A curach  is a small boat from the west coast of Ireland, related to the Welsh coracle. Traditionally, constructed by stretching animal hides over a wooden frame, today canvas or fibreglass is more likely to be used.

I saw some curachs lying on the Claddagh side of the old harbour during my recent stay in Galway


The plank-built rowing boat found on the west coast of Connacht is also called a currach or curach adhmaid (“wooden currach”), and is built in a style very similar to its canvas-covered relative. (Wikipedia). Here’s an example


A website about the Aran Islands tells us that

Curachs are still much used in the Aran Islands and all along the west coast. Curachs are made of wooden slats which are then covered in several layers of tar. Originally they would have been covered in hide. They were designed thus because wood was scarce along the coastal region. They are versatile boats, able to carry large heavy loads as they are so buoyant.  Traditionally they are manned by a crew of three, who carry it up a sheltered part of a beach to store it upside down to protect it, sitting it on trestles or large stones.  Quite often nowadays they are fitted with outboard motors but the basic design is the same as it has been for generations.  Curach racing is also popular along the west coast, especially in the Aran Islands.

J M Synge, in his book The Aran Islands, writes about his experience of travelling to and from and between the islands in a curach

Early this morning the man of the house came over for me with a four-oared curagh—that is, a curagh with four rowers and four oars on either side, as each man uses two—and we set off a little before noon.

It gave me a moment of exquisite satisfaction to find myself moving away from civilisation in this rude canvas canoe of a model that has served primitive races since men first went to sea.


The men seemed excited and uneasy, and I thought for a moment that we were likely to be swamped. In a little while, however I realised the capacity of the curagh to raise its head among the waves, and the motion became strangely exhilarating. Even, I thought, if we were dropped into the blue chasm of the waves, this death, with the fresh sea saltness in one’s teeth, would be better than most deaths one is likely to meet.

The Galway Hooker


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.




Our shells clacked on the plates.

My tongue was a filling estuary,

My palate hung with starlight:

As I tasted the salty Pleiades

Orion dipped his foot into the water.

(From “Oysters” by Seamus Heaney)


A plate of oysters. My starter during a meal at Donnelly's of Barna with my friend V, who first introduced me to Ireland and Ireland to me. Delicious!


Poetry Walls in Galway

While I was wandering around the centre of Galway, I spotted this mural painted on the side of a butcher’s shop opposite the St Nicholas Collegiate Church.


Later, not far away I came across 3 more murals, clustered together


two of them facing each other on walls flanking a car park.



I was curious. They clearly had some connection with each other, but what? And the words painted as part of the murals clearly had some meaning. But there didn’t seem to be any information about them.

On returning home, some research on the web finally revealed the answer. They had been created last year as part of the annual Cúirt literary festival. The paintings are an interpretation of poems by Philip Larkin, Dermot Healy, Nikola Madzirov and Irvine Welsh by local street artist Finbar247. Originally, there were plaques with the poems installed on the walls next to the poems but, with the exception of one, they had been removed, presumably by vandals.

There are some videos showing the paintings being created by the artist on the Cúirt website.

Return to Galway


I’ve just got back from a visit to Galway on the west coast of Ireland. It was a return visit – I was there last year for a couple of days. Like last year, I’d been invited to run a workshop at the University – It was good to know that I must have done a good enough job to warrant a return visit.

I flew from Manchester to Dublin and then picked up a coach to take me to Galway. A three hour journey. It was sunny, but very cold, when I left Manchester but was greeted by dark grey skies and VERY heavy rain on my arrival in the west of Ireland.


Tuesday afternoon was something of a washout but I’m glad to say that the weather improved for the rest of my stay.

The heavy rain over the preceding weeks meant that the Corrib river was running deep, fast and turbulent.





Most of Wednesday was devoted to running my workshop at the University,


but I had a couple of half days plus a few hours on the Wednesday to have a mooch around. Galway is quite small, but there is plenty to see. It was good to wander round and revisit some of the places I saw last year, but I also managed to take in a few new sights.

Sheltering from the rain in the Eyre Square shopping centre I came across this preserved section of the old city walls



I never realised it was there!

Otherwise, most of he sights were familiar

The Long Walk, shot at dusk


Looking over to the Claddagh


The Cathedral


Rowers on the river near to the University


Buskers in Shop Street


Colourful and interesting shops



Galway Cathedral


Although at first glance, Galway Cathedral looks like an old building, construction only began in 1958 and it was inaugurated in 1965.It’s built of local limestone and located on the site of the former city prison.

Architecturally, it’s a mixture of styles with Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque features. The towers at the east end are reminiscent of those on Spanish churches, reflecting the historic trading links between Galway and Spain.


I didn’t find the exterior particularly attractive. The mish-mash of styles just didn’t work for me. The inside was different, though.

I find many Catholic cathedrals and churches quite oppressive with their heavy decoration and gory religious art concentrating on hell and damnation and the suffering of Christ. But the interior was relatively restrained and had a bright and airy feel.

The Cathedral floor is made from locally quarried Connemara Marble,


The altar occupies a central position, underneath the dome, that was illuminated an almost electric blue.



The patterned barrel vaulted ceiling is made of American Western Red Cedar


There’s some very attractive modern stained glass including a Rose window above the pipe organ that was built  by  the Liverpool firm, Rushworthe & Dreaper.