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WBW#19 – South Coast Boatyard

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.

Jim Donegan’s Scampi was always bow down as the engine was positioned near the mast for rating reasons. She was a Swedish design by Peter Norlin that won the Half Ton Cup three times in a row between 1969 and 1971. SCB fitted Yellow Devil out from imported mouldings, as they did with other designs in the early days. This photo also shows just how long Bob Bateman (see WbW#15) has been recording boats.

Mashona is a Sparta – believe it or not they were being marketed as an offshore IOR racer back then. The unfitted hull and deck could be bought from Butler Mouldings of Swansea for £990 and SCB would fit it out from there.

The Trapper 28 was probably the most successful type of yacht SCB fitted out in the early days. There were at least five in the river by 1973 – Melisande (Joe Fitzgerald), Yellow Devil (Jim Donegan), Quervain (Brian Cudmore), Sundancer (Ted Crosbie) and Misty (John O’Meara). This pic is of Sundancer racing to Baltimore from Schull c.1977.

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.

The boat that brought Ron Holland to Cork. After his success with the 24′ Eygthene in the 1973 Quarter Ton Cup he was commissioned by Hugh Coveney to deliver this 36′ One-tonner in 1974. Three Bushes can be seen – George and Killian near the stern and a young Fergus taking in the fender.

John McWilliam (right) had already set up his sail loft in an old mill near Crosshaven and when he and Ron were teamed up with George Bushe things started to happen….

….of course they weren’t the only ones. We believe we have Eric Rankin in the woolen cap (see WbW#16) in this pic. Many local craftsmen were recruited by George to do the necessary and his son Killian started here – a man who for a long time now is sought out worldwide for his boatbuilding and materials knowledge.

Golden Apple came 7th at the 1974 One Ton Cup in Torquay. Incidentally the boat to leeward, High Tension, is flying a reacher along with the spinnaker – in the next photo we will go further and show a few bloopers! The cup, originally presented in 1899, was hosted by the Royal Cork in 1981 and it is planned to do a WbW on this specific event very soon. 

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.

Golden Shamrock, seen here chasing the eventual overall winner, North Star (G 21), at the 1974 Half Ton Cup in La Rochelle. These blooper flying 70’s IOR boats had sails for every occasion! This is the boat that sparked the mass production of Shamrocks and Club Shamrocks and led to the massive expansion of the boatyard.

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!

Vi O’Leary cracks the champagne bottle…..

….and Killian gets roared at by the Dad! This Two Tonner, Irish Mist II was built in timber in 1975 for Archie O’Leary. She was part of the three boat Irish team in the Admirals Cup that year and again in 1977.

An even bigger Holland designed Admiral’s Cupper being launched in 1977. Big Apple’s aluminum hull was made in the UK and she was finished in SCB for a consortium of Clayton Love, Hugh Coveney and Raymond Fielding,…

….she was beautifully finished and went on to win the Concours d’Elegance and a number of races in the Admiral’s Cup that year. Here she is being driven by John McWilliam with Harold Cudmore crouched at the stern.

The aluminium hull of Big Apple for Clayton Love and Dr Raymond Fielding, was finished at the yard for the 1977 Admirals Cup.

Silver Shamrock 3 is mentioned below. There were two boats with this mackerel colour scheme and the other boat is further down the page – we think this is the boat that went to Sydney – great trousers in the ’70’s anyway!

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.

Silver Shamrock – the boat that won the Half Ton Cup in 1976 in Trieste.

Here she is after her victory heading for the Grand Canal in Venice.

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 IV, or Silver Mackerel according to the bottom of this photo. We think this was the centreboarder and that she had a sister ship with a fixed keel called Iberian Shamrock.

The aforementioned sistership, Iberian Shamrock, photographed in the harbour by Bob Bateman.

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! 

Harty’s Quay in the mid ’70s. Shamrocks and LB 26s were produced in the large shed with one-offs and maintenance continuing in the higher small shed. The Rochestown Inn can been seen top right – the quay is now home to some very large exclusive apartment blocks.

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.

Here we reproduce the Yachting World Magazine review of the Golden Shamrock from 1976 with kind permission from YW. The current Editor of that magazine, Elaine Bunting, knows the boat very well – her father had a Golden Shamrock which he raced in Strangford and cruised either to Scotland or West Cork most summers!

They were priced at £12,000 (ex VAT and sails) in 1976 and proved very popular at the time – some 80 boats, both racing and club versions, were built.

Club Shamrocks at various stages of build. Two have keels, one of which looks practically finished while the other needs a toe-rail. The other three lower boats are at different stages of fit-out.

More shamrocks than at a St. Patrick’s Day Parade of old! Also we think we can see Iberian Shamrock with the mast down in storage, and one of the Mackerels sitting in a mould, presumably Iberian’s centerboard sistership.

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 !!

