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Newry has a long history of maritime heritage. Ever since Newry Ship Canal linked the inland Newry Canal to Carlingford Lough in 1769 ships have left the Port of Newry to far flung parts of the world. As Newry Museum's detailed Maritime History of Newry and Mourne explains "In the 18th century Newry was the premier trading port in Ulster surpassing Belfast and Derry with trading links to the West Indies, Newfoundland and the Baltic Sea."

Sean McAnulty, volunteer with Silvery Light Sailing.
Sean McAnulty, volunteer with Silvery Light Sailing working on Joyce. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Making sure this tradition and associated skills are kept alive is Newry charity Silvery Light Sailing who are presently renovating a World War Two Torpedo Recovery vessel, back to it's former glory, at its yard at Greenbank Industrial Estate.

Joyce a forty foot vessel was built in 1943. According to the National Historic Ships Register she was designed by the Admiralty and built by Percy M See at Fareham.

Explaining the project Gerry Brennan of Silvery Light Sailing said "It was used during World War Two on Lough Neagh to retrieve torpedoes made and tested by the torpedo factory. We are restoring it and it will now go back up to Lough Neagh as part of the heritage centre showing the history and heritage of the Lough.

Gerry Brennan, Silvery Light Sailing. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Gerry Brennan, Silvery Light Sailing. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Silvery Light Sailing has three elements, a sail training tall ship based at the Albert Basin, two smaller sailing vessels that they use for training, delivering RYA qualification courses and general recreation and experience for members and the Restoration workshop where they restore vessels as part of the maritime heritage of the region and help keep the skills alive.

Commenting on the workshop element Gerry said "An important part of the Silvery Light Project is the workshop. We have tools which are available for use to restore the vessels that we have in here in the workshop, the bench work and the the power tools and we will be running the workshop on a Men's Shed type principal where twice a week volunteers can come in and get involved in the workshop to restore the vessels that we have in for restoration."

Kobi Wilson, volunteer with Silvery Light Sailing.
Kobi Wilson, volunteer with Silvery Light Sailing. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Another one of those restoration projects underway is the restoration of a drontheim, a typical vessel that could be found in the late 1800's/ early 1900's. It would have been used up around the north coast to carry turf, cattle, move people around, fishing, recreation. Putting it into context Gerry adds  "It would have been the white van of it's day and it's in here for restoration. We're going to restore it back to its pristine sailing condition using volunteers.

"Restoring will go right back to the wood. We will repair any blemishes. a couple of new planks will be required into it. What we are aiming to do is not to make a new vessel but to restore the original as far as is practicable back to its use in the water once again."

The organisation welcomes volunteers who would like to get involved. Gerry concludes "Silvery Light Sailing exists as a Charity and is only as good as the strength of its members. We are open to all age groups and work across the whole of the community. You're very welcome to come and join us. Drop in or visit our website on www.silverylight.org and come down and if you are interested in sailing we have something for you at Silvery Light Sailing."

Check out WWW.BAGENALSCASTLE.COM Maritime History of Newry and Mourne.

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