Lough Neagh sailing club

Vol. 4 No. 1 - 1978

Lough Neagh and the local sailing club

by G.P. Bell

Craigavon Designated Area is bounded on the north by some seventeen miles of the indented shoreline of Lough Neagh, and the history of the Craigavon area is closely concerned with the lough and it's rivers for transport, trade and recreation.

Legend and Superstition

The story that Finn McCool threw a clod of earth at a rival across the Irish Sea, thus creating Lough Neagh and the Isle of Man, must be fairly late, involving as it does some knowledge of geography and comparative areas. That the lake was caused by a woman leaving a magic well uncovered may be older Moore's verse:

"On Lough Neagh's banks, as the fisherman strays,
When the clear cold eve's declining,
He sees the round towers of other days,
In the waves beneath him shining."

may be based on a paragraph in Caxton's History of Ireland of 1497.

The supposed curative properties for skin diseases, mainly associated with Washing Bay, seems to have been first recorded in the reign of Charles II.

There is a persistent belief in the ability of the lough to petrify wood although it is obviously not true of posts or quays now in use. Partly fossilised wood is found in places, particularly near Sandy Bay, but this derived from great rafts of sequoia trees swept by gale and flood into the Tertiary lake and buries in the Lough Neagh clays before being silicified by hot fluids from the geysers then still active.

Early History

Lough Neagh is not only the largest lake in the British Isles, it is also the oldest. Many millions of years ago, long before the lce Ages, the Tertiary basalts of The Antrim Plateau, with the underlying chalk, sagged into a great basin lake which slowly filled with Lough Neagh clays, over a thousand feet thick at Washing Bay.

As the glaciers melted, Lough Neagh was again a large lake, outflowing to the Newry River and the Lagan valley before resuming its outlet down the Lower Bann. By the time Ireland's first human inhabitants crossed from Scotland it was much its present size and shape, at least in summer months. By about 2000 BC people had penetrated up the Bann to Lough Neagh, leaving the Bann flints as evidence of their culture. They probably used skin-covered boats resembling the curraghs of the west coast, as dug out canoes would be unsuitable for the choppy waters of the Lough.

Later ages have left their mark, from the cross at Arboe, the churches at Cranfield or Rams Island round tower, to the Salters Castle of the Plantation or John Nash's unfinished Shanes Castle, but these would all be deserving of detailed treatment in their own right; it is with waters of the Lough itself that these notes are mainly concerned.

Early man probably travelled by water, avoiding the forests because of dreaded hob-goblins as much as of wolves; in later times men would still find water transport easier than trying to carry goods through trackless swamps and thickets. But boats would also be available to the enemy. The Viking called Thorkils, whom the monks Latinised as Turgesius, ruled most of Ireland from his fleets on Lough Neagh and the Shannon. In the Elizabethan wars there were rival fleets on the lake. At this time Coney Island was fortified by the family of Sir Philip Sidney, as shown by recent archaeological excavations. Again in the wars of 1641 to 1647 there were fleets raiding the shores and building temporary fortifications. One vessel was of twenty tons with six brass cannons.

The Canals

Seventy years later the scene had changed to one of commercial enterprise. Coal had been discovered in 1720 near Coalisland and in 1732 there were schemes to bring it to the lough by a canal, though in fact this was not completed until 1787, and was hardly ever used. Meanwhile coal could be brought 3 1/2 miles by road to the Blackwater, and so to Lough Neagh.

Lough 9, Poyntzpass
Lough 9, Poyntzpass

There was as yet no steam-powered industry and no adequate local market but Dublin was at that time one of the major cities of the British Isles. To get the coal there required the construction of the Newry Canal, linking the Upper Bann near Portadown with the Irish Sea. It had been proposed as early as 1703 and promoted by an Act of Parliament in 1715 but the coal led to its beginning in 1730.

This canal, the first in the British Isles to be planned as a canal rather than a river improvement (and considerably pre-dating famous English canals built by the Duke of Bridgewater and others), was to designs mainly by Richard Cassels, and was opened in 1742 when the Boulter and Cope, colliers of Lough Neagh, made the passage to Newry.

