I like spending the night above the lock at Meelick: a pleasant, sheltered and quiet place. But there is a mystery about it.
Last time we were there, several groups of young folks came down to the lock after the keeper had knocked off for the night and gone home. It had been a warm day and I imagine that they were there to swim below the lock. Afterwards, some of them stayed around, chatting and hitting balls with their hurling mallets. They were quiet and caused no annoyance to anyone (although they might have removed their rubbish, in accordance with Waterways Ireland’s Leave no Trace policy).
But I did wonder what would have happened if there had been any horseplay, or even a mild slip, and someone had fallen into the lock chamber.
Both sets of gates were closed for the night, so the victim (even if conscious and uninjured) would have been unable to swim out and no rescue boat could get in.
There are no ladders in the lock chamber, so the victim could not have climbed out and any rescuer could only dive in, which would mean two people in the chamber rather than one. Nor was there anything in the chamber on which the victim might rest.
There was no information (that I could see) at the lock to tell the victim’s friends what to do, how to summon help or to get the gate opened. Any boater present might use VHF to call the Coast Guard and request a helicopter, but non-boaters might not think of that (or even of asking for the Coast Guard on ringing 999 or 112).
So that’s the mystery: if someone falls into a closed lock after operating hours, how is that person to be rescued? And how are others present to know what they should do? It would be nice if Waterways Ireland were to make information available on the spot.