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International Actor Dominic West Will Host Limerick Ketch Ilen’s London Visit Ceremonial

19th April 2022
International star Dominic West of Glin Castle on the Shannon Estuary will be bringing his enthusiasm for waterways and boats to the Ilen ceremony in London on May 4th
International star Dominic West of Glin Castle on the Shannon Estuary will be bringing his enthusiasm for waterways and boats to the Ilen ceremony in London Credit: Wikipedia

The complex and long-standing relationship between the ancient city ports of Limerick and London will be celebrated with a ceremony on the historic Trading Ketch Ilen in the London city-centre St Katharine Dock, beside Tower Bridge on the River Thames, on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 4th at 3.0pm.

The host for the inaugural event on May 4th will be celebrated international movie and TV star Dominic West, who is himself a lifelong waterways enthusiast with the bonus of close links to the Shannon Estuary through his marriage into the FitzGerald family of Glin Castle.

The Ilen departs from Limerick city this Saturday – April 23rd – London-bound on a voyage towards a cultural exchange which will see the restored 1926-vintage Baltimore-built 56ft ketch staying on in St Katharine Dock as the focal point for number of events until May 14th.

A much-travelled veteran – the Ilen in Greenland in 2019 (left), and the voyage from Limerick to London which gets under way this Saturday (April 23rd).A much-travelled veteran – the Ilen in Greenland in 2019 (left), and the voyage from Limerick to London which gets under way this Saturday (April 23rd).  

ILEN DIRECTOR OUTLINES THE PROJECT 

Gary Mac Mahon, Director of the Ilen Marine School, takes up the story:

“The Ilen Marine School’s Limerick to London project is a celebration of Limerick-London and Anglo-Irish maritime links. The project involves sailing the Limerick-registered heritage ship Ilen from the Shannon Estuary to that of the Thames, departing April 23 from Steamboat Quay, Limerick and arriving at St. Katharine Dock, London, in the last days of April 2022. Port to port, a distance of approximately 750 nautical miles, and a voyage of nothing less than six days.

The Ilen, today in her 96th year, is owned and operated by the Ilen Marine School, Limerick, a not-for-profit community educational organisation whose mission finds expression through the medium of the marine. Specifically, the maritime traditions of western Ireland’s Shannon River and the Atlantic ebb and flow that gives her life.

The Ilen straddles two oceans and two nations. Built in Ireland in 1926 for the Falkland Islands, her genesis can be ascribed to a serendipitous 1925 encounter in London between Limerickman Conor O’Brien, the pioneering voyager and global circumnavigator, and a Mr Goddard of the Falkland Islands Company in London.

Goddard had been tasked with procuring a new service vessel for the island farms of East Falkland. O’Brien, a trained architect, took Goddard’s boat-building commission from London to his drawing board in Limerick, and later that year Ilen’s keel was laid at Baltimore, where she took her name from the nearby River Ilen.

Delivered under his own command by O’Brien, Ilen duly arrived in Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands in January 1927 - that same stout Baltimore-laid keel having cut straight through the waters of the North and South Atlantic oceans.

At the heart of a great port city - St Katharine Dock will be home to Ilen for two weeks in May.At the heart of a great port city - St Katharine Dock will be home to Ilen for two weeks in May

This May, Ilen’s first visit to her place of conception will see her provide a broad cultural platform for British-Irish events on the Thames River, in the shadow of London’s Tower Bridge. This programme of cultural events on the Thames River – which will include a visit to Greenwich - welcomes all who wish to celebrate British-Irish relationships through Limerick-London maritime links and the voyage of the good ship Ilen.”

LINEUP OF NOTABLE SPEAKERS ON ILEN IN LONDON

In his role as MC on May 4th, Dominic West will be introducing an eclectic line-up of speakers, including the Sheriff of the City of London, Alderman Alison Gowman, the Mayor of Limerick City and County Daniel Butler, Michael Lonergan of the Irish Embassy to Great Britain, 
and the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly Member for Port Stanley, Gavin Short.

The supporting organisations and individuals backing this unusual and intriguing venture include Ilen Marine School, Limerick 
Limerick City & County Council
, Limerick Civic Trust
, The University of Limerick 
Heritage Council - Irish Walled Towns Network, the Earl of Limerick, the JP McManus Benevolent Fund, the Port of London, the Irish Embassy to Great Britain, Tourism Ireland, the 
Falkland Islands Government, and the Royal Museum Greenwich.

A visit to historic Greenwich will also be included in the Ilen programme.A visit to historic Greenwich will also be included in the Ilen programme

Published in Ilen
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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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.

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Ireland's Trading Ketch Ilen

The Ilen is the last of Ireland’s traditional wooden sailing ships.

Designed by Limerick man Conor O’Brien and built in Baltimore in 1926, she was delivered by Munster men to the Falkland Islands where she served valiantly for seventy years, enduring and enjoying the Roaring Forties, the Furious Fifties, and Screaming Sixties.

Returned now to Ireland and given a new breath of life, Ilen may be described as the last of Ireland’s timber-built ocean-going sailing ships, yet at a mere 56ft, it is capable of visiting most of the small harbours of Ireland.

Wooden Sailing Ship Ilen FAQs

The Ilen is the last of Ireland’s traditional wooden sailing ships.

The Ilen was designed by Conor O’Brien, the first Irish man to circumnavigate the world.

Ilen is named for the West Cork River which flows to the sea at Baltimore, her home port.

The Ilen was built by Baltimore Sea Fisheries School, West Cork in 1926. Tom Moynihan was foreman.

Ilen's wood construction is of oak ribs and planks of larch.

As-built initially, she is 56 feet in length overall with a beam of 14 feet and a displacement of 45 tonnes.

Conor O’Brien set sail in August 1926 with two Cadogan cousins from Cape Clear in West Cork, arriving at Port Stanley in January 1927 and handed it over to the new owners.

The Ilen was delivered to the Falkland Islands Company, in exchange for £1,500.

Ilen served for over 70 years as a cargo ship and a ferry in the Falkland Islands, enduring and enjoying the Roaring Forties, the Furious Fifties, and Screaming Sixties. She stayed in service until the early 1990s.

Limerick sailor Gary McMahon and his team located Ilen. MacMahon started looking for her in 1996 and went out to the Falklands and struck a deal with the owner to bring her back to Ireland.

After a lifetime of hard work in the Falklands, Ilen required a ground-up rebuild.

A Russian cargo ship transported her back on a 12,000-mile trip from the Southern Oceans to Dublin. The Ilen was discharged at the Port of Dublin 1997, after an absence from Ireland of 70 years.

It was a collaboration between the Ilen Project in Limerick and Hegarty’s Boatyard in Old Court, near Skibbereen. Much of the heavy lifting, of frames, planking, deadwood & backbone, knees, floors, shelves and stringers, deck beams, and carlins, was done in Hegarty’s. The generally lighter work of preparing sole, bulkheads, deck‐houses fixed furniture, fixtures & fittings, deck fittings, machinery, systems, tanks, spar making and rigging is being done at the Ilen boat building school in Limerick.

Ten years. The boat was much the worse for wear when it returned to West Cork in May 1998, and it remained dormant for ten years before the start of a decade-long restoration.

Ilen now serves as a community floating classroom and cargo vessel – visiting 23 ports in 2019 and making a transatlantic crossing to Greenland as part of a relationship-building project to link youth in Limerick City with youth in Nuuk, west Greenland.

At a mere 56ft, Ilen is capable of visiting most of the small harbours of Ireland.

©Afloat 2020

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