Richmond Harbour and Clondra Canal restoration 1969

This article is reproduced from the magazine Oibre, published by the Office of Public Works [Oibre Uimhir 9 Bealtaine 1972: Bulletin of the Commissioners of Public Works], which says:

Copyright in the other photographs [those not taken by OPW staff] rests with the owners and they may not be republished without permission. Articles from the Bulletin may be reproduced freely with or without acknowledgement.

The article below was accompanied by a photo taken by Bord Fáilte, so I omit it; it shows an empty Richmond Harbour and a section of the Camlin unobstructed by trees.

Richmond Harbour and Clondra Canal

The 96 miles long Royal Canal which connects the Port of Dublin with the Shannon Navigation at Clondra, Co Longford, has been closed to navigation since 1960. No boat had passed over its length for the previous three years and there was no demand for its retention as a navigable waterway. Córas Iompair Éireann (in whom the canal is vested) continue to maintain parts of the canal but only for drainage and water supply purposes.

The western terminus of the canal is Richmond Harbour situated in the village of Clondra about five miles west of Longford. A lock connects the harbour with the River Camlin, a tributary of the River Shannon. A short distance from the harbour, the half mile long Clondra Canal and Lock links the River Camlin with the River Shannon. It is also possible to travel upstream along the River Camlin for about three miles to where it joins the River Shannon at the southern end of Lough Forbes.

From 1960 onwards the growth of the hire-boat business and the increase in the numbers of privately owned craft underlined the need for additional public quay space and other landing places. Hire-boat operators found difficulty in obtaining sites for suitable bases and those which were available were difficult and expensive to develop. Richmond Harbour, then unusable, appeared to be ideal as a sheltered public mooring area and had good potential for the operation of hired craft. The harbour is about one acre in extent and is flanked by over 1000 feet of good masonry quays. Within the harbour a substantial dry dock was available where repairs to boats could be carried out conveniently. A trunk road adjoins the harbour giving easy access to the quay space.

Bórd Fáilte Éireann, who are largely responsible for the promotion and development of the hire-boat operation on the Shannon Navigation, approached the Commissioners of Public Works in 1967 with a view to reopening the canal terminus. Following consultations with Córas Iompair Éireann, An Bórd Fáílte agreed to finance the restoration work which was commenced by the Office of Public Works the same year.

The harbour was dredged and the quay frontage repaired. The lock and dry dock required substantial repairs and new gates were fabricated and erected. The water supply to the harbour was formerly fed from Lough Owel, near Mullingar. However, this source of supply was no longer available and an alternative supply from the River Camlin was obtained by erecting a pumping plant near the harbour. The operational level of the harbour is about nine feet higher than the river and is controlled by automatic switchgear. Lighting was provided along the perimeter of the terminus.

The harbour can admit vessels up to 75 feet long and 14′ 6″ beam while a five foot depth is maintained over the upper sill of the lock. The dry dock can admit any vessel capable of passing through the lock.

When the restoration work was completed in 1969, it was decided to refurbish the disused Clondra Canal and lock. The canal is carried in a very deep cutting, portions of which had collapsed. The lock and most of the canal were dewatered and repairs carried out in the dry. New lock gates were built and fitted and repairs carried out at the lock chamber.

The completed works at Richmond Harbour and the Clondra Canal are a valuable asset to the Shannon Navigation. They have added considerably to the interest of cruising in the area and have restored the focal point of the pleasant and interesting village of Clondra.

 

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