Sheephaven curraghs set sail on the Rhine

Sheephaven bay Curraghs, the traditional boats from the Dunfanaghy area, have set sail on the German River Rhine for the first time following a special project by students at the University of Bonn.

Sheephaven bay Curraghs, the traditional boats from the Dunfanaghy area, have set sail on the German River Rhine for the first time following a special project by students at the University of Bonn.

A 15ft four-oar curragh was launched on June 18 on the Rhine, just below the famous Drachenfels mountain, ten miles upstream from Bonn.

The boat had been built in a week by a team of five young women and five men, including the Irish ex-pat, Inishowen man Dónal Mac Polin, who directed and supervised the work daily.

Most of the workers were students of Celtic Studies from the University of Bonn, who enjoyed this extra-curricular experience in Irish cultural history, and the unusual manual effort involved in this sideline of their academic studies.

The boat selected for this workshop was the traditional Dunfanaghy or Sheep Haven curragh from Donegal, which is Donal Mac Polin’s favourite.

He has had it rebuilt several times by teams in his native Donegal, but also in Austria and Norway.

The workshop was planned and organised by the German equivalent of Centre for the Study of Celtic Languages and Cultures, the SKSK of Königswinter, mainly active in teaching Celtic languages since 1996.

Simultaneously with the boat workshop an exhibition of graphic art by Dónal and Tim Stampton of Moville was shown at the SKSK. Boats and boating was the theme and far away from Inishowen, these works were much admired by many Rhinelanders.

As boating was the theme of the week, the SKSK took the opportunity to launch a new volume of their own book series, appropriately called Bádóireacht, and containing 32 pieces of conversation on maritime themes recorded in Conamara in 1964, in rough dialect of oldish speakers (proof on included CD), readable Irish, and German translation.

“Everything went fine, and the as yet nameless boat floated swiftly on the river, watched and tested by its builders and some of their friends, and local enthusiasts. ‘A well manageable swift boat’, everyboy thought who tested and saw it,” said Dr. Arndt Wigger, Senior member of SKSK staff.