Category Archives: Irish inland waterways vessels

Ferry King

According to the Heritage Boat Association, the steamer Ferry King was built in 1918 by Camper and Nicholson and operated by the Gosport and Portsea Steam Launch Association until 1955. It was then sold to the Solent Boating Company, fitted with a Gardner diesel and renamed Solent Queen. In 1985 it was sold to Waterford owners, renamed Crystal Rose and operated as a cruising bar and disco on the Barrow, Nore and Suir estuaries. Grounded and abandoned some time later, it was bought in 2005  and berthed at Ballinagoth Quay on the River Nore, where restoration work began.

Ferry King in 2009: view from the bow

Ferry King in 2009: view from the stern

Ferry King in 2009: steelwork in progress

Ferry King in 2009: portholes

Ferry King in 2009: stern

Ferry King in 2009: rear deck

On 18 April 2017, Kilkenny County Council published this notice:

Notice of Intention to Remove and Dispose of a Wreck situated at Ballinagoth Quay, Ballinagoth, County Kilkenny0

KILKENNY COUNTY COUNCIL

Section 52 Merchant Shipping (Salvage and Wreck) Act 1993

NOTICE OF INTENTION TO REMOVE AND DISPOSE OF A WRECK

Re:- “The Ferry King”, situated at Ballinagoth Quay, Ballinagoth, County Kilkenny.

WHEREAS: Kilkenny County Council is the local authority for the County of Kilkenny (hereinafter called “The Council”)

AND WHEREAS: There is located at Ballinagoth Quay, Ballinagoth, County Kilkenny a vessel known as “The Ferry King” (hereinafter called “the Wreck”) which the Council is of the view constitutes a wreck for the purpose of the Merchant Shipping (Salvage and Wreck) Act 1993 (hereinafter called “the Act”)

AND WHEREAS: The Council is of the opinion that the Wreck constitutes a threat of harm to the marine environment or to related interests (as defined in the Act)

NOW TAKE NOTICE that the Council, after the lapse of thirty days from the date of this Notice, intend to take, do the following:

  1. Take possession of the Wreck and remove the Wreck from Ballinagoth Quay,
  2. Sell or otherwise dispose of the Wreck,
  3. Retain out of the proceeds of sale the expenses incurred by the Council in relation to the removal of the Wreck.

Dated this 18th day of April 2017

Tim Butler
———————————————–
For and on behalf of Kilkenny County Council
County Hall,
John Street,
Kilkenny.

According to the Kilkenny People,

‘The Ferry King’ is in poor condition and has remained at the quay for more than a decade now. Local councillor Michael Doyle has raised the issue on a number of occasions, saying that the vessel had become unsightly, as well as a health and safety problem.

The article linked within that quotation did not mention either Ballinagoth or Ferry King, so it may be about a different vessel.

Update 22 June 2017

I asked Kilkenny County Council whether the vessel was actually removed 30 days after 18 April. I was told that letters have gone out today seeking tenders for its removal, so Ferry King is still there.

 

 

 

Scarriff

Both the OSI and Logainm.ie show the spelling as Scarriff, but the version with one R seems to be common in the area and is used on the area’s website. I’m sticking to the longer version, so that I can at some future time work up a joke about Scaelbowiff.

Scarriff is a small town in County Clare, a little distance upriver from the end of Lough Derg’s western arm.

Lough Derg’s western arm (OSI ~1900)

In the 1840s the Shannon Commissioners made the river navigable to the town: before then Reddan’s Pier at Tuamgraney seems to have been the head of the river, at least for larger boats.

Reddan’s Quay at Tuamgraney (aka Tomgraney) (OSI ~1900)

Tuamgraney is a pleasant spot. A short distance up the road to the village is a restored limekiln.

However, Reddan’s Quay is on a bloody awful bend in the river. Large boats may have difficulty in making the turn without assistance, especially if they’re coming downstream with a flow. Anyone moored at Reddan’s Quay in such circumstances might need a new paint job afterwards.

Scarriff Harbour (OSI ~1900)

 

harbour facilities

Scarriff Harbour was expanded in recent times by the addition of concrete finger jetties, which provide more mooring spaces for modern cruisers. The jetties don’t touch the old quay: I gather that this was to preserve the ancient monument or something [perhaps, Gentle Reader, you can correct me on that]. The quay still sports a Shannon Commissioners crane (no longer working) . Two long berths were provided during the expansion: half of one long berth is occupied by a boat (one of three such) that was not occupied last weekend and the other is the pump-out berth.

