Return of the Whaler

Sinead Kelleher speaks with Killarney craftsman Danny Lyne as he single-handedly rescues an age-old Kerry boat design with roots in Viking culture

Master craftsman Danny Lyne works on the boat
Master craftsman Danny Lyne works on the boat
In the master’s workshop with Killarney master craftsman Danny Lyne as he realises a long-held vision of resurrecting the once-famous Killarney Whaler boat with painstaking care. Valerie O’Sullivan’s images show Danny lovingly putting the finishing touches to the wooden structure of a boat design that was hugely popular in Iveragh for centuries, used to fish salmon and trout. Photos by Valerie O’Sullivan

Killarney man, Danny Lyne, is this week putting the finishing touches to a dream project that has seen the revival of an age-old tradition and the return of a Killarney Whaler Boat to the lakes of Killarney.

The master craftsman has spent almost two months hand-crafting the wooden Whaler Boat - the first of its kind built in a quarter of a century.

Danny, who is from Coolies in Muckross, was commissioned to build the unique boat by Jane Ryan from California who is a regular visitor to the town.

She sought a wooden boat for rowing and fishing on the Lakes of Killarney and the Lyne family suggested a Killarney Whaler Boat.

The traditional boat dates back hundreds of years, a design that descends from the Vikings who brought the Scandinavian style boat to Kerry.

There are at most around 10 such boats in existence, most of which are no longer in use, and none were built in the past 25 years.

"The Killarney Whaler boat was used on the lakes of Killarney for trout and salmon fishing," explains Danny.

"This style of boat dates back to the Vikings and to Scandinavia. It was popular on the north and east coast and on Ireland's lakes.

"It is known as a Clinker-built boat which means that the planks overlap.

"Each area would have its own distinctive style but a lot of them have died out. Everyone wants engines now but this type of boat is for rowing. Most boats are also now fibreglass."

The last Killarney Whaler Boat to be built in Kerry was by Jimmy Doyle from Killarney who is one of Danny's mentors.

Danny says that this is a "very special project" that has been a labour of love for both him and Jane.

"It is very close to my heart. I always dreamed of building one myself but never got around to it."

Danny's first love has always been to build boats and he got his first opportunity when he began working in Dingle Boatyard in 1988, and from there he went on to work in Valentia Marine and more recently in Murphy Marine Services in Valentia.

Danny is a qualified carpenter and spent some years working in this area but returned to his love of boats after the Celtic Tiger.

Danny's passion for boats and rowing stems from watching his father fishing on the lakes of Killarney.

His Dad, John Lyne, is well known in Killarney and in rowing circles, and he passed on his talents to his son, Danny: "It's in the blood."

Danny is also well known for rowing and is a member of Flesk Valley Rowing Club.

To build a boat like this you need a lot of patience says Danny - it is a real labour of love as the work is painstakingly intricate.

He has been working on the boat since before Christmas and in total has put more than seven weeks at eight hours a day into creating the final product.

He hopes to have it ready for the Lakes of Killarney in just over a month when this unique Killarney boat will once again return to its birthplace: Killarney's waters.