Journal of Maritime Archaeology

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 115–141 | Cite as

Manipulating the Maritime Cultural Landscape: Vernacular Boats and Economic Relations on Nineteenth-Century Achill Island, Ireland

  • Chuck Meide
  • Kathryn SikesEmail author
Original Paper


Resistance to British control of Ireland’s maritime landscape under the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1800–1922) was highly localized, enacted in part through Irish choices in boat construction and patterns of movement at sea. British naval authorities overseeing Achill Island in County Mayo used both coercive and conciliatory means to replace Irish subsistence fishing from regional vernacular boats with commercial fishing from larger non-local vessels reliant upon piers and dredged harbors. These changes encouraged islanders’ dependency upon imported food and wage-based employment performed under Protestant surveillance. Indigenous boats including curraghs and yawls played central roles in Irish resistance to these changes, through the assertion of traditional lifeways and practices.


Landscape Curragh Yawl Ireland 



The College of William and Mary’s Charles Center, Reeves Center, Dean of Arts and Sciences, and Department of Anthropology funded this research. Theresa McDonald and the Achill Archaeological Field School provided lodging, facilities, and equipment during the authors’ fieldwork. The Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program and the Irish Heritage Council (An Chomhairle Oidhreachta) provided additional funding for the 2006 field season. The Institute for Maritime History provided institutional support throughout the project. Historic prints and photographs of Achill Island appear by permission of the National Library of Ireland. James Hornell’s historic curragh drawings are reproduced with the kind permission of the Hon. Editor of The Mariner’s Mirror, the international quarterly journal of the Society for Nautical Research. The Mayo County Library granted access to the 1838 Ordnance Survey. Audrey Horning introduced us to the archaeology of Achill, and has been an inspirational mentor to both of us. Mark Leone, Amanda Evans, and Mark Staniforth kindly advised us on earlier drafts of this paper. Mark Doyle and an anonymous reviewer both offered helpful suggestions on a more recent version, for which we are grateful. (Any inadequacies remain our own.) Many other archaeologists, advisors, students, colleagues, and friends have contributed time or advice, including John Bennett, Mara Bernstein, Karl Brady, Nick Brannon, Colin Breen, Marley Brown, Brendan Burke, Chris Duke, Shannon Dunn, Wes Forsythe, Martin Gallivan, Anja Goethals, Connie Kelleher, Erick Laurila, Holger Lönze, Thomas McErlean, Jeff Miller, Fionnbarr Moore, Andrew Nelson, Liz O’Brian, Jackie Rumley, Maura Ryan, John Shanley, Ingelise Stuijts, Peter and Helen Shanley, Darina Tully, and Brian Williams. It has been our pleasure to have been welcomed into the wonderful community of Achill. In particular, we thank Patrick and Brida Barrett, Dennis Gallagher, Alan and Michael Gielty, Mary and the late Derek Houghton, Gerard Lavelle, Tony and Sheila McNamara and family, Etain and Michael O’Conor, John O’Malley, and especially John O’Shea and Jim and Brigit Corrigan for their support of our research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP)St. AugustineUSA
  2. 2.Public History Program, History Department Middle Tennessee State UniversityMurfreesboroUSA

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