The Arklow Maritime Museum, in the town of Arklow in County Wicklow, displays information on the maritime history of Arklow, focusing in particular on its boat building, lifeboat and fishing traditions. On display are photographs of the port dating back to the mid 19th century as well as models of vessels built in Arklow, tools, navigational equipment, paintings and artefacts. These include Sir Francis Chichester’s Gypsy Moth III. Of particular interest to children is an operational model of the wheelhouse controls of a trawler.
The story really begins with the passing of the 1960s and the advent of the ’70s. As the irish economy improved, old ways were being looked upon more as painful reminders of less well-off times than evidence of a rich heritage. Most families in Arklow had some connection with the sea, whether it was fishing, coasting or deep-sea sailing. Houses in every street and lane had souvenirs brought back from all corners of the globe. By the 1970s, such treasures were embarrassments, and many ended up in the rubbish bin. Being aware that this major change in attitude brought on by more affluent lifestyles would see this rich heritage disappear in a very short time, a group of people got together to save what they could for future generations. An exhibition was held in the Marlborough Hall on St. Mary’s Road around 1970 or 1971. This event showed not only the quantity, but also the quality of many of the items still in people’s houses. It was obvious that a museum was needed. On 17th and 18th March 1973, a second Maritime Exhibition was held. This time the venue was St. Kevin’s Christian Brothers’ School on Coolgreaney Road. The folding partition walls on the upper floor were pushed back and the entire space was filled with a display even better than the first exhibition.