The traffic was not all one way; in 1744 excessive rains destroyed the Ulster crops and a local famine was only averted when grain ships of 70 tons were brought up to the lough. After many trials, the canal was extended in 1850 to deeper water at Lower Fathom and this portion was at that time the second largest ship-canal in the world. It enabled ships of 500 tons to reach Newry, which continued to be a larger port than Belfast well into the nineteenth century.

The canal from Newry to Lough Neagh was largely reconstructed in 1801. A proposed link from the Bann to the Blackwater was not completed, but a short length was cut across the Derrywarragh peninsula to by-pass the dangerous shoals at the mouth of the Blackwater, thereby forming the port of Maghery where there was a large repair yard. The Newry Canal was last used in 1936.

To aid early industrialisation of the Lagan valley the river had been canalized as far as Lisburn by 1763. The Lagan Navigation was extended by 1793 to the Lough at Ellis' Cut, and carried a large volume of coal and other goods. As late as the 1930's long strings of barges were towed across the lough by steam tug for distribution at Kinnego and points west. In 1950 the tug was still moored at Ellis' Cut awaiting traffic which no longer arrived. In the 1960's the M1 near Moira was constructed along the line of the canal.

Shercock Bridge, Ulster Canal
Shercock Bridge, Ulster Canal

A much less successful venture was the Ulster Canal, 42 miles long adjoining the Blackwater to the Erne, begun in 1826 and completed in 1842. It was hoped to extend it to the Shannon, but the first section, from Ballyconnell to Ballinamore, was a failure and the coming of the railways rendered further canal building pointless. The last barge entered the Ulster Canal in 1929.

Lake steamers were able to land passengers somewhere in Kinnego from 1830, but access to the road system near Lurgan was much improved in 1846 when the Upper Bann Navigation Co. constructed Kinnego Cut. At the same time the Irish Board of Works was making improvements to the Upper and Lower Bann and building slips and quays on the Blackwater. William Dargan's Ulster Railway had reached Lurgan from Belfast by 1841 and Portadown by 1846, and these late canal works were deliberately constructed to prevent a railway monopoly and keep down freight rates. In this they were so successful that they themselves hardly ever showed a profit.

Lough Neagh

In later times many steam or motor propelled barges were in use in grabbing up and bringing ashore the valuable building sand. Suction pumps are now more commonly used.

May Queen
Felix McGarry's May Queen under racing rig at a 1946 regatta.
The Lower Bann and Control of Flooding

The improvements to the Lower Bann undertaken by the Irish Board of works from 1847 onwards were intended to reduce winter flooding around the lough as well as to render the Bann navigable by providing weirs and locks at Toome and at other shallows and obstructions, while enabling eels and salmon still to reach the lough. The works were carried out to the scheme prepared by John McMahon, a Government Engineer, but was only partially successful.

Before the McMahon scheme the lough level varied widely; Sir Charles Coote, in his 1804 Statistical Survey of County Armagh, prints a map of 1785 when Lough Neagh was reported to have been lower than in many years past, saying that it normally rose five and half feet in winter, but could rise considerably higher. This is further confirmed by the only Admiralty Chart of Lough Neagh, surveyed by Lieut. Thomas Graves, published in 1835, where he notes rises of up to eight feet, though it appears that such floods would only occur once in fifteen or twenty years. This chart is difficult to compare with later controlled levels as the sea-level datum to which it relates is not that used in later measurements, a probably mythical "mark on the base of the Poolbeg lighthouse"; but although total lowering since it was drawn are supposed to total seven feet, the water levels on the chart are only four feet higher than actually now found. This may be due to unusually low water when the survey was made and to the naval practice of taking a wisely pessimistic view of the depth of water available. Even so, the subsequent lowerings have joined islands to the mainland at Bird Island and Reedy Flat, enlarged existing islands and headlands and created new islands such as Crochan, Phil O'Roes Flat and Millars Flat.

