In early 1968, Dr A.T. Lucas, the Director of the National Museum of Ireland sought the advice of renowned Irish folklorist Ciarán Bairéad as to who could build a traditional Irish currach to be included in the National Museum’s collections. Bairéad recommended Michael Conneely of West Village, Inisheer for the commission. Inisheer, or Inis Oírr in Irish, is the smallest of the three Aran Islands found at the entrance to Galway Bay on Ireland’s Atlantic coast.
Michael Conneely (known as Mikey) was a family man and carpenter by trade who supplemented his income by farming and currach building. Following correspondence with Mikey, a two-man team from the National Museum of Ireland travelled to Inis Oírr aboard the Naomh Éanna ferry in June 1968 and spent eight days on the island documenting Mikey Conneely as he built a 19 and a half feet, three-man currach complete with mast and sail.
The two-man team of curator John O’Sullivan and photographer Brendan Doyle set out to record what the National Museum recognised was a vanishing skill. The resulting photographs and footage, along with details logged in the team’s notes and in correspondence with Mikey Conneely, and of course the finished currach, have left us with a significant and complete record of the building of a traditional Irish currach.