1856 – Present day

Although the first member of this branch of the Curran family only went to sea in 1917 when Thomas Curran purchased the ‘Morning Star’, the family has seafaring connections that reach back to the very beginnings of Kilkeel and its maritime past.

Owen Mc Conville passed on his Seafaring manual to his relations the Byers, where it eventually made its way to Barney Curran. It gives instructions on how to enter the various ports and harbours around Ireland. Published in 1883, the research must have started many years earlier. So early, that it does not have a reference to a harbour at Kilkeel.

Owen was born in 1856 and would have been a sailor on wooden schooners that left Mourne at that time laden with granite and potatoes for ports in Britain. In later years, the 1901 census places him as living in Kilkeel married to Catherine, working as a fisherman.

The Currans are related to the Mc Convilles through the Byers family, and the first Curran to go to sea is the Great – Grandfather of Barney and Thomas Curran, who owned a skiff at Kilkeel at the turn of the century. He was joined in the occupation by his son Bernard Curran. Bernard purchased a skiff at Derryogue, and this boat the ‘Morning Star’ would be fished by the Curran family until 1953. Bernard Curran also worked a boatman for John McAver who was a Pilot who was registered as being a Carlingford Lough pilot as early as 1894.

Thomas took control of the ‘Morning Star’ when his father Bernard went to work with the pilots at Derryogue, and retired in 1953 having only ever fished in the one boat. After he came ashore Thomas worked repairing nets at the harbour for various fishermen, including his sons who went to sea.

Barney Curran owned and skippered several vessels over the years such at the ‘Ann Patricia’, the ‘St Joseph’, and the ‘Opportune’ in which he was joined by his son Neil. After a break from fishing, Neil is now returning to fishing with Norman McBride on the ‘Moyuna’. Thomas’s son Thomas would also spend the majority of his working life at sea, fishing with his brother, at one time relying on him to rescue him and the rest of the crew of the ‘Jeanette’ when it sank trying to enter Kilkeel in a severe storm. Thomas’s son Seamus was also a skiff fisherman for several seasons, but didn’t stay at sea beyond the summer herring season.
The ebb and flow of this family’s seafaring past reflects that of the maritime history of Mourne. Having been involved in the prosperous eras of coasting, the early days of Kilkeel fishing, through good times and now to today, the Curran family have experienced it all. To see Neil now returning to sea is proof of a spirit among the families of Mourne who it seems will always be families of the sea.