Update April 2012
Added some photos of the cranes at the patent slip and dockyard in Killaloe.
Update June 2011
Added some thoughts on the Carrick-on-Shannon crane.
Update October 2010
Added some thoughts (below) on the Banagher, Limerick and Kilgarvan cranes.
Update 16 August 2010
Added more photos and information about the Killaloe and Banagher cranes.
On 3 August 1900 James Kirkland, Secretary and Manager of the Grand Canal Company, wrote to the Secretary of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners about the Company’s trade to Limerick and the likely effects thereon of a dispute with the Board of Works (which managed the Shannon and the “Limerick Canal”). Mr Kirkland’s letter was a series of complaints about the Board of Works and it included a lament for the £30,000 the Company claimed to have spent during the period it managed part of the middle Shannon; even though the arrangement had ended over fifty years earlier, the Company was still bitter about having been paid only £5 for its trouble.
In the course of his letter, Mr Kirkland wrote this:
As an example of the facilities afforded by the Board of Works I may mention that early this year this company wrote to the Board pointing out the condition of their crane at Banagher, and asking them to have it put in proper order, but nothing was done except to supply a new chain. The crane was a very old one, cumbrous to work, and should have been replaced by a more modern one long ago. We had to continue working the crane until May last, when it broke, resulting in a fatal accident to one of the men who had been using it. Even now, notwithstanding this accident, they propose to erect another old patched-up crane which has been removed from Kingstown [now Dun Laoghaire].
It may be that the Grand Canal Company’s complaints had some effect, because the crane at Banagher has a plaque saying (inter alia) 1-8-00, but was that a date? And if it was, was it the date of installation, inspection, refurbishment or something completely different?
The Banagher crane
The oval plate in the last photo reads:
Board of Public Works
To lift 3 tons
Is 1-8-00 is the date of installation? There is some evidence that may suggest a different explanation (see under Portumna below) and enlightenment would be welcomed.
Des Fforde (see Comments below) says that:
I think that the crane did use a chain rather than wire rope, judging by the grooves in the barrel. A counterweight would usually only be used on a mobile crane.
And have a look at the “other crane” in Limerick, near the bottom of this page. Hard to say, but it has some points in common with the Banagher crane.
I know of only two surviving cranes further upstream than that at Banagher, and the Shannonbridge crane (of which, alas, I have no close-ups) is of a different design.
The other upstream crane I know of is at Carrick-on-Shannon (if I have missed any cranes, especially upstream, I would be glad to learn about them). The Carrick crane is above the bridge, and it lacks a jib. Unlike the other cranes, it has been painted green; it bears the number 12.
After prolonged examination, I have made a guess at the wording on the upper plate in the second photo. I think it says
?? Mather Dixon & Co
If you would like to have a go at deciphering it, and would like a full-size (3.7MB) version of the photo by email, please say so in a Comment at the bottom of the page. I would be glad to hear from anyone with more information than Google produces about the firm.
If my guess is correct, then this is an old crane. According to Wikipedia, Mather, Dixon & Company, locomotive manufacturers, were at the Bath Street Foundry from 1826 to 1839, when they moved to Bootle. In 1842, John Grantham, who had been apprenticed to the firm, became a partner; he was the author of Iron, as a Material for Ship-Building (1842), and the son of the John Grantham who brought the first steam-ship to the Shannon. The firm closed in 1843, before the Shannon Commissioners began work at Carrick.
In their seventh annual report, in March 1846, the Commissioners for the Improvement of the Navigation of the River Shannon reported on the Upper Shannon:
At Carrick-on-Shannon, the bulding of a new bridge of five arches, and taking down and removing the old one, constructing a quay, wharf-wall and harbour.
A contract has been made for the supply of the necessary cranes for the quays on the river.
Their ninth report, made in 1848, said that almost all the works at Carrick, except the harbour, were complete, but the cranes were not mentioned.
