Water Wag dinghy class historian Vincent Delany has uncovered more remarkable vintage sailing regatta footage at Dublin’s Irish Film Archive – this time in colour – showing vibrant regatta activity off Howth Harbour, County Dublin, in the summer of 1942.
Yes, 1942, during the Emergency, as the World War II years were officially known in neutral Ireland.
Where else in the world were such scenes played out in that year? The USA had gone to war against Japan and Germany the previous December; nowhere else in the Northern Hemisphere, we think – perhaps only in Argentina in the Southern Hemishere?
Sit back and enjoy only beautiful yachts, many of them gaff rigged, the majority of them locally designed and built – all in glorious colour – a rare treat thanks to Howth Yacht Club.
In his monumental 1995 book Howth – A Centenary of Sailing – a valuable social document as well as a comprehensive north Dublin sailing history – W.M. Nixon records that Howth Sailing Club’s Lambay [Island] Race attracted 21 starters in 1942, with no less than 73 yachts taking part the August Regatta.
Presumably such numbers reflected an increased confidence in security. During the early part of the previous year the east coast of neutral Ireland had found itself under aerial bombardment, and later in the spring and early summer of 1941, Belfast, a day’s sail north, as part of the United Kingdom had been heavily blitzed more than once, along with Britain’s major industrial and shipbuilding centres. It is said that the three nights of the Swansea “blitz” in late February 1941 could be heard in County Wexford.
But by the summer of 1942, with the theatres of conflict moving east, the threat of direct contact with war had receded – and the sun obviously put its hat on for the cameraman and the sailors.
I’m an imposter here, from across the water in another Celtic land. While similar scenes in Dublin Bay would be a paradise for a Scottish yachting historian, with most of the classes there designed by William Fife Jr and Alfred Mylne, Howth was a centre of home grown talent. This footage is a remarkable testament to the fine work of two of Ireland’s best yacht designers, W. Herbert Boyd and John (J.B.) Kearney.
But I’ll dare to take a stab at some boat spotting below. It would be wonderful if additions, corrections and people-spotting contributions could be added in the “Leave a Reply” box below.
01:19 et seq
The Howth 17-Footers (length water line) feature throughout: designed by W.H. Boyd of Howth, they first raced as a class in 1898 and still do – recognizable by their very high peaked, nowadays multicoloured, jackyard topsails.
“4”: 17-Footer Zaida built by James Clancy, Kingstown, 1900. Owner in 1942, H.H. Poole.
The dark hulled canoe stern yawl is Mavis, an Irish yachting icon, designed and built for himself in Ringsend, Dublin by John Kearney in 1925. She is presently based in Maine, USA. She appears many times more, especially in close-up at 04:18.
Believed to be Rosalind, designed John Kearney, built by Morris & Lorimer, Sandbank, Clyde, Scotland, 1936 (same model as Evora at 05:52). Owner in 1942, Dr T.J.D. Lane.
To right of the angler, M.Y. Rena, designed and built by John Leitch & Co., Renfrew, Clyde, Scotland. Owner in 1942, Howth Motor YC Commodore, William Lacy.
“12”: 17-Footer Rosemary, built by J. Kelly, Portrush, 1907. Owner in 1942, A.F.B. Thompson.
“6”: Mercia III, designed by G.U. Laws, Burnham on Crouch, Essex, England, built by her first owner, J. Jarvis Jr., either at London or Burnham, 1908. Owner in 1942, Smallridge family. Hopefully alive and kicking somewhere in NW England. She won the yacht races on Dublin Bay during the 1924 Tailteann Games.
Varnished MFV D335. She’s beautiful. What’s she called and who built her?
UPDATE 8 April 2013: identified by Sean Norris as the fishing vessel Deirdre, built by Tyrells of Arklow in 1942. Later worked out of Kinsale, Rosslare, Wexford and Portavogie. What became of this “yacht-finish” fishing boat? Who was her first owner?
Mavis, with to leeward possibly Rosalind.
Possibly Osamunda, designed by J.A. Smith and built by F. Maynard, Chiswick, London, 1906. Owner in 1942 Douglas Mellon.
“265”: Marama, designed by E.P. Hart, built by Berthon Boat Co., Lymington (as Izme), 1923. Owner in 1942, Harald Osterberg.
“7”: Evora, designed John Kearney, Dublin, built by H. Skinner & Son, Baltimore, Co. Cork, 1937. Owner in 1942, Master O’Hanlon.
Stella, designed and built by John Kearney, c1927. Owner in 1942, F.M. Walsh.
Believed to be Punctilio, Dublin Bay 25-Footer (waterline), designed by William Fife Jr., built by Charles Sibbick, Cowes, 1898. Owner in 1942, J.B. Stephens.
Green hulled cutter = ?
Cutter with tan sails, Huzure, designed by Captain O.M. Watts Ltd., built by A.V. Robertson & Co., Woodbridge, Suffolk, England, 1937. Owner in 1942, Keith McFerran.
UPDATE 10 January 2014: the Howth RNLI lifeboat identified by Rose Michael [in ‘comments’ below here] as the Watson type, RPD, on station for 25 years from 1937, capable of 8 knots, burning 4 gallons of diesel per hour at a cost of 5d [that’s 5 pre-decimal pennies] per gallon with a range of 224 miles…. funded by legacies from Miss M.A. Butterworth, Mr. L.W.Rignall and Miss Mary Sarah Philips. RPL can be seen in service mode at the Howth RNLI Facebook page here.
The dark hull, clipper bow sloop moored off the bow of the lifeboat is believed to be Eithne, designed and built by W.H. Boyd, Howth, 1893 and still owned by him in 1942.
“16”: 17-Footer Eileen, built by M.Moloney, Kingstown, 1908. Owner in 1942, T.H. Roche.
The above information would be impossible to compile without reference to, and huge thanks for W.M. “Winkie” Nixon’s two invaluable, incredibly detailed and entertaining contributions to the documentation of Irish yachting history, To Sail the Crested Sea – the story of Irish cruising and the first fifty years of the Irish Cruising Club (1979), and Howth – A Centenary of Sailing (1995). Reference was also made to Erroll MacNally’s 1946 publication, Irish Yachting (1720–1946), the Donal O’Sullivan compiled, Dublin Bay – A Century of Sailing (1984) and Lloyd’s Register of Yachts.
As sailors in the warmer parts of the world, and hardy souls in higher latitudes, find their feet with the most recent revision of the Racing Rules of Sailing – in force since January 1st – it’s worth reflecting on the origins of the codification of sailing boat racing. Where did it start?
Irish yachting historian, Hal Sisk, is very sure about that, and makes a strong case in his new publication –
This attractive, revealing and beautifully illustrated book describes how the worldwide phenomenon of competitive sailing for fun was popularised and formatted by the pioneering yachtsmen of Dublin Bay during the mid 19th Century.
~ Iain McAllister ~