Portaferry St Ayles Skiff Launch

Created on: Friday, 12 December 2014. Posted in: News | Press Releases | Coastal Rowing News

Portaferry St Ayles Skiff Launch

Portaferry The Official Launch

Portaferry is the seventh boat to be launched. This is one of nine St Ayles’ Skiffs being built along the coast, from Donaghadee to Dundrum as part of a community and tourism initiative developed by the Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership (SLLP) with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). It has been approved by the Down Rural Area Partnership (DRAP) as part of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas and it is supported by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, and Down District and Ards Borough Councils.

The boat has been built in premises, central to the town, generously supplied by Ian Smith. This weekend Portaferry St Ayles’ Skiff which is named “Gilpin” had her official Launch from The Old Quay slipway in Portaferry, she was looking resplendent in her two tone blue colours. Mrs Eveleigh Brownlow M.B.E. President of Portaferry Royal National Lifeboat Institution launched the boat. The team of boat builders, the rowing crew, and lots of well wishers were all on hand to toast the launch.

The members of the Portaferry team wanted to pick a name that had local significance and related to the sea. ‘Gilpin’ is a local name given to a young ‘Coley’ a fish which comes from the cod family. Coley is sometimes known as ‘poor man’s cod’. They were of no commercial value and over the years were used to bait lobster pots or for filling the dinner plate when nothing else was available. Local people who were born along the southern half of the shore in Portaferry were called ‘Gilpins’ because of their dependency on this little fish. A fish that shore people would proudly say they caught and supplied to the rest of the town, to keep them alive, during ‘The Hard Times’.

Leonard Lawson who has been involved with this project from its inception is absolutely delighted that the community of Portaferry has completed their ‘Skiff’. “ It has been a long haul but entirely worth all the effort. Leonard is looking forward to Portaferry competing with the other communities around Strangford Lough, Lecale, the Ards, Scotland and beyond. This is a great opportunity for local people, especially our youth, to get reconnected with the sea; something that sadly has started to disappear over the past few decades”.

John McAlea, who led the team, is proud of all the work carried out, he thanked everyone involved. He also singled out Paul McKenna for special thanks. Without Paul’s tenacity, devotion and hard work the boat would never have been completed.


So far boats have been completed in Ardglass, Killyleagh,
Kircubbin,Dundrum, Strangford,Donaghadee, and now Portaferry. Ballywalter will be next, Ballywalter and Portavogie had a later start which means there is still time for people in those communities to get involved in the build and to see the boats taking shape over the coming month or two.

Support between communities involved in the project has so far been inspiring, with advice and build materials being willingly shared. From now on however the rowing teams will be stirring up the competitive spirit and will be hoping to hold racing events as often as is possible. You can find out more about the project and the Down Coastal Rowing Club from Susan McClay at the SLLP office in Portaferry, Tel: 028 427 28886 or email susan.mcclay@strangfordlough.org

The Club’s website is www.downcoastalrowing.org. Facebook: downcoastalrowing.
This is a great opportunity to get involved take up a new activity, get fit and meet people in your community.

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