Plan to turn iconic Donegal boat into work of art

In 1977, the late Donegal fisherman Eddie ‘Beag’ Gillespie towed his boat Cara na Mara ashore because she needed two planks replaced. Forty-three years later, she is still on Magheraclogher beach near Bunbeg – and the community is raising the money to transform what has become a much-loved local landmark into a work of art.

Cara na Mara, which means Friend of the Sea, is now known as Bád Eddie – Eddie’s boat. Wedged in the sand and abandoned to the elements, it became a playground for a generation of children, and then a focal point in the landscape. In 1986, it was featured in the video for the song ‘In a Lifetime’ by Bono and Clannad, which put it on the world stage. It drew tourists, became a backdrop for wedding portraits and starred on the cover of Vogue.

Now, however, the boat’s structure is deteriorating rapidly, and the local community have set up a committee to raise funds to preserve what is left.

Sonia Gillespie, a member of the committee and a distant cousin of Eddie’s, said that fears are growing that Bád Eddie may not survive another winter.

She told Donegal News: “We are fighting the elements, we know that, and it is not like we have time on our hands.

“The committee we have is made up of residents, community activists and political representatives, and what we are hoping to do is raise enough money to get the ball rolling on a structure that will eventually replace Bád Eddie but that will also preserve what is left of it. Our hope is that there will be a structure whereby you can look through holes and laying within will be the original boat.”

The plan is to incorporate the wooden skeleton into a stainless steel full-size replica that would be Ireland’s first permanent sculpture in the sea.

A team from the Northern Ireland Technology Centre, based at Queen’s University Belfast, is due to visit to create 3D images to help design the steel structure.

The project has the support of Donegal County Council, through which it is hoped to source funding, but more money will be needed. A GoFundMe appeal, launched at the end of August with a concert on the beach by world-renowned local musicians, was already approaching the €10,000 mark as Fishing News went to press.

The committee plans to hold an auction of paintings of the boat that have been promised to the campaign by a number of prominent artists.

The first priority, however, is to protect what is left of Bád Eddie from the winter ahead.

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