HISTORY
The Beginning
The curragh is a wood frame, skin (canvas) covered rowboat with 3 (standard curragh) or 4 (Naomhaig) seats. The basic design is well over 1000 years old, and little has changed over that time. What are considered to be the “modern” curragh designs, using canvas rather than skins dates back several hundred years. The sport of modern curragh racing has been documented as far back as the 1800’s in Ireland. However, curragh racing was virtually unheard of in the U.S. before 1980 outside of Boston, MA. Even the events in Boston consisted entirely of Irish-born crews.

Things changed in the early 1980’s, and Pittsburgh was at the forefront of this movement. Many of the Irish-born citizens of Pittsburgh were from Connacht, particularly co. Galway. Curraghs were a tradition for them back home, but this was temporarily forgotten while chasing the American dream.

A major breakthrough came in 1983 when Ms. Elaine Manning, owner of the St. Brendan’s Gift Shop in Station Square, imported two curraghs from Ireland. Her intention was to hang them from the ceiling as a decoration, keeping with the theme of her store. She found, however, the curraghs were too large to be practically hung. Stuck with two curraghs, she was determined to find somebody who could use them.

Through some contacts Ms. Manning was directed to several of the clubs founders. The Mulkerrin brothers (Joe, Mike, and Pete), Marcus Flaherty, Jimmy McDonough, Pete Shovlin, and several others became the founding fathers of the Pittsburgh Irish Rowing Club. By 1984 the Pittsburgh Irish Rowing Club (then called the Pittsburgh Curragh Club) was officially established on the south side and held its first regatta at the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta. Pittsburgh also became one of the first members of the North American Curragh Association (NACA).

The Yanks are Coming
Once the club was established and its reputation spread, the American born Pittsburghers became interested. The first few years of the club saw many influential “Yank” rowers including: (L.J. Manning, Dave Price, Pat Folan, Mark Flaherty, Jr., Pat Folan, Bruce Foley, Frank Yesko, among others). Women’s racing also became more popular and many joined (Maggie Folan, Brigid Minnock, Mary Mulkerrin, Brigid Mulkerrin, Patty Mulkerrin, Annie O’Donnell, among others) although there were very few positions available for them at the time

 

 

 

Three Rivers over Three Decades

.After several years in the south side location (where Hooter’s currently stands today!) the club moved to its new home on 43rd Street in Lawrenceville. The club would stay there for over 10 years, winning several NACA championships and changing its name to the Pittsburgh Irish Rowing Club (changing club colors from black & gold to the maroon & white of Co. Galway). It was during this time as well that the original Irish-born members began to retire, placing more responsibility on the American-born protégés.

In 1996 a new home was found at the C&E Marina (now the Midway Marine & Storage), 600 Dawson, Glenfield, PA.
This means the PIRC has made all three rivers of Pittsburgh home during its history! With this move came even more retirements by our founders (although nobody is ever REALLY retired) and even more responsibility taken on by our American-born members.
Today the PIRC operates out of the back channel of Neville Island on the Ohio River at the Groveton Boat Club.

Recent History
We have continued to be a force in NACA, winning several more NACA Championships even sending a crew to Ireland to compete in 2000.

The Future
The future of the PIRC is bright, featuring one of the youngest and most talented clubs on the North American circuit. This however, will be short lived without a continuous supply of new members to wear the maroon & white. The only prerequisites are determination, persistence, and the ability to have a good time.

Author’s Note: I personally have been a member of the PIRC since 1991. Please forgive any omissions I may have made from the early years (or from my foggy memory). Drop me an e-mail if you have anything to add! Pat Clark

 

 
 
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