Category Archives: Non-waterway

The ESB and eels

A minister speaks [or at least reads out a script prepared by other people].

I see that

The independent Standing Scientific Committee on Eels sets targets of quantities to be transported annually.

Which would be nice, if transporting eels were an end in itself. But the object is surely to increase the eel population, and I note that the minister had nothing to say on that subject. Nor did he tell John McGuinness what the stock of eels was. So we have no idea whether all this activity is achieving anything, and responsibility is diffused amongst the members of an Standing Scientific Committee on Eels, none of whom seem to have any stake in the matter.

This is a clear case for privatisation: sell the eels and the fishing rights to people [cooperatives, as on Lough Neagh?] who will have an interest in managing the populations of eels, rather than in managing the numbers trapped and transported.

The minister also introduced a red herring about compensation, which he wasn’t asked about. By my reckoning he answered only half the question, and even that credits him with answering the ritual invocation “if he will make a statement on the matter”.

Photographing the invisible

Waterways Ireland is having a photographic competition for which it is

seeking contributions from the public on what they think best fulfils the theme “Waterways Heritage”.

Details here. You can win an iPad Air, which I think is a sort of pocket calculator for chaps with ponytails.

I was in two minds about whether to publicise this competition. You see, many of the bits of “heritage” I’m interested in are invisible, having vanished since the late nineteenth century. So maybe they’re not heritage at all?

But I decided that it would probably be difficult for Waterways Ireland to judge a competition in which all the photographs were of invisible objects, so I should encourage the photographing of the visible.

I was asked recently by another respectable public sector body to say, for publication, why industrial heritage was important to me. Unfortunately my response was deemed to be unusable, because it was too controversial. I’ll write more about that soon.

Piscator, Navita and Shannon navigation rights

I was never any good at fishing. The only time I ever caught anything was when fishing for mackerel with feathers from a boat, which is [I gather] the equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel [surely a pointless exercise: if you wanted to catch or kill them you could just let the water out of the barrel].

My knowledge of angling comes, therefore, almost entirely from two sources. The first is observation: from the comfort of a boat, I’ve seen anglers along riverbanks, huddled under umbrellas in the rain, miles from any amenities. They don’t seem to be having a lot of fun, but that is no doubt because they “affect a holy melancholy”, as explained in my second source.

Izaak Walton begins his The Compleat Angler or the Contemplative Man’s Recreation, being a Discourse of Rivers, Fishponds, Fish, and Fishing [a 1904 edition available here] with a friendly argument between Piscator, Venator and Auceps, each lauding his own pastime. They cite learned authorities, refer to scripture and quote poets at length before refreshing themselves at the Thatched House.

Then Venator, having become an apprentice angler, learns “How to Fish for, and to Dress, the Chavender or Chub” and many another fish, pausing to hear Maudlin, the milkmaid, sing her song and her mother sing a response. After a supper of barley-wine and trout, Piscator, Venator and two more anglers, Peter and Coridon, sing more songs, including The Angler’s Song, which includes this stanza:

Of recreation there is none
So free as fishing is alone;
All other pastimes do no less
Than mind and body both possess;
My hand alone my work can do,
So I can fish and study too.

Towards the end of the book’s first part [the second being written by Charles Cotton], Piscator recites a poem attributed to Sir Harry Wotton, this being the last stanza:

Welcome, pure thoughts, welcome, ye silent groves,
These guests, these courts, my soul most dearly loves;
Now the wing’d people of the sky shall sing
My cheerful anthems to the gladsome spring;
A prayer-book, now, shall be my looking-glass,
In which I shall adore sweet virtue’s face,
Here dwell no hateful looks, no palace cares,
No broken vows dwell here, nor pale-faced fears; Then here I’ll sit, and sigh my hot love’s folly,
And learn t’affect a holy melancholy;
And if contentment be a stranger, then
I’ll ne’er look for it, but in heaven, again.

They don’t write ’em like that any more.

Piscator iratus

I had assumed that this blend of contentment and holy melancholy characterised the anglers of today. But when, having visited the excellent website of the Limerick and District Anglers Association, I moved instead to their FaceTweet page, I found that the modern angler’s lot is not a happy one. The angler has to contend with the iniquities of the Electricity Supply Board [which owns fishing rights on the Shannon], Inland Fisheries Ireland  [whose role on the Shannon I know not] and, now, kayakers.

In discussion of another post on the subject, the Association said:

Therefore canoeists who enter this section of river without permission are trespassing.

That interested me, and I thought I should look further into navigation rights on the Shannon. [Update 10 June 2015] I have posted my interim conclusions here.

