Home sweet home for well-known Fermanagh man Jimmy Dundas is a spacious 1929 Dutch barge moored in a picturesque setting on Lower Lough Erne.

“I have really enjoyed this last 11 years,” declares Jimmy, who since 2009 has been moored at the Lough Erne Yacht Club, where he lives on his distinctive vessel all year round.

Taking in the panoramic views from his floating home, he now feels that he couldn’t live on dry land again! In fact, he mentioned that he had been thinking of selling the boat, but thought “how could I live in a house? Stuck in the one place all the time. I can go wherever I want. I do not have to pack bags. I have all with me.”

Sharing the boat’s history, Jimmy outlined that it was a sailing barge, which had been used on the Baltic Sea, drawing cheese.

“That was before there was a roof on it,” said Jimmy, who noted: “In 1959, she was taken out of service and the roof was put on her to live aboard. A man reared his family on this barge in Holland.”

He recalled that in 1999 the barge was fitted with a new bottom, which was all replated. The riveted iron sides are original, indicated Jimmy, who revealed he bought the boat “from a man who was importing barges into Ireland in 2007.” He then refitted the barge.

“I have always had a love of the lake,” enthused Jimmy, who explained that his late father Willie Dundas, who was 46 when he died, was a ghillie at Roscor, Belleek.

“I went out on the lake with my father from I was three years old,” he said.

“My late Uncle Fred Armstrong and the late Willie Grey used to bring me out fishing,” reminisced Jimmy, who recollects that they shared some of the lough’s history with him.

He was out with them when he was about 10 or 12 years old. He went on to say that he “always had a boat on the lake of some description” from he was 20 years old. He boated on Lower and Upper Lough Erne regularly and said he knew the Lower Lake best.

“I decided to buy a barge and live on the lake,” continued Jimmy, who has travelled widely on the barge and has done the Shannon-Erne Waterway twice.

For most of the time now, his barge, which is also home to ‘Lady’, his 16-year-old Golden Labrador, remains moored at the Yacht Club.

“At times I would have gone away at weekends mostly to Belleek,” highlighted Jimmy, who holds a close connection with his home village, which he regards as “a lovely part of the world.” Describing the boat trip there as “a nice run,” he feels “there is nothing as beautiful as Magho Mountain as you go to Belleek; it’s breathtaking, absolutely beautiful.”

Jimmy, a station mechanic with the RNLI, based at Enniskillen Lifeboat Station, and also a Deputy Launch Authority, points out that he has everything on his barge which can sleep six people. “The back of the barge is the original captain’s cabin – the aft cabin,” explained Jimmy. In the wheel house, above the captain’s cabin, there is now a double bed, he said. The other two double bedrooms are in the stern and the bow. The fully fitted kitchen cum sitting room, has the original pitch pine floor, and there is a solid fuel stove. There are two toilets and two showers.

The original steering wheel, dated 1926, is still in use on the boat, which was originally an open craft for cargo. The boat had two 60 ft. masts and the hatches are still in place for them. When Jimmy has visitors drop in, he says that everyone is “amazed” by the barge and “people think it’s great”. However he feels that not everyone could live on it. “Barge life is very different from a dwelling house,” states Jimmy. He recollects that in 2012 it was minus 22 but the temperature in the barge was 24 degrees. “I had the stove going,” he said.

He adds: “Stormy weather is not a problem; the barge weighs 37 tonnes. When you are sitting on the boat you cannot feel it moving. You can hear the water lapping; I love to hear the water.”

Living in a stunning location, with a huge expanse of water all around him, Jimmy shares the view: “The wildlife here is unbelievable; you see things here you will never see in a house. I have a kingfisher which comes every morning.”

Working as a self employed marine engineer, Jimmy says at 64 he “is slowing down, but not completely.” He admits he could not “quit completely.” An experienced boatman, he went to Monaco every year for 16 years to pilot a boat for friends. His voyages included those on the French and Italian Rivieras amongst other places.

But according to Jimmy, who is passionate about the Fermanagh Lakelands, there is “nothing as nice” as Lough Erne. “It’s so idyllic,” believes Jimmy, who concludes: “It does not matter about the weather on Lough Erne, it is still a beautiful place wherever you go.”