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Oct 06, 2018, 02:10 PM
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16th century west coast Irish galley, 1/24 scale, scratch built


I've spent the last month researching this build and I'm not done yet. Here's what I have so far:

Historical background:

It’s hard to research Irish Maritime history for several reasons. At first glance, you’d think it wouldn’t be. It is an island. Of course, they’d be interested in the water and boats. But, that has not been the case. They are a culture that has been suppressed for over half a millennium. Since English King Henry VIII in the 1500s, Ireland has been under siege and then conquered by a policy called Surrender and Regrant. Later, there was the Plantation Policy by Queens Mary and Elizabeth I. Their language, customs, laws, and certainly history have altered to demoralize them through the filter of a conquered nation. Any state promotion of an anti-English history (which this model represents) was suppressed. And this in turn, lead to a perpetual rebellion against a corrupt authority.

One of those rebelling clans was the O’Malley clan in western Ireland in the County of Mayo. In the 1500s and as it had been for many centuries, Western Ireland was the far west of western Europe. So far west, that it was not even conquered by the Romans. This gave the Island a longer period of insolation to form their own customs than any other peoples of Europe. Ireland never had the unifying force of the Roman government and army. Various clans ruled and warred amongst themselves for limited control of limited parts of the Ireland. The O’Malley clan was one of those clans. They ruled over the baronies of Murrisk and Burishoole. They were somewhat unique in that their power came from a combination of warriors to control land and seafarers to trade and war on the sea. This gave them the ability to trade not only with other clans but also other lands. It’s recorded that they travelled to the ports of England, France, Spain and Portugal. Theirs was no small enterprise. English State Papers record O’Malley maritime activities from the mid-1400s to the early 1600s. Some of their vessels, oared galleys, were recorded to hold 300 warriors. That is a significant size vessel of the period.

The most famous of the O’Malley clan leaders, called chieftains, was a woman called Grace O’Malley. She lived from circa 1530 to 1603. It is her life I find the most interesting. Because she grew up when the old Irish customs were still in force in the Ireland. But by the time she ruled and for the rest of her life, England was conquering Ireland clan by clan. Usually, it a was a process of the superior English power making deals by granting money and titles to those who would submit to them with the least effort. Often clan was pitted against clan with the backing of English power on one side. In the midst of this upheaval, Grace refused to submit her clan to this transition and warred on land and sea against the English. She is called in English State Papers as a “nurse of all rebellions”. The clan motto in Latin, a common language of the educated in the period, proclaims their importance with Terra Marique Potens. This means Powerful By Land and Sea.

The vessel:

It is stated many times that this clan used galleys or oared rowing craft. But, what type and how large? Surely a clan that was known for ‘piracy’ by the English were not using the same vessels for trade and warring. ...more next time.
Last edited by Gammon Iron; Oct 07, 2018 at 06:36 AM.
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Oct 08, 2018, 11:59 AM
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Interesting history; I'll be following your build. The Irish lore and historical background such as you have provided through your research is a great start. Looking forward to your project posts.

Joe
Oct 08, 2018, 01:43 PM
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Thanks Joe.

Research on what type of galley:

It has been a challenge determining which full size vessel to model. No archeological remains have been found which would enable a detailed reconstruction of the Irish galley. So, I need to determine the most logical choice of vessel given my level of research. There will be no absolute correct choice until they un-earth an O’Malley galley.

-There is no shortage of information about galleys used in the Mediterranean during the Greek and Roman empires. These are well before the late 1500s that I’m researching. It is harder to find information outside the Med. However, there were two very important naval battles that can shed some information. The 1571 Battle of Lepanto and the 1588 Armada show galleys with triangular sails. Countering this is a 1588 minted English Armadian medal depicting a single square sail on a Spanish galley. Is this just artistic license?

-The battle of Lepanto was fought in the Med. and the Armada was fought in the English channel. This shows that galleys were used outside of the Med. Importantly, galleys where still used into the early 19th century in the Baltic. This shows that given the right coastal conditions, they could be an effective fighting force.

-Which type of sailing rig would have been used: square sail, lug sail, or triangular/ lateen sails? It’s generally considered that fore-and-aft sails are more maneuverable in-shore than square sails. Grace O’Malley used the islands, bays, and coves, of Western Ireland to her advantage. Would she have been sailing these waters or rowing? Importantly, here crews were free clansmen and not chained galley slaves. I think she would have kept the strength of her oarsmen until the last rush towards an enemy and its fighting. So, a more maneuverable fore-and-aft sails is likely.

-For hundreds of years, the O'Malley clan traded with Spain and Portugal. This would have given them an extensive exposure to Mediterranean craft of the leading maritime powers. For clan strength, they probably incorporated any Mediterranean design that would have given them a trading or raiding advantage.

-The Clare Island Abbey where Grace O’Malley is reported to be buried has a carved stone ship image which shows a high sided, single-mast (square-sail yard?) of a 12-oar vessel. All visual evidence must be weighed with written evidence because artists may have never seen the vessel they are depicting. And, this carving may have been created well after the death of Grace.