There is a second point. The Old River Shannon Research Group repeated the kayaking topic on its FaceTweet page with this comment:

This is a commercial company trying to turn the Castleconnell beats into something like Lahinch has become with surfers. See their website here. This type of “development” requires Appropriate Assessment.

I am most reluctant to disagree with the learned Dr William O’Connor on anything, as he knows far more than I do about environmental matters, but his comment raised a second topic of interest and I thought I might look into that too. Again, I’ll post separately on that.

Please don’t look at these photos

I regret to say that I have published, on these pages, several photos of the Shannon, Parteen Villa Weir, Ardnacrusha hydroelectric power station and its headrace and tailrace canals.

The storage basin between the road bridge over the River Shannon at Killaloe and the weir and canal intake at Parteen, including the right and left embankments constructed to form the said storage basin, together with the land outside and along the said right embankment delimited and separated from the adjoining land by post and wire fencing and also the land outside and, along the said left embankment delimited by the left bank of the Kilmastulla River Diversion.

Parteen Villa Weir from the embankment upstream (2008)

Parteen Villa Weir from the embankment upstream (2008)

The flooded area above Parteen Villa Weir

The flooded area above Parteen Villa Weir

The weir and canal intake, the embankments constructed to form abutments to the said intakes, the syphon under the said canal intake, and adjoining lands inside and bounded by post and wire fencing.

Parteen Villa Weir

Parteen Villa Weir

Parteen Villa Weir from upstream

Parteen Villa Weir from upstream

The six sluices controlling discharges down the old course of the river

The six sluices controlling discharges down the old course of the river

The head race between the canal intake and the power station including the right and left embankments constructed to form the said head race, together with the land outside and along the said embankments delimited and separated from the adjoining land by post and wire fencing, and also the road bridges over and the syphons and culverts under the said race.

The headrace from the bridge at Clonlara 20 November 2009

The headrace from the bridge at Clonlara 20 November 2009

The headrace from the bridge at O'Briensbridge 22 November 2009

The headrace from the bridge at O’Briensbridge 22 November 2009

The power station, the intake to the said power station, the locks and all adjoining buildings and land within the area around the said power station, all of which are delimited and separated from the adjoining land by post and wire fencing.

The upper chamber at Ardnacrusha lock

The upper chamber at Ardnacrusha lock

Ardnacrusha: looking up at the top chamber from the bottom

Ardnacrusha: looking up at the top chamber from the bottom

The penstocks that feed the turbines at Ardnacrusha

The penstocks that feed the turbines at Ardnacrusha

Ardnacrusha power station from the headrace

Ardnacrusha power station from the headrace

The fishpass

The fishpass

The tail race from the power station to the River Shannon, the branch railway running along the said tail race, and the land on either side of the said tail race, all of which are delimited and separated from the adjoining land by post and wire fencing.



And I have lots more photos … here and here and here, which I ask readers not to look at either.

You see the thing is, Your Honour, Sir, I didn’t know. I didn’t realise that, under Statutory Instrument 73 of 1935 Shannon Electricity Works (Declaration of Prohibited Place) Order 1935, the places as described are prohibited places under paragraph (d) of Section 3 of the Official Secrets Act 1911, as amended by the Official Secrets Act 1920, and as adapted by or under the Adaptation of Enactments Act 1922 (No 2 of 1922). That’s because

information with respect thereto, or the destruction or obstruction thereof, or interference therewith, would be useful to an enemy.

Apparently, under those acts, giving anyone information about a prohibited place is a felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to fourteen years.

Wikipedia says that, in Ireland, those acts were repealed by the Official Secrets Act 1963, but was the statutory instrument repealed? I don’t know, but I’ve written to the Department of Justice to ask.

In the meantime, please don’t look at the photos, especially if you’re a Foreign Agent: a term that, under the 1963 act,

includes any person who is or has been or is reasonably suspected of being or having been employed by a foreign power either directly or indirectly for the purpose of committing an act (whether within or outside the State) prejudicial to the safety or preservation of the State, or who has or is reasonably suspected of having (whether within or outside the State) committed or attempted to commit any such act.

I wonder whether that includes the European Central Bank.

Re-invention or re-creation?

I realise that many folk visit this website in order to find out what is hip and trendy, cool and with-it, in all sorts of fields, from beer to boating, casual dining to cost-benefit analysis. So, in order to keep readers down wid da kidz in da hood [as the young folk say], I’ve been checking out the latest, baddest [which means ‘goodest’, I gather, or what in the old days we would have called ‘best’], grooviest developments on tinterweb. It’s a thing called FaceTweet, and those cool dudes at Waterways Ireland have one of them. Hep to the jive, daddy-o [which means ‘How perfectly splendid, old boy’.]

