THE first build of an ancient boat since 400AD which was used for coastal and cross channel trade is taking place in Minehead this week.

The Currach, a Celtic Longboat, is taking shape and it is hoped it will be ready to launch at Minehead Harbour on Sunday at 5.30pm following a blessing ceremony.

Maritime historians John and Ann Gillman created the ‘Saints of the Sea’ project to recreate the sailings of the Currach.

Mr Gilman is particularly keen to celebrate the sailing of St Carantock, who landed between Dunster beach and Blue Anchor and established a chapel at Carhampton in the 5th Century.

He approached Stephen Hooper, the Minehead Development Trust vision manager, to ask for help to find funding to buy a Currach.

Mr Hooper said: “I explained to John that I didn’t think it would be very easy to find funding to buy one but I was sure we could bid for funding to build one.

“Celebrating and revaluing Minehead’s Maritime heritage is one of the core themes of the action plan to regenerate the town.

“This is a project that brings the community, it’s heritage and the environment together to create a piece of living history.”

The Longboat was the mainstay vessel of the Celtic culture for 1,000 years and they are still a part of Irish culture and sport.

March Padraig O’Duinnin and Dace Nolan, from Meitheal Mara, a boat-building charity from Cork, have been working with volunteers and long-term unemployed people to build the seven-man, 28 foot long masted Currach outside the Beach Hotel.

The funding was secured from the Community Learning Partnership and local businesses and is in partnership with the YMCA.

The project is promoting the concept of a ‘Heritage Hub’ in partnership with the YMCA Beach Hotel, also home to the new Information Centre and Museum and the West Somerset Railway to enhance the zone for visitors.

Timber for the boat has been supplied by the Exmoor National Park and hazel rods have been provided by the Crown Estate at Dunster.

Mr O’Duinnin said: “It is exciting to be here and seeing the enthusiasm of the participants and the interest of the onlookers. 

“I feel we are rekindling the ancient links between Southern Ireland and the Somerset Coast.”

Martin Hodgson, chief executive of YMCA Somerset Coast said: "We are very proud to be partners this project, it not only celebrates the YMCA's Christian ethos but also the establishment of the Somerset Coastal Churches and Minehead's long association with the sea. Our young people are gaining so much from being involved. " 

Members of the public can watch the boat-building between 10am and 8pm each day.