The Vikings are coming - to party, not to pillage

Claddagh Traditional Boat Festival takes place next week

The Claddagh boatmen's Bádóirí an Chladaigh Regatta 2017 will not only showcase the finest Galway hookers and gleoiteogs in the West of Ireland, but brave an invasion of two Viking longships, thereby giving this year’s event a decidedly Nordic feel.

The annual regatta, which this year will encompass the inaugural Claddagh Traditional Boat Festival, runs from Wednesday May 24 to Sunday 28 in the Claddagh Basin. As well as the Viking ships, there will be 20 uniquely Galway and traditional Irish boats, including five Galway hookers and gleoiteogs which have been built and refurbished by Bádóirí an Chladaigh to date.

The ship builders are on track in their plans to build a total of 14 of these iconic vessels, representing the 14 Galway Tribes, in time for 2020, when Galway will be the European Capital of Culture. The Viking ships and their crew are from Ardglass in Northern Ireland. The Claddagh Basin will also host a Viking village for the period of the festival and weather dependent, there will be a full Viking 'invasion' of Salthill on Saturday 27.

The traditional hookers, gleoiteogs, and púcans have been described as “moving sculptures, living and usable artefacts of our heritage". This will be the first opportunity to see their likes and number, in full sail, gathered and moored at the Claddagh Basin since 1920. The restoration has been supported and funded by the Department of Social Protection. The Galway City Council and the Galway and Roscommon Education and Training Board are also financial supporters of this endeavour.

"There is no image that could represent Galway more beguilingly than the red sails of a hooker gliding up the Claddagh Stream on the evening tide," said Galway city arts officer James Harrold. "Our maritime city is well represented by the iconic working boats of Galway Bay."

Galway Hookers

The festival will also host concerts of Irish traditional music and songs and dance on the streets, as well as music on the quayside, with the help of local branches of Comhaltas Ceoltóiri Éireann.

Fourteen primary schools in Galway, Kinvara, and Connemara will 'adopt' one of the 14 main traditional boats to be moored in the basin. The pupils will learn the history of the boats, and the boating traditions of the Claddagh and the Vikings. They will then take a trip to the Claddagh Basin to see the boats for themselves.

More than 150 primary schools children will also don in Viking and mediaeval costume will, and with the Ardglass Vikings, stage an 'attack' and 'defence' of Galway, from Lynch’s Castle, to Quay Street to the Spanish Arch on Thursday 25 at 12 noon, Friday 26 at 12 noon, and Saturday 28 at 3pm. Weather depending there will be a further invasion in Salthill on Saturday 28 at 6pm.

The Latin Quarter, Galway’s West End, and The Village Salthill business groups are sponsors of the event. Support for the 14 traditional boats has also come from individual Galway city and Salthill businesses.

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