The McMahon scheme lowered the normal level by about three feet and limited fluctuation, but farmers over a wide area round the lough and up the Bann and Blackwater still complained of water-logged fields and occasional flooding, and Oxford Island (then called Low Island) and Wolfs Island, would have justified their names.

Between 1942 and 1952, under the Shepherd scheme the normal level was reduced a further three feet and more closely regulated by improvement to the sluices on the Lower Bann The navigation locks were at this time considered redundant and only saved by the protests of the River Bann and Lough Neagh Association, who also prepared new charts of the river and the Lough to supplement the long out-of-date Admiralty Chart.

After 1959 the level was nominally reduced a further six inches and fluctuation was statutorily limited where possible to six inches, but the controlling authorities cannot always keep within these narrow limits.

The difficulty, strangely, is partly due to uncertainty in determining the true water-level. Apart from obvious waves, strong winds also set up long pulsations or surges, known as seiches, and in addition can raise the water level at one end almost a foot above that at the other.

Forecasting expected levels is also difficult; in wet weather it is necessary not only to know the actual rainfall over a catchment area of over 180 square miles, but also the state of the ground - frozen, water-logged or dry.

Similarly in drought conditions the natural draw-down due to evaporation may be increased by the need to maintain a minimum flow in the Lower Bann for reasons of navigation, amenity and fisheries, and in addition by extraction for industry arid public water-supply. In this connection only the extraction which is not returned to the lough via drains and sewerage treatment works will much affect the levels. Though since 1894 public water supply has been drawn from the lough at Castor's Bay, Lurgan, the first export from the lough was taken to the Belfast area in 1969 and so far makes only about an inch of difference to lough levels even in a long drought. If in future the Belfast area takes three times the present supply it is calculated that this, in a once-in-fifty-year summer, would account for only six inches of a total fall of two feet below standard.

The Lake Steamers

Steam power was used in ships many years before the railways began, and in Lough Neagh's central position the steamers had obvious use for passenger services, avoiding long and slow road journeys. Their success depended on easy access to piers or jetties. In 1788 Mr. D. Gaussen built a stone pier at Ballyronan where he had a brewery and spade mill, and ran sailing ships of fifty tons before steamers began.

Lough Neagh Queen
The Lough Neagh Queen in the canal bypassing the eel-weirs at Toome from a pre-1913 post card.

This pier, stranded by the lowering of the Lough, now forms a feature of the new marina and is officially 'listed' as an Historic Building. Following the success of the Comet in 1812 on the Firth of Clyde, James Gaussen, about 1830, ran the Lady of the Lake, a paddle steamer, on regular schedules from Ballyronan to Kinnego and Portadown, calling at Duffs Battery. Though the lowering of the lough in the 1840's made access more difficult there were, besides the tugs of the canal companies, many subsequent steamers calling at piers round the lough and in the rivers. J. B. Cunning-Moore, a local landowner, in 1891 replaced Duffs Battery with Jewport Trench, a built harbour making early use of concrete. A famous lake steamer, the Lough Neagh Queen, was in use before the First World War, but more as an excursion carrier than for regular passengers.

An advertisement in a church souvenir of June 1906 by R. McGhee of 69 North Street, Lurgan, invites enquiries by School Committees and Church Choirs for special terms for parties of 50 and upwards for Lough Neagh Queen excursions on Lough Neagh and the Bann and Blackwater.

Messrs. McGarry Bros. carry on the same function today with the Maid of Antrim.


Commercial salmon and eel fisheries on Lough Neagh and the rivers are today worth more than half a million pounds per year, and support about four hundred families around the Lough who work from large boats with powerful diesel engines, perhaps originally intended to out-run the fishery patrol, but also capable of pulling a trawl, Fibre-glass is replacing timber construction.

In earlier times fishing boats were smaller and lighter for easy rowing and sailing, and though smaller were much more numerous. Even at times when yachting was in abeyance the characteristic crab-claw shaped sails of the fishermen would dot the lough in fine weather.

The sprit-sail rig, also used on Thames barges, was convenient for rapid stowing away when not required, and the rectangular sail was not wasteful of cloth.


