Maybird Classic Sailing

John “Jack” Tyrrell

1903 – 1988
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Jack Tyrell Esq.

Tyrrell’s Yard, Saw Mills, South Quay, Arklow was set up in 1864 by the original founder, John Tyrrell. He was born in Arklow, County Wicklow, in 1836 and, after serving an apprenticeship in the Royal Naval Dockyard at Devonport, he returned home and set up his own yard on the south side of the River Avoca. The yard mainly focussed on fishing boats, work boats, lifeboats and the occasional yacht. Rugged construction and seaworthiness were the order of the day. John’s son, Michael, followed his father into the business and was responsible for many innovative designs. John Tyrrell died in 1932 by which time him grandson, Jack, was at the yard. Jack had trained as a naval architect and went on to design hundreds of boats.

In addition to “one off” yachts like Maybird, Jack maintained the yard’s focus on fishing and working boats. He took over the yard in 1948 and according to his son, Michael, “…was as good with a pencil as he was with an adze…”. In 1959, the yard built Gipsy Moth III in which Sir Francis Chichester crossed the Atlantic single-handed, winning the OSTAR in 1960. Chichester commented in his book Alone Across the Atlantic “…it was a rough night. I must say how glad I am that this boat was built by John Tyrrell. He is a member of RORC, which you can’t join without taking part in at least one of their races; in other words he knows what the boat is wanted for; but he builds fishing boats and lifeboats chiefly so also knows what a boat is up against in a storm”.

The yard also built Asgard II - named after Erskine Childer’s original Asgard – Ireland’s national sail training vessel – designed by Jack Tyrrell in 1974. She was built in 1981 and the funding was largely due to the tenacity and determination of Jack Tyrrell in convincing the Irish government of the merits of sail training for the development of young people. Lee Breewood, recalls in 1979 when he and Jack were on the French tops’l schooner Belle Paule, “Mr Tyrrell” said Lee “if there is anything up there that you want to know about, I could be aloft in a minute and find out all about it for you, no trouble at all”. “Young man” replied the 79 year old master shipwright and designer “if there is anything up there I want to know about I will go aloft myself to see it and I’ll tell you something else” he added with an impish twinkle “if we started together from the deck I think I can promise to be there before you.”

Jack’s son, Michael, took over the yard in the 1970’s together with his brother, James. At that time they employed around 50 men. However, with waterfront land prices booming in the 1990’s, though they had work, they sold up. The last boat built was number 345. Michael has been very helpful with all of our research on Maybird.

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