Not the end of the Tralee Ship Canal [updated]

I am grateful to Holger Lorenz of Tralee for alerting me to the removal of one of the gates of the Tralee Ship Canal. Holger’s photos of the lock and gate are here:

Photo 1    Photo 2    Photo 3    Photo 4    Photo 5    Photo 6

According to a Radio Kerry story, the gate had to be removed for maintenance and Tralee Town Council had “no time frame” for replacing it.

It seems to me, from Holger’s photos, that only one gate of the upper pair was removed. If the lower gates were working properly, surely they should be able to keep the canal in water.

It is some years since I visited Tralee. At the time, there was a largeish barge moored on the canal at the bridge. If it hasn’t been moved, I presume that its occupants are now unhappy.

I do not know what Tralee Town Council, or whoever it was, hoped to achieve by restoring the canal (or, for that matter, why whoever it was built the Jeanie Johnston, which was a huge waste of money). But whatever they hoped to achieve, I suspect that the canal failed to meet expectations. I do not know whether there has ever been a formal review of the project but I cannot imagine that it provided a reasonable return on investment.

The best thing to do with it now would be to seal up the seaward end with a fixed wall, forget about opening the bridge, maintain some flow through the canal to keep the water from becoming overly offensive and let the rowers take over the canal.

Addendum February 2015

This story from The Kerryman in November 2014 escaped my notice; it says that the damaged gates were replaced. It also says that the gates “now have a new motorised opening system that replaces the old crank mechanism”, which may reflect some confusion on the Kerryman‘s part as the gates were hydraulically operated.

I still don’t understand why the lower gates, or stop planks, could not have been used to maintain the level in the canal.

Addendum March 2015

Kerry County Council confirms that the lock has been restored and that the canal is fully operational.

See also comments below.

24 responses to “Not the end of the Tralee Ship Canal [updated]

  1. It will be interesting to see what Tralee Town Council come back with. Personally, having spent the money to restore the damn thing in the first place, I’d have thought it would make sense to continue to keep it in good order? Otherwise the entire initial capital outlay might as well have been thrown on a bonfire. Mind you, perhaps if it was EU money, they don’t care.

  2. You might also have asked them what business plan they had put in place in order to generate users and income from the canal. (One suspects the plan was “sure we’ll spend this EU money and then wait”… and that it might be possible to formulate a better plan than that…)

  3. Even if it was Irish money, they might not care: it’s the equivalent of a cattle-raid on Leinster, bringing back free booty for the locals.

    The sunk cost argument is valid to some extent, but I asked about the numbers of boats using the lock for a reason. It is possible that the majority of users don’t need a working lock and bridge. Walkers (and tourists, if any) benefit from the sight of a full canal; like (I presume) the rowers, they don’t need the lock and the swivel bridge, which are of use only to vessels passing to and from the sea. If that is so, some money might be saved by putting a dam in the lock, with sluice gates, and fixing the bridge, thereby reducing maintenance costs. bjg

  4. Difficult: there is a marina at Fenit, the port of Tralee, and it is hard to see why any visiting boat crew would want to travel through the sandbanks and up the canal, when the tide allowed, when they could get a taxi into Tralee instead. Incidentally, the same sort of argument applies to Strabane and Newry. bjg

  5. Hmmm – with a marina already further seaward, it does indeed appear difficult to picture what a small seagoing pleasure craft might achieve by sailing to Tralee. I presume there is some small ‘docks’ there? Could they conceivably offer any useful berthing or facilities to vessels?
    Newry might conceivably increase its appeal to seagoing craft if the inland canal to Lough Neagh were reopened? You have pointed out before that Lough Neagh is no place for a holidaying narrowboat – but might there conceivably be a ’round trip’ of interest for seafarers going round the causeway coast, past Belfast and Strangford loughs, and inland via Newry, Lough Neagh and the Lower Bann? (quite whom has the money to get up to such shenanigans I have no clue – perhaps Russian oligarchs and magnates from Dubai).
    Quite what reason Strabane has to exist at all, never mind to receive seagoing vessels, I would not care to make a case for…

  6. Although the word “marina” was used in Tralee, it seemed (when I visited) to apply only to a block of flats; there was no provision for mooring vessels that I could see. Any local boat owner is more likely to want to go boating when he or she has free time, rather than when the tides permit, so floating moorings at Fenit are far more attractive than anything the ship canal could offer.

    The number of vessels that (if the Newry Canal were restored to navigability) could attempt the “around the north-east” trip you suggest is probably fairly limited. However, from what I can see NI local authorities have vast amounts of money at their disposal at present, so there’s no telling what they might do.


  7. well, it’s all about “vision” and maximising your assets, isn’t it? :) Northern Ireland certainly has plenty of coastline. And one of the largest inland lakes in Europe. Strangford Lough is also a pretty tasty piece of water, if you like that sort of thing.
    Compare it to the Norwegians, who never stop touting their fjords as a tourist attraction, despite considerably more inclement weather than Ulster.
    The problem it seems to be with Ireland is that it has excellent basic potential for tourism, but the “If you build it, they will come” mentality stops short of actually building facilities for visitors.

  8. You seem to be proposing, though, that facilities built hundreds of years ago, for an entirely different purpose [bringing coal to Dublin], could be recycled to serve the interests of the leisured classes. And you are assuming that there exists some significant number of owners who have boats suitable for canals, lakes and the sea and who also have an interest in canals and much time available. There are, though, many owners of sailing boats who like sailing and there are many marinas available to them. Catering for a known market is surely better than spending money on an imaginary one that is unlikely ever to be very large. bjg

  9. Sort of like the other “heritage” project they got involved in – the Tralee and Blennerville Railway. Where is that now :(

  10. Some info here. bjg

  11. Pingback: End of the Tralee Ship Canal | Canals of Dublin – Tourism Information for the Inland Waterways of Ireland

  12. Joseph Goodfellow

    Any reply from TTC ?

  13. Not a word, possibly because Tralee Town Council has been abolished. I’ve set up a Google Alert on Tralee Ship Canal. bjg

  14. So is the Tralee Ship Canal still trashed?

  15. No idea. My Google Alert has produced no recent news. bjg

  16. I guess the fact that nobody cared sufficiently one way or the other to mention it on the Internets is somewhat indicative of how pressing a demand there is for public money to be spend keeping this navigable :/

  17. Our 1905 Dutch barge Catharina had her rudders damaged by them opening the gates without warning. When the canal became tidal, the constant up/down snapped the stern rope allowing the stern to drift over to the opposite bank. when the tide went out, she ended up resting on her starboard rudder which suffered severe damage. A few months later we were given one month to remove her from the canal as the planning permission had expired. Anyway I explained to the irate public servant we will move it when we manage to repair the rudder, prepare her for a sea journey, and have a good weather window, and not before. He came back to us and said the entrance is now permanently blocked. as far as I can tell, the outer gates are still functional and they have installed stop-logs.

  18. Thank you for the update. I’m sorry to hear about the damage. Are you now permanently confined to the canal? And what was the planning permission needed for? [You or the canal or repairs to the gate or …?] bjg

  19. We intended to convert it from house boat to restaurant or coffee shop. It was to be located in the canal basin. Between buying her, getting her to Tralee from France, gaining planning permission and road traffic surveys carried out it cost around €240k. Then we carried out all the ground work for the utilities, bought catering equipment, and built large gangways. Then we had the annual painting of Catharina. This all turned out to be a slow and expensive process. Anyway, we asked for permission to re-apply for the planning permission. We were told by a[n] individual in the KCC that “the council” had decided to close the canal permanent and to get her out or she would be towed out by KCC. At this stage we are not sure if Catharina is trapped in or not. If she is, I have no doubt the matter will go before the courts. Catharina is a tough lady, She survived two world wars. during WW2 she was used by the French resistance, and helped during the Dunkirk evacuation. We are not too worried about a town [official].

    [slightly edited. bjg]

  20. Thank you. Very interesting: I hadn’t been aware of that. I think I’ll email the council …. bjg

  21. Thanks bjg but I would prefer to leave the matter alone until we are ready to move Catharina.

  22. No intention of interfering in your affairs, but I want to know about the future of the canal and have emailed KCC to ask, with no mention of you, Catharina or any other boats. bjg

  23. I’m surprised that nobody has mentioned the primary function of the Tralee Ship Canal presently – its a vital part of the towns flood defenses. When heavy rains coincide with spring tides ( or are likely to) then the canal can be emptied allowing it to function as a large sump to take extra water volumes draining into the river Lee.
    There was severe flooding towards the end of 2015 directly attributed to the inability to control the canal levels owing to continuing work to the inner gates ( which are still lying on the lock side as of 25/6/2016)

  24. Thank you: that is interesting. I have not been able to find anything on tinterweb about this. Can you provide a link to a source please? bjg

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