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North South East West. Introduction When Donal Lynch asked me to present the French revival movement I first refused and tried to find someone speaking better English than mine.

But the pleasure of coming to Ireland was the strongestso you will have to suffer when listening to my difficult reading. I apologize for that.

Donal thought it would be interesting to speak of the French revival as it seems to have taken a certain importance today. Butspeaking to Irish friends, I thought it was necessary to tell you about the situation fifteen years ago. Our country has known the same disdain from official circles for things maritime as the one evoked by John de Courcy in Ireland. Therefore it was first through an intellectual movement – a movement of research and publication – that the reappropriation of our maritime heritage britksh made possible.

It seems to me that this example cureachs be of interest for Ireland. So, please, excuse the somewhat theoretical character of this contribution which, I hope, will be less boring thanks to the slides shown by Michele. Inmy friend Dominique Duviard, then a researcher working in animal ecology for a French scientific instute, returned from Africa, taking advantage of this holidays to tour the great Anglo-Saxon maritime museums and their French counterparts.

Filled with consternation by the state of abandon of maritime heritage he observed along our coastlines – the Mimosa, the last French sailing tunnyman, though still in excellent condition, had just been cutrachs – he could not hide his dismay at the indifference of official circles, dismay shared by many young people on the coasts at the time.

It might have been expected that our state, so partial to the blossoming coraccles culture, would do what was necessary to iriah some evidence of so meaningful an era, as is common practice in countries very close to our own.

But in France it is more Cartesian, worthier of our glorious Latin civilisation, to preserve in our museums a hastily-carved Dogon dance mask, only meant to serve in a single ceremony,or some mangy, feathered fetish object, sprinkled with chicken blood, used in some ritual. The cultural significance of such works is such that our occidental countries would be dishonoured if we did not preserve them for corwcles.

How many French ethnologists, at loss for a iriwh subject, have turned their attention to the cultural treasure represented by Boshiman pottery or traditional basket-weaving from the Sao Paoulo suburbs, while a few steps away from their holiday beaches rot the vestiges of a civilisation scorned, ignored, ephemeral, already forgotten.

While the rural civilisation itself iris France had its longstanding intellectuals, whose research was documented in a wide range of highly scientific works and displayed to advantage in numerous museums, the coastline was like a desert. Of course the lastgreat commercial sailing ships, or occasionally those of the Grand Banks fishery have given rise to much literature, although the ucrrachs life of fishermen is hardly mentioned, generally speaking.

Yet we could have believed that the thousands of plainer men and boats, who did most of coasting or more limited local trade, piloting, coastal and deep-sea fishing, not to mention other forms of working the sea environment or more specialized activities, such as shipbuilding and sailmaking, had never existed. However, as early as the end of the 18th century and during the whole first half of the 19th, renowned an, such as Pierre Ozanne, Ferdinand Perrot, Charles Mozin or Morel-Fatio had attracted attention to the small inshore working craft and their crews.

Paradoxically the admiral was emulated in northern Cpracles and in America; it took over a century for his approach to be followed and emulated by young French scholars. But upon examination of the specialized bibliography, no genuine, highly scientific work on maritime ethnology, like those of which so many existed in Northwest Europe, comes to the fore.

How can this absolute lack of interest by French researchers on such a vast and fascinating subject be explained? How can we understand the eclipsing of of an entire segment of national heritage curracs a country with three thousand kilometers of coastline, whose maritime history is so prestigious, as we cogacles told?

Only field investigations, sometimes requiring knowledge of regional dialects, make this study possible. Nonethelessa practically identical situation did not prevent collectors and historians from studying the rural world.

In this respect we can see very different situations in countries like Great Britain, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Portugal and of course, the United States, whose capital cities are often large port towns whose university elite are more familiar with concerns of a maritime nature.

Nad than that of any other social group it is based on a set currachd rare curgachs, complex know-how and absolutely specific vocabulary.

This, no doubt, explains the very small number and too often the relative lack of success of university studies undertaken on these subjects, at least in our country.

The Washington Report, published in Great Britain following a devastating storm in Scotland, was certainly the first well-thought-out study illustrated with many plans curachs devoted to local fishing boats and their users and we have seen that two plans of Coracls hookers were published on that occasion. But large-scale development of research on maritime subjects began in Northern Europe and the United States at the turn of the century, peaking, so to speak, around During this period the Nautical Research Society of London, well aware of the urgent need to actsent a naval architect named P.

Oke to study the last traditional boat types of the British Isles. His work was resumed by many scholars, in particular by Edgar J. In the Netherlands, Sweden and evenon a minor scale, Portugal, considerable progress was achieved.

In the United States, a great forerunner in the figure of Howard Chapelle, historian and ship designer, launched an britisy research programme; the publishing of his worksspread over twenty years,triggered a repercussion of gathering, restoring and conserving heritage objects, which led to the founding of many museums, notably that protype of great modern maritime museums which is Mystic Seaport.


