130-year-old trawler returns to Northern Ireland to reveal sea traditions

A 130-year-old ship that once was used to fish in the Irish Sea has returned to Northern Ireland.

By Graeme Cousins
Tuesday, 3rd May 2022, 7:40 am

The Brixham trawler, Leader, which travelled from Bristol after a refit, arrived at the Albert Basin in Newry where it will be home to a maritime community heritage project.

Northern Ireland Sailing Charity, Silvery Light Sailing, has received a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £244,975 for the acquisition of the 1892 built heritage tall ship Leader to host community sailing programmes and further expand their traditional boat building skills workshops.

Maintained and crewed by volunteers, the project will help preserve an important link to the area’s rich maritime and fishing past.

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Brixham Trawler 'Leader', a heritage tall ship, arrives in her new home at the Albert Basin in Newry. Credit Columba O'Hare

The project opens a new chapter in the history of the Leader, a survivor of the fleets of sailing fishing boat that once fished in the Irish Sea.

Gerry Brennan, Chair of Silvery Light Sailing said: “We are a maritime charity providing an annual programme of residential voyages that give youth and community groups from across Northern Ireland an opportunity to experience and benefit from a taste of life at sea on a traditional sailing ship.

“For many it can be a life changing, challenging experience, discovering new strengths and self-confidence whilst making lasting friendships”

Ten community and youth groups from across Northern Ireland will follow a programme of heritage workshop skills and a five day residential voyage.

Leader approaches Victoria Lock in Newry. Credit: Columba O Hare

They will form the crew sailing the ship using the power of the wind, learning about the traditions of the sea, how to cook, clean, maintain and care for both themselves and the heritage vessel.

During each voyage, crews will undertake sea sampling experiments using mini trawling methods to determine the level of micro plastic pollution around our coastline as part of a study compiling a worldwide database of plastic pollution.

Funding for the Summer 2022 Maritime Heritage Project has been made possible by National Lottery players.

Dr Paul Mullan, Northern Ireland director at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “It is fantastic news that thanks to the National Lottery players, we have been able to support Silvery Light Sailing to ensure that this amazing heritage tall ship can be preserved for years to come, meaning that local communities and visitors can learn more about Northern Ireland’s maritime heritage.

Leader arrives at Newry's Albert Basin, her new home for community sailing programmes and traditional boat building workshops

“We know that heritage can play a huge role in bringing people together and the community sailing programmes that will be accessed by groups engaging with maritime heritage for the first time is a fantastic example of that.”

Volunteer crew of Brixham Trawler 'Leader' arrive in her new home at the Albert Basin in Newry. Credit: Columba O Hare
Brixham Trawler 'Leader' leaves historic Victoria Lock to navigate the Newry Ship Canal. Credit: Columba O Hare