Sea Echoes: Maritime tradition of Ballinacurra Port

Sea Echoes: Maritime tradition of Ballinacurra Port
Edward Bransfield Island in the Antarctic. Named after the Cork man who first located the continent.

DRIVING on the main road from Midleton to Whitegate you don’t see Ballinacurra Port and you don’t pass through the village of Ballinacurra itself. 

So you don’t get a sense of the maritime tradition of this village. Yet it has a huge marine history.

I have seen a photograph dated 1896 from the Cork City and County Archives showing several tall sailing ships moored in Ballinacurra which was once a busy port for coal, timber, iron, slate, flax for the linen industry and malting.

Ballinacurra was a major barley malting location from the late 18th century, using local barley from the East Cork area. Ships took the finished malt mainly to Dublin where it was used in the brewing industry.

Midleton became a major distillery location for Irish Distillers, but the port of Ballinacurra closed to business in 1962. It was deemed too expensive to dredge the approach to the small harbour and keep it clear of silting mud.

That ended shipping access to Ballinacurra which is now even difficult for leisure boats to get into, dependent upon the draft, the depth of water clearance they need.

This highlights how inaccessible some parts of Cork Harbour have become, because they are no longer dredged. The reason is that there is no commercial benefit in doing so. This is a great pity and other areas of the harbour are also reported by boat users to be silting up where they are not dredged regularly.

Cork Harbour is a magnificent maritime location.

There would be economic benefits to the towns and villages, for those who operate tourist/visitor facilities around the harbour and for Cork Port Company in its public relationship with the community, to carry out a survey of accessible areas throughout the harbour. 

There is concern about how much dredging will be maintained on the present shipping channel upriver to Cork City once Ringaskiddy becomes the main harbour port location. During last month’s annual Cobh- to-Blackrock Race, it was surprising how many yachts grounded when venturing slightly outside the shipping channel, which should not normally be a major problem.

Historical records show how busy Ballinacurra once was as a port, such as in March 1935. On March 18 the MV Gaelic (224 gross tons, 144 net tons), arrived from Garston with 300 tons of coal. On March 21 the MV Ellie Park (98 gross tons, 68 net tons) arrived to load malt.

She left four days later with 1,390 barrels. Two days later the MV Gaelic left Ballinacurra for Dublin with 3,105 barrels of malt.

Ballinacurra was also the home port of the famous schooner, Brooklands, operated by the Creenan family whose Brooklands Bar remains a maritime location in the village.

And it is where Edward Bransfield, the man who first located Antarctica, was born.

Unrecognised in Irish maritime history until a committee of Corkonians decided to erect a memorial to commemorate him, they have sent me the new, revised design for it by local sculptor, Matt Thompson. Their plan is to have it erected in 2020, marking the 200th anniversary when Bransfield let the first expedition to see and chart the Antarctic mainland.

Wouldn’t it be great if boat access to Ballinacurra could again be provided by then?

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