Carrick-a-Rede tourism given big lift with restoration of boat crane
A crane that was key to Carrick-a-Rede's fishing industry for more than 100 years and was washed away in a storm has been reconstructed.
The wooden device was used to lift fishing boats up and down the cliff face, but was destroyed in the winter gales of 2014.
For more than a century it had withstood the vagaries of the weather on the island, which was a working fishery from the 1700s until the early 2000s.
Operated by a hand-powered winch, the crane is technically a derrick (a lifting device with at least one guyed mast that can be articulated over a load).
Without the crane Carrick-a-Rede's fishing industry wouldn't have been the success that it was.
After it broke from the rusted steel mount in 2014, the old timber frame washed away in the sea.
Frank Devlin, National Trust countryside manager for the Causeway Coast and Glens, who was asked to build the new crane, said: "It was probably as much old age as anything else (that caused its loss).
"The lower part came loose and got swept away.
"The oldest parts on the crane were 100 years old.
"It had been patched up over the years, but the current crane is a total replacement of the original.
"The crane was integral to the fishery. There was no other way to land fish on the island.
"It would be complicated and impractical to row a boat back to Ballintoy every day."
Since the fishing boat couldn't be left on the sea - as it would be dashed against the rocks during swells and storms - it would be hoisted ashore and docked on dry land.
The simple wooden rowing boat carried sheets of heavy nets and a crew of at least three.
Propelled through the water by manpower, nets were cast and gathered high above migrating salmon.
The parts of the timber and steel frame which hadn't been obliterated by the storm were dismantled and laid out in Frank's shed.
They formed the closest thing he had to technical drawings of the crane.
"I drew up a plan based on my own estimations. It was just like a giant Meccano set. I just had to follow the instructions in my head, which was easy for me to do, but might have posed a bit of a challenge for the other rangers working on the project," Frank explained.
"Getting the main upright post - the piece that fits into a steel socket in the rock - was pure 'guestimation'. I didn't have any measurements, as the bottom part had fallen off in the sea.
"That the National Trust rangers can take on challenges like this and successfully preserve a little piece of local history is proof of the talent among the team. It was a really fun thing to do."
Frank estimates that the project took more than 300 hours of research and labour from start to completion.
"The crane really is the final link in the journey for visitors. Having it reinstalled at Carrick-a-Rede will help people make sense of the fishing industry that was so important to us here on the Causeway coast," he said.