Aran Island vessel to be the subject of TG4 documentary

A documentary exploring the history of a cargo vessel which ferried passengers and freight between Galway and the Aran Islands for more than 30 years will be shown on TG4 on Sunday November 9.

The film will delve into the history of the Naomh Eanna and the current campaign to salvage the vessel. Naomh Eanna is a former CIE Aran Islands ferry which plied the route between Galway and the three Aran Islands carrying everything from people to livestock, oil, cement, furniture, and food. The riveted hulled ship was built in 1958 at the end of a great era of building at the Liffey Dockyard in Dublin. She is one of the last such ships built in Europe using the riveted construction technique and is one of the oldest surviving Irish built ships remaining in our waters.

The Naomh Eanna has been lying derelict in Dublin Port for more than 25 years after she was withdrawn from service in 1989, and earlier this year it emerged that there were controversial plans by Waterways Ireland for her to be consigned to the scrapyard. There has been an on-going campaign to save the veteran vessel. She has now been acquired by the Irish Ship and Barge Fabrication Company, a firm which specialises in the development of high quality heritage maritime holdings. There are ambitious plans in place for a major refit to restore the boat to her former glory, and it is hoped that, in time, Naomh Eanna will be moored at her adopted home in Galway. A large-scale project involves plans for the boat to berth at Dun Aengus dock and become a local tourist attracton featuring a a boutique hostel, restaurant, cafe, and museum.

Donncha Mac Con Iomaire has produced the upcoming documentary for TG4 and he explains why the veteran vessel is so controversial. ‘’She was a big awkward boat that was designed to service a group of Islands but could only berth quayside on Inis Mor as she was too large to berth at the others. Many islanders on Inis Oirr and Inish Meain have not got fond memories of the boat from the point of view of the hardship that was involved in accessing her. Cattle would be swam out as far as the vessal and a crane would be used to lift them aboard We have footage of people using curraghs to travel as far as the vessal and elderly people struggling to climb aboard. If the weather was bad, the steps of the boat would not be let down. Islanders had to live with this so long, it’s amazing to think it all happened up until 1988.’’

The second aspect of the documentary will concentrate on the latter day story of the plans to try to save the boat from the scrapyard. Captain Sam Field Corbett of the Irish Ship and Barge Fabrication company is well known within the industy for locating heritage vessels and identifying unique and exciting modern uses for these valuable craft. The firm is currently seeking more than €2,000,000 from private investors to fund the restoration plans. Donncha Mac Con Iomaire believes people will find the film extremely interesting. ‘‘Anybody that has a particular interest in history will enjoy the archive footage and locals in Galway will remember the Naomh Eanna well. She was as much a part of Galway’s history as a part of the Aran Islands.’’

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