Historic Ilen takes pride of place on the Thames

May 18th, 2022 8:45 PM

Ireland’s last timber-made cargo ship, the Ilen, making its way on the River Thames in a voyage undertaken from Limerick to the UK capital. (Photo: Claire Frew)

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THE country’s last timber-made cargo ship, built in Baltimore, was the ‘mast-er’ of the Thames at a special event in London to celebrate Anglo-Irish trade and cultural links.

Cork-based actors Jeremy Irons and his wife Sinead Cusack were among the guests joining the crew of the Ilen in London recently. 

The 96-year-old cargo ketch left Steamboat Quay in Limerick on April 23rd for the 750-nautical mile voyage, sailing up the River Thames and berthing at St Katharine Docks in the shadow of Tower Bridge.

Built in Baltimore in 1926, the ketch served for over 70 years, transporting cargo between the Falkland Islands before being brought back to Ireland 20 years ago and restored by a team led by Limerick man MacMahon.

It now serves as a community educational platform. ‘The purpose of this voyage is to celebrate the ancient cultural and trading relationship between the two port cities,’ said the vessel’s skipper, Gary MacMahon of the Ilen Marine School.

‘It is the culmination of a series of voyages – the Kingship voyages – to many of the Irish towns and cities that have grown from medieval walled settlements built on tidal river estuaries. 

Since its re-construction and launch in 2018, the Limerick-registered Ilen has voyaged over 10,000 nautical miles – across the North Atlantic to Greenland and to most of Ireland’s significant ports. 

The Ilen will remain berthed in London’s docklands until May 14th, with the hope that further commercial and cultural collaborations can be arranged.

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