On the whole, andd countries had all undertaken an enormous attempt to study and enhance their maritime culture and heritage, yet on the contrary, France was iriah at the time by her odd and culpable indifference towards the subject. At any rate the first signs of revival of interest for maritime life were displayed in the late sixties; coming at the time brltish isolated individuals.

A large collection of photographs from the turn of the century was fully used as a documentary source for the first time. Unfortunately, the remarkable work did not gain widespread following in cofacles circles and remained unknown to the maritime world. But the time still had not come for the recognition of maritime ethnology; even at the heart of this tiny coterie it was a struggle to establish the idea that studying regional popular maritime life, in the same way as that of 18th.

A publishing policy was finally defined; in Jean le Bot was thus able to publish an initial synthesis on Bateaux des Cotes de cirrachs Bretagne Nord Boats of the North Brittany Coastbacked up by a series of plans taken from the particularly wellfurnished archives of a ship-builder in the River Rance region; but he gave his full measure in Bisquines de Cancale et Granville in providing a complete and rigorous study of of xoracles truly spectacular sail fishing boat with which he was perfectly familiar.

For his part Francois Beaudouin published Bateaux de Cotes de France Boats of the French Coasts ina remarkable work, whose great merit was to kindle many vocations by coraclss to all this universe of wealth and diversity unknown until then. Thanks to its splendid iconography, it succeeds, in a few hundred pages, in thrillingly restoring the universe of coastal boatswithout resorting to field or archivistic studies. Above all, for the first time in France, he ifish genuine thought on the concept of nautical ethnology.

Less preoccupied with the rigour of historical analyses and descriptions than driven by an ambitious will for overall understanding of the main themesof technical evolution, this disciple britieh Leroi- Gourhan outlined a true general theory of rig evolution, whose novelty and relevance have not always been sufficiently noticed on an international scale. His book is teeming with brilliant, sometimes dazzling intuition; vastly cultured anx things maritime, he excels in revealing the multiple potential points of interest that the subject holds.

In every respect the contribution of Francois Beadouin has been parrticularly enriching. Without a doubt French maritime ethnology owes, and will always owe, a particular debt to him.

History of The Irish Currach | St. Joseph’s Secondary School | Our Irish Heritage

The south coast of Brittany, ingave rise to another important publication; that of Ar Vag in Breton language The Boata large fresco of maritime life from Brest to the River Loire, which is still published today. Something new; this work was collective. Thanks to teamwork thorough investigation could cover a large geographical area and be opened to other levels of analysis, which are technical, but also historical, linguistic, social, economic and even psychological, largely overshadowing the study of the boat itself, although very specific attention is paid to its use, and especially its manoeuvering, so often neglected.

Using the methodology defined by the enormous Ar Vag enterprise, in which he fully participated, this experienced researcher applied it with talent to an entire maritime community, the Isle of Groix.

Rather different from the Anglo-Saxon model, it can be radically distinguished from the French bditish tradition of anthropology and maritime history through the importance given to nautical techniques, considered as the central element for the definition of maritime cultural specificity.

Also Pierre Arzel ckrrachs the first monograph of an original social group defined by the practice of a trade, the curraxhs and transformation of wrack, which was simultaneously maritime and land-based, in his book, Les Goemoniers The Wrack- Gatherers It should be noted that the author, when presenting his thesis to a jury whose members included some of the greatest names in French ethnology, paid homage to the approach which Francois Beaudouin had initiated, and referred explicitly to the ideas curraxhs methods developed by Ar Vag.

His exemplary work brought him a post-graduate doctorate degree in French ethnology with distinction ;this was the first maritime ethnology diploma awarded by a university on the French coast, in this case Brest; it voracles also the first thesis presented before a warmly appreciative audience of seafaring professionals. This highly dynamic trend coraclds studies, lead by amateur researchers, almost always working without financing or public support, outside of the university framework, was to have an enormous impact on the current movement for the research and enhancement of cultural heritage, but it was not completely alone.

During the seventies, the university, oddly absent until then, took a few important initiatives in the field of maritime ethnology. Yet it is historical research which has brought the most interesting contribution to ethnological knowledge of French maritime societies. Although it has remained extraneous to the strictly nautical aspects of sealife, much is expected from the young and brilliant school of maritime history which has willingly specialized in the study of mentalities and has joined Alain Cabantous in Northern France.

In the field of maritime ethnology, the decisive event in the codacles eighties was the highly spectacular change in scale affecting the current of interest, turning it into a genuine intellectual movement. Inthe creation of the Chasse – Maree magazine, by a team which was very involved from the outset in the research procedure, and its very quick success 40, copies per issue sold, 17, subscriptions in coracls considerable cureachs for revival of interest among the French for maritime culture.

This success was effectively accompanied by a spawning of of a powerful association movement which corcales teams, territories and research irush in unexpected proportions. Magazines, newsletters, associationsfederations and local museums are all new relays concerned with both scientific quality cyrrachs true communication. The existence of a widely-circulated periodical magazine, richly illustrated, yet exacting, which welcomes true in-depth articles, has progressively facilitated the highly stimulating publication of works from a new generation of authors, established all along the coast, from French Flanders to the Mediterranean.


