Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

A new book  Hegarty’s Boatyard – Building Conor O’Brien’s Saoirse  Photographs by Kevin O’Farrell is being launched on Thursday 20th April in the West Cork Hotel at 7.00 pm

This book is a celebration in the form of a photographic essay on the re-building in spirit of Conor O’Brien’s Saoirse, in Hegarty’s Boatyard. The journey starts with an insightful introduction by Maritime Historian Cormac Levis, who sets the scene of Conor’s life and the turbulent times of 1921-23, building Saoirse in the middle of a Civil War.  

Saoirse on sea trials in Baltimore Harbour, 2023. © Kevin O’Farrell


Speaking to The Skipper,  Photographer Kevin O’Farrell said: “Through many such casual conversations with Liam Hegarty over the years, I learned that Saoirse had long been top of his boatbuilding wish-list. So when Hegarty’s ten-year restoration of the Ilen came to an end in 2017, this freed up space for Liam’s lifelong dream to finally become reality. Laying Saoirse’s keel would mark the start of a new project for Hegarty’s Boatyard and for myself, as I began the long process of documenting the ‘rebirth’ of this iconic boat.”

Looking aft inside Saoirse with John Hegarty, 2019. © Kevin O’Farrell


Conor O’Brien an unsung Irish maritime hero, forgotten except by a few, came from Protestant Ascendancy, William Smith O’Brien, the famous Young Ireland Leader, among his illustrious ancestors. Everything he undertook in life was an adventure. He had been a member of pre-republican Sinn Féin and of the Irish Volunteers. In 1914 he joined Erskine Childers, (Author of Riddle of the Sands,1903). And with Childers yacht, Asgard and his own yacht, Kelpie, in running guns from Germany for the Volunteers, It was Conor’s superb navigation skills in the English Channel thickly in covered fog. O’Brien was first to find the rendezvous in time, as Childers was late.

After four years in build Saoirse leaves the grain store workshop, with the Hegarty crew justifiably proud of their skills. (2022)
Left-Right: Paddy Hegarty, John Hegarty, Fachtna O’Sullivan, Teddy O’Donovan, Pierre Couture and Liam Hegarty. © Kevin O’Farrell



“Watching these boatbuilders at work today offers an insight into previous generations of such craftsmen, as their tools and skills remain unchanged. Unfortunately, however, these traditions are in danger of being lost now as very few young people take up careers in wooden boatbuilding. This would represent a tragedy for our island nation, so I feel honoured to witness and record this extraordinary craftsmanship for future generations. This book is my tribute to the wonderful living maritime heritage that is still practiced daily in Hegarty’s Boatyard.”


Kevin O’Farrell’s exhibition Hegarty’s Boatyard: Last Surviving Traditional Wooden Boatyard in Ireland running at Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre from 13 May to 10 June 2023 will include photographs of the restoration of Saoirse along with photographs of the restoration of the AK Ilen among others at Hegarty’s Boatyard.