The Statistical Survey of 1804 records that 'This lake abounds with salmon, pike, trout, eel, roach and bream, and a kind of fresh water herring, called in Irish pollan; they resemble large smelts, and their scales are very bright; they are much esteemed, and furnish a wholesome supply for the poor.' The pollan is now little caught, perhaps due to pollution, or to previous over-fishing, perhaps because 'the poor' are no longer interested in a rather tasteless fish. Until the late 1950's the unforgettable cry of the travelling fish-monger could be heard in the streets of Lurgan and Portadown.

The fishing boats, while having a family resemblance, were not all of the same size and shape, and there was keen competition in sailing races held in various bays round the shore. Having for practical purposes to draw little water they could not sail as close to the wind as a yacht, but made up for this by their speed through the water, driven by large sails in sprit-sail ketch rig on two masts, the sail area being measured in yards where yachtsmen speak of square feet.

The races are keenly contested, the rules being 'go as you please' and the boats ballasted with sacks of gravel and crates of beer, both of which would be empties before the final run, which added to the excitement, if not the safety, of the event.

The races kept the sailing boats in operation until the Lurgan Sailing Club Regatta of 1947 at Castor's Bay, when the late Felix McGarry's May Queen, from Sandy Bay, won the Donnelly Cup for the third year in succession and thus the right to retain it. Unfortunately no details of the champion boats seem to have been recorded; it would be most interesting if the remains of a hull, or even a set of building moulds, could be found, from which the lines could be taken. Who made the sails? How long had boats of this type been in use, and what preceded them?

Lurgan Boat Club

The first evidence for recreational use of Lough Neagh is in Bassetts `Book of County Armagh' of 1888 where he records 'In summer pleasure boats are numerous on the lough. Four belong to the Lurgan Boat Club, which also owns 4 practice gigs, 2 "fours" and 2 "pairs." The club was established in 1877, and has a good boat-house at Kinnego. About 30 members pay 10s. a year each. Mr. James H. Clendinning is secretary, and Mr. Patrick McGeown, treasurer. The funds show a balance to credit.' This seems to indicate a club for both rowing and sailing.

The 'practice gigs' would not have been racing shells such as are now used for rowing in sheltered waters, but probably more resembling boats still used for competition at Carnlough and Glenarm; of a broad V section for light displacement but wide enough to avoid the need for outriggers for the rowlocks, and sturdy enough to be driven through quite rough water. No trace of the 'good boat-house' remains, but club members may have joined barge-folk and others in using the public-house established in the Murray house close to the end of Kinnego Cut.

The Murray family, farmers and coal merchants, were also keen yachtsmen, at one time owning Daydream and later the Bertie. Their house, one of the few of cruck construction remaining, is shown on the plan prepared in 1894 by Wm. J. O'Neill, C.E. for a licence application changing the bar to the end room of the house. It had previously been more warmly and sociably accommodated off the kitchen in the space marked breakfast room. The change was refused and the licence given up.

Coal barges and yachts in Kinnego Cut. Murtagh McCann's Nymph in foreground.
From a pre-1914 post card.
Lough Neagh Yacht Club 1897-1920

Lloyds Register of Yachts records the establishment of Lough Neagh Yacht Club in 1897, by which time it had a gone aristocratically up-market to match its grander title, the Commodore being Lord O'Neill of Broughshane, and Shanes Castle; Vice Commodore Viscount Masserene, Rear Commodore Captain Arthur Packenham, Hon. Treasurer D. Redmond Esq., and Hon. Secretary Mr. W. T. Cowan of Dunadry. Subscription was 10s a year. In 1908 the Hon. Treasurer was J. Malseed Esq., and in 1914 the Vice Commodore was Viscount Charlemont CB., otherwise the officers remained unchanged until the club disappeared from the register in 1920. The original burgee was a round tower in red on a white ground. This was changed in 1904 to the burgee now used by the Lough Neagh Sailing Club.

Lord Rathcavan, great-uncle of the present Lord O'Neill of Shanes Castle, recalls that Kingfisher, the family yacht, was moored off the castle and took part in two or three races a year against the Windhover and Colonel Packenham's Curlew, mainly in the northern part of the lough, but also to Lord Charlemont's Coney Island, with occasional visits to Kinnego. These yachts were of the Star class, six tons, 31 feet long, seven foot six inch beam and four foot six inch draft, carrying 600 sq. ft. of sail, quite large boats for Lough Neagh. They were designed by Milne and built about 1903 by Kilditch of Carrickfergus.

Lough Neagh Sailing Club

At the same time there was also a Lough Neagh Sailing Club, less aristocratic and never appearing in Lloyds Register but perhaps enjoying better sport. It was centred at Kinnego, and probably grew out of the earlier Lurgan Boat Club. By 1910 it had taken over much of the active sailing, winning Lord Charlemont's Coney Island Cup, and at its regatta in Kinnego putting up a valuable silver cup for competition by visitors from the Yacht Club. Lord O'Neill was Commodore of this club also, but as the Club Rules of about 1915 show, its other officers and committee were from what is now the Craigavon area. The subscription was 5s. but there was also a fee to enter a boat for a race. The burgee was a blue flag bearing the red hand within a white triangle.

Racing in Kinnego Bay. Left to right, Monina, Day Dream, Ocean Spark.

The boats known to be sailing in club races up to about 1919 were:

Boat Owner Particulars
Thesia Harry Bell, Lurgan.
Nymph Murtagh McCann, Bay View, Lurgan. Gunter sloop with small cabin
Ocean Spark Sir William Allen. Built Dublin 1898, came from Lough Erne.
Duck Captain Joe Johnston, killed in 1914-18 war. Sister-ship to Ocean Spark
Day Dream C. O'Neill, then Murrays of Kinnego, sold for £8 to C. Marshall. Built 1908 by McKeown of Grosvenor Road, Belfast.
Mononia W. H. Crocker, Portadown later Holt Hewitt. An extreme racing type, broke up in gale in Bartins Bay in 1920
Coral Thomas Watson, Lake View, Lurgan. One of the Jewel Class, built Chester, 1898.
Doris Billy Martin, Lurgan.
Swan W. Cochrane.
Siechia Frank O'Hagan and W. O'Hara.
Silver Spray T. Matthews and H. McAvoy. Later called Stormy Weather.
Imp H. Bennett. One of the smallest, 16ft overall.
Fly A. Burnell.
Curlew Holt Hewitt, Lurgan. Probably the Star class, owned previous by Col. Packenhams.
Windhover C. Marshall. Probably another Star.
Gazell J. Furphy.

Restless, a miniature cruiser in the style of 1870 but built 1905 for Lady Magheramourne.
Last owned about 1970 by H. Clendinning and Dr. D. Deeny.

An early cabin-cruiser motorboat belonging to Thomas Watson was used as a Committee Boat to start races. Ocean Spark, Silver Spray and Imp survived to take part in revived club activities in 1942-54, other had a continuing history elsewhere, but it is unlikely that any still exist. Quite a lot is known of some, but any further information concerning these yachts and their owners, or indeed of others not listed, would be most welcome.

In general the boats of the Sailing Club were smaller than those of the Yacht Club and with centreboards rather than fixed keels as befitted the shallower water at the Craigavon end of the Lough.

It is hard to say why the Sailing Club collapsed soon after the end of the 1914-18 war. When the 'land fit for heroes' proved to be unfavourable to the linen industry some members may have had to drop out, while perhaps those with money or leisure preferred to spread it in the new cheap motorcars.

Kinnego Cut was also becoming a less attractive club centre. Having once been a favourite spot for swimming, it was now polluted and silting up due to the increase in water-borne sewerage from the growing population of Lurgan.

Over the years there were improvements to the sewerage works at Woodville and several attempts to re-dredge the Cutbut finally, despairing of cleaning it, Craigavon Commission in 1971 filled in not only the Cut but also an area of shallows outside through which the channel was marked by posts, which now forms the parking area for a very large marina basin occupying the southern portion of the bay.

House of Murray family at Kinnego
The Great Sailing Accident

One boat well known in the Sailing Club but missing from the list quoted above was the Osprey, an unballasted centreboard half-rater similar to most of those in the Club. It belonged to the Green family, coal merchants, who lived in the large house at the head of the Cut.

On Tuesday afternoon 23 August 1904 a party of five boys and two girls set out in the Osprey to visit Coney Island. The two girls Winifred and Dorothy and one boy were the children of W. J. Green of Kinnego, two others were sons of Isaac Green of Belfast, and the remaining two were school friends from Guernsey. Ages ranged from sixteen to twenty two. Though the wind was so light on the out-ward journey that they had to use the oars for part of the way, by six in the evening when they set out for home the wind and sea had increased, but they did not seem to have considered reefing the sails. Shortly after seven o'clock when about three miles off Ardmore Point, in a severe squall the boat either capsized or was swamped by the waves, leaving the crew clinging to the up-turned hull. There is a suggestion in the inquest reports that one or more of the boys may have been injured by spars or rigging, perhaps in trying to lower or cut away the sails though it is doubtful, even if this had been done, that the crew could have righted the boat, which, though unsinkable, would have been little better than awash. One or two tried to swim ashore for help, the others, numbed by cold, were washed away and lost, until only Winifred, the oldest at 22, managed to struggle ashore. Her daughter is now Mrs. J. Morrow of the Mount, Clanrolla. The Osprey was wrecked on the shore.

The disaster was a tremendous sensation, as the Green family were so well known. Hundreds of fishing boats took part in the five day search for the bodies, the names of McCaughley, Tennyson, McAlinden, Plenderleith and Baxter appear in the reports. The funerals were enormous and protracted, and many sincere but bad commemorative verses were printed in the local papers.

In considering this accident, which cast a blight over lough sailing for decades, it must be remembered that it was almost another fifty years before small centreboard boats had built-in floatation tanks and would be comparatively easily righted after a capsize. Although the club racing rules required the carrying of lifebelts or buoys there is no evidence that these were on board that day to help even some of the party. Life belts were bulky work jackets seen on old pictures of life-boatmen and too cumbersome to be worn in a small sailing boat; the modern buoyance aid depended on the invention of PVC and plastic foam.

The Osprey was not exactly over-loaded by seven people, all of whom were used to sailing, though the Club limited the racing crew to four, but a large party of tired, cold and possibly seasick young people may have hindered speed of action at a critical moment.

The disaster fortified the general opinion that Lough Neagh is dangerous. Any large expanse of water can be dangerous but the lough is less so than other places such as Carlingford Lough where squalls descend from the surrounding mountains.

Lurgan Sailing Club

There was little recreational sailing on the lough between 1922 and 1942. Ronald Green and the author repaired and re-launched the Ocean Spark in 1924, based on Kinnego Cut, and the Bell family continued to sail from here until about 1932, joining fishing boat races but seldom seeing another yacht.

By 1942 petrol rationing and war-time restrictions on sea sailing turned thoughts again to Lough Neagh and a group of local enthusiasts revived racing for those who could tind time in evenings or at weekends from farming or other work.

As Kinnego Cut could still be used for launching but was too silted and dirty to keep boats in, and the rest of Kinnego bay inaccessible by road, it was decided to base the club in Ellis' Cut, where by kind permission of the Morrow family, boats could be moored in safety to the banks, even though this involved for most members a long walk over wet meadows. The starting line at Morrows Point made use of a navigational post remaining from the days of canal traffic.

By 1943 the club was running handicap races on a points system on two week-day evenings and in September took fourteen boats to a regatta at Derrymore Bay. In 1944 there were seventeen boats taking part, and membership was growing. Adjusting the clock for double summer time extended dusk to nearly midnight and allowed long evening races in mid-season.

The officers were Commodore H. O'B Greer, Captain G. P. Bell, Hon. Secretary, W. Martin, Hon. Treasurer, R. Stephenson, Timekeeper F. McCann. Subscription was 10/- [ten shillings or 50p] with a further 10/- for boat registration.

In 1945 the season started on 8 May, VE day, with Hon. Secretary E. McLaughlin assisted by J. Deering and Hon. Treasurer W. Chambers, other posts unchanged. With a growing number of cups to sail for, races were held on Saturdays to Coney Island, Rams Island and other special courses. There were nineteen boats on the register, and the club found itself strong enough to revive its own regatta, which took place at Castor's Bay.

In those entertainment-starved times this was quite an event, with yacht and fishing boat races, rowing and swimming races and refreshments, games and competitions on the shore. Taxi transport from Lurgan was arranged. As it turned out the day was stormy, presenting some spectacular sailing but causing cancellation of some events. Two barges borrowed as committee boats sank over-night and took club members a lot of hard work to salvage.

Though there was no clubhouse at the shore, the Commodore provided a room in Woodville yard which was used for many social evenings. The committee met in the Brownlow Arms and the annual prize giving and meetings were held in a variety of halls in Lurgan.

Revived interest in sailing led to the establishment of a short-lived Rams Island Sailing Club in 1945 and of Maghery Sailing Club in 1946 where the Lurgan Sailing Club assisted in running the first race; while the club also supported locally organised regattas in Lady Bay and Sandy Bay and ran a challenge match at Lough Neagh against the Strangford Lough Yacht Club.

Lough Neagh Sailing Club 1948

In early 1948 the Lurgan Sailing Club changed its name to Lough Neagh Sailing Club to retain continuity with that operating in the Craigavon area up to 1920, and in the mistaken belief that a large balance from the earlier club lay hidden in some bank. Mr. E. McLaughlin became Vice-commodore, R. Knox Hon. Treasurer, and Dr. M. Bosnan, Hon. Secretary, succeeded next year by J. J. Morton. Membership now stood at 106. A nissen hut was erected on the bank at Ellis's Cut for drying and storing the increased number of sails, and a new launching gantry replaced a make-shift arrangement of posts and pulley blocks.

In 1950 an ancient teak ships wheelhouse was salvaged and repaired as a shelter on Morrow's Point for the race officers.

By 1951 the Commodore was G. P. Bell, Vice Commodore Rev. P. Madden, Captain Dr. M. Brosnan, Hon. Secretary E. McLaughlin assisted by G. Bloch and Hon. Treasurer W. Chambers. The following year W. Staunton succeeded as Hon. Secretary. The officers were again revised in 1953, R. B. Bleakley taking the secretary's job, but interest in sailing on the lough was fading. Fewer boats were launched, and it was difficult to find crews for those that were afloat. In 1954, though, officers and a committee were appointed, no racing could be organised and the club relapsed into hibernation. Most of the boats were sold or taken elsewhere by their owners.

Ocean Spark
Ocean Spark leaving-Kinnego Cut, about 1929. Helmsman: Francis Fforde.
Crew: Alexander Fforde and G. P. Bell.   -   Photo by R. H. Bell

The following list of boats sailing with the club between 1943 and 1953 may not be complete. Any further information would be welcomed. Helmsmen named are those who most frequently sailed, not necessarily the owners.

Year Boat Helmsman Notes
1943 Duck Dr. Deeny Coleen Class, survivor from earlier club.
1943 Ocean Spark Mr. and Mrs. G. P. Bell Coleen Class, survivor from earlier club.
1943 Shulah G. Gilchrist Belfast Lough N o. 3 Class
1943 Finvola P. Knox
1943 Malista Rev. P. Madden Did not sail after 1944.
1943 Nerissa

1943 Nymph
Sailed in club before 1920
1943 Imp T. Keville and E. McLaughlin. D. and J. Morton after 1947. Sailed in club before 1920
1943 Stormy Weather
Sailed club before 1920.
1943 Inca J. Bann Lavery Champion of Holywood 18' class till found to be 18'6" long.
1943 Jolly Roger J. Deering 8
1943 Bounty H. O'B. Greer Miniature cruiser wrecked off Antrim 1944.
1943 Bee
One of the smaller boats competing.
1943 Teal W. McNally andE. McCambley Built J. Morrow 1936.
1944 Bertie A. and C. Murray Built at Annalong.
1944 Emerald A. H. C. Greer Jewel class built Chester, 1898.
1945 Red Herring P. Delany International Snipe Classbuilt G. P. Bell.
1945 Peewit

