Darina Tully
Situated on the eastern side of Cork Harbour is the quiet haven of Rathcoursey Creek. In the 19th and early 20th Century, a thriving fishing community operated its own distinctive style of boats. Whilst very few photographs are known to exist, the remains of some of these boats can still be seen within the creek at low tide.
4.2 Rathcorsey-Hookers
These hookers were similar in shape to Galway hookers – approximately 40 feet in length with a pronounced tumblehome in the hull and a distinctive raked stern.
The fishery is still remembered locally and has been preserved for posterity by Norcott Roberts of the Traditional Boats of Ireland Project who has identified four wrecks.
Historical reference
Despite being laid up 60 to 80 years ago these boats have survived through local folklore and are remembered as: Katherine, Paris, Flora and Anne and are verified in historical material.
An article from The Whitegate Aghada Society journal names the Paris, Aine and Catherine, whilst other documents mention Flora, Anna and Paris. Lloyds Lists for 1906 refers to Flora: ‘a hooker of 22 tons: built Rathcoursey 1885 for Alex Clark’.
These hookers are known to have fished as far away as Bantry but also operated in the Cork harbour area as general cargo boats. Smaller boats (‘beamers’ or ‘travellers’) also operated from Rathcoursey.
Their last ‘hey day’ was World War I when fish prices were at a premium; a Rathcoursey Hooker is also known to have picked up survivors of the Lusitania. The last of these boats were wrecked in a storm, the year of which remains unclear although a few possible dates are given from 1924 onwards.
In 1996 the Irish Maritime Archaeology Society undertook a survey of two: Catherine and Paris. Historian Cormac Lowth wrote a detailed description of the bow assemblage, stern and rudder. Interestingly, features identified are similar to those shown in one of the few known photographs and again on an early 19th Century artist engraving.
A reference to Paris was also found in the local school’s folklore collection where one story describes smuggling and another of a voyage to Roaring Water Bay.
In the 1940s, Rathcoursey had two shops, a pub and attracted many summer visitors but by the 1970s all amenities had closed. The area is now undergoing a revival, however, and is now a suburb of Cork; the nearby harbour of Ballinacurra has been redeveloped as an apartment complex.
This rapid pace of change is being repeated around the coast and makes the recording of local maritime heritage all the more the necessary.
Any information on the Rathcoursey hookers would be gratefully received by the author at [email protected]