private nature. Yet throughout Ireland, there were many significant figures in the cruising world who felt honoured in being able to claim him as a friend, many of them top skippers who were keen to have him as a regular shipmate on their crew panel.

For Aidan was - through many decades - in the upper echelon of that rare breed, the ideal cruising crew. Although in his latter days he looked anything but athletic, even when well into his seventies he continued to be in natural harmony with the way of a ship at sea. And his skill in sailing became instinctual, for he had been at it for a very long time, building on a natural talent from an early age.

He was immune to seasickness. His levels of seemingly effortless stamina were a wonder to behold. A brilliant and hospitable cook ashore, he could successfully transfer his culinary skills to even the most challenging situation afloat. And in addition to the priceless pearl of being an excellent sea cook, he was hugely entertaining company, his dry wit and unrivalled fund of anecdotes drawing on an interesting life path which had started with sailing from his boyhood home in Dublin Bay, and concluded with being the total Cork man, at home in the heart of the southern capital, savouring its best features in a sophisticated enjoyment of the better things in life while continuing to sail and cruise with a choice selection of Cork Harbour’s more interesting characters.

His death last Saturday at the age of 80 was an occasion of both sadness and wonder, for his breadth of interests and wide family connections involved so many people that some specialist groups knew little of other aspects of his life, which he was developing while still a student at Trinity College Dublin in the 1960s.

In those days the authorities were more tolerant of undergraduates who were determined to get the best of a broadly-based education at as leisurely a pace as possible, which in Aidan’s case meant that something like seven years had elapsed before he emerged with a degree that more ordinary folk would have obtained in three or four.

But during its attainment, he’d become a regular with the TCD sailing club, preferring to crew in the many Firefly-sailed team events in Trinity – or DUSC to give them their proper title – in which the Dublin college successfully competed in Ireland and Britain. For although he was subsequently to demonstrate that he was as able a helmsman as the rest of them, he didn’t have the competitive-aggressive approach for the successful team racing boat driver.

He didn’t limit his dinghy experiences to Trinity’s Fireflies and Mermaids, for at that time the all-Ireland glamour class was the International 505 dinghy, and somehow Aidan got involved as trapeze man with Paddy Maher. They took part in the epic Autumn regatta at Dromineer on Lough Derg hosted by Lady Julia at The Sail Inn, and the Maher-Tyrrell team managed one of the more spectacular capsizes.

“It was not a good occasion” he recalled later, “on which to remember that I couldn’t swim. But we kept at it, even though I became more receptive to options of keelboat sailing”.

And thank to the admirable custom whereby leading Dun Laoghaire cruising men recruited the college sailors to their crews in the hope of sparking an interest in cruising in the next generation, in 1964 Aidan joined Ninian Falkiner (RIYC) aboard the Dublin Bay 24 Euphanzel for a Round Ireland Cruise, and he was hooked to such an extent that by season’s end he’d become a member of the Irish Cruising Club. In the years ahead while still Dublin-based, his cruising horizons expanded to include the Outer Hebrides, the Faroes and Norway in a variety of interesting craft.

But eventually, he’d to graduate with a degree which secured him a position in London with the recently-founded ICL (International Computers Ltd), then in the forefront of the development of what most people still thought of as “Business Machines”.

This new world of computers might have been invented for Aidan, as he would probably have rated as a genius if he’d been prepared to do anything so vulgar as an Intelligence Test. But as it is, his comfort in working with them was yet another quality which added to his attractions as a cruising crew, as he would smilingly sit in to talk directly to the new computerised devices at the chart table, rather than struggle like the skipper with RTFM, for he had probably written parts of the Manual in the first place, but held them in considerable contempt.

Living in London brought the beginnings of family life and the restrictions of the big city became irksome, so when ICL opened a significant Irish facility headquartered around the new ICL House in Cork, Aidan ensured himself a place in what the irreverent geniuses in its workforce called Ickle Ho.

Family life meanwhile took a new turn with home at a mixed mini-farm at Aghabullogue in northwest Cork County, but despite the charms of rural family life centred around sundry livestock including a cow called Daisy, in the long run it was just that little bit inconveniently distant from Cork City, where Aidan was finding much to interest his fastidious and eclectic tastes.

The upshot of it all was that a life-restructuring took place from which he emerged as a city-centre-dwelling bon viveur bachelor, a regular in the English Market and other specialist outlets as he carefully selected the makings of his meals, while at the same time being an enthusiastic supporter of the film club, the wine society, and any worthwhile group of jazz supporters in the city.

So although sailing and cruising had been slightly sidelined for a while, now it could become central again, and long-maintained Cruising Club contacts saw Aidan being drawn into the Crosshaven circle around former ICC Commodore Joe Fitzgerald and the deservedly legendary Stan Roche – ‘Stan the Man’. With its razor-sharp wit and banter, this was not an environment for the faint-hearted, but Aidan with his quiet ripostes and instant gems of humour was in his element, and he gradually became part of the Fitzgerald coastal empire which extended from Youghal in the east to Dingle in the northwest, with its key mini-fortresses in licensed premises being identified by the presence on a special shelf of Fitzy’s own crusty bottle of Angostura bitters to facilitate his personal creation of pink gins “as soft as a kitten’s wrist”.

With early retirement possible from Icle Ho, Aidan took the opportunity for freedom, which in turn further expanded his cruising possibilities, and with additional skippers from Ireland north and south such as Russell O’Neill, Davy Park, Ed Wheeler, David Beattie and most regularly in recent years with Dermod Lovett, he was as often in Brittany and Iberia and the Med as he was in Ireland or Scotland or the Faroes.

He was particularly thoughtful in his preparations towards making each cruise on which he sailed into something special, most notably in his role as “Master of the Musick”. Such was his interest in music and fine wines that his little house in Cork was like a cross between a wine cellar and a recording studio. Thus before we went to the Faroes in 1993, as he’d been there before he prepared a couple of tape collections which he felt would offset the gloweringly rugged environment of those semi-Arctic islands.

He succeeded brilliantly, so much so that I now cannot hear Benny Goodman’s peerless rendition of “Where or When” without being immediately transferred aboard an able cruising boat with a warm and sociable atmosphere and the developing promise of a good meal, all totally at variance with the iron Faroese coast passing nearby.

Our heartfelt condolences are extended to his family and friends. We will all miss Aidan Tyrrell very much indeed. But he has left us with such wonderful memories.


Published in Cruising
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

Email The Author

William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open. is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Associations

isora sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Events 2022

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton

Please show your support for Afloat by donating