The Lough Owel feeder

The Lough Owel feeder was the principal supply of water to the summit level of the Royal Canal. The lake is to the north of Mullingar. The canal forms a half-circle around the north side of the town; the feeder joins it there, east of the harbour and dry dock. There is now a proposal that a supply be taken from Lough Ennell, to the south of the town.

Lough Owel, Mullingar and Lough Ennell

Here is the line of the feeder on the Ordnance Survey map of around 1840. It and the canal are marked in blue on the map.

The line of the feeder

You can drive up to the lake; the road runs quite close to the feeder. There is a parking place by the shore, close to the boats; the sluice house, where the feeder begins, is just a few yards on your left (west).

Boats at Lough Owel

The sluice house in ~1840

The sluice house from downstream

The sluice house in ~1900

The intake from the lake

The water is very clear

The Irish Times angling correspondent has commented on the clarity of the water.

Looking towards the sluice house (upstream side) from the intake

Gauge above the sluices

Upstream side of the sluices

Downstream side of the sluices

There is a short path from the sluices to a footbridge downstream of the house. It follows a semi-circular route and is slightly raised; I don’t know why.

The path (upper end)

The path (lower end)

Here is the feeder coming out under the sluice house. It must have been a damp place to live.

The feeder emerges from under the sluice house

Looking from downstream up towards the footbridge and the sluice house. Note the upwelling of water

The upwelling water seen from the footbridge

I don’t know what the upwelling is. Two possibilities strike me. One is that some or all of the water is pumped or pipeds to the feeder from far out in the lake rather than flowing in to the intake above the sluice house. The other is that water from Cullion fishfarm, which is said to be recirculated into the system, is pumped into the feeder at this point. I hope that somebody will be able to tell me what the true explanation is. In the meantime, if the googlegods are smiling upon us, you will be able to see below an aerial photograph of what I presume to be the fishfarm, which is close to the feeder about one third of the way from the lake to Mullingar.

There are two small concrete structures near the sluice house; I wondered whether they might house pumps.

Concrete structure 1

Concrete structure 2

Heading back towards Mullingar, here (from downstream) is the bridge marked “Road bridge” on the two OSI maps of the sluice house above.

Road bridge

I could show you several more photos of the feeder en route to Mullingar, but when you’ve seen one small stream you’ve seen ’em all. Let us move rapidly to the canal harbour in Mullingar.

The feeder joins the canal

The feeder passes under this bridge

Grooves for stop-planks on the canal side of the bridge

Looking upstream from the bridge

It’s an interesting feeder to visit. It’s not as impressive as the Milltown Feeder on the Grand, though.

All photos taken April 2012.


3 responses to “The Lough Owel feeder

  1. any idea as to wether the dry dock is opened to barges.

  2. As far as I know, it is not open, although some WI-sponsored vessels may have used it. For a definitive ruling, ring WI Tullamore 057 935 2300; I believe that all dry dock bookings (at least for the canals) have to be made through that office. bjg

  3. Pingback: Royal water | Irish waterways history

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