ONE might have thought he had his fill of choppy waters and bailouts but Minister for Finance Michael Noonan was on hand to launch four wooden boats built in Limerick - or at least launch an exhibition with the fleet as it centrepiece.
The sailing dinghies - the work of the AK Ilen School in Roxboro - are on display in St Mary’s Cathedral for all to admire until October 11 in an exhibition supported by Limerick City of Culture.
“I always thought,” said Minister Noonan, “that divisions between art and crafts were too separate in Ireland and that not enough credit was given to people who can do things with their hands and are very expert in crafts. Art, and culture, is not something highfalutin’ for a small elite group but there is a much wider concept where the artist and the craftsman come together.”
And “no words of mine”, said Minister Noonan, could adequately describe the beauty of the boats produced by the Limerick boatbuilding school, which they have christened the CityOne fleet.
“They are definitely seafaring vessels out along the Estuary although they are probably less happy out in the mid-Atlantic in a raging storm. But they are certainly good for more sheltered waters and we had a regatta with them only last Saturday, racing on the river,” said Br Anthony Keane OSB, a director of the Ilen School, of the 16-foot craft.
The Glenstal monk paid tribute to the work of the school’s master craftsmen, including Steve Morris, a Kiwi now based in Kilrush, who did most of the work on the prototype for the CityOne fleet.
The boats were built by seasoned hands from around Limerick with help from the teenagers from city voluntary groups to whom the Ilen School provides training.
“This is highly technical stuff so the experienced guys who have been with us for a number of years have done most of the work,” explained another director Gary McMahon.
“But some of the younger kids were also involved in the preparation of timber for this. It’s not so much that we teach skills as much as that people are in an environment of quality and, almost through osmosis, they learn about quality through seeing other people doing it. Its not that we teach them some prescribed skills. It’s very important that when they come into a convivial environment like the Ilen School, they can see inspirational things going on.”
The eye-catching design of the livery and the sails themselves are the result of an international graphic art competition, with the four winners from 62 entrants coming from the United States, Kenya, Portugal and Limerick.