ttleHere are some photos of traditional boats of Irish inland and estuarial waters. This is nothing like a comprehensive account; for the full story get the book Traditional Boats of Ireland: see www.tradboats.ie.
Several of the traditional boat types were involved in commercial fishing, mostly small-scale salmon-netting. That has now been banned, and it seems that many of the boats have now been removed from the water. If they dry out unduly, they may never sail again. However, the anglers’ boats are still in use, and there are still some wooden “lakeboats” around, although GRP (fibreglass) is now much more common.
There are some photos of larger wooden boats, mostly motor-cruisers, here and here.
There are photos of a replica Shannon Estuary turf boat [Seol Sionna] here and of a Slaney cot here.
Update May 2010
Added some maps and some photos of Cashen gandalows.
Update 26 July 2009
Added three photos of Nore cots.
Update 25 June 2009
Added a photo of an Erne cot, kindly supplied by Tina of Wasserrausch. Her website has material on Irish waterways in both English and German, and lots of photos. The copyright in the photo used here is owned by Wasserrausch and I am very grateful to Tina for permitting me to use it.
Boats at Corrib Rowing and Yacht Club, Galway
Here is a traditional wooden lakeboat that has been repaired by John-Joe Quigley and his son John: see my page on The boat-builder’s heritage.
Wooden lakeboat on Lough Ree
On the “three sisters” rivers of the south-east, the Barrow, the Nore and the Suir, slim cots were used for snap-netting. Here is a Google map, on which you should be able to see the Suir coming in from the left, passing through Carrick-on-Suir and then turning seaward through Waterford. It is joined by the Barrow, coming down from New Ross; above New Ross the Barrow is to the right, tidal as far as St Mullins, and the Nore is on the left, tidal to Inistiogue.
Here is a pair of boats snap-netting in Carrick-on-Suir, drifting down with the tide. In each boat, one man uses the crude paddle while the other holds one end of the net. When a salmon is felt to hit the net, the fishermen snap it shut, trapping the salmon. Or they did, before it was banned. When several pairs of boats were active, they would drift down in a line; a boat that had taken a fish would fall out of the line and rejoin at the end.
Snap-netting in Carrick-on-Suir
Here are some cots ashore in Carrick-on-Suir.
A cot ashore in Carrick-on-Suir
Another cot ashore
There were differences in design, not only between cots on different rivers but also on different stretches of the same river, to take account of local conditions and fishing methods.
The next two photos show two cots, stacked one on top of the other, at Inistiogue, which is the head of the tidal navigation on the river Nore. These boats may have been used for salmon-fishing; they may never be used again.
Two cots at Inistiogue 1 (June 2009)
Two cots at Inistiogue 2 (June 2009). Note the interesting seats
Happily, not every Nore cot has been taken out of the water. I don’t know the name of the place where I took this next photo, but perhaps the Ferry King might be able to tell me …. Note the differences in size and design and, again, the interesting seats.
Nore cots afloat (June 2009)
Here is a cot from the River Blackwater (the Munster Blackwater that joins the sea at Youghal).
And here is one from its tributary, the Bride. This was taken at Camphire Bridge.
Cot at Camphire Bridge
In that photo, you can see the stern of a small boat afloat. Here’s another photo of it. I don’t know how to describe it.
Ineffable boat at Camphire Bridge
This is a cot at Castleconnell on the River Shannon. It may be a shorter descendant of the brecaun that was used for snap-netting on the Shannon. This boat is removed from the river every winter and returned, freshly painted, every spring.
Cot at Castleconnell
Incidentally, these slim river cots are to be distinguished from the wide-beam vessels, also called cots, that were used on several of the lakes and on some rivers for carring turf, hay, cattle and even funerals.
Erne cot at Crom Castle 2007 (copyright Tina of Wasserrausch)
I think that the Erne cot’s sloping end was designed to make it easy to run the cot ashore and load or unload animals. However, I think that traditionally, when cots were rowed, the slope was at the stern rather than at the bow.
The name cot was also applied to vessels that carried sand into Limerick from the Plassey area. Here is a colourful fishing-cot tied to a reproduction sand-cot at Plassey. At the time when the photo was taken, fishermen were protesting about the University of Limerick’s proposed new bridge, which has since been built.
Cots at Plassey
On the Boyne, coracles or currachs were used, and Claidhbh and Sinead O Gibne of the Boyne Currach Centre (which is a wonderful website, by the way) are keeping the tradition alive. Here is Claidhbh with a coracle.
At several places on the upriver section of the Shannon estuary, gandalows were used for fishing, reed-cutting, inter-island transport, servicing lighthouses and carrying pilots. At Bunratty, the boats are mounted on boat-stands.
Clarecastle (formerly known as Clare), at the head of the Fergus Navigation, was the port for Ennis, and coasters used its impressive quay. Now, with the ban on fishing, it may be that even the gandalows will desert it.
The quay at Clarecastle
Two gandalows at Clarecastle
Here are three views of one of the gandalows.
Gandalow from the bow. Note how it is tied
Gandalow from astern
The lift at the stern
Here are two views of a new gandalow at St Michael’s Rowing Club in Limerick.
This is a Co Clare gandalow at Massy’s Quay on the River Deel in Co Limerick.
Two gandalows at Killadysert on the Fergus estuary.
Here’s one from the south side of the Shannon estuary, on the Maigue at Ferrybridge.
