Limerick to London April 2022 – the last timber-built, sail trading ship in Ireland, the Ilen, will set off from the river port of Limerick, in Ireland, bound for the great river city of London, in England.
With fair winds, the Ilen should arrive at St. Katherine Docks, having passed between the double-leaf bascules of Tower Bridge, at the beginning of May. It will remain berthed at the Docks until 14th May. The voyage’s purpose is to celebrate the centuries-old cultural and trading relationship between the two port cities.
It will be the culmination of a series of voyages undertaken by the Ilen in 2021 – the Kingship voyages – to many of the Irish towns and cities that have grown from medieval walled settlements built on tidal river estuaries. Limerick and London are both highly evolved metropolitan bastions of maritime and riverine heritage, and they share a long history. The word trade seems to be a cognate of the word track – as in the track of a sailing ship. Consequently, a voyage like this aboard a heritage sailing ship is an ideal way to explore – and to bring to broader attention – how, in the past, inter-community trade followed swiftly in the effervescent wake of maritime cultural exchange.
photographs ©Dermot Lynch
THE ILEN AT SEA:
Since its re-construction and launch in 2018, the Ilen has become a much-voyaged national icon of Ireland’s sea-going history. It is both a mobile ’embassy’ of Irish maritime heritage and a practical, real world’ context for teaching traditional shipwright, rigging, and seamanship skills. The Ilen has voyaged 8,000 miles in the last three years – across the North Atlantic to Greenland and between most of Ireland’s more significant ports. The Ilen Marine School’s voyages are purpose-driven, each being shaped around specific themes rooted in national and natural history. These often form the basis of community outreach initiatives, educational activities (including local school projects), and on-board open days. Many people have been inspired to learn more about maritime and riverine traditions through them.
PROSPECTS AND PARTICIPATION:
The Ilen network will be inviting leading and representative groups and individuals from both cities to share in this venture. The multiple historical, cultural, social and commercial strands interwoven within Limerick to London Cultural Voyage 2022 are many and their unfurling, unraveling and interweaving offer exciting and productive possibilities for many involved.
The Ilen will offer a highly visual and culturally redolent platform in the heart of London to celebrate Anglo-Irish relationships and to enjoy exploratory conversations on prospective commercial and cultural collaborations and exchanges.
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