I learned today that the chimneys at Shannonbridge had been demolished. While they were not — pace Mr Killeen — essential navigational beacons, they were a familiar landmark. As the Irish midlands are, like Norfolk, very flat, the chimneys could be seen from quite far away. The photos below will provide a reminder of what they looked like.
Shannonbridge is one of only two settlements at crossing-places on the River Shannon between Portumna (at the head of Lough Derg, to the south) and Athlone (at the foot of Lough Ree, to the north). There is only one lock (Victoria Lock at Meelick) on that section until you reach Athlone itself; the terrain is flat and the river meanders quite a lot. Just below Shannonbridge the River Suck (navigable for several miles to Ballinasloe) joins the Shannon, and below that again the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) peat-fired generating station dominates the east bank. It even has its own railway bridge, so that its trains can feed it with milled peat from the bogs on the west as well as the east side of the river.
The chimneys belonged to the older station on the site (although the taller chimney may have dated only from 1995). In some of the photos below, you can see the newer station (which will have a limited lifespan) being built. Its operation has not been without problems, and its very construction was criticised by Friends of the Irish Environment. The demolition of the old chimneys has been criticised too, as a loss of industrial heritage, but (while not unsympathetic to that argument) my own feelings are rather more sentimental: I will miss seeing the chimneys from downstream, from upstream and from the River Suck.
Shannonbridge from Clonmacnois (2009)
I took that photo not two weeks ago, not realising that the chimneys were to be demolished. We were close to the monastic site of Clonmacnois at the time, and I was struck by the idea that the two sets of structures that dominate the skyline along that stretch of the Shannon were built so far apart: development at Clonmacnois began in the sixth century and that at Shannonbridge in the twentieth. Yet Shannonbridge was just as rooted in the geography and indeed geology of the area as Clonmacnois was.
Shannonbridge from the north (2003)
That photo was taken somewhat closer to the village in 2003, when the new power-station was being built: you’ll see the cranes in several of the photos below.
Shannonbridge from off the new moorings above the village (2003)
Here we’re much closer to the village itself, off the new pontoon moorings above the road bridge. A short distance below the bridge, the River Suck joins the Shannon. The next photo was taken from the Suck in 2001, when the old power-station stood alone. The two chimneys are those that have just been demolished.
Shannonbridge from the River Suck (2001)
By 2008, it had company. The new power station is, I gather, officially called the West Offaly: Shannonbridge is in the west of County Offaly.
Shannonbridge from the Suck (2008)
Here are some photos taken from close by during construction.
The old and the new (2003)
The new (2003)
The old (2003)
The new and the old again (2003)
The next few photos show the railway bridge spanning the River Shannon and carrying one of the Bord na Mona narrow-gauge lines that feed the plant. Bord na Mona’s rail network is, I gather, one of the largest industrial rail networks in Europe. Ewan Duffy’s Industrial Heritage Ireland website (see Comment below) has photographs of the part of the Shannonbridge railway line running through Kylemore Lock on the abandoned Ballinasloe Line of the Grand Canal.
The railway bridge from the south (2003)
The round red and square black marks show the navigation arch. The next photo shows the underside of the bridge.
The underside (2003)
After many years, I finally managed to photograph a train on the bridge (2009)
The cooling-water outlet is a good place for fishing (2008)
A cruiser passes the power station (2008)
… goodbye …