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A community project based at the Albert Basin was lucky to escape severe damage after an attempted arson attack yesterday.

Tyres were placed under the Silvery Light boat at the Albert Basin and set alight and witnesses saw a group of people running away around 6pm yesterday evening (Sunday 28 July). Due to the quick thinking of members of the public and a quick response from the fire brigade, damage was minimal with just scorch damage reported.

Silvery Light Sailing is a charity  working at rennovating the Silvery Light ship, situated on the middle bank at the basin as part of an ambitious plan to bring sailing skills back to Newry, while also giving the area it's very own tall ship. For many years Newry Port was of crucial importance to the area and the charity want to build on this unique heritage.

It's just one of a series of setbacks for the charity with them growing increasingly concerned about the future of their project, with no financial support forthcoming to date from Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

There have also been other attacks on the ship. Just four months ago brass portholes valued around £400 apiece were also stolen from the ship and two years ago vandals went on board and broke every pane of glass on board.

Scorch damage to the Silvery Light.
Scorch damage to the Silvery Light in yesterdays attempted arson.

The Project

Silvery Light Sailing plan to restore the Silvery Light, an 1884 two-mast sailing vessel which is typical of that which traversed the Irish sea. It's the only one of it's kind in NI.

Plans are to restore the ship to a seaworthy condition with work undertaken by craftsmen aided by volunteers and young people engaged in apprenticeships/further 

education. The restored ship will then be the centre-piece of a social enterprise business offering educational programmes, sail training, and exhibition opportunities for communities all around NI reaching all age and ability people groups.

Future Concerns

The Silvery Light was lifted into position on the Middle Bank at the Albert Basin four years ago in July 2015, but since then despite written assurances of support from Newry, Mourne and Down District Council the project has not received a single bit of funding from the council.

As Gerry Brennan from Silvery Light Sailing says "The charity is concerned about the future of the project with the lack of funding despite the assurances of the council that they support the project, and they fear that it's going to turn into no more than an eyesore"

Despite in November 2017 Newry, Mourne and Down Council agreeing that they would site a 15 acre public park on the Albert Basin in Newry almost no progress has been made to date and the site remains mostly derelict.

Gerry fears for the security of the site following the latest attack on the ship citing recent vandilism to the Bessbrook Tram  parked in the council yard.

"Security of the yard isn't great and the ongoing lack of planning and attention or use of the derelict brown field site - it's a playground for vandals"

The Silvery Light is lifted into position in July 2015. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
The Silvery Light is lifted into position in July 2015. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

"From our perspective, council have said that they are in support of the project, then they put impossibly high barriers to get into the funding streams that are available and they have turned us down recently on us not being able to show that we had the rest of the money for the whole project, despite us saying that this was a phased project and this was phase one and phase one unlocked two, three and four ..."

 "Last time they turned us down for lack of "Planning permission - We pointed out that we didn't need planning permission they said well you'll need something ... and we said well what?"

Sail Training

To show how the project can work Silvery Light Sailing have brought tall ship Volharding to Newry earlier this year. Just last week the boat took a crew of young people on sail training around Strangford Lough. 

As Gerry says "We are already working with Volharding as a demonstration of what this could do, but the additional bonus from the Silvery Light Project is that it releases three quarters of a million plus into the local economy, provides employment, professional shipwrights and it draws in community and herritage and everything else"

 

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