On Sunday 25th March at 9.30pm, the sixth and final series of Muintir na Mara, made by Loopline Film, will return to our screens on TG4. The series, directed by Martina Durac and produced by Vanessa Gildea, is presented by Pádraig Ó Duinnín, who continues on his voyage around the coast of Ireland over land and sea, in a currach, on a bicycle and in a van – this time traversing the majestic coastline of Donegal.
The soaring cliffs, beautiful beaches and wind-beaten islands provide a rich trail for Pádraig, a natural adventurer and boat-builder in his own right, as he makes his way from Bundoran on the south coast of Donegal to the most northern part of Ireland – Malin Head and finally on to Moville and Culmore on the border with Derry. Along the way he stops off at the harbours, quays, ports, towns and meets with the local people, Muintir na Mara.
Padraig shows a natural empathy towards the people he encounters, being in awe of the sea himself and hugely interested in the people who live by it in all seasons. Whether conversing with fishermen, weavers, musicians, boat-builders, experts or novices, he has a natural flair for putting people at ease and a mischievous sense of humour. Pádraig has been involved in traditional boat building for over thirty years and has been instrumental in the preservation of the craft in Ireland. In 1994 he founded Meitheal Mara, a co-operative which builds and repairs traditional boats, located in the heart of Cork city.
Muintir na Mara is both a personal and spiritual voyage for him and he encounters many remarkable characters over the six programmes. He meets Easkey Britton, one of Ireland’s renowned pro surfers whose name hails from the sea as she competes in the European Surfing Championships in Bundoran. Local man Caoimhín Mac Aoidh regales him with folklore tales at Tobar na Barchaile in Ballyshannon and the family of famous fiddler James Byrne start up a lively ‘seisiúin ceoil’ in Roarty’s pub Glencolmcille. Pádraig also meets Nora Flanagan, the first woman crew member in the 127 years of the RNLI on Arann Mór and watches a training exercise with Sligo helicopter Search and Rescue team. He tastes freshwater oysters on one of Donegal’s most prominent oyster farms, learns the skill and history of weaving at the Woollen Mills in Killybegs and rows around the majestic and mysterious Sliabh League cliffs. In keeping with the series, Pádraig visits the some of the enchanting Donegal islands meeting locals on Inis Caorach, Inisboffin and Tory Island.
It wouldn’t be a successful journey to Donegal for boat building aficionado Pádraig without a few encounters of the currach kind! Pádraig meets with well-known boat builders Jim Boyd and Donal Mac Polin to discuss the differences in the many Donegal currachs. He goes out rowing with members of the new community-made Currach Club in Downings, takes part in currach races with the many Donegal currach clubs in Magheroarty and rows into the Culmore sailing regatta. During this epic journey along the coast Pádraig also comes head to head with the contentious issues facing Ireland’s coastal towns these days, such as over-regulation of the fishing industry, the impact of multinationals on communities and the natural environment and the demise of the fishing community and traditions.
Pádraig Ó Duinnín is a man of the sea and his character is the driving force behind this series; his love and respect for the sea and sea-faring traditions shine through as he traverses this magnificent stretch of the Irish coast.