Boat-building college for Limerick


YOUNG PEOPLE from Limerick regeneration areas may be able to study traditional boat-building to university level under a scheme being developed on the banks of the Shannon.

The State’s first college in traditional boat craft aims to recruit students from 2012 for degree programmes accredited by the University of Middlesex in England.

Partnerships have also been developed with the US Northwest School of Wooden Boat-building and Sail Training International as part of an initiative outlined yesterday to Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney.

Already, some 40 trainees, mainly young people from Limerick’s regeneration areas, have taken part in workshops run by AKA Ilen, a project set up by big-boat-builder Gary McMahon and a team of shipwrights.

Mr McMahon and company, including the Hegarty boatbuilders of Oldcourt in west Cork have been restoring the ketch Ilen, which was designed by Conor O’Brien, the first Irishman to sail around the world in a small boat.

Named after a west Cork river, it was built in Baltimore, launched in 1926 and was commissioned by the Falkland Islands Company to serve as an inter-island trading vessel in southern oceanic waters, before Mr McMahon secured its return to Ireland in 1998.

The AKA Ilen college project, of which Mr McMahon is director, aims to “transform the individual” and nurture self-belief and confidence through the medium of wooden boatbuilding and maritime education. It has secured a workspace in Roxboro, Limerick.

Dr Andrew Hodgers, academic director, said it has adopted the University of Middlesex model of work-based learning. Middlesex university’s approach is project based, he said. “It worked with Royal School of Ballet dancers on new ways to develop art, and with jewellers to develop their skills, as part of a move towards a more accessible way of studying.”

Dr Martin Kay, also a participant in the AKA Ilen project, said the boat-building school is a “means of connecting young people with a society that is safe, supportive and respectful in turn”.