Voting day in the general election – or ‘GE-11’ as Newstalk FM has incessantly dubbed it! Two duties for me on what is otherwise a day’s leave– cast that ballot and visit Graiguenamanagh to witness the launch of the boats created by the Rising Tide project trainees. The ballot station duty done I journeyed to Graigue just in time to witness the young Welsh trainees, their tutors and local volunteers push the two plywood boats into the River Barrow. Amazingly they not only floated but moved really elegantly through the water as their excited oarsmen took turns at the appropriately homemade blades.



  Kilkenny’s Maritime Identity?
I’ve explained the Rising Tide project here before, but just briefly- it’s an Inter Reg 4-A project which, “aims to promote maritime identity, history and opportunity across and between Wales and Ireland.” The project includes the training of socially excluded youth in Wales and the development of the boating heritage among the waterside communities in the Irish southeast. Kilkenny LEADER Partnership (KLP) wasn’t part of the original application but is now- along with the JFK Trust, one of the Irish partners. The Welsh partners hail from Pembrokeshire, Milford Haven Port Authority and Pembrokeshire’s College, MITEC centre – focusing on marine vocational skills.

Newfoundland and New-found-opportunities
MITEC brought a team of ten young unemployed people over to Graiguenamanagh last week. These young people and their three tutors lived in the town and worked with local community activists to construct two small boats. Community volunteers involved in KLP’s traditional river boat building (cot) project joined the Welsh youngsters in the boat building. The resulting flat-bottomed, high-prowed rowing boats are called dories and- I’m told, were used in the commercial fisheries in Newfoundland and elsewhere in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. And of course much of the population of that North American land emigrated from the river valleys of Ireland’s southeast. Dories are still in common use in the world today. These Graiguenamanagh dories are made of plywood, mastic and deal and aren’t expected to last for years – but they did float well on Friday. This week was the culmination of the training period of the Welsh youngsters and their joy as they launched their craft and shared their experience with their tutors and Irish volunteers was infectious. It was some sort of antidote to the stream of pessimism that has pervaded the state in this milestone election.  In a further mildly bizarre coincidence on the day, the Graigue ballot station was situated in the Regatta Club building right beside launch slip.  No escaping the to and from of voters coming to do their democratic duty- and stopping briefly to gawk at the strange craft in the water!

The Rising Tide launch group find something funnY

The official launch photo?


‘Tide’ lifting Kilkenny’s boat
MITEC hope their trainees who generally come from communities which suffer from long-term unemployment will move on a pathway towards employment in the marine sector, which is a big employer in the Milford Haven area and in the UK as a whole. The project’s benefits from Kilkenny’s point of view are more in the medium and long term. It’s ‘hearts and minds’ stuff at this stage, in re-establishing the connection to the rivers in the community and then looking to develop an enterprise sector. This will probably be built around the leisure and tourism sector. But the re-opening of the New Ross Boatyard in Rosbercon last year shows both the history and the potential of the sector for the area.

As late as the 1980’s, the boatyard employed several hundred people! The immediate target of the new owners the Keogh family is for 15 employees. They’ve already made a good start and while it may never achieve the employment numbers of previous decades, KLP believes that the boatyard and the boating enterprise sector will become a force in the region. Even today Kilkenny is unique as in an inland county in being the location of two posts; New Ross (our side of the border actually) and Bellview in the south. So claims of a ‘maritime identity’ for Kilkenny may seem more realistic now?

The MITEC trainees row their boats on the Barrow

Both boats afloat


Joy & the Vision
The presence of a few Welsh visitors may seem a long way from the establishment of a vibrant boat-focused enterprise sector. But it is a start and KLP has a vision for how it might progress. Let’s not underplay the effect of a dozen or so visitors to both the business of a town like Graigue in late February and the influence of their work on the perceptions of the local community. The cot building volunteers were equal partners with the visitors in getting the boats completed within the week. KLP’s staff members, with Rising Tide Development Officer Tom McDonald to the fore, are active working on a number of fronts towards the vision. The first of which to go public will be the ambitious plans for an Outdoor Activity Hub on the old pitch-and-putt course site. But in terms of boats (as opposed to votes) last Friday was a day for joy and optimism. We need more of them.

Declan Rice, CEO