Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Newgrange Currach

Reliable reader Wade Tarzia has added a useful comment to an earlier post about coracles, with a review of the 2012 book, The Boyne Currach by Claidhbh O Gibne. (Please don't ask me to pronounce the author's first name.) The comment worth a read, or you can see Wade's complete review on his blog.

The Boyne currach, a historical type, is being championed by an organization that seems to refer to itself alternately as the Newgrange Currach and the Boyne Currach Heritage Group. They're active in researching the type, building replicas, and campaigning them on the water in surprisingly adventurous and attractive ways, as shown in the slideshow above.

(By the way, in addition to what I would call a currach -- i.e., a "boat-shaped" hide-covered, open-framework boat -- Newgrange Currach is also building what I would call coracles -- i.e., boats that are round in plan -- and apparently calling them currachs too. Not having yet read the book, I'm not clear if there's a technical difference between their round currachs and true coracles, or simply an overlap of terminology.)

They also (naturally) maintain a Facebook page.


  1. Got this for Christmas, have followed the New Grange site for years and it is a fascinating project. My own Boyne coracle is both coracle and currach depending on the direction (Wales or Ireland) you are looking from. Built by Peter Faulkner of Leintwardine its shape is perhaps more oblong than those described in the book.

  2. What is the use of reconstructing prehistoric boats? Discussing this with Experimental Archaeologists sometimes they see only value if the whole thing is carefully documented and referenced and of course they are right if repeatable experiments are to add to our body of knowledge and provide a basis for assessing craft of the past.

    So is the amateur working for themselves and financing themselves producing anything of more general value? Even if they do not document closely.

    I think they do because it gives opportunity for accessing experiential archaeology to the boat builder, the crew of the boats and even to their spectators.

    We can never truly know how it felt to be a Bronze Age boatsman but we can feel what it is like to hold a coracle steady against wind and tide, something they must have had to do many times in the past.

    The fun from building and playing with ancient boats as well that of researching them is enough anyway but I believe we can contribute to archaeology as well if only in giving students the common experience with those novice boaters of five thousand years ago who also misjudged their balance and capsized into the water from a coracle.

  3. Edwin: I agree with you 100%. There need not be an academic justification for reconstructing and using ancient boat types: pure fun and/or personal curiosity may suffice. IMO, it beats the sort of boating that burns petrofuels on a gallons-per-minute basis.

  4. Thanks for posting further topics about this worthy effort. The name is pronounced "Clive O'Givnee." The spelling is Irish Gaelic with its complicated orthographical history (I think the Irish take some pride in it because .... well, figure it out :-)). Myself, I enjoy the archaeological hypothesizing, but have no fear, both the hypothesizing and the building/boating are great fun -- the two sides of the coin of life, the interior imagination movement and the exterior physical movement.

  5. What do you do though when ideas for new prehistoric and traditional boats keep bubbling up in the mind? So far I want to finish my version of Roos Carr, get involved in currach adventures with a planned local group, build a Somerset Turf boat on the lines of a pirogue and carry on with archery and our Living History displays.

    Not complaining though except that retirement still doesn't give more than 52 weeks a year as it did when working.

    New book just received: The Boats of the Somerset Levels by Mike Smylie. British indigenous flat-bottomed boats with a reference back to original logboats.