Today's teenagers may seem like they are only interested in social media or video games, but in Ireland, a Coca-Cola community project is showing that youngsters are also keen to learn traditional skills, passed down through generations.

In the tiny island community of Inishbofin, lying off the coast of Connemara in County Galway, the population of just 175 people is enthused by a Coca-Cola funded project to involve young islanders in the ancient craft of wooden boat-building.

Thanks to a €10,000 grant from the Coca-Cola Thank You Fund, the Inishbofin Community Project was set up to help young people on the island develop their life skills. This included learning the age-old craft of building currachs — traditional wooden-framed boats that have been made in this part of Ireland for centuries.

Master craftsman

Under the guidance of a local master craftsman Pat Folan, who was eager to pass on his boat-building knowledge, 11 young islanders aged between 14 and 20 got involved in the project.

The inspiration for the project came from Siobhan Ryan, Manager of the Inishbofin Community Service Programme.

She says, "I came up with the idea when out walking my dog on the beach. I saw some broken currachs and thought that the island still needs them. The older people on the island can build currachs, but this is a skill that the younger generation can now benefit from. It was a simple idea and everybody got behind it."

The first currach in a series of four made its maiden voyage during the recent Inishbofin Arts Festival. Each currach created through the project is named after a village on Inishbofin — the first is called Fawnmore.

The remaining three 23-foot currachs — the next will be named Cloonamore — will have their maiden voyages at the Inishbofin Regatta on August 12-13.


 

"The boats being launched reflect the hard work of the young people of Inishbofin," 

Learning life skills

"They worked very long hours over weekends and evenings. In addition to the skills of currach-building, they learned other skills, from motivation to working as part of a team and of course essential leadership skills." explained Siobhan.

The currachs will be available on summer evenings for locals and tourists to use, but as Siobhan points out "locals here don't need rowing classes."

"People are really happy with how it all turned out. It has been a great experience for myself and all the islanders and for everybody involved and it was a pleasure working with Coca-Cola and their team on this".

Seven years of community support

Now in its seventh year, the Coca-Cola Thank You Fund was set up in 2011 to mark the 125th anniversary of the company. The fund rewards grants to worthy projects that inspire and support young people across Ireland and Northern Ireland, This year, a further €100,000 is being awarded through the Fund to worthy projects.