-The best supporting evidence for the Clare Island carving is the recreation of a Scottish galley. The most surprising thing I found out about these vessels is that "Celtic Berlinn Nyvaigs (Scotish Galley) preceded Viking longboats, not the other way around". The recreation vessel built and sailed in the 1990s is called the galley Aileach which has a single mast and carries a square sail. But, later research stated this design misleading in its short length (40’) and cramped rowing stations. In its favor, it does have a high sided bow to handle the rougher northern European waters. Along with, “Both Celtic & Nordic galleys could have two or three men on each oar so even a small galley could transport 40 to 50 warriors quickly…The larger galley could hold more than 100 warriors" This suggest that one could count crew by the number of oars, then double or triple that and then add a speculative number of transported warriors.

-Some of Grace O’Malley’s struggle against the English is recorded in the written evidence of the English State Papers. For example in 1559, "There are three very good galleys with Tibbot ne Longe, sone to Grany O’Malley, his brother and O’Malley that will carry 300 men apiece…” This suggests a much larger vessel than the typical 8 to 12 oar vessels common at the time. And in July of 1601, the HMS Tramontana captured an O'Malley 30-oar galley with "a hundred good shots"...which suggests more than 100 aboard. The transporting of warriors was part of the O’Malley trading practice.

…more research to come
Last edited by Gammon Iron; Oct 16, 2018 at 06:12 AM.
Oct 11, 2018, 06:31 AM
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-What type of hull construction would the O’Malley galley vessel likely have? A typical Irish galley used for trading would have been clinker built similar to the most historically popular Viking long ships. But, Grace’s maritime influences were far wider. From the RTE Archives Ireland's National Television and Radio Broadcaster, a1976 broadcast mentions the O’Malleys sailed galleys, lived by raiding merchant shipping, probably copied from like those of Spain, fast mobile ships, outmaneuver their prey, and that they were successful and dreaded. …a solid vote for Spanish influence which would not have a clinker hull.

- As to the size of the vessel…During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Genoa, Venice, and France maintained fleets powered by 25 three-man oars to a side and, later, five-man oars. Such ships might have a displacement of 200 tons and be approximately 164′ × 20′ in size. These were large enough to have cannons mounted on a platform at the bow. I’ve found no record that Grace’s galleys had cannon but this does give a good approximation of the size less that need for cannon.

- As to the sail shape…Some of the images show triangular sails that could also be lug sails. The lug sail was one of the earliest fore-and-aft rigs. The lug sail is considered an intermediate step between the square sail and the lateen sail, The lug developed in north Europe, most probably evolving directly from the square sail. In fact, many early lugs were nearly square. This could account for the images which look like square sails but are really lugs.
Lugs are useful in beach boats when rigs (and masts) need to be dropped. These galleys were used off the beach. And, the O’Malley’s had large crews to quickly down rig to lower their profile when hiding from a superior force. The lug rig was widely used in Europe from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries for small fishing vessels and other coasters because of their good performance to windward. This popularity extended to smugglers and privateers. Before the lug was widely used, could Grace have been using it?
If the O’Malley galleys probably had triangular shape sails, either lateen or lug, there is a curious modern connection called the Achill yawls of county Mayo. (In Ireland, yawl means a boat over 18 feet, anything shorter is a punt.) They have a short-luffed, triangular, almost lateen shaped dipping lug which has been favored for small working boats on the south and west coasts of Ireland. And, these early yawls were double-enders which are a favorable hull shapes for beach boats. Could these be the descendants of Grace’s galleys?

-As to the number of masts, by the late 15th century, the standard merchant hull size became large enough to efficiently carry two or three masts with lateen sails. There was quite a transformation in ship design going from the cog, to the carvel, and finally to the carrack. The O’Malleys would have been exposed to all this as traders with Portugal and Spain. Given the size of crews that Grace was able to employ. I see it likely that their long hulls would have demanded multiple masts to drive them.

-There is also a ‘Barbary Pirates’ possible influence to what craft the O’Malley clan vessels rowed and sailed. First, these pirates were contemporaries. Their predation extended throughout the Mediterranean, south along West Africa's Atlantic seaboard and into the North Atlantic as far north as Iceland. Their galleys, called xebecs, had high bows and sterns to handle rough water. In 1830 the French took the lines off a captured Algerian xebec which has a much plainer constructions than the ornate versions shown in most paintings. Shortly after Grace’s death in 1631, Barbary Pirates invaded the harbor village of “…Baltimore, County Cork, captured almost all the villagers and took them away to a life of slavery in North Africa.” There is even a direct link to Grace’s galley being attacked by Barbary Pirates shortly after one of her pregnancies. Long after Europeans had abandoned oar-driven vessels in favor of sailing ships carrying tons of powerful cannon, many Barbary warships were galleys carrying a hundred or more fighting men armed with cutlasses and small arms. This was Grace’s way of warfare. It’s likely she would have adopted any of their methods or technology for her advantage.