At the inner end of the harbour are some floating pontoons suitable for open boats and for launching kayaks and canoes. However, despite the presence of a lock-up cage for the safe storage of kayaks and canoes, indicating that small-boat activity is welcome, low barriers (only 1.8m) at the entrance to the harbour require those arriving by car to unload the kayak or canoe outside the harbour and carry it in, then return to drive the car in and unload the vessel’s equipment and cargo.

There is no slipway.

The barriers might deter camper-vans, alas: another example of discrimination against RV-users.

The harbour has a toilet-and-shower block, a pump-out, two double-socket mains electricity pillars, lights and a supply of water, which latter is used by persons arriving by car with numbers of plastic containers.

However, the harbour has not a single bin of any kind. Thus, late-evening carousers are forced to jettison their empty bottles and cans and their cardboard containers around the harbour, smashing some on the concrete in the process. A civic-minded citizen might try to sweep up the broken glass but then has nowhere to put it. [Incidentally, the carousers had left by about midnight and there was none of the threatening atmosphere that is sometimes to be felt: apart from their regrettable habits in the matter of rubbish disposal, these seemed to be quite civilised carousers.]

But back to bins. A civic-minded dog-owner who cleans up after Fido must then carry the remains around. In hot weather, dog poo on a boat begins to smell after a while; any outbreaks of cholera can be attributed to what Waterways Ireland calls its “Leave no trace” policy, which might better be termed “Pay no local authority bin charges”. As a policy, “Leave no trace” is simply an encouragement to dog-owners not to clean up: it’s far, far less trouble to leave the stuff for someone else to walk in.

The exiles

In 1997 Síle de Valera, a local TD, became Minister for Fairytales. Waterways Ireland was set up during her reign and cursed by being given several regional offices; the Western region (ie Shannon) office was built at the harbour in Scarriff, in Ms de Valera’s constituency, and some unfortunate staff were sentenced to transportation to East Clare.

However, with a high population of yoghurt-knitting yurt-dwellers, East Clare is quite an interesting place. The Friday smallholders’ market had lots of good breads and cakes, jams, preserves and mushroom salt, as well as a stock of African decorative items. The fruit and veg shop on the same side of the road had a good range, while across the way the Graney sells healthfoods, veg, good cheeses, chocolate and much other stuff. No doubt other shops in Scarriff are equally good in their own fields, but I didn’t get to visit them.

Boats

On a sunny weekend (and no doubt at other times too) Scarriff was an extremely pleasant place to be, yet there were very few boats there (apart from the three unoccupied boats). [In the next photo, taken early on Friday, the unoccupied boats are out of shot to the left.] One occupied boat left at lunchtime on Friday when we arrived; one more came later, so there were two occupied boats in the harbour that night.

Saturday was slightly busier: the boat that had arrived on Friday left, but two other private boats arrived and, between 2230 and 2245, two large Emerald Star hire boats arrived too, making five occupied boats in the harbour.

Some small boats, mostly of the zoomy variety, visited briefly on Saturday. I realise that drivers may find it exciting to travel fast on a narrow, winding river where they can’t see what’s coming, but paddlers of canoes and kayaks may find less amusement in dealing with the wash from the speedsters. They in turn might find it less amusing were they to collide with 45 tons of steel coming downriver. Perhaps purchasers of fast boats should be required to demonstrate the possession of IQs in at least double figures before being allowed to take the wheel.

Scarriff June 2017

 

 

Make more use of Scarriff

The small numbers of boats made it seem that a fine facility was being wasted (although it is dangerous to make generalisations on the basis of a single visit). It also seemed that local people made little use of the facility: I saw two anglers, a few dog- or baby-walkers and one or two others.

Here are some (cheap-to-implement, I hope) suggestions to bring more life to the harbour by encouraging both residents and visitors to use it.

  1. Encourage camper-vans. At weekends, they could use the Waterways Ireland staff car park (which had only two cars in it over the weekend). The office has cameras watching it; one or two could be redirected to monitor the vans.
  2. Encourage canoeists and kayakers. Sell them special smart cards (or something) that would allow them to open the barriers to get closer to the launch pontoons. If there isn’t a local canoe club, encourage one.
  3. Encourage camping.
  4. Build a basketball court or a play area or something for local young people (and visitors).
  5. Provide barbeque facilities, seats and tables.
  6. Provