This time last year, a group of volunteers came together at Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative Society HQ, Toomebridge as part of the Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership HLF project. The purpose, to build a heritage Lough Neagh flat-bottomed cot and learn the skills involved in preserving this tradition, under the esteemed direction of the Lough Neagh Boating Heritage Association.
Amid the general chat and camaraderie of the group, a seed of an idea hatched; to race traditional Lough Neagh boats, a past custom around the shores of the lough. A Northern lough shore volunteer, Gary McErlain, was enthralled at the idea of reigniting the ritual. Both a fisherman and a Lough Neagh Ambassador, he discussed his concept for many months with his long-suffering wife Anne-Marie!
At the recent launch of the Joe Mahon Lough Neagh series in Antrim’s Old Courthouse, he pitched the idea of the Traad Cup challenge to the Southern shore Traditional Lough Neagh Boating Heritage Association. Within the month and with the help of the Shores of Traád Community Group, his concept of celebrating the fishing and boating heritage, has developed into an event which will appeal to many around the lough shore and beyond.
Members of the Lough Neagh Heritage Boating Association join Joe Mahon at the launch of a new series ‘Lough Neagh’ (l-r) Pat Hughes, Roger Lively, Joe Mahon, Ciaran Breen and fisherman and boat building volunteer, Gary McErlain.
Proceedings will kick off at 2pm with refreshments at Ballyronan Marina centre. Visitors will have access to a wide variety of information stands and artefacts on show, from a variety of companies and associations around the lough including;
- Traád Point
- Fishing at Traád
- Lough Neagh Boating Heritage Association – actual traditional boats on display.
- “Loughshore Honey”
- Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-Operative Society
- Replica boats
- Traád Conservation and Wildlife Group
Traad Point, a serene beautiful area of Lough Neagh.
Music by the local musician, Michael Mawhinney and video footage of the Traad landscape, will entertain and captivate visitors. There will be an opportunity to meet fishermen, past and present and hear stories of their life on the lough. For those that also enjoy 4-wheeled transport, a 1981 DeLorean will be making an appearance! Children will have their very own area for drawing and colouring-in and with so much to see and do, there will be plenty of inspiration for these budding artists, so clear your fridge doors in preparation!
For the main event, the Inaugural Traad Cup, there will be two boats competing both of which are supplied on this occasion by the Lough Neagh Boating Heritage Association. A one man crew on each boat: one from the Northern shore at Traád and one from the Southern shore at Maghery, will battle it out in the shallow waters just offshore at Ballyronan. The Lough Neagh flat-bottomed cot race will highlight the ability of these traditional boats in navigating the shallow waters of Lough Neagh.
It is an aspiration of the Shore of Traád Community Group that the event develops and in time, encompasses communities around the lough, building stronger links between the areas and encouraging others to build traditional Lough Neagh boats. Within the next few years the aim is to have 6 boats racing in the Traad Cup boating challenge, largely in part to LNLP HLF project which is funding the building of additional cots throughout the year.
So come along to Ballyronan Marina at 2pm on Saturday 6th October and celebrate the heritage and tradition of Lough Neagh boats, while recognising their importance to the traditions of the lough and its fishing community.