Kathleen & May Historic Centenary Visit To Youghal

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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 The Mayor revealed he had written an, as yet unpublished, book on the gasworks, which carries a picture of the Kathleen and May and a poem of which the first verse is as follows: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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6 Comments

  1. topclass as usual.excellent photos and reporting. JUST ONE THING, IN THE POEM IT IS “OLD SALTS” & NOT old sorts.

  2. Hi Olly. Thanks for your comments on the Kathleen & May story and photos and bringing to our attention the mistake in the verse of your poem which we have now rectified. Nice verse! Maybe you might consider sending in the full poem for publication on YoughalOnline.com.It was great to see the ship sailing up the harbour again especially since it was 100 years ago since she first entered Youghal Harbour back in 1908. Hopefully she will return soon.
    YoughalOnline.com will shortly be posting video coverage of the Kathleen & May arriving at the port,interviewing locals who had sailed on her and coverage of her departing which will be lovely to watch on our featured video section soon. So stayed tuned!
    All the best
    Michael Hussey

  3. Hi Michael,

    Excellent piece on K&M’s visit; I wish I could have been there.

    Paddy O’Beirne and David Hall may have told you that I am working on a book about the ship which I hope will be published early next year.

    I have already had the privilege of meeting and talking to some old crew members from Tommy Jewell’s days as owner which was facilitated by my friend Paddy, but if anyone else has memories or information I would be very grateful and full acknowledgement would be made of course.

    With best wishes,

    Colin Green

  4. elen kay howitt on

    the kathleen may was my great grandfathers ship built in connahs quay . i have been very interested in hearing about her history .i would love the opportunity of visiting her if anyone knows of her whereabouts? did visit her in katherines dock london as a child many years ago!

  5. Elen May,

    Don’t know where you’re living, but you can visit the Kathleen & May in Bideford, Devon for most of the year. That said, on August 8th the Torridge District Council locked the wharf gates that allowed to access on the ship, due to ongoing dispute to berthing rights, lease, etc. so its unclear whether you can actually board it at present. You can buy it for £3m though.

    Website is http://www.kathleenandmay.co.uk

    Christy Parker

  6. Hi this is a wonderfull ship my grandfather was on this ship when he was a boy from 1912-1914 i belive there were 4 of them built he was no all for of them 3 of them sank im not sure when its a shame about the dissbute over money these sort of things are a part of our history and should have some support