'Joan of Arc' shared our joys and sorrows

The former Valentia ferry Joan of Arc.
The former Valentia ferry Joan of Arc.

THOSE who regularly pass by Anagar Bridge in Ardcost, Portmagee, will no doubt have noticed nearby a lone boat up on dry land with the toll of the passing years very obvious in its appearance.

THOSE who regularly pass by Anagar Bridge in Ardcost, Portmagee, will no doubt have noticed nearby a lone boat up on dry land with the toll of the passing years very obvious in its appearance.

The boat is idle now and no longer in use but there was a time when it played a vital part in the very fabric of Valentia Island life.

The motor boat of about 30 feet, made to a double ender whaler design, operated from the early 60s onwards as the ferry between Knightstown and Renard Point. It was the main and only mode of public transport between Valentia and the mainland in those days before the Valentia bridge or car ferry existed.

The boat named 'The Joan of Arc' was built in the early 40s by 'Partner' Galvin of Caherdaniel as a fishing vessel for Jerh Jim O'Sullivan of Renard who sold it in the early 60s to Patie Murphy of Knightstown for use as a ferry.

Some renovations had to be carried out on the vessel for this purpose so Patie enlisted the services of his nephew Eddie Murphy, a boat tradesman of considerable local repute who, in the course of his work on the boat, fitted an 18hp Lister air cooled diesel engine. Patie's sons Sean and Paddy - both experienced local fishermen - took the helm of the ferry throughout the 60s and also operated a cattle boat and another boat, the 'Thomas and Jenny', for the transportation of vehicles.

The arrival of the Valentia bridge in 1971 heralded the end of the Joan of Arc's ferrying days with the Murphy family selling it to John Francis Curran for use, once more, as a fishing boat.

John Francis sold the boat after a number of years to Michael O'Connell of Cracow, affectionately referred locally as 'Mickey Dore', who brought it back into service as a ferryboat between Knightstown and The Point in Renard, with the occasional journey for tourists and locals to Beginish Island.

However, the Valentia bridge was in place at this time and the ferry's use became confined mainly to a tourist service.

The arrival in 1996 of the Valentia Island roll on roll off car ferry between Knightstown and Renard Point was a totally new innovation and thus a further saga in the life of The Joan of Arc saw it being sold to Nealie McGill of Ardcost.

His grandfather, Con Lyne of Valentia, his mother Mary Ann and uncles the Lyne brothers would regularly have used the Joan Of Arc ferry in the 60s.

It is nice to relate that the latest purchaser of the boat is Eamonn Murphy of Valentia, a grandson of the aforementioned Patie Murphy.

The Joan of Arc was very often the last contact with Valentia for the sad emigrant and the first for the joyous exile coming home.

She transported secondary school students on their way to Cahirsiveen on dreary wet days and days of splendid sunshine.

She brought many victorious and joyous Valentia football teams to their island home and disappointed teams too of course.

She shared our joys, our sorrows, the carefree laughter and banter of our young people and the wise and nostalgic recollection of our elderly.

Good times, sad times, happy times for sure but today she stands alone as a symbol and monument to an era that is gone for good in Valentia Island.

Kerryman

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