There is a long history of boat building in the harbour. This article by Dan Cross relates the tale of one yard which in it’s relatively brief existence produced over 100 yachts and helped make Cork Harbour a center of excellence on the international sailing scene.
Way Back When – N0. 19 – by Dan Cross
South Coast Boatyard was started in a shed at Harty’s quay, Rochestown around 1970 by Barry Burke and the legendary boat builder George Bushe. I can remember George in the 1950’s working out of tidal stone buildings opposite Palmer’s Island in Ringaskiddy. His son Killian worked weekends in Harty’s Quay while doing his Leaving Cert, and then started his apprenticeship in 1973. Initially they imported fiberglass Trapper hulls and decks and fitted them out. Jim Donegan’s Half Tonner Yellow Devil a Scampi was fitted out there and also a few Spartas.
At the same time there were great things happening on the ocean racing scene with Ron Holland setting up camp in Currabinny. John McWilliam had started his sail loft and Harold Cudmore was well known on the international sailing scene. In 1974 Hugh Coveney, seeing the potential in Ron and the great skills of the Bushes, commissioned the 36’ wooden One Tonner Golden Apple and she came 7th in Torquay.
Working in the yard at this time, also was Eric Rankin from Cobh. He lived on site in a caravan. He was a great craftsman who had trouble finding his tools. Killian was always moving them around the bench. Eric was as blind as a bat! Ray Callaghan was also there and went on to build those fast rowing gigs. Dano Pierce from Crosshaven worked on and off there. John Collins, who at the time lived around the corner in Rochestown, was asked to go out to a boat moored off the pier. In fairness to John who would chance anything got a roar from George “ Collins bring back that punt” as he headed down the river. First time John tried his hand at rowing!
There was a big crane on tracks which George used to drive. It was incredibly slow so he kept a magazine on board to read when going from A to B. One day he was so engrossed in the article he was reading, he drove the jib of the crane straight into the gable of the shed with Barry looking out his office window!
In 1974 also, the first Golden Shamrock Half Tonner, was built in wood, sponsored by Barry Burke and went to La Rochelle. She was sailed by Ron but dropped the rig in the first race and finished well down the pack.
In 1975, the two tonner Irish Mist was commissioned by Archie O’Leary. While in the shed Violet O’Leary’s nephew, the one and only John Crotty visited. As a young boy, he was in awe at size of the wheel and said it to George. He replied saying that they would be better off putting 4 wheels under her and turning her into a bread van! The launching was a very fine affair with a lot of very important people there including Tom McSweeney with RTE cameras. As the varnished hull slid into the water George roared out of the winch shed “Killian any f…ing leaks”, which brought roars of laughter! She went on to win many cups, not bad for a van!
The aluminium hull of Big Apple for Clayton Love and Dr Raymond Fielding, was finished at the yard for the 1977 Admirals Cup.
Also that year (1977) Silver Shamrock 3, known as the Mackerel – Laurence Hudson had painted the hull. It was built in wood by George and which Harold took to Sydney for the Half Ton Cup in December finishing 2nd
A production fiberglass version of Golden Shamrock had been started in 1975 and Barry Burke and Pat Hickey commissioned Silver Shamrock, a stripped out race version, which Harry took to Trieste and won the Half Ton Cup. Sailing the boat to Le Havre, Michael Connolly was asked to drive a Jag Mk2 3.4 to load the boat on a trailer. Unfortunately he smashed the Jag. He was waiting a bit too long and bided his time with beers. Fair play to him, he managed to straighten the front axel and replaced the rad which he managed to find in a car park in Le Havre! He was the mechanic and was needed to keep the Jag going. He was a great laugh and could con anyone for something. The right hand front wing was badly damaged so they pulled it off but still managed to reach Trieste. In the car were Harold, Michael, Ronnie, Philip and Killian.
A great photo at the time from memory, is Harold sailing up to Venice spinnaker flying. On board Harold, Killian, Butch Darlrymple Smith, Ronnie Dunphy, the late Phillip Scully and OH Rogers who was principal helm. The whole campaign was a great success.
