Insh Coracle at the Highland Folk Museum

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31 August 2017

Our 2017 season at the Museum ended on Saturday 26 August - Outlander Day. Three members of the Club spent all day at the Millpond while others visited through the day. We had four coracles on the water and one for visitors to handle onshore. On the day, 84 visitors had a go, making a total throughout the season of 658 people experiencing the pleasure of being in a coracle. That number includes children, some too small to paddle, sometimes ‘doubled up’, and sometimes with a paddling parent. The coracles are kept on tethers so the smaller children were merely drifting if on their own. The Millpond is artificial with a flat bottom and just deep enough to paddle so we feel it is very safe for them.

The coracles have taken a battering with all this use. Three are made from plywood lathes, many of which have cracked. The willow frames have coped marginally better but have suffered too. The covers are a different problem. In particular, the pond liner cover on one has abraided on the sandy pond bottom and is now perforated with many small holes so it leaks. The duvet-covered coracles are less worn but will need re-painting to seal several leaks. To minimise the damage caused by dragging them to floatation, we have formed a ‘jetty’ from two pallets, allowing visitors to step in, with our help, while the coracles are floating. This of course can contribute to broken lathes unless we help them step into the coracles but it also helps visitors to the museum avoid getting wet, muddy feet. (Why do some people wear high heels to an outdoor living museum?)

We think it is well worth the effort on our part. We have been asked to go back again next year and are preparing already. We have acquired some ash lathes for a new build and one with willow lathes is under construction. This one will be slightly bigger and stronger, we hope, to cope with some of our larger visitors. One of the most gratifying things to arise from this has been the intense level of interest in coracles shown by many of our visitors and we hope some at least will follow it up. The museum has a very international feel and we have had visitors from China, Syria, most European countries including Russia and Romania, and the Americas. We even had a Canadian champion Pumpkin Boat paddler. I had never heard of Pumpkin Boats but they handle just like a coracle, apparently. They look great on Youtube. We have had immense fun.

Raymond Green