Category Archives: Economic activities

Irish slobs

The word “slob” is a provincial term, and applied to banks of mud in the same way that the word “warp” is used to signify similar formations in the River Humber.

Second Report of the Commissioners appointed pursuant to the Act 5 & 6 William IV cap 67 for the improvement of the navigation of the River Shannon; with maps, plans, and estimates HMSO, Dublin 1837

Staffing the Shannon

According to the eleventh and final report of the Shannon Commissioners, published in 1850 but covering the year 1849, each of the quays built by the commissioners on the Shannon Estuary had an officer stationed at it to collect tolls and other charges. Five of the six — Querrin, Saleen, Kilteery, Kildysart [aka Cahircon] and Clare [now Clarecastle] — had Second Class Collectors; Kilrush, being busier, had a First Class Collector.

Cappa [Kilrush] pier

Moving upriver, Limerick was one of only two places on the Shannon to have an Inspector; it also had a First Class Collector and a Lock-keeper. Park, the next lock up on the Limerick Navigation, also had a keeper, as did five of the six locks on the Plassey–Errina Canal — Plassey [aka Annaghbeg], Gillogue, Newtown, Cloonlara [so spelt] and Errina. Presumably the Cloonlara keeper also locked after the nearby Monaskeha Lock. Preusmably, too, the keepers collected any tolls or charges due at the locks: there were no separate collectors, yet from other evidence we know that tolls and wharfage were collected at Plassey [Annaghbeg] and Errina.

O’Briensbridge modern [ie 1830s] navigation arch

Back on the river, O’Briensbridge had a Second Class Collector. On the Killaloe Canal, each of the three locks — Cussane, Moyse [sic] and Killaloe — had a keeper; the Cussane keeper must have collected tolls and wharfage. Killaloe had a First Class Collector.

On Lough Derg, Scarriff and Portumna each had a Second Class Collector. Portumna, like several places upstream, had an opening bridge, but the Shannon Commissioners did not employ a bridge-keeper: the bridge was not built, owned or operated by the Shannon Commissioners.

Back on the river, on what used to be called the Middle Shannon, the commissioners employed both a Second Class Collector and a lock-keeper at Victoria Lock (Meelick). There was another Second Class Collector, and a bridge-keeper, at Banagher. At Wooden Bridge, the crossing of the Shannon from the Grand Canal’s main line to its Ballinasloe line, the commissioners employed two ferry boatmen: by that stage the bridge no longer existed and the commissioners had installed a ferry to carry horses and tow boats between the canals.

Shannon Bridge had a Second Class Collector and a bridge-keeper; Athlone had a bridge-keeper but earned itself a First Class Collector. On Lough Ree, Lecarrow and Lanesborough each had a Second Class Collector but Tarmonbarry had nobody: a First Class Collector was assigned to Cloondragh [so spelt] but presumably had to look after Clondra and Tarmonbarry locks, the weir, Tarmonbarry bridge and the collection of tolls. Mighty men they had back then.

The second Inspector was based at Rooskey, along with a lock-keeper who presumably also operated the bridge and did anything that needed doing on the weir. Albert Lock on the Jamestown Canal had a lock-keeper but Kilbride, the quay at the upper end of the canal, had a wharfinger, the only one on the Shannon.

Fermate at Kilbride Quay

The collection of tolls (presumably by the wharfinger) did not begin at Kilbride until March 1849 but in that year it took in £6 in tolls and £1 in wharfage, compared with £1 + £2 at Drumsna and £0 + £0 at Jamestown. Perhaps the road beside the quay made it a suitable place for cargoes from Roscommon to transfer from road to water transport.

Carrick-on-Shannon, not an important station on the Shannon, had just a Second Class Collector; there was a lock-keeper at Knockvicar for the Boyle Water and another at Battle Bridge who presumably looked after all the locks on the Lough Allen Canal.

Cranes were provided at several places but there is no mention of designated crane-operators.

Source: Eleventh and Final Report of the Commissioners under the Act 2 & 3 Vict c61 for the improvement of the Navigation of the River Shannon, Ireland; with an appendix Ordered, by The House of Commons, to be Printed, 3 June 1850 [407]

 

I’ve often wondered …

… what this ramp is, or at least what it was originally intended as.

Curious object [2006]

And now I know. There will be a special prize, of a blank sheet of A4 paper, for the first person to describe its origins correctly.

Kilteery

The current header photo shows Kilteery Pier on the Shannon Estuary. Here is a page about the building of the pier.

What Éanna Rowe might say

In the minor arrangements made by us, and the rates fixed for small boats, we have been influenced by the same general principles already mentioned, and have been guided by the further principle of making every class of traffic or boat, however small, liable to some rate of toll, in order to establish a useful and beneficial control over the navigation.

Second Report of the Commissioners for improving the Navigation of the Shannon; with an appendix Ordered, by The House of Commons, to be Printed, 26 February 1841 [88]

The new header photo

Kilteery pier, on the Shannon estuary, August 2015

The Boundary of Jurisdiction

The Shannon Navigation Act of 1839 required the Shannon Commissioners to define the boundaries of the navigation. They did so, describing the limits in a manuscript with illustrations and showing the Shannon and all structures therein in a series of 45 maps. Here is a brief piece about the undertaking.

Shannon water levels

According to the Indo, which may or may not know anything about the matter itself but probably got a press release from someone [to whom the same qualification may apply], farmers along the Shannon Callows are concerned about rising water levels at Clonown, an area on the west bank below Athlone.

The level in that area is held up by the weir at Meelick. But according to Waterways Ireland today,

[…]  low water levels exist on the upstream approaches to Meelick and Victoria Lock. Water levels are currently below Summer levels.

According to the OPW gauges at Athlone, the water level is below the 50th percentile and is falling. The same applies at Banagher, although it did exceed the 50th percentile for some days.

Three lessons suggest themselves:

  • farmers might need to get used to the idea that, when it rains, it gets wet — and that, if they choose to farm on a floodplain, their land might get wet too
  • politicians might refrain from issuing nonsensical panic-laden press releases to gain free publicity [but I suppose that’s too much to ask for]
  • journalists might like to check stuff for themselves instead of reprinting press releases unquestioningly [but that too is probably too much to ask for].

Barges

River problems in the Americas.

Meelick

Sinn Féin has a TD called Martin Kenny who, in the Dáil on 29 May 2019, asked about repairs to a walkway across Meelick Weir. He said that

The weir is a crossing point on the Shannon on an important walkway, the Beara-Breifne Way, which runs from Breifne in Leitrim to the Beara Peninsula, straight through Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.

I’m not sure that he’s got the direction of travel right, but let that pass. He also said

The problem is that people using the walkway have not been informed it is closed. Many businesses, particularly tourism businesses, are directing people up the walkway as far as the bridge but they cannot cross it. Over the past several days, some tourists could not cross the river at the point.

One Seán Kyne, a mini-minister, said in reply that

In 2009, during an extreme weather event, the weir and its walkway from which the weir boards are placed and removed were extensively damaged. In the 2015-16 severe weather event, the last remnants of the walkway were destroyed.

If the “many businesses, particularly tourism businesses” have not noticed that the walkway has been out of action for almost ten years, it suggests that the Beara-Breifne Way is used by very few people and that its reinstatement is not important, or at least not urgent. On the other hand, it might suggest that the operators of the tourism businesses in question have not paid as much attention to the route as they might have.

The minister, by the way, said

Meelick weir was originally built in the 1790s as part of the Shannon navigation.

I thought it was built by the Shannon Commissioners in the 1840s.