The trustworthy wooden currach (pronounced cur-ruck) is a traditional fishing boat that can still be seen in use all along the west coast of Ireland. Currach builders are appreciated as supremely skilled craftsmen: a good wooden currach is stable on the water and handles very well in rough conditions, while the lighter traditional canvas currach is ideal for rowing, and can carry a single occupant along at a fairly rapid pace.
I grew up in Connemara, only a stone's throw away from the shore. At a young age my father taught me the traditional methods of fishing with hand-lines, over the side of our wooden currach. Most of my generation has only ever fished for leisure or as sport; but it was not so long ago that most of Connemara’s coastal population was sustained predominately by the sea. For prior generations, learning the skills of a mariner and the traditional fishing techniques was a prerequisite, because many families depended on the sea for both food and their livelihood.
Instilled with a love and respect for the sea from his youth, my father often remembers those days with fondness. I can’t help but be amazed when he describes going fishing at midnight, alone, at just twelve years old. Under pale moonlight and the twinkling of stars, he would row his canvas currach out of Streamstown Bay and across the open water to the south side of Omey Island, a notoriously good spot for catching pollock. Here he would stay until his quota was caught, returning just before dawn with a box full of fish to surprise his family.