The making of Irish boats with a wooden frame and traditionally covered with hide or canvas.
This craft uses products derived from animals – please read our ethical sourcing statement.
|Historic area of significance
|Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Scotland
|Area currently practised
|Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
|Origin in the UK
|Current no. of professionals (main income)
|0 in Northern Ireland (see other information)
|Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
|Current no. of trainees
|Current total no. serious amateur makers
|1 in Northern Ireland
|Current total no. of leisure makers
|Minimum no. of craftspeople required
Currachs are found all over Ireland as both sea going and river craft, and have varying designs according to how they were used. They are known as naomhóg in Cork, Kerry and Waterford.
Currachs are a light, buoyant, affordable and adaptable craft that can be launched and beached in the most exposed places. Once made exclusively of natural, easily accessible local materials such as willow, hazel and animal hide, they now often use alternative materials such as calico and fibreglass. Despite many changes and innovations, the essential design and qualities of the currach have remained largely unchanged.
Ireland has an unbroken tradition of usage from prehistoric times to the present. Currachs were used in the modern period for fishing, for ferrying and for the transport of goods and livestock, including sheep and cattle. Today, currachs are used for tourism and leisure purposes. Currach racing has become an increasingly popular sport across Ireland and currach designs have been developed specifically for racing.
There is a rich social history surrounding the sea going currach that tell a story of the dangerous and tenuous lives of the subsistence fishing communities of Ireland. For the future, this ancient craft has considerable potential in terms of amenity and recreational activity besides its intrinsic heritage value.
Currach making is listed on Ireland’s Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The framework consists of latticework formed of rib-frames (hoops) and stringers (longitudinal slats), surmounted by a gunwale. There are stem and stern posts, but no keel. The outside of the hull is covered by tarred canvas or calico, a substitute for animal hide.
A currach is built frame first and the hull is then constructed by turning it upside down. This distinguishes it from virtually every other boat type which are built from the keel up. Construction plans for most currachs do not exist as the skills of the craft has been passed down hand-to-hand for generations.
- Galway currach
- Clare Canoe
- Dunfanaghy currach
- Donegal currach
- Tory Islands currach
- Owey island currach
- Boyne currach
Welsh and English coracles are closely related to the currach but are thought to have developed independently.
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
Lough Neagh Boating Heritage Association
Craftspeople currently known
- Ciaran Breen – Lough Neagh Boating Heritage Association
- John Wilkinson – Valkyrie Craft’s primary focus is on traditional skin on frame West Greenland kayaks and a modern general purpose kayak using traditional techniques. They also build curraghs and other skin on frame boats with community and school groups as a way of exposing people to the skills and system rather than in an attempt to reproduce authentic traditional designs.
There are a number of amateur makers who have made currachs but none making on any significant scale.
Currach makers outside of the UK include West Clare Curraghs (Republic of Ireland) and Meitheal Mara Community Boatyard, Cork (Republic of Ireland).
It is impossible to separate the currach tradition of Northern Ireland from that of the Republic of Ireland, although there are many regional variations of the craft.
Mac Cárthaigh, Críostóir, (ed) (2008) Traditional Boats of Ireland (Collins Press)
Mac Polin, Donal, (2007) The Donegal Currach (Ballybay Books)
- Mac Polin, Donal The Iona Curragh
Badge, Peter, (2009) Coracles of the World (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch)
Hornell, James (1938) British Coracles and Irish Curraghs (Mariner’s Mirror)
Mac Conamhna, Breandán, (2010) The Belderrig Curragh and its People