Frank McAlinden headed to the harbour in search of a new career, and was extremely successful in this new departure. He is pictured here with his wife at their wedding.

1919 – 1991

There is a saying that goes, ‘The brightest stars burn the quickest’. When talking about the Mc Alinden family’s involvement in fishing, this would seem to be an apt phrase. Only two members of the family were involved in the industry, Frank and his son Donal. However, they made an indelible mark in history, and at a time they operated the leading boat in the UK Purse Seine fleet.

Their story begins with Frank Mc Alinden, who grew up in an agricultural family in Mourne. Their homestead was nestled high in the Mournes, however it was to the harbour that Frank was drawn, where he made a name for himself quite quickly. He first started in the skiff fishing scene at Kilkeel harbour, and then progressed to work with larger boats. Following a downturn in the industry in the years 1955-56, Frank was forced to move to Grimsby and worked with Danish owners, spending long periods away from home.

Frank part owned and operated the Vervine Blossom of which two of the crew were Robert John and Forsythe, members of a future Kilkeel fishing dynasty. The two families would work closely over the years, and both went into partnership with Rick Donnan, a fish buyer from Portavogie who had moved to Holyhead to start a new business.

Rick Donnan had the finance to purchase boats, and offered skippers a chance to progress and skipper their own boats in partnership with him. Frank and Rick went into partnership in 1961 with the Castle Bay vessel and were very successful. A year later Frank’s son Donal joined the crew to start his fishing career. The partnership with Rick Donnan continued with the purchase of the second Castle Bay in 1965, and the first vessel to bear the name ‘Quo Vadis’ in 1968.

The Quo Vadis vessels were ground-breaking fishing boats, and for years afterwards they would break all sorts of record for landings in the UK and on the continent. Frank eventually retired in 1974, and left son Donal fully in charge of the vessel.
Donal went on to better the heights his father had reached in the industry, and became a very successful skipper in a lucrative period in European fishing. They had strong links with Norwegian boatyards, and worked very long days on intensive trips. Despite this, the crews of the Quo Vadis were extremely loyal. Kevin Cunningham fished with the Mc Alindens from 1968 to 1991 when Donal retired. His brother Seamus was a long serving member as well, and at one stage four Cunningham brothers were crew on the Quo Vadis.

Their family story is relatively short, but you could not tell the story of the maritime history of Mourne without mentioning the name McAlinden.