Brendan voyager to re-rig famous boat

Children from Scoil Baile 'n Fhirtear recreate St. Brendan's voyage from Brandon Creek in 535AD to America at the launch of Feile na Bealtaine in Dingle (2010)

The adventurer who crossed the Atlantic in a craft made of hide in a re-enactment of the voyage taken by St Brendan will be reunited with his famous boat today.

Historian and voyager Tim Severin, who rarely returns to see the Brendan Boat which carried him across the Atlantic, will visit Craggaunowen in Co Clare where it is on display.

According to legend, St Brendan ‘The Navigator’, sailed across the ocean in a bid to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. He is reputed to have discovered America centuries before Christopher Columbus.

In 1976, Mr Severin decided to put the legend to the test by replicating St Brendan’s mythical voyage.

He built a boat out of wood and oxhides, sealed with animal fat, and set out across the Atlantic retracing St Brendan’s journey.

Today’s event has been organised by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra.

It will also perform Shaun Davey’s masterpiece The Brendan Voyage at the National Concert Hall on Mar 15.

The piece was first performed 30 years ago and made history all over the world, including in the Sydney Opera House, and the Royal Albert Hall in London.

World-famous uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn and Mr Davey will also visit Craggaunowen today, where they will be joined by a 35-strong school band from Ennis CBS and their Dingle-born teacher Tom Lynch, who remembers the Brendan Boat departing Brandon Creek in Co Kerry in 1976, on the first leg of a journey to Newfoundland.

A spokeswoman for the NSO said: “Given that Tim does not go back there very often, it’s great to have this opportunity. Apart from a visit a couple of months ago for the US History Channel, he had not been there in almost a decade.”

Tim will chat to the children about his famous voyage and he will also re-rig the Brendan Boat with the original practice set of sails, both mainsail and headsail, which he used.

“Uniquely these sails, still in excellent condition, are both made of hand-stitched leather and both of them carry the iconic red Celtic cross. That re-rigging in itself will be a special moment for Tim, I think,” the spokeswoman added.

The boat used in Mr Severin’s endeavour is on display in a specially built glass boathouse at Shannon Heritage’s Craggaunowen project.

The glass boathouse represents a glacier with the boat frozen in time inside.


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