Silver Shamrock 4 in GRP went to Poole for the Half Ton Cup. She was also known as The Mackerel . Laurence did another paint job !
Another large one off was Midnight Sun, a two tonner which George built in wood in 1978 for a Swede Mr Jan Pehrsson. She was beautiful and the interior was very comfortable with corduroy upholstery.
My story is that I had joined South Coast in 1974 from Fiberman in Limerick which built Shipman 28’s and the Fastnet 34. John Ronaldson (who had a garage where Centra is now in Crosshaven), was starting production of the LB 26, a Swedish design twin masted motor sailor – initially from a unit in Douglas woolen mills for Barry Burke. John has developed his GRP skills building ambulances in Thompsons in Carlow. Bernie Cahill had one, before he went on to get some bigger and bigger Oysters!
A larger new shed built while George and Killian continued in their shed with one off’s and maintenance. The LB 26 were popular with the Dutch as the masts were easily lowered, however production fizzled out after a few years. Norman Murphy said there were still enquiries coming in well after production stopped but Barry Burke was very adamant that the Shamrock was the one to concentrate on. Ron had tweaked the GRP half tonner so that it had a good accommodation and deck layout and the Shamrock became a very popular local club racer and which was also exported to UK, France etc.
Interesting that the CEO and Chairman of Volvo at the time Pehr G Gyllenhammar bought one. He is now Vice Chairman of Rothschild , Europe.
A Club Shamrock was added to the range with a higher and extended coach roof for more head room.
Barry Burke and Pat Hickey were the directors. John Fitzgerald was in in charge of the joiners shop with a fag in his mouth all day, I think we nearly all smoked while working. Stuart Brownlow ran the stores, didn’t smoke! Eddie Nolan who had been working with me in Limerick and was a great GRP laminator, Roddy O’Connor, Finbarr Clarke, Victor Shine, and Jim Connolly from Myrtleville. On sales there was Norman Murphy and Chris Bruen. John Harrington from Castletownbere was the accountant, Sheila Clifford was Barry’s PA and Linda who now lives in Myrtleville was also there.
I left in Sept 1978 having had a great experience – it was hard work, often around the clock and weekends to get boats out in time. We produced approximately 60 Shamrocks. A fact I learned from Norman was that a recession was kicking in the late 1970’s with sales dropping off. Harry was of the opinion that kit boats should be supplied in various stages of completion with parts being supplied to order. Completed cost then was 17,000 GBP. Barry Burke was not on for that, feeling that they had an exclusive product. Ironically at the last London Boat show they attended, on the stand next to them was a little French lady and her brother selling Beneteau 30’s in kit form for 10,000 GBP. Don’t know if they towed the kit behind their 2CV, would not surprise me. This lady still runs Beneteau and Jeanneau !!
Stuart Brownlow bought one of the last unfinished hulls, Rumkinilly, which he campaigned all over the place. Thanks Stuart for your input into this article.
Killian as we know has gone on to be a world renowned boat builder and I would like to thank him for putting me straight in a few areas. I know Ron would not mind me saying that both George and Killian had a big input into his huge international success in the very early days. Also thanks to his brother Mark for his help in sourcing photos of the yard.
Note: Between this article and Conor English’s Rankin Punt article (WBW#16) we can start to appreciate the level of craftsmanship that existed around the harbour Way back When. Another yard, Crosshaven Boatyard, was also building one-off yachts during the time of SCB, culminating in the building of the Frers designed 50′ Moonduster of 1981. We hope to bring that yard’s story to life in the coming weeks.
Also please feel free to add comments to the bottom of any article if you have something that helps clarify or correct.
WayBackWhen is being published as a regular series as part of the Club’s 300th anniversary celebrations. Each post looks as some aspect of club and harbour life in the living memory of the current membership. In these times of worry and concern we hope that all the members stay safe and that this series brings some lightness and hope for better times in the summer ahead.