‘Life changing’ boat building project in Limerick’s LEDP park

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

YOUNG MEN from Ballinacurra Weston have begun a life-changing course which could see them navigate the country’s stormy waters with ease.

YOUNG MEN from Ballinacurra Weston have begun a life-changing course which could see them navigate the country’s stormy waters with ease.

Over the next two months, six young men aged between 16 and 21 will work on an ambitious new maritime project with the help of the A.K. Ilen Boat Building School.

The young men, who are members of the West End youth centre in Rosbrien, will learn everything they need to do to turn a pile of raw materials into a sea worthy boat.

The youth centre, which was opened just over two years ago by the then president Mary McAleese, supports up to 800 young people in the area every month, whether they are out of work or still in school. It offers structured programmes such as cooking, art, woodwork and beauty therapy after school, while drop-ins and group work are scheduled for the evening time and on weekends.

Evan O’Grady, an apprentice youth worker sponsored by Reed Elsevier Publishing at the West End youth centre, said: “This is a very unique opportunity. A lot of the lads have a keen interest in fishing and the sea, this will be a chance to take that interest to a whole new level.  We’ve heard from other youth workers about the great work A.K.Ilen do and we can’t wait to get our own project underway.”

 Once they finish the initial course the group hope to pit their creation against other boats on the River Shannon and possibly even compete in a festival in Cork, where other projects come together to race against one another.

The men will be building a gandelow, which is a traditional fishing boat unique to the Shannon Estuary.

Robert O’Grady, a participant on the programme and Ballinacurra Weston local, said he had done a lot of woodwork in the past, “but never something like this. We can see a lot of other boats in the workshop and I can’t wait to get our one sorted. It will be hard work along the way, but it’ll be worth it in the end. The first thing we are learning about is the treatment and care of timber, after that will get down to building the boat itself. I can’t wait.”

The A.K. Ilen Company, based in the Limerick Enterprise and Development Partnership Park (LEDP) in Roxboro, is a non-profit organisation committed to providing quality experience and training in fine wood working and traditional wooden boat-building skills.

The school is also planning to open a satellite centre in the Aran Islands, just three years after pioneering the increasingly popular school in Limerick. It currently engages with an average of 80 participants from the local community each week in its day and evening classes.