It seems, then, that the crane at Carrick is older than the quays. In 1832 Thomas Rhodes had reported of Carrick:
Above the bridge, on the Leitrim side of the river, a harbour is now being made by — St George Esq, for the loading and unloading of craft; when completed, it will be of very great convenience and service to the town and surrounding country.
He listed the partly-made harbour at Carrick as one of only fourteen on the Shannon, of which “scarcely one is furnished with a crane”. It is conceivable (but I have no evidence either way) that this crane was installed my Dash St George Esq at his new harbour and repositioned by the Shannon Commissioners when they extended the quays.
Most of the surviving cranes are on the lower Shannon, from Portumna down. Here is the crane at Connaught Harbour, Portumna.
Note that the rectangular plate seems to say “Shannon Commission”. I would have expected that phrase to have fallen out of use once the Board of Works took over the Shannon, and that might suggest that this crane is older than 1900. Could the 1-8-00 be a date of inspection or refurbishment rather than a date of installation? Or might it be something other than a date?
Here is another piece of evidence.
You probably can’t read that, but I think the words on the side say
In The Post Office Annual Directory and Calendar for 1843, Courtney & Stephens, of 1 Blackhall Place, Dublin, is described as “agricultural implement factory and iron works”. But according to the Dictionary of Irish Architects, the firm of Courtney & Stephens, of Blackhall Place, Dublin, became Courtney, Stephens & Bailey in 1865. That suggests that this crane may be original Shannon Navigation equipment.
I have but one poor photo of the remains of the crane at Kilgarvan on the east side of Lough Derg.
This is the only crane that has what might be called imitation cursive. I wasn’t able to read the first line; the second seems to say
Warranted to carry 25 cwt
I am not at all sure of the number, and I note that the final word seems to read “cut” rather than “cwt”, the usual abbreviation for “hundredweight” (one twentieth of a ton).
I looked again at this photo recently, and I now think that the upper line reads “Shotts Iron Works”: Shotts, half way between Edinburgh and Glasgow, had an iron works from about 1802.
If you would like to have a go at deciphering the text, I can supply a 1.4MB version of the photo.
We pause on our way downstream to note that the crane at Williamstown (formerly Cow Island) is of a different pattern from those we have seen so far, which would not be surprising as Williamstown was not a Shannon Navigation harbour. I understand that this crane was fitted to the canal-boat Peter Farrell (operated by John Weaving) before it got hydraulics.
The crane at Scarriff seems to match that at Portumna.
I should have shifted those barrels to check the manufacturer’s name.
The cranes at the patent slip and dockyard will be covered in more detail on a different page; here are five photos as a temporary measure.
Killaloe dockyard cranes
The crane at the quay
There is a similar plate on the far side. It is undamaged, so I could read the full address, but my photo is less good. The manufacturer was:
William Jones, 154 Upper Thames Street, London
Googling has produced no information about the firm or its years of operation; I would welcome information.
There were two cranes at the canal harbour in Limerick.
Rather less remains of the other crane.
However, it has some points of resemblance to the Banagher crane. I must take more photos ….
I’ve written about Saleen Pier here. As far as I can see, it is the only one of the estuary piers constructed by the Shannon Commissioners that still has a crane. However, the Shannon Commissioners’ reports up to 1850 do not show any income from cranage from Saleen (or indeed from any of their estuary piers other than Kilrush), so it is possible that the crane was installed later.
The manufacturer’s plaque says
According to John D’Alton’s The History of the County of Dublin (1838)
Mr. Clarke has an iron foundry here [Ringsend], where about fifty men have daily employment […].
Now that I know what to look for on Shannon Navigation cranes, I must revisit some of them and take more photos …. In the meantime, if anyone can add to the store of knowledge, do please leave a Comment below. From the GCC letter, it appears that the cranes could be operated by persons not employed by the Board of Works, but what were the commercial and working practices that governed their use? What other cranes are still around? And, if Carrick-on-Shannon is No 12, how many were there altogether and where were they located?
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Oh, the title of this page? Clue: Pete Brown.