In the winters of 2012 and 2013, an 18’6″ ‘prong’, a traditional fishing boat of the lower River Barrow and the Waterford estuary, was constructed in Woodstown. The origin of the word prong is obscure. Some say it has Viking associations and may be a derivation of the word ‘pram’, a vessel with some shared characteristics. The Woodstown prong is the first new vessel of its type to be built in decades.
Only a few examples of this important local heritage boat are still afloat. The new vessel was built by local enthusiasts from locally grown oak and native larch. The plans are fitted end to end in the caravel construction method and caulked with oakum. The ribs are green oak. In shape, it resembles the West of Ireland currach and was traditionally tarred to preserve the timber.
The prong was once common in the villages of the tidal reaches of the Barrow and Suir, from Ballyhack to New Ross on the Wexford bank, from New Ross to Ballinlaw on the Kilkenny side and in Passage and Cheekpoint on the Suir.
It was very well adapted to fishing at all stages of the tide as it easily slides down the steep mud-banks found in this tidal estuary.It was rowed by one or two fishermen and was the general workboat in the area.
Built by four local business men, John Gossip, John Murphy, Peter Mulligan and Michael Bance who, on completion, launched the new vessel from Woodstown Strand in September 2013, took her (the Prong) on her first journey through the estuary, stopped off at McAlpines in Cheekpoint to ‘wet its head’ (and theirs) in celebration of the Prongs first launch and voyage on the water!.I wonder what they will build next!
Michael Bance, Co. founder of Bance Nolan Ltd, the largest media relations and corporate communications consultancy in the southeast region. Michael resides in Woodstown Co. Waterford where the boat was stored and built.