Update January 2014: added maps, a note about the navigation authority (with a link to more information) and a link to an update on proposals for a road bypass of Adare that might threaten the navigation.
Update March 2011: added information about the location of the old harbour.
The River Maigue flows through the picture-postcard village of Adare and, after many bends, joins the Shannon Estuary on its southern shore downstream (west) of Limerick. Some work to improve the river was undertaken as early as 1720 but it doesn’t ever seem to have been a very important navigation. The Directors-General of Inland Navigation did some work from 1815 onwards, installing an opening bridge on the coast road (now the N69) at Ferrybridge, between Clarina and Kildimo. The river never had any locks.
The east bank just below Ferrybridge
A cot or gandalow at Ferrybridge
In 1837 the Shannon Commissioners recommended that only minor works were warranted as only turf boats used the river and there was a good road from Adare to Limerick. Finally, after independence, the new state reviewed its inland waterways in 1923 and concluded (inter alia) that the Maigue’s opening bridge-arch could be replaced by a fixed arch: it had not been opened for many years and anyway most boats were too wide for that arch and had to use the fixed arch. (Info from Ruth Delany The Shannon Navigation The Lilliput Press Dublin 2008)
The present bridge at Ferrybridge
The bridge has a pub at each end. Here’s one of them
At least as far upstream as Adare, the Maigue is heavily embanked, with sluices here and there. The confluence with the Shannon is said to be tricky to navigate, with shifting sand banks. The 1840/1844 OS maps show osieries here and there along the river.
The next three photos show part of the embankment and the river below Adare, to give an idea of the scenery.
Stile leading to Maigue embankment
The river looking calm
Sharp bend ahead
The stile shown earlier leads from the area of the trees on the left bank in the next photo. They mark the location of the quay.
The quay 1
Here’s a close-up.
The quay 2
And here’s a view from the downstream side.
The quay from downstream
The quay now serves as a small car-park, used inter alia by anglers heading down the embankment. It is a short walk from the centre of Adare.
Even when you’re standing on the quay, it’s hard to make out its former purpose …
Looking down from the top of the quay wall
… although the bollards are a bit of a give-away. The white circle in the foreground is the top of one bollard and there’s another to the right of the furthermost car.
Here are some other artefacts.
But the really interesting thing about this quay is that it is not shown on the Ordnance Survey map (surveyed in 1840, published in 1844), although a small quay is shown a little way downstream and on the far side of the river. Nor is this quay shown on the Griffiths Valuation map published between 1847 and 1864, although a possible reason for the existence of the quay is shown by Griffith (available free on Ask about Ireland).
The early maps show that the harbour for Adare was not on the river itself: it was at the end of a short canal that started a little way upstream from the quay and that ended near the ruins of the Trinitarian Abbey. You can see it on the ~1840 OSI map (Historic 6″).
It seems that the harbour was around here ….
So why was that harbour replaced by the new small quay? One of the earlier photographs gave a clue:
The bottom of that photograph shows the rail of this bridge:
The railway bridge
The line from Limerick to Foynes was built (per Wikipedia) between 1856 and 1858. It had a picturesque station in Adare.
Adare railway station
Unfortunately the bridge crossed the Maigue at a low level downstream of the entrance to the old canal. I suspect that very few boats could have got under the bridge; perhaps the railway company had to build the new quay in compensation. I have so far found no information about its construction, so I would welcome information (use the Comments facility).
You can still see the line of the canal on the ~1900 map (Historic 25″) and the modern maps (where it has become a road), with the newfangled railway cutting across the river below the mouth of the canal, depriving turf boats of access to the canal harbour.
The railway bridge from upstream
An update on 15 May 2009: it appears that the Powers That Be will build their road bypass to the south, not to the north, of Adare, so it won’t interfere with navigation (supposing there to be any). No doubt this decision reflects their acceptance of the submission I made on the subject — and not just the fact that the southern route has turned out to be cheaper.
I have a later update, of 2 January, 2014, here.
The navigation authority
I suggest here that, as far as I can see, the Maigue Navigation has never been officially closed and that, again as far as I can see, the Office of Public Works has never been officially relieved of its responsibility as navigation authority for the Maigue: although it flows into the Shannon (estuary), it was always a separate navigation and it was not passed to Waterways Ireland. Anyone desirous of using the navigation might wish to ask the OPW to have it dredged and buoyed.