The deep history that lies behind the doors of the McCann boatyard at Milk Harbour, a quaint little fishing harbour in north Sligo, is immense.
It was here that the skilled McCann family built boats for the likes of Lord Mountbatten, who was their most famous customer, and for whom they built several vessels. They built Shadow V, the infamous wooden fishing boat in which the IRA placed a bomb in 1979, killing the former viceroy of India and three others.
The McCann boat yard embodies an important part of the maritime heritage of Sligo and the North West. The family had operated a significant boat-building and carpentry business since the late 19th century but the deaths of the last of the boat builders – brothers Tom and John McCann —brought the yard to a close in 2013.
Family members contacted the Heritage Office at Sligo County Council to see how the material heritage of the yard – including account books— could be safeguarded for the future.
Experts from the National Folklore Collection at UCD (University College Dublin) and archivists at Sligo County Council carried out a report on behalf of the Heritage Office.
As a result, the family gave the business papers of the boatyard – including the account books and letters from Mountbatten —to the Sligo County Archive and the material heritage of the boatyard – including boats, patterns, frames, oars and tools — went to the National Museum of Ireland — Country Life.
“The conservation of the accounts books, which were in an extremely poor and fragile condition, was a central part of the project as they needed expert treatment by a professional conservator in order to stabilise them,” says Donal Tinney, County Librarian, Sligo.
An allocation of €967.00 in National Lottery Funding for Good Causes was given by the Heritage Council and the conservation work was expertly carried out by the Ox Bindery in Sligo. The notebooks are now in the care of Sligo County Council Local Studies and Archives Section.
“The cultural and historic importance of the McCann accounts book cannot be overstated. With entries spanning the years 1925 to 2004, the books preserve a remarkably detailed, continuous record of the yard’s activity in this 80- year period,” says Mr Tinney.
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