As far as I can see, FaceTweet is in general intended for folk whose attention span renders them unable to read more than a single paragraph of continuous prose. But brevity is sometimes the soul of wit and good goods come in small parcels [sentiments for whose veracity I have not found peer-reviewed evidence]. And I was interested in Waterways Ireland’s self-description on the page:

Waterways Ireland is the Recreation Authority for over 1000km of Ireland’s Inland navigable waterways.

That phrase, Recreation Authority, does not occur in Waterways Ireland’s Business Plan 2015 [as approved by the North South Ministerial Council on 18 December 2014 and screwed up by the Council shortly afterwards] or in its Corporate Plan 2014–2016 [ditto]. Nor, according to its own search engine, is the phrase used on Waterways Ireland’s proper website [the search engine rather bafflingly reports “We don’t have any refiners to show you”].

Yet the concept of Waterways Ireland as a Recreation Authority is almost entirely in tune with the thinking underlying both of the plans and it is the neatest encapsulation I have yet seen of what WI is about.

I put in ‘almost’ there because the Corporate Plan‘s Executive Summary includes this:

Central to our vision for the future is the development of recreational, heritage and environmental opportunities that link people, history and nature, providing both local communities and visitors with compelling reasons to spend more time in the waterways environment.

While I’m all — well, somewhat — in favour of heritage and environment, the words seem to sit uneasily in that sentence: added as a form of ritual obeisance to the shade of Michael D Higgins, who ripped the rivers and canals from the sheltering embrace of the Office of Public Works engineers and proclaimed the waterways to be heritage artefacts. Heritage is no longer of great interest to TPTB and most people’s experience of it [whatever it is] is as entertainment or recreation; much the same applies to environment, which — for most people — is of interest only as providing a scenic background for more interesting activities.

So both heritage and environment can be subsumed under the heading of recreation, leaving Waterways Ireland with a neat, well-focused description of itself, a subheading for its title, and one that matches its Mission and Vision.

Mind you, it’s not entirely clear what a recreation authority is — Google finds relatively few [129000] instances of the term’s use, most of them in the Americas — but that might be no harm.

Waterways Ireland — the recreation authority

Hep to the jive, daddy-o: I like it.


Riverfest in Limerick

Riverfest is an annual, er, happening in Limerick. I don’t know much about it: I’ve never been because I dislike both crowds and festivals and it would take something remarkably interesting to outweigh my dislike and persuade me to attend any part of the thing. I took notice of this year’s event only because I wanted to find out what streets would be closed to traffic; the festival organisers did not, alas, think to provide a map showing the closures.

I have only two other comments on the event:

  • the brochure [PDF] mentions a workshop called “Craft a River” but doesn’t say what, or indeed where, it is
  • in a city whose history is so intertwined with that of the food industry, and which has, in the Milk Market, the best Irish market outside Cork, it seems ludicrous to import a “continental market” instead of showcasing local producers.

But I acknowledge that I am not really entitled to comment; Brian Leddin, on the other hand, has a better informed view.

Portland House

Portland House from the Shannon

Chimneys of Portland House seen from the Shannon

Here is a good article about the destruction of Portland House, just upstream of Portumna on the east bank of the Shannon, by ruffians in 1938.

Lagoon Flights

No, nothing (as far as I can see) to do with the Irish firm Harbour Flights, whose fleet’s mysterious non-appearance (and whose website’s mysterious disappearance) has been noted here. This time it’s Cardiff Business Council that wants to set up a seaplane service between Cardiff and Swansea.

A pan-Wales service would have a “massive” effect on inward investment and tourism, Mr Roberts said.


[h/t Antoin Daltún]

Are the Sheughers …

seeing sense?

A cynic (not that there are any of them around here) might say that DAHG feels that it has done as much as it’s going to do (admittedly at Waterways Ireland’s expense) by dredging the River Finn and that it has told Monaghan Council that, if it wants any more Sheughery for Clones, it will have to pay for it itself. The Council might like a canal, but only if someone else pays for it, so it will have to be content with a greenway.

And rightly so.


The stolen railway

I’ve just been flying by rail: looking over some of the present and former railways that cross[ed], impinge[d] upon or were otherwise related to waterways. They are all on Industrial Heritage Ireland’s new Historic Map of Irish railways.

In the midlands, for example, it shows the line from Clara to Banagher, home of Ireland’s shortest canal: folk visiting Shannon Harbour will know about that. And anyone driving to Shannon Harbour from (say) Limerick will have crossed the Stolen Railway from Birr (then Parsonstown) to Portumna: it’s there too, as are the lines on both sides of the Shannon Estuary, and those near the Suir and Barrow and many many more.

Work has begun on providing links to a database with information about the individual stations: Donegal, which had an extraordinary number of them, was the first area to be done.

Hours of enjoyment; thanks to Ewan Duffy for putting in so much work.