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August 13, 2009

Two Coracles (1953 Article)

Coracles are lightweight, dish-shaped boats, that have been used in Britain since Roman times. John Sweet's article from the Scout magazine in 1953 describes the construction of 2 different types of coracle.



To make an ancient British coracle you require a tarpaulin or outsize groundsheet with eyelets round the edges.
Cut yourself a few pickets and a large quantity of brushwood. Drive one set of pickets into the ground to make a circle about five feet in diameter, and describe another circle of pickets a foot or so outside this one. Using this as your "jig", pack brushwood between two sets of pickets to make a sort of hoop.
Bind the brushwood with sisal, and when the hoop is quite well self-contained, lift it out of the jig and lay it on the groundsheet or tarpaulin. Draw up the canvas round the brushwood and lace it in position. If there are no eyelets in your canvas, sheetbends become the order of the day. Your fledgling Tenderfoor Scouts will love applying their new-found knowledge in a practical way.
A really well-made coracle will take three Scouts quote comfortably. Everything will depend, however, on the skill with which you balance each other's weight. The idea is to sit on the edge of the craft and breathe in unison. One unguarded movement and the whole bag of tricks will turn turtle, to the great joy of all beholders. I wish I had a half-crown for every Scout I have seen go overboard in this way.

The Boyne coracle is constructed on the same general principle but is a much nattier job. If you operate in an area where willow withies are plentiful it would be a shame not to make use of them.
Cut yourself about a dozen long, whippy willow-wants of roughly the same size. With two of these make a pair of hoops, as per diagram. Pin these down with willow "sparrows" and lash them together with sisal. Now, with a sharpened stake orcamp "dibber" go round this piece of elementary basketwork, making a series of holes in the ground, as indicated in the diagram.
Stick the butts of your withis in alternate holes and bend over the tips so that they can be slipped into the corresponding holes opposite. While they are thus held in position lash the withies to the twin-circular framework. Now weave latitudinal withies through these cross-pieces and bend them down so that the butts and tips can be lashed to the framework fore and aft. Lift up the completed framework, and when you have cleaned up the protruding bits with knife or saw, place it on your tarpaulin and bring up the sides as before.
It sounds a lot of fun, but never having built one of these myself I cannot speak from first-hand experience. I should imagine that they are very skittish in the water, and I wouldn't advise anyone to embark by taking a running jump into the coracle from the river bank. On the other hand, there is nothing to stop you trying to persuade one of your firends to do so. It ought to be a sight worth seeing


-'Seconds Out' John Sweet p.600 "The Scout" March 19,1953
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