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130-year-old tall ship sails into Newry following £244,000 acquisition

Across the summer it will welcome aboard members of the public at open days and festivals across Northern Ireland

Brixham Trawler 'Leader' arrives in her new home at the beautiful Albert Basin in Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

LEADER – a 130 year old heritage tall ship has arrived in Newry where it will be home to a maritime community heritage project.

Northern Ireland Sailing Charity, Silvery Light Sailing, has received a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £244,975 for the acquisition of the 1892 built heritage tall ship LEADER to host community sailing programmes and further expand their traditional boat building skills workshops.

Sailing from Bristol’s Underfall Yard after dry docking and a maintenance refit, the 130-year-old Brixham trawler, arrived at the Albert Basin in Newry this week.

The heritage vessel is again destined to become a familiar sight in Northern Ireland’s ports providing a unique sailing experience for local youth and community groups, public open days and festivals.

Maintained and crewed by volunteers, the project will help preserve an important link to the area’s rich maritime and fishing past.

Funding for the Summer 2022 Maritime Heritage Project has been made possible by National Lottery players who raise more than £30 million every week for good causes in the UK. The project opens a new chapter in the history of the LEADER, a survivor of the fleets of sailing fishing boat that once fished in the Irish Sea.

Gerry Brennan, Chair of Silvery Light Sailing said: “We are a maritime charity providing an annual programme of residential voyages that give youth and community groups from across Northern Ireland an opportunity to experience and benefit from a taste of life at sea on a traditional sailing ship. For many it can be a life changing, challenging experience, discovering new strengths and self-confidence whilst making lasting friendships.”

Brixham Trawler ‘Leader’ on Carlingford Lough on the way to her new home at the beautiful Albert Basin in Newry. 

Brixham Trawler ‘Leader’ leaves Newry’s historic Victoria Lock to navigate Newry Ship Canal on her way to her new home at the Albert Basin in Newry. 

Ten community and youth groups from across Northern Ireland will follow a programme of heritage workshop skills and a five day residential voyage.

They will form the crew sailing the ship using the power of the wind, learning about the traditions of the sea, how to cook, clean, maintain and care for both themselves and the heritage vessel.

Dr Paul Mullan, Director, Northern Ireland at The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “It is fantastic news that thanks to the National Lottery players, we have been able to support Silvery Light Sailing to ensure that this amazing heritage tall ship can be preserved for years to come, meaning that local communities and visitors can learn more about Northern Ireland’s maritime heritage.

The volunteer crew of Brixham Trawler ‘Leader’ after they docked at the Albert Basin in Newry.

“We know that heritage can play a huge role in bringing people together and the community sailing programmes that will be accessed by groups engaging with maritime heritage for the first time is a fantastic example of that.”

LEADER was built as a sailing trawler. Uniquely during each voyage, crews will undertake sea sampling experiments using mini trawling methods to determine the level of micro plastic pollution around our coastline as part of a study compiling a worldwide database of plastic pollution.

Through community workshops, Silvery Light Sailing practice traditional skills and methods for the maintenance of Tall Ships like LEADER and the restoration of several smaller heritage boats which have a local connection.

This new National Lottery funded project has not only secured an important part of Northern Ireland’s maritime heritage but allows for the expansion of workshop activities and the opportunity to bring in more volunteers.

Silvery Light Sailing is welcoming new volunteers, for further information on available opportunities to volunteer as a crew member or to learn about boat restoration, contact Gerry Brennan via email silverylight1884@gmail.com. News of future public events and opportunities to board LEADER and find out about its maritime heritage will be available on Silvery Light Sailing’s social media channels @SilveryLight.

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