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National Museum of Ireland launches memory project for Bealtaine Festival 2021

Passengers on their way to the Naomh Éanna ferry by curragh from West Village, Inishere, Aran Islands, Co. Galway, June, 1968. © National Museum of Ireland

The National Museum of Ireland - Country Life is inviting people in the west of Ireland with memories of boats and boat building in their community to submit their stories to an online archive of Irish heritage. 

The NMI memory project is looking at the vibrant maritime heritage along Ireland’s western coast. The project is part of Age & Opportunity’s Bealtaine Festival - celebrating creativity as we age throughout the month of May.

It is envisioned the memories, stories and family photographs collected will help inform the development of a new exhibition gallery about vernacular Irish boats at the NMI - Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co. Mayo.

The NMI has an important Collection of over 30 traditional Irish boats. Currachs are particularly well represented with 15 examples. The Collection features some of the oldest currachs in the world, including an Inis Oírr currach from 1928, two Donegal currachs dating from the early 1930s and a Boyne coracle/currach from 1928.

Other boat types in the Collection have now almost disappeared from use such as the Donegal paddling currach and the Sheephaven currach.

This new exhibition gallery in Mayo will tell the fascinating history of these boats and the people who made and used them.

Noel Campbell, Assistant Keeper of the Irish Folklife Division at the National Museum of Ireland, wants to hear from people who can help the Museum tell this story.

Did you grow up in a fishing community? Was your family involved in boat building or have you a memory of boats from the west coast? If you do, we would like to invite you to contribute your memories. We are interested in your story and remembering the fisher folk of the Atlantic. Memories that we sometimes think insignificant may in fact hold details that will assist us in our work. Whether boats were a large part of your life or you have fond memories of boating during holidays in the west, we would like to hear from you.”

To contribute your memory, image and story to this project, please visit and follow the ‘Remembering our West of Ireland Boats’ link. You can submit your story using the online form.

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