Conserving 'Shamrock'

Shamrock Tamar sailing barge in her mooring at Cotehele Quay

'Shamrock' was built in 1899 by Frederick Hawke of Stonehouse, Plymouth. She now has the distinction of being the last working ketch-rigged Tamar sailing barge in the world.

A lovely old boat with a grubby past

Shamrock is considered to be the most advanced Tamar sailing barge ever built. She was named after the Irish challenger for the 10th America's Cup Race in 1899. She was designed to carry the maximum cargo at the lowest costs.

She spent her early working life moving manure, fertiliser, coal, bricks, sand and stone between the busy quays and harbours of Cornwall’s coast and rivers. Her design made it possible for the crew to discharge her cargo into horse-drawn carts on an open beach.

After a long, varied working life, that also included being a prospecting vessel and a diving tender, the 17.5m-long Shamrock ended up being used as a scrap iron store in Hooe Lake Plymouth. 

" We like to say she was the ‘white van’ of her day, but she did it more majestically. She’s a grand old lady but like anything that’s 118 years old, she needs a lot of TLC to keep her going."
- Joe Lawrence, Cotehele Lead Ranger

Retirement on Cotehele Quay

Boats are traditionally divided into 64 shares, and in 1974 the National Maritime Museum and the National Trust bought 30 and 34 shares of Shamrock respectively. They brought her to Cotehele Quay as a restoration project in the 1970’s.

You can read about her history and learn more on her blog here.

Shamrock under sail on the river Tamar at Cotehele
Tamar sailing barge Shamrock with her sails up at Cotehele, Cornwall

Major work

The 1970s restoration project restored Shamrock to her working condition during the 1920s and she was eventually made fit to sail again. In 2016 the National Trust acquired all of her shares and became her sole owner. 

She’s permanently berthed at Cotehele Quay where the National Trust look after her, taking care of her ongoing maintenance and routine upkeep and occasionally taking her on trips up and down the river.

Rails being delivered to Cotehele Quay to aid in pulling Shamrock out of the river
Railway rails being delivered for Shamrock on Cotehele Quay, Cornwall

Safeguarding her future

Time has marched on for the grand old lady and this autumn the National Trust has once again hauled Shamrock out of the water, secured her on a cradle above the tide with every part of her hull accessible, and set about making major repairs that will ensure her future.

'Shamrock' conservation work underway on Cotehele Quay
'Shamrock' is undergoing massive conservation work on Cotehele Quay, Cornwall

How you can help

Come and visit Shamrock on Cotehele Quay. You'll be able to see her during her conservation and we hope you'll consider buying a raffle ticket -- you could win a cash prize for yourself and you'll be helping buy new sails and conserve this special boat.