The Galway Hooker is a traditional type of shallow bottomed boat that used to be widely used in the Bay of Galway for fishing and transporting goods. Their use inevitably died out by the late 20th Century, but there has been a revival since the 1980’s. Today they are mainly used for pleasure purposes and there’s an annual gathering, the Cruinniú na mBád , every summer. The above photograph was taken of Hookers in Galway Bay by my friend V last summer.
There’s a very good exhibition about the Hooker in the Galway City Museum, a good place to visit on a drenching wet afternoon like when I arrived last Tuesday.
The exhibition includes an actual Hooker the Máirtín Oliver, named after a former King of the Claddagh and the last person to have owned and sailed a working Hooker. It was made for the Museum by traditional craftsmen Pat Ó Cualáin and Micheál MacDonncha from An Cheathrú Rua and was installed, hanging dramatically in the atrium of the museum, in 2008.
The displays explained the history of the Hooker with well designed displays including historic photographs and a 3D model of the Bay.
The name “Hooker” derived from their use for hook and line fishing, although the Gallic speakers of the region never referred to the boats as such, using specific names for the four types of boat
- The Bád Mór (big boats) 10.5 to 13.5 metres long
- The Leathbhád (half boat) about 10 metres long
- The Gleoiteog 7 to 9 metres long, and
- The Púcán
But as the Bellman in Lewis Carroll’s poem, The Hunting of the Snark tells us
What i tell you three times is true
The Anglicised name has been repeated so often that it has stuck.
Except for the Púcán, the boats had three sails – mainsail, foresail and jib – made from calico weatherproofed with a solution of tree bark or a mixture of tar and butter, giving them a distinctive dusky red or brown colour.
At one time the harbour in Galway would be filled with Hookers, but, alas, not today. However, I spied one, sails down, moored alongside the quay of the Long Walk.