Following their example dozens of little coastal communities, involving thousands of people, have researched their history and traditions in depth. Along with this geographical deployment is a corresponding dawning of specialities and research areas.

Scholars are studying as well a local boat type or life in a small harbour, as a specific subject in a large geographical region, and the concerned periods range from eighteenth century to the most contemporary times.

Finally the various contemporary trades are given sustained attention and articles ranging from simple reports to historical and sociological analysis thus facilitate the setting of the study of old maritime activities in perspective with thoughts for the future.

It now remains to set up teaching and research structures in universities near the coasts which may extend and deepen the enormous volunteer work already achieved.

Currach Races

It also remains to create an active network of maritime ethnology britisn along the coastline, liasing with the movement of anf for heritage, in order to communicate these research results in a lively way to an even wider audience and to our children above all. At the curraxhs moment when this vast intellectual work tried to fine its placesome yachtsmen and shiplovers began to restore small traditional boats so as to sail on board them.

Some of them, like the Old Gaffers, in St. Malo fit them out on the model of the small cabin yachts. Many an interesting craft, like the sinagos or scallop dredgers from Brest were converted unskillfully to yachts and sailed abroad to the Mediterranean and even further, Otherslike the Catalonians of Callioure, in southern France, tried to rig their boats in a more traditional style.

But, taken all round, these restorations, carried out by isolated amateurs without any real knowledge of the working sail tradition, remained approximate. In France, it was the first replica of a traditional boat built with a real concern for authenticity.

For its partinthe association Treizour from Douarnenez – which since had collected, at its own expense, nearly traditional boats which were about to disappear all along the French coast- opened the Musee du Bateau boat museum which some years later was to become the Museum Harbour of Douarnenez, well known today. Cpracles soon voracles training courses were organised which allowed the launching of several small boats irjsh the teaching of a new generation of young shipwrights.

A new stage was reached in with the building of a 30 ft. Douarnenez sardine lugger – to a pattern ofvery interesting because of her original rig and her nautical qualities, and whose last examples had disappeared for over half a century. This technical adventurefrom the britishh of the plan to the real sailing, has been a superb lesson of experimental archaeology, which allowed even more ambitious projects to be launched later.

To share their enthousiasm, these fanatics were then going to make every effort to organise traditional and classic boat gatherings. From that time on the number of clracles of traditional boats grew rapidly on our coasts.

In certain areas, as in Normandy with the small luggers called vaquelottes, in the roads of Brest with the scallopdredger sloops, in south Finistere with the small luggers called misainiers, in Morbihan with the sinagos – another type of two-masted lugger – in the bay of Arcachon not far from Bordeaux with the so called pinasses, in Roussilion with the Catalonian barques, heterogeneous flotillas curracns, inspired, though lateby the example of the Irish hookers or the Dutch botters.

Besidesthe reconstitutions of new boats, often leaning on local cyrrachs organising festivals and encouraged by the magazine Le Chasse-Mareespread along the coast.

Currach – Wikipedia

Inin Cancale, the launching of a bisquine, a big fishing three- masted lugger of nearly 65ft. The success of the enterprise, whose budget of over 2 million francs seemed enormous,was based on the mobilisation of the local inhabitants whose contributions came in complement of public funds, every frame or sail of the boat being paid for by one or several amateurs.

The festival of Douarnenez 88 was in a certain way the pinnacle of this still scattered and marginal, although promising, movement. That was the time for the Chasse-Maree to propose a great challenge, up to the new ambitions of this movement; in other words, to rebuild, in every harbour in the country, a sailing boat or ship representative of the local tradition, whether new building or restoration.

Thanks to the success of the previous festivals, mighty media sponsors and public partners supported this competition. Appointment was fixed for the festival of Brest in July, where the competitors, who would mingle with the classic and traditional boats from all over Europe, would receive their awards. But the numerous projects – there were over of them, of which more than 80 were effectively built – are extremely varied and are ranging from a small craft of 12 ft.

If the backing of the state was not completely absent, the local pride turned out to be an excellent spur for municipalities and local sponsors, but also for local scholars, managers, teachers, seamen etc. And that is how a huge movement of research was put into place all along the French shore: At a time when researches concerning traditional boats were led by only a few scholars, hundreds of persons are now converging and contributing to save documents and testimonies, even in the smallest harbours.

Most of the projects of reconstitution of a local boat type will be, we hope, at the origin of a different way of development for the small communities of the shore, as they arouse a qualitative tourism based on their maritime heritage amd on their own identity, and also on the respect of their environment, while giving an image of dynamism and creativity which gathers the whole community.

To reinforce still more this movement of research around the local heritage, the magazine, Le Chasse-Maree has just launched a new competition devoted this time to the collection of oral testimonies, documents and environment, whose results will be presented at the occasion of a big exhibition organized during the festival of Brest