The Welsh Coracle Boat & My Extraordinary Antique Apprentice Piece Find

Favourite Finds


Ahoy there!  Welcome to this week's instalment of 'Blog Post Monday'.

I've been out and about again this week in search of treasures.  I won't lie, it's been a bit of challenge finding things of interest, but I did find a couple of little pieces that set off my tingles, one of which I'm going to be writing about today.  A rare piece of Welsh social history.

So, as always, get that kettle on and get your rods out, as we take a look into the history of the Coracle boat and the extraordinary find connected to this piece of Welsh social history...


Image:  my 19th century apprentice made Coracle find


The Coracle has been in use for over 2000 years.  The Romans saw coracles when they invaded Britain in 55 BC and Julius Caesar wrote in detail about skin-covered boats he had seen while travelling the coastline.

The Coracle's primary use was for net fishing and Coracle fishing is in fact one of Britain’s oldest traditions. It is a highly skilled and ancient Welsh traditional method of fishing.  Two fishermen work in perfect harmony. Fishing at night to avoid casting shadows on the water, they keep steady and hold a net between them ready to catch the fish.

During the 18th and 19th Century coracle fishing was the main source of income for poor families living along the banks of the river.  There were once 200 coracles on the river, however, during the late 1930’s, the number of net licenses was restricted to just 12.


Image:  a traditional full-size Teifi Coracle


Other uses of the Coracle include sheep washing and livestock rescue.  In times of flooding, people would use their Coracles to rescue livestock that had become stranded by the high waters.


Image:  the traditional building techniques of the Coracle


Coracles were traditionally constructed from cleft willow with a plaited semi-circular reinforcing band found in the stern and twisted hazel to make a carry strap.  A single transverse lath behind the seat made from plaited willow reinforced to the boat structure and made sure that the base of the boat was flat. 


Image:  my 19th century apprentice made Coracle find


The outer shell was traditionally made from animal hide, however, this was succeeded by flannel and calico in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Man made fabrics such as cordura and fibreglass are now used as construction materials, along with rubber for the carry straps. 


Image:  my 19th century apprentice made Coracle find


And, this is where my fabulous little find comes in...  Dating from the 19th century this miniature scale example of a Coracle is believed to have been made by an apprentice.  Made to practice the traditional coracle making skills, but on a smaller scale, before moving on to full size boats.


Image:  example of how the Coracle was carried


Lightweight and small in size, the coracle would be carried over the head rather than on the back or over the shoulder. The strap was positioned across the upper torso and the paddle hooked under the seat and rested on the shoulder, thus distributing the weight of the boat (as pictured above).


Image:  my 19th century apprentice made Coracle find


Some of the traditional Coracle ceremonies have been fascinating to read about too.  Although many have died away over recent times.  One example is 'The Crowning' of an apprentice Coracleman when they are considered a skilled netsman.  If you weren’t related to one of the old traditional Coracle families, you were known as a foreigner, and you had to be crowned.

A group of Coraclers would put the front of their oars resting on the apprentice's head.  The the oldest Coracler of the group would bring their oar down, hard on the head of the apprentice whilst announcing, "Get up, you have been crowned".


Image:  a traditional Welsh Coracler family 


Another tradition was the 'Burning of Coracles'.  When a Coracler died, the night before their funeral, their coracle would be burnt on the riverbank.  Traditionally, it would only be lit when the family had heard the owl calling.  It was believed that the owl would guide the dead to the heavens.  Further back than this though, the custom was to burn the body of the Coracler with their coracle.


Image:  my 19th century apprentice made Coracle find


I think you'll agree that the story of the Coracle itself is fascinating one and my 19th century apprentice piece find makes for a fabulous piece of Welsh social history, and one to be treasured.  This is just another example of why I absolutely adore what I do!

You'll be pleased to hear that this wonderful piece of history is currently available to buy HERE



Anyway, that's it for this week folks!  I hope you've enjoyed this little insight into the fascinating world of the Coracle!  As always, let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Remember, if you enjoy my posts, please show your support by subscribing to my 'Source Social' membership, which you can do via the 'Home' page.  It's free and gives you a weekly blog post and a fortnightly YouTube video delivered directly to your inbox, as well as exclusive discounts and first dibs on new items before they are added to our website.

And, speaking of my YouTube channel, if you're into antiques and haven't seen any of my videos yet, you can find them HERE.  Head on over and subscribe to that too for your dose of finds, fairs, stories and reviews.

So, until next week, stay safe, keep buying those antiques and keep spreading that Source Vintage love!




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