Saint Joseph East Coast Skiff – Irish Rowing
The main problem for every new club is when you want to start rowing you need a boat. East coast skiffs can cost upwards of €16,000 and take 2-4 months to build. The problem wasn’t really time but funds as we had little or no funds to finance a build. This is our training boat named the Saint Joseph. She is an east coast Skiff built by Patsy Whelan in 1977 in Irishtown. She was owned by a rowing club that rowed out of Bullock Harbour. She was then passed on to St.Patricks R.C. in 1992 as a training boat and her sister boat the ‘Marie Therese’ was passed onto Bray R.C. The Marie went on to win a senior race not too many years ago. St Joseph had been abandoned years ago in a warehouse beside the Pigeon House, part of the ESB Power Station in Dublin. We were lucky enough to receive great support from other East Coast Rowing Clubs and when they heard we were on the lookout for a training boat we were given St Joseph and the task of bringing her back to life and back to the water where she belonged. We spent the winter months refurbishing the St. Joseph and then in May 2017 we took a deep breath and launched her.
‘Old Joe’ as we like to call her now is our training boat and is still going strong today training in the water 5 days a week alongside our other training boat St Margaret aka ‘Maggie’.
Traditional boat building in Ireland seems to have declined in rescent years. Being too time-consuming and labour-intensive for the current age. The building of skiffs & currachs had almost ended 30 years ago, yet now everything has changed again. With clubs such as East Wall Rowing Club, The Stella and the launch of our club Fingal Rowing Club are keeping these old skills alive.
We are lucky enough to have our own skilled wood workers Padraig Sherry & Carl Nangle who have implemented our own oar making programme.
History of East Coast Skiff Racing
East Coast Skiff Racing has its origins in the occupation of Hobbling. Hobblers were freelance Harbour Pilots and competition was strong to win the contracts to pilot approaching ships into port and these contracts were won by prospective Pilots rowing and racing out to meet approaching ships to be the first to board the and win the lucrative contracts. Not only did the successful hobblers receive payment to pilot the ships into port but they were also awarded the contract for discharging/loading those ships whilst in port so it was well worth their while.
The Hobblers primarily worked between Lambay Island to the north of Dublin Bay and Wicklow Head, where they required considerable skill on behalf of their oarsmen. The long tradition of rowing is now carried on through the rowing clubs affiliated to East Coast Rowing Council. These clubs can be found around the old Dublin pilot stations of Ringsend and East Wall in Dublin Port, Dun Laoghaire, Dalkey, Bray, Greystones, Wicklow, Arklow, and Courtown.
Clinker skiff-type boats were once one of the most numerous type of working boats found along the eastern seaboard of Ireland. They were recorded in 1874 by historian E.W. Holdsworth, where he noted that ‘The smaller boats employed for the line-fishery are of the same style as the Norway yawl, sharp at both ends.