Author John Thullier of this timely publication is steeped in Kinsale’s maritime tradition. His family was involved in the design and building of all sorts of vessels for hundreds of years up until 1958. He is also the man responsible for introducing a maritime module at the Kinsale Further Education College, providing students with marine skills such as navigation, seamanship, net making and sailing.
These skills were in danger of being lost at that time as the town’s maritime traditions went into decline. A keen sailor and a great researcher of local marine affairs, he brings a lot of his skills to the table in this long overdue compilation of the famed harbour town.
The timespan mainly covered deals with the period from the Battle of Kinsale in 1601 to the present day. It covers all aspects of the harbour, encompassing naval activity; fishing; harbour defences; shipping; shipbuilding; piracy; shipwrecks and the hinterland of the Old Head and the Bandon River. It also covers contemporary events such as yachting, water sports and regattas.
The author sets the scene for the reader in the first chapter, using his topographical knowledge to good effect, making it easy for the reader to follow. You get an insight to the harbour in words, in much the same way as Tim Robinson describes Connemara perfectly without any illustration. The author clearly outlines the construction and decline of the various fortifications within this secure haven, and also gives attention to their deficiencies, most notably the higher ground that surrounds both forts.
The short fallings of the navigable channel, most notably the sand bar near the mouth of the harbour and its barrier to Kinsale developing at the expense of Cork Port. The author is very well versed in the terminology of sailing and shipbuilding. Along with his extensive historical bibliography, this puts him in an unrivalled position to write a publication such as this.
John Thuillier is Kinsale’s foremost historian, always searching for new outlets of information among the older generation of seafarers in that town. This work is a timely addition to the maritime history of Kinsale. Not since Florence O’Sullivan’s History of Kinsale in the early part of the twentieth century has a comprehensive work been written on the town. It provides a very different perspective of Kinsale for the many newcomers that make up the majority of the population in the port.
The author’s previous handbook History of Kinsale: a field study approach was always going to make his current book one to look forward to; an appetiser so to speak.