Floating the children’s boats on Tory island

A NUMBER of replica fishing boats are starting to appear on waters on an island off the west Donegal coast.

The craftsmanship of Michael Finbarr Rodgers is visible in a number of eye-catching pieces which have been moored along a lake on Tory island in recent days.

“Everybody on the island appreciates them, they enjoy seeing them and having the uniqueness of them, particular to Tory, is very good,” Mr Daniel Cullen said.


His son, Dean, has one of the boats and earlier this month the eight-year-old enlisted the help of his father in erecting a pier out onto West Lake to allow him and a number of his friends moor their replica fishing boats.

“Michael Finbarr’s recreated the traditional fishing boat and made a brilliant job of it. It’s a good replica of the original,” Mr Cullen added.

The beautiful replicas of traditional island fishing boats have become sought after items for young island residents.

Michael Finbarr Rodgers (63) is following a tradition passed onto him by his own father.

“I first started making replica boats when I was young. I make them with flat bottoms to help keep them steady in the water. That’s the main difference between them and the real ones,” he explained.

Discarded pallets and any other pieces of scrap timber that Michael Finbarr can get his hands on are skilfully used to make the boats.

“I started to make one for my grand son Tara who lives in Fanad and then his two sisters wanted one too and it took off from there. There’s probably thirteen or fourteen of them dotted around the island at this stage,” he said.


The boats come complete with miniature fishermen and fishing nets together with life buoys which have been made out of Lucozade bottle tops.

“It takes me about ten days to make one of the boats and I paint them in whatever colours the children want. Some like red, others blue or green while one even has their boat painted in the Donegal colours,” he explained.

Michael Finbarr also makes the heavier replica sailing boats which adults used to spent summer afternoons racing on the lake.

“In the fifties and sixties men used to go down to the lake and make use of the North West wind to sail. It helps to keep the old traditions alive,” he said.

The replica fishing boats are less that three foot long and about nine inches wide. The current restrictions mean that the children are unable to gather down at the lake to sail their boats.

“I’m normally busy working on odd jobs about the island at this time of year so I would make most of the boats during the winter months when the weather is bad,” he said.

Michael Finbarr has also made two full-size Connemara Curraghs.

“They’ve stopped using the two man curraghs but hopefully we’ll see them back in the water again soon and keep the tradition going. I’m also looking forward to a time when all the children on the island can get down to the pier and play with their boats,” he said.


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