Rumkinilly was one of the last Club Shamrocks to be built – Stuart Brownlow ran the SCB stores and here he is in his new boat with Richard Harrington – please help with the rest of the crew. Stuart applied the same scheme to his next Rumkinilly (a fractional rig DB1) in case anyone is confused!

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.

UPDATE 26/03/2020: Damien Byrne asks in the comments below if anyone knows what happened to Golden Apple. We have this pic of her – name changed and E on main which is Spain – written on the back of the photos is – Watson & Jamesons 1979 ‘Trial Horse’, Reaching under 95% Tri Radial, 105% Staysail and Main. OPPS: Butch Dalrymple Smith has corrected us – this is Hugh Coveney’s 1975 One Tonner – see comment below for more.


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.

WBW#18<<<           >>>WBW20

14 Responses to WBW#19 – South Coast Boatyard

  1. John McWilliam March 26, 2020 at 9:41 am #

    Superb article Dan and all!! Names galore, really good to hear them all again.

    • Paul crowley March 27, 2020 at 7:46 am #

      Good job Dan. Great to fill in some of the blanks.

  2. Damian Byrne March 26, 2020 at 10:24 am #

    Well done Dan. Great read. What a wealth of skill and talent.
    What news of Golden Apple? I have been trying to find her and the trail goes cold after she left Scotland. Does anyone know of her whereabouts?

    • Cork300 Team March 26, 2020 at 11:03 am #

      Update at the end of the article may help jog someones memory.
      Best regards

    • Butch Dalrymple Smith March 26, 2020 at 1:10 pm #

      What a wonderful, nostalgic article about South Coast Boatyard.

      I could fill in a few background stories but I could never remember the names the way Dan has.

      Incidentally the final photograph is not Golden Apple but “Silver Apple”, a Golden Apple derivative built by Palmer Johnson for Hugh Coveney to race at the One Ton Cup in Newport. She was bought by Guillermo Cryns, a Spaniard, who later gave her (yes, gave) to me. Kind chap……Long story.

  3. Jeff Condell March 26, 2020 at 9:44 pm #

    Great article and lots of names that bring back great memories! The last fully completed Club Shamrock I believe was Cosmos for Dutch man (Limerick resident) Nick Carson. The last time that I met him in Holland around 15 years ago he still had her and she was immaculate! The 2nd last I believe also went to Limerick and was owned by Bill Brekenridge and was called Shillelagh I think. Silver Shamrock IV was in Kilmacsimon Boatyard for many years owned by Andrew Deakin who sold her to someone in the Dunmore East area around 12 years ago (partly restored).

  4. Dave Hennessy March 26, 2020 at 10:07 pm #

    Great article Dan,what memories

  5. Thomas McCarthy March 27, 2020 at 5:11 pm #

    Dan very interesting article. I was the one who bought Hartys Quay and developed it as an apartment complex, which won awards when completed. Final purchase was from Barry Burke at his home on Blackrock Rd. A gentleman for whom I had worked in 1960 on the houses he then built.
    Good memories.

  6. Noel Brady March 29, 2020 at 9:26 pm #

    Great memories Dan,thank you for a wonderfull article and amazing pics.I worked on most of the Shamrocks and i still look out for them from my own boat in the harbour these days,God bless.

    • Dan Cross April 1, 2020 at 5:46 pm #

      Noel yes indeed l’m sorry I omitted you – you were there from memory a long time.

  7. Vincent Scanlon July 5, 2021 at 11:03 am #

    Hello Dan,
    thank you for the lovely article

    I wonder do you or any of your contributors remember a man named Donie Conlon who travelled down from Roscommon to work in the South Coast Boatyard? I met him a number of times while cruising the River Shannon. He recalls working on Golden Apple and he has the photograph which you have above (with the flags up the back and forestay) proudly displayed in his home.

    He recalls walking to the Norwood Court Hotel as it was the only place he could watch RTE 1 television and he’d drink a Lucozade while enjoying the tv shows!

    I promised I’d print the article fully with the pictures, for him, but it would be lovely to have him acknowledged in the comments for his copy of it.

    Thanks again

  8. Dan Cross July 6, 2021 at 9:33 am #

    Yes in deed Vincent, remember him well but my apologies I forgot all about him. He was a wonderful shipwright. I visited him somewhere on the Shannon years later.
    Please give him our regards and apologies for the omission

    • Vincent Scanlon July 6, 2021 at 11:16 am #

      Thank you very much for the reply Dan. I’ll pass on the best wishes to Donie. I’m sure he’ll appreciate the acknowledgement.

  9. Mr David Roberts January 3, 2022 at 3:52 pm #

    I believe my boat was built in SCB in 1980. She is an Ocean Winds 33. I beleive her name was originally Ocean Tramp! I would appreciate any info on her or her sister catamarans built between 1977 and 1980. Thanks

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