1945 Dawn Miss E. Morrow and Mr. M. Brosnan Built 1915 Portrush.
1946 Den Onde
SLYC Viking. Designed and built G. P. Bell 1937.
1946 Thora R. and G. Bloch Another Viking class
1947 Shamrock J. Morrow Same class as Inca, sold away same year.
1947 Restless R. Knox Miniature cruiser
1947 Kingfisher Major Linklater Another Snipe Class.
1947 Mallard

1948 Powerful Morton family Came fromYacht Club. Strangford Lough

Of these the Shulah and Finvola are still sailing on Lough Neagh.

Ocean Spark
Only a Lake, but rough enough.
Ocean Spark in 1928 running home for Kinnego in aftermath of northerly gale.
Lough Neagh Sailing Club 1962

The club at Ellis' Cut faded out in 1954 partly because the end of petrol rationing made travel and other sports again possible and, for those still keen on sailing, because of the growing popularity of one-design class racing at Strangford, Carlingford and Belfast Loughs. These light trailable one-design dinghy classes made use of recently perfected waterproof plywood synthetic glues and terylene sails, and gave much more competitive sport than the older boats on Lough Neagh, which raced on an often contentious handicap system.

In September 1962 a group of members of the old club, together with a number of other sailing enthusiasts, some from as far away as Armagh, met to consider the revival of the club. Further lowering of the water-level had rendered the starting line off Morrow's Point unsuitable, and as the modern dinghy was launched, from a trailer for each race and needed reasonable road access not available at Ellis' Cut, a new site was required. Kinnego Bay offered all sailing advantages, and a site on the low neck leading to Oxford Island was found with reasonably deep water fronting it, which could be reached from the existing road by construction of a short driveway. This site was in time acquired, the starters hut brought from Morrows on a rick-shifter, a slipway and timber jetty constructed by members, and eventually a wooden clubhouse erected.

The choice of dinghy was settled one cold day in October 1962 when one GP14 owned by H. Clendinning and one Enterprise owned by G. P. Bell were launched at the proposed club site and demonstrated to members. The GP14 had the misfortune to capsize and the Enterprise was selected. Racing began in August 1963 with eleven Enterprises, numbers rising to over twenty in the following years. After a brief experiment with the Scimitar class keel-boats, the club by 1969 had decided to recognise the Flying Fifteen as their larger class with a dozen boats in 1970. The very successful Mirror class had been previously adopted as the smallest class. Some modern type cruiser-racer yachts were also beginning to make an interesting addition to the fleet.

By 1966 the Craigavon New City Planners had decided that the club site was needed as part of the recreational and nature reserve planned for the Kinnego area, but had been persuaded to consider leasing a new site on the outer end of Oxford Island when the Commission had removed the pig-farm and opened up the peninsula as a park. This suited the club well as the existing site was not ideal for racing courses and too far from the open lough, though heavy investment by the club was needed on the new site to construct a breakwater, starting battery, deep water slip and launching jetties, and to move the temporary timber clubhouse. By 1970 the move was complete and the club could begin to consider plans for a permanent clubhouse.

The recovery of the Lough Neagh Sailing Club was matched by added interest elsewhere. Antrim Boat Club was founded in 1967 and soon acquired a fine reputation as a sailing centre, with over 300 members and eighty boats. Though the silting of the channels and local troubles caused the virtual collapse of the Maghery Motor Boat and Sailing Club a new and growing club was started at Ballyronan.

  • J. K. Charlesworth - The Geology of Ireland.
  • Lough Neagh Working Group - Advisory Report.
  • Sir Charles Coote - Statistical Survey of the County of Armagh 1804.
  • G. H. Bassett - Book of County Armagh 1888.
  • W. A. McCutcheon - The Canals of the North of Ireland. Lloyds Registrar of Yachts 1899-1919.

Apologies for the quality of the monochrome illustrations in this article. They were scanned from originals in Review. If you can provide better copies we would like to hear from you. Ed.