History

Milk Harbour, also known as Milk Haven, was where that the McCann family established their permanent base and set up their boat-building operation

The McCann’s in Milk Harbour

The McCann family is known to have lived here from around 1850 – running boats to transport goods up and down the coast and building traditional wooden boats on the site since the 1880s. John McCann and his brother Tom (Geraldine’s uncles) were the last boat builders working here until they passed away in 2004 and 2013.

John and Tom’s nieces and nephews donated the boat building artefacts to the National Museum of Ireland and family records to the County of Sligo; thus preserving the history of boat building at Milk Harbour for the nation. You can find more information here.

Milk Harbour and its history

With archaeological discoveries made over recent centuries, it is clear that Milk Harbour has been part of an important trade route for millennia and a place of ancient settlements. The shelter of Milk Harbour has been home to lace making, boatbuilding, farming and fishing communities, all of which have contributed to our unique heritage.

Both Milk Harbour and Dernish Island, offshore from the house have a rich heritage. In pre-Celtic history and legend they are the sites of ancient invasions and battles. The late Sligo historian Dr Patrick Hearughty recorded his view of how the harbour received its name:

“The people we know as Formorians generally lived on offshore islands and having subjugated the nearby mainland, imposed the tax, known as the three thirds, on its inhabitants. The tax was that, each year, the conquered people gave them one third of its crops, one third of its milk and one third of its children. A time could be arranged to deliver the children and the crops but the milk had to be delivered daily. It was left at what is now called Milk Harbour and was collected by the Formorians who lived on Dernish Island opposite.”

Dr Patrick Hearughty: ‘The Corran Herald 2005/2006’

See also this short film directed by Susan O’Keeffe, in which Sligo jewellery designer Martina Hamilton explores her recently discovered ancestral roots with Dernish Island.