MacPhail – 20.6.19

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The boat in the accompanying picture is one that my father owned when I was young.

I have been trying to track her down on and off for nearly 15 years without success. She was built as the Moher Maid, coming from County Clare in the West of Ireland near where the cliffs of Moher dominate the coastline. When dad bought her in 1987 he renamed her the Skipinnis Maid after my mother. She was the only boat of those he had owned that might still have been in existence.

Angus MacPhail has spent 15 years trying to track down the boat his father previously owned.

Thanks to Facebook and some very helpful people, last Saturday she was found! The only picture we had of her is the one attached taken in Buckie in 1996. The other photos, I took on Saturday in Fenit, County Kerry, Ireland.

That day, I posted what is below on the Irish Fishing boat Facebook page through which the information on her was found. Keeping with the recent celebration of Father’s Day, I have included it in this article.

It is now nearly 20 years since my father died and despite the time that has elapsed, he was still on that boat with me on Saturday.

‘I travelled over to Cork and then on to Fenit today and stood on board this boat for the first time in over 25 years. Huge thanks to William Kelly for the detective work, transport, hospitality and good company. Also massive thanks to Leighton, the boat’s current owner for being so welcoming and having me on board. I had pretty much given up hope of this boat still being in existence. It is difficult to explain the strength of connection to boats but today was a very, very powerful day for me. The poem below that I wrote a few years after dad passed away will go some way to explain how it felt.’

A Hero of the Wave

On the sea and sailing 
A hero of the wave,
The low-lying island on your stern 
The Southern Minch to brave
Then wild and wide Atlantic 
With sixty miles before
The thought of rest or anchor
By St. Kilda’s towering shore.

With salt sea running in your veins
And passion in your heart
You conquered life with rugged drive
Where most would fall apart.
The sea dealt many cruel blows
Brought death and drowning near.
Each time it did, you didn’t break
But growled and shrugged the fear.

The Firth of Clyde to Jura 
The lonely Flannan light
The western side of Harris
You fished them day and night.
The Monach Isles, the Torrans
The Tiree Overfalls
Intrepid was your spirit
To live the ocean’s call.

The Rising Sun from Grimsay
The faithful Harbour Maid
The Jersey Alice Robert, 
The names will never fade.
From Killybegs Ros Nuala
The Skipinnis Maid of Clare
These boats were part of who you are
A man whose likes are rare.

A boat is more than planks of wood,
Than keel and ribs and beams.
They carry aspiration
Ambition, love and dreams. 
Your hand is on my shoulder
You’re always by my side
Your wisdom guides my voyage
Through worlds of wind and tide.

Your boats they sail the sea no more
But visions still are real.
I see them steaming by the shore
You’re standing at the wheel.
In tranquil sea you’re anchored
No rocks or fire or swell –
A still and peaceful harbour
A bay where all is well.

Another aspect of my trip to Kerry that added significantly to the sense of a completing circle was the calibre of those who I met when there, the warm hospitality I was shown and the sense I felt of being at home among them.

When dad bought the boat in October of 1987, on his passage home the conditions were poor and he was weather bound in various ports up the West of Ireland. He talked for many years afterwards about the warm welcome he received from the people in all these harbours.

Willie Kelly of KK Hydraulics, Tralee, who found the boat and was the main lynch pin in the positive outcome – who up until last Wednesday I had never met or heard of – collected me at Cork Airport and welcomed me to his house like an old friend. Leighton James of Ballyheige the current owner of the boat welcomed me on board and understood exactly what the boat and the trip meant to me. In Leighton, his brother Brent and their late father Patrick there were many other close parallels that added to the completing circle.

These men, their families and the many others I met were exactly the same type of people as dad described meeting while taking the boat home nearly thirty-two years ago.  The closing circles of boats and human connections of last weekend made the journey one of the most emotional and deeply enjoyable I have ever experienced.