By Christy Parker | Photo: Michael Hussey (YoughalOnline.com)
The Kathleen & May leaving Youghal Harbour 100 Years after she first sailed into the old town
The historic wooden schooner Kathleen and May left Youghal for her home in Bideford, on Friday last (Aug 1st) at 6pm. Having been away from home for almost a month, Capt. Douglas Lindsay and his 12-strong crew were looking forward to a brass band and party-type reception on their return.
The ship’s visit, had been brief, having arrived the previous Thursday morning at 5am. Originally scheduled to arrive on Wednesday, the inclement weather had forced her to shelter overnight in Rosslare, en route from Dublin.
Despite torrential rain on its first day in dock, considerable crowds were to be seen admiring and boarding the boat during its short stay. She may be 108 years old, but this lady never fails to catch the eye. On Thursday night, many of the crew were afforded an informal reception at the Youghal Arts Centre (Town Hall to you and I), where Mayor Olly Casey and local councillors thanked them for their visit and expressed the hope that many more would ensue.
Mayor of Youghal Olly Casey and town councillors pictured with the crew and friends of The Kathleen and May at the reception with the magnificent three masted schooner berthed in the background
Mayor Casey, in his address recalled his days of youthful employment (1958) at Youghal gasworks when the Kathleen and May “would dock with 300 tons of coal, each knob of which would be shovelled into buckets and brought by Mossie Keohane’s or the Daly’s, horse and cart to the gasworks”. She’d then proceed under the old bridge and collect pit props for the return journey to Wales”, he said. The Mayor revealed he had written an, as yet unpublished, book on the gasworks, which carries a picture of the Kathleen and May and a poem of which the first verse is as follows:
‘Our quay held a special seat
Where old salts used to meet
Telling tales of mammoth whales
And of times when ships had sails’
David Hall presents a box of wine to Mayor of Youghal Olly Casey
During the reception, Kathleen and May crew member David Hall presented Mayor Casey with a box (six bottles) of wine, part of the ship’s first cargo in 50 years, as ferried from Brest to Dublin last week. Strict orders were given that they were for civic -as against council staff- consumption. Journalists, it may have been implied, should have first options.
In any case -or box- the wine was part of a new horizon that has now been breached by the 108 year-old ship in an eventful and historic month. Following her departure from Bideford on July 6th, she managed to get tangled in buoy ropes in nearby Appledore. The local RNLI helped to untangle the problem. The ship then left for Brest, in France, where she joined 2,000 other tall ships at the annual Brest Maritime Festival and was afforded the unique, week-long honour of hosting the Commodore of the French Navy and his guests.
Following a week of music and maritime events, the grand lady deported herself towards further glory. In a venture both historical and pioneering she carried her first commercial cargo in over 50 years, transported 30,000 bottles of French wine to Dublin. The cargo, from the Languedoc-Roussillon region, was the first wine shipment from France since the 1800’s.
More significantly, the venture pioneered a possible return to merchant sailing as fuel costs and environmental concerns spiral. French shipping company, Compagnie de Transport Maritime à la Voile (CTMV), who chartered the 108 year-old boat to ferry the goods, estimate savings of nearly 5 ounces of carbon emission per bottle, each of which will be labelled, “Carried by sailing ship, a better deal for the planet”.
CTMV is even building further vessels to meet a ‘back to the future’ market, with over 80 French vineyards already signed up to the concept. The company has also chartered five other sailing ships to transport products such as Fairtrade coffee, jam and alcoholic drinks. Devon businessman Steve Clarke, who owns the Kathleen and May agrees that, “Commercial sailing ships may well have a new future.”
The Kathleen and May is the world’s last remaining wooden, triple-masted schooner and is one of only 60 famous tall ships on the UK’s National Register of Historic Vessels. She was built in 1900 at a cost of £2,700 and would trade extensively between the Bristol Channel ports and Youghal for almost 60 years. She was owned for much of it life by Youghal coal merchant Martin J. Fleming, who renamed it after his daughters. Mr. Clarke, a Bideford councillor and haulage contractor, purchased the ship after discovering her in terminal decline in 1998 and restored her at a personal cost surpassing £1m. In 2007 he received an OBE for his ‘contribution to the maritime industry.’
The three masted schooner Kathleen & May in full sail and tricolour flying high as she leaves Youghal Harbour during her brief visit to her home port
Though an immensely popular guest at summer maritime festivals across Europe, the ship’s future is uncertain. More or less a landlocked attraction for eight months of the year, she remains on the market as Mr. Clarke struggles to maintain immense maintenance and operating costs. The asking price is £3m but the reluctant seller is “open to negotiable offers.”
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