-An esteemed maritime source is Fredrik Henrik af Chapman’s Architectura Navalis Mercatoria. In this, he shows a galley of 16 pairs of oars, with two men on every oar, rigged with lateen sails. Her length stem to stern is 114′ 6″; Beam is 17’0″; Draft is 6’3″. This length could have carried the size crews that Grace commanded. The vessel has a higher bow for northern waters than the lower style Mediterranean bows and two masts to drive the hull. Could Grace have commanded similar versions without the ornamentation of a state-owned craft?

-In review, a general description of the galley reads as, “The galley’s size, structure, and oar-based propulsion varied from one country’s fleet to another, but they all shared certain characteristics. All had hulls about 136 feet long by about 17 or 18 feet wide topped by an outrigger assembly. They were deceptively long and light, and they were capable of transporting large numbers of soldiers, who could be rapidly disembarked to storm a fortress or engage an enemy force.” This is an excellent description of Grace’s gallowglass carrying trade. The Chapman’s galley 16 pairs of oars may be the closest ship plan I can find.

...more to come
Oct 22, 2018, 07:08 AM
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-more on how ‘Barbary Pirates’ operated their galleys for info on how Grace may have used hers…

-The attacking ship’s captain would aim to ram the victim, so that the fighters could swarm aboard from the raised prow. (this is the main reason for the high prow…faster boarding of enemy vessels.

-The long boarding prow was called a spur…(Irish Galleys) were probably similar but simpler… to (xebecs)

-The Barbary slave galleys were enclosed at the stern to provide shelter for the company of Janissaries who formed the ship’s fighting force. (Here is a clear advantage that Grace had…her free oarsmen were also fighters…a massive increase to her fighting power….this is noted in other sources).

-Galleys relied on speed for their success, and this was impossible without frequent careening. The galley would be beached, and laboriously scraped to remove the coating of barnacles and weed that adhered below the water-line. A coating of wax helped it to slip smoothly through the water. Careening had to be repeated every two months or so.

-Lateen sail(s) propelled the galley when there was enough wind, but it was the oarsmen who provided the power in a chase, when sailing into the wind, or on a calm day. (So as I thought, the sail(s) were used as much as possible to save the strength of the rowers for a chase...especially if your free Irish rowers are also part of your fighting force.)

-The Knight’s (of Malta starting in the 1530s) galleys had a legendary reputation for speed and maneuverability; they could sail very close to the wind, and their 3-foot (1 meter) draught allowed them to pursue their quarry in the shallowest water. (Grace would need a vessel with these qualities as her galleys sailed the bays and inlets of the western coast of Ireland.

-In the era of the galley, there seems to have been a fairly consistent approach to pursuit and capture. As the pirates closed in on their victims, they would fire the canon at the bows(and the crew makes fearsome noises), but more by way of a warning than for the destructive power of the ball.(I've found no records of her galleys using cannon and I think she would not have wanted to row the additional weight for the minimal impact).

At this point, I'm still leaning toward a plain galley with two sails that has a raised prow and a covered stern house. I'm still waiting on an important email response that would be influential to my build.
Last edited by Gammon Iron; Oct 22, 2018 at 07:25 AM.
Oct 22, 2018, 11:20 AM
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I really enjoy the historical background you have related to us in your posts. Puts some "life" into the project and truly enhances your build approach. Two thumbs up, Sir.

Joe
Oct 23, 2018, 06:46 AM
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Thanks Joe. I'll now start working on the plans.
Nov 12, 2018, 10:36 AM
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Any sneak previews on the plans for the Irish galley? The drawing of my own set of plans for a build such as this would really be a fun part of the project. I do miss my "drafting board" days!

Joe
Nov 12, 2018, 11:45 AM
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gammon ...where did you get that shot of the r/c xebec.....would love to see a video of a xebec sailing.....get the impression it would be a really wet sail......
Nov 15, 2018, 08:08 AM
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Joe...I'm still playing with shapes...haven't had time to do more.

Yanc...There was a brief thread on xebec here on RC groups. Jerry Todd gave this informative response which includes the same xebec picture..."At Swiss Mini Sail in the Photoalbum under "Modelle" then "Spezielle Riggs," (the picture of the junk), I think there's a xebec, along with some luggers and of course, the junk."

http://www.minisail.ch/de/index.htm
Nov 23, 2018, 07:43 AM
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Hey gammon,
Do you think you will have the boat done in time for Woods Hole in April.
John
Nov 23, 2018, 08:37 AM
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...
Last edited by piperjoe; Nov 24, 2018 at 09:12 AM.
Nov 23, 2018, 10:56 AM
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Woods Hole model boat show.
It happens every other year and people bring all types of models to it.
They have soling one meter races on a salt water pond and do exhibition sailing and free sailing on there.

Gammon probably would know more about it than me,2017 was my first time going. I am going back in 2019.

It’s five months from now and there’s not a lot of time to get things finished.
John
Nov 24, 2018, 05:43 AM
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...
Last edited by piperjoe; Nov 24, 2018 at 09:13 AM.
Nov 24, 2018, 07:30 AM
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April 13 & 14, 2019

However I would like to end the woods hole part of the thread and give it back to gammon.
John


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