If we had eggs …

… we could cook bacon and eggs, if we had bacon.

What with one thing and another, I haven’t recently been paying much attention to the campaign to keep the decayed former Aran Islands ferry Naomh Éanna from being scrapped. I gather that there is a proposal for spending €1.86 million on the vessel but I found little information online, especially about the proposed sources of capital or the expected return on investment; if the full plan is available anywhere online, I’d welcome a link.

None of the proposed onboard activities seem to require a floating home, none seems to have anything much to add to the heritage or historic value (if any) of the vessel and the only purpose of the heritage tag seems to be to enable the proposed tourism complex to get a berth from Galway Port Company. There is a cheaper floating hotel available elsewhere, which might require less expense; it could be renamed Naomh Éanna II.

I see that the fans of the existing vessel are trying to raise €15000 to have it surveyed. As far as I can gather from a Facebook page, the total raised so far is €1965: €1835 by 16 April and €139 at a beer-tasting. There seems to have been an update on 23 April but, as far as I can see, access is confined to Facebook subscribers.

Of the €1835, €500 came from the Dublin Branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland. I do hope that such a donation is not ultra vires: the preservation of old seagoing vessels does not seem to be within the objectives set out in IWAI’s Memorandum of Association, at least as described under “Goals of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland” on the IWAI website. Perhaps the page needs updating?

I note that folk have been sending in photos of and other information about the vessel. Now, my interest in this vessel is not in possible uses as a floating brewery or as a tourist attraction in Galway.

First, I want this albatross to be lifted from Waterways Ireland’s neck and, if Galway Port wants to house it, that’s fine by me, as long as they get it out of the inland waterways (and the taxpayer doesn’t have to pay for it).

Second, I want to counter the notion that, because the vessel is old, it is worth preserving. As I wrote here:

Yes, it had some interesting (if minor) historical associations, but the best way of recording them would be to write a book, or create a website, or even make a movie, about the ship’s history. Money spent that way would be a far better investment than money spent on keeping the Naomh Éanna afloat. Its heritage or historical value lies in the associated information, not in the steel.

National Historic Ships UK says:

As with all man-made structures, ships and boats were not built to last forever. However, the issue of dilapidation is especially acute for vessels. Unlike buildings, the accepted working life for most vessels is only some 30 years: they were not and still are not built for the long term. For many vessels of intrinsic historical importance, there will come a time when the cost of conserving or even simply repairing them becomes unaffordable. Unless the burden can be passed to another willing organisation, such vessels have no sustainable future.

That’s from one of the three volumes of its series Understanding Historic Vessels. The first two volumes are published as free PDF downloads from this page:

  • Recording Historic Vessels
  • Deconstructing Historic Vessels [from which I quoted].

Both are well worth reading and the first, in particular, might guide anyone who is actually interested in the heritage or historic value of the Naomh Éanna; it suggests that recording should be done before deconstruction [aka scrapping] but further information can be recorded during the latter process.

The authors suggest drawing up, for each vessel, a two-page Statement of Significance. I note that I have not seen such a statement, or any equivalent, for the Naomh Éanna, which makes me sceptical about the vessel’s value. And, using the National Historic Ships Criteria and Scoring System (which is included in both documents), I fear that the Naomh Éanna would not score highly.

I accept, though, that I do not have complete information about the vessel. It may be that some of the Naomh Éanna enthusiasts are engaged in a structured recording of information about the vessel and that they are building a case — the equivalent of a Statement of Significance — for its preservation on heritage or historic grounds. However, I haven’t yet come across their work; if it exists, I would welcome a link. As it is, though, the preservation campaign seems to me to be based more on sentiment rather than on fact or logic.

Finally, the third volume of Understanding Historic Vessels, called Conserving Historic Vessels, has now been published on dead trees and can be bought through the Royal Museums Greenwich online shop at STG £30; P&P to Ireland is STG £15. Other reference sources are listed here. And here is information about the Dunleary lifeboat.

 

 

One response to “If we had eggs …

  1. I received a comment on this from a person purporting to be Sam Field Corbett of Save Our Ship Naomh Eanna campaign and of Irish Ship & Barge Fabrication. I intended to publish it, with the rude remarks deleted, and then to respond to it, but removing those remarks proved to be rather tedious so I have decided to trash the comment instead (while retaining a copy for my records).

    bjg

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