The Cashen is a tributary of the Shannon Estuary, flowing in on the south (County Kerry) side, and gandalows were used there too. It is much closer to the open Atlantic and there are stony beaches to be contended with, so there are some differences in design between the Cashen gandalow and its upriver cousin. Here are some photos taken at Cashen Bridge in February 2010.
There are more photos of gandalows on the pages about Rosscliff, Crovraghan and Lackannashinnagh.
Finally, I know it’s neither inland nor even estuarial, but that’s the problem with Galway: the river, lake and (unusable) canal are very close to the sea, and you might see one of these ….
glad to see some info on cots, we have refurbished a lough beg cot and made a new one as well,the cots of ireland are a marvellous reminder of the skills and adaptations of our ancestors and deserve to be preserved
Thanks, Kieran. I’ve tried to email you direct but it bounced back to me. Your group’s site http://www.loughneaghboats.org/ is very interesting: great to see wide-beam cots being made!
hi brian, this is a fantastic resource very well done.
the 2 cots on the nore are at ballinagoc pier which is in the area of rathsnadigan. these are 2 recient types of cot, the original nore cot is a double ender! beautiful things there are a few still around.
Thanks, Mick. I presume the change of design was to allow an outboard to be used?
I hope to get an (incomplete) account of the Nore up soon, and again your help would be invaluable.
any thing i can do brian you have my no.
I just spotted a rare postcard which might interest you on ebay at
Thanks, Declan: that’s very interesting. Incidentally, I hope to put up pages, over the next few weeks, about some of the other piers and harbours on the north side of the Shannon estuary.
Have you any info as to where fishings cots can be made or bought?
We fish on the munster blackwater
Brigid Mernin on behalf of the family
To Brigid Mernin.
River cots may be built to order if you contact Pat Drohan, Bridge St., Carriick on Suir. mobile 0868586889
Regards, Dave Kelly
to brigid mernin
my frather joe joyce clashmore maybe able to repair one ,
I am travelling to Wexford next week in an attempt to find out more about an ancestor who was born (1836) the son of a fisherman. I am told the local fishing boats weree known as ‘cobs’ however I have trawled the Internet and cannot find any reference to these boats. Can you assist? Unfortunately the Irish Maritme Museum does not seem to function or is closed.
I haven’t heard the word ‘cob’ used of any of the traditional boats, and it’s not in the index of *Traditional Boats of Ireland* (the main work on the subject, published by Collins Press). However, the word ‘cot’ is widely used, and I wonder whether your source might have confused the two words. There was a particularly interesting type of sailing cot used in Rosslare (near Wexford), from (at least) the 18th century up to the 1960s, and it is described in *Traditional Boats of Ireland*.
I’d suggest having a look in a library (perhaps in Wexford) for a copy of the book (it’s expensive, so you might not want to buy it just to research one boat type). It might be useful to know whether your ancestor was involved in sea fishing or in salmon fishing, as there would have been different types of boats (and, of course, different locations) for the two activities.
the word Cot is widely used in wexford to descrribe three very different types of fishing boat.
1: flat bottom rowing boat used on the River slaney, still used for recorational rowing.
2: a flat bottomed sailing dingy used in the esturay
3; a costal sailing dingy now extinct riged as a 3 master lug sailer.
ill email brian a picture.
the name Hughes is also a well know wexford name, however i’m not aware of any Hughes currently sailing. perhaps have a look at Bassets wexford and the journels of old wexford society.
i have had a quick look at the dictonery of worlds water craft and Cob is not listed, the nearest is coble also dont forget Cob in Lymes Regis is a well know fishing area. (in case yourinfo is incorrect)
That’s great, Mick; thanks. I’ll email on a copy of your comment to Ian in case he hasn’t checked back here. bjg
D.W. Prowse in his 1898 History of Newfoundland mentions the Wexford Cot as a type of Irish herring sceine boat, that he speculated might have been copied or modified in the 1800s by Irish immigrants on the island of Newfoundland.
Perhaps it has been pointed out already but ‘coite’ (or cot in English) is the older name for a boat in Ireland – as opposed to the name ‘bád’. For example, Annacotty on the Mulkear river in Limerick is ‘Áth na Coití’ – the Ford of the Cots/ Boats. The ‘Bád Bán’ or ‘white boat’ took our ancestors into exile; possibly it earned its name from its white sails (?).
That’s very interesting; thanks, GordR. bjg
Brian: that’s a very interesting observation; thanks. It would explain why the word ‘cot’ is applied to such different types of vessels. bjg (a few miles from Áth na Coití)
Was there a book on gandalows in Limerick city
And how can I get one thanks.
The Wikipedia page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gandelow mentions some. There’s this too https://www.amazon.co.uk/Clunes-Lane-Fisherman-Shannon-Boatbuilder/dp/0955835003
Try Amazon or Abebooks.
I was tracing my grandfather x3 ago. On the 1901 census his occupation is Cotman. Is that the usual name for a person that sailed a cot for a living?
It seems to have been in common use, at least in the areas where cots were used. I’ve had a quick look at the British Newspaper Archive files and I’ve found examples from almost every decade from the 1830s to the 1920s:
1831 Shannon (Limerick), 1835 Shannon (Lough Derg), 1840 Erne and Slaney, 1851 Suir and Slaney, 1860 Slaney, 1870 Nore, 1881 Slaney, 1903 Slaney, 1911 Suir, 1927 Barrow.
I didn’t go any further than that and just looked for one reference in each decade rather than trying to find all of them, but I think that’s enough to answer your question. bjg