George McGarry, owner of Ardmore Boat Yard.
|An aerial view of Ardmore Boat Yard. US24-331GC.|
IT will be the end of an era when George McGarry hands of over the keys of Ardmore boat yard in Aldergrove to its new owners.
For when the boat yard is sold by Wilson's Auctions in Mallusk this week, it will break a link with the McGarry family that started 75 years ago when George's father, Henry bought it.
Back in 1927 it was used it as a base for local fishermen who were catching eels.
The boat yard has been since been successfully run by his sons George (77) and the late James McGarry, of Largy Road, Crumlin.
But the death of his beloved brother . James, increasing rates at the yard and., advancing years were all factors that finally persuaded George it was time to retire.
It's an emotional time for George as he looks back at the yard's long and eventful history.
For a time the family maintained moorings at Langford Lodge and at Killadeas on Lough Erne for Catalina flying boats during the war.
In 1929, the Air Ministry used it as a base and produced raft targets for RAF gunnery practice. They employed men to place targets which they used for practice at the lough.
During the late 1950's the brothers designed the Ulster boat which became famous for its sailing ability.
After the war the McGarrys, Henry's brothers and sons, who were all skilled craftsmen, were at the, forefront of boat building.
The yard was the base for building some state of the art boats and gained a reputation for quality throughout the world.
Fishermen also used the boat yard to dock their boats while the McGarrys themselves carried on their trade of building a variety of wooden boats - some of which featured at boat shows across the United Kingdom and others built and used as fishing boats.
After the Air Ministry left the area the McGarrys continued with their trade of building and mending boats - many sold throughout the world.
However, as fibre glass boats became more popular, the trade in wooden boats diminished.
So the brothers bought a pleasure cruiser in the 1960's, the Maid of Antrim, which was to become a very popular tourist attraction.
It became so well-known on the Lough that in 1978, Antrim Council bought it from the brothers and used it, for tours around Lough Neagh.
James was employed by the council to maintain and sail it and it became one of the best known vessels in the country.
But the Troubles led to a fall in tourism and the tours with the 'Maid', as it was affectionately known, also dwindled until the Council eventually sold it some years ago.
Through it all George's heart, like his brother's, remained with the Lough and though he had to leave the boat building trade he went on to sail the sand-boat - at 200 feet it was the largest boat on the Lough - which transported sand from one part of the Lough to the other for almost 20 years until he retired.
It is an emotional time for George who is deeply saddened at selling the boat yard.
"I am too old now to keep the yard running," he said.
"It is sad, but now James has gone and little has been done to maintain the yard since, the family decided it was time to sell it.
"We never really encouraged the rest of the family to take on the yard so there was no point in holding onto it.
"And of course, our trade became less popular as wooden boats were replaced with fibre glass ones.
"There have been many, many, good and happy memories but you cannot live on memories all the time.
"When it is taken over it will certainly be the end of an era within our family."