Summer of ’42

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?


“84”: Tumlaren Class, Tumbler, designed by Knud Reimers, Sweden. Owner in 1942, Launce McMullen.


Mavis, with to leeward possibly Rosalind.

From 04:46

“12”: Danish “spidtsgatterCurlew, designed by M.S.J. Hansen, built by Viggo Hansen, Kastrup, Copenhagen, 1933. Owner in 1942, J.J. McDowell.

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 –

Dublin Bay – The Cradle of Yacht Racing.

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 ~


About Peggy Bawn Press

496pg biography of Scottish yacht designer, George Lennox Watson (1851-1904). Significant book on the history of yacht design & the development of modern yachting. Beautifully illustrated. Many photographs previously unpublished.
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13 Responses to Summer of ’42

  1. Sean Norris says:

    The varnished fishing boat is MFV Deirdre built by Tyrells in Arklow in 1942. History of ownership on following website

  2. Thanks Sean. Might have guessed that “Deirdre’s” yacht-like finish spoke Tyrrells of Arklow.

    I was lucky enough to have a walk through the stripped-out hull of the ex trawler “Thomas McDonagh” (Tyrells 1970) during her conversion at Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, in 2005 to a motor sailing schooner for charter work. The quality of her original construction was way in advance of many a yacht by yards with lesser care for high standards of build and aesthetics.

    I wonder, who was “Deirdre’s” first owner at Howth? And what became of her? Ian Whittaker’s site traces her to Portavogie in the 1970s…

  3. Roger Dundas says:

    As a Tumlare sailor in Melbourne Australia it was an enormous pleasure to see the Howth Regatta vision. The “Tum’s” also raced on Port Phillip during WW II as J.H.Bert Ferris notes in his
    “Sixty Years of Royal Melbourne’s Remarkable Tumlares”
    World War II prevented further development of the Class, but nevertheless, Class racing carried on during that period having five or six racing regularly with the help of Interstate and Overseas yachtsmen on leave from the services: making the Class the only active keel boat Class on Port Phillip to race regularly during that period a time when Otto Tuck’s Zest won all before her to become the undisputed Class and Club Champion.

  4. Roger Dundas says:

    It was Zest that Uffa Fox wrote about, the English one. We have 5 “Tum’s” regularly racing with the Classic fleet, two not racing and two more in restoration. The Winter series has Avian #96 and Ettrick # leading the fleet. The last Geelong Wooden Boat Festival had 7 racing and it was a great pleasure to see them in “pod”

    Click to access 6724-CYAA-May-2012-4.0_LORES_REF.pdf

    • Great to read about all that activity, and interesting to read that all (?) your Tums were built in Australia. Did the local builders use the same galvanised steel alternate frames and floors as in Scandinavia?

      • Roger Dundas says:

        To my knowledge only Zefir # 318 was built that way in Australia and we removed them in the late 1990’s. They were only going along for the ride ! Snowgoose #309 has been totally re-ribbed this year in blackwood and will be back racing with the Classic Melbourne fleet in the southern Summer. She has been restored by George Low, son of her original owner.
        “A thing of beauty is a joy forever” ( as long as you tend to it)

  5. Are these replacement frames laminated George?

  6. Roger Dundas says:

    Yes, two strips of Blackwood, 1″ x 1/2 ” steam bent, two copper nails per plank, roved.

    • Sorry all the interrogation Roger! But “composite” and “semi composite” construction fascinates me right back to the clipper ships. So replacement in “modern” wood method is similarly fascinating. If the designer and builders of the time could have used laminated wood frames, would they have? Have you been replacing only the galvanised steel frames (every third frame as I understand it) to that spec, or all of them?

      • Roger Dundas says:

        Projecting how the original builders would have handled new materials and methods is speculative and each restorer has to make the call as to how much traditional and modern. In the case of Snowgoose traditional methods were used. The frames went in as original, two half inch strips steam bent and unglued, held to the planks with copper nails and roves. ALL the ribs were replaced. One concession was to use dynal sheet over the deck where canvas would have been the original option. When the gal steel frames (every third rib) were removed from Zephyr they were replaced with epoxy laminated celery top pine. My decisions on the restoration of Avian were made with longevity in mind and where I felt that would be improved with modern material, marine ply deck, dynal sheeting and two pack paints I took the longevity option.

  7. Rose Michael says:

    Re RNLI Lifeboat: In 1937 the “Lady Kyslant” was transferred to Wicklow and replaced by the “RPL”, a more up to date Watson design capable of 8 knots, burning 4 gallons of diesel per hour at a cost of 5d per gallon with a range of 224 miles. The “RPL” remained on station for 25 years. It was funded by legacies from Miss M.A. Butterworth, Mr. L.W.Rignall and Miss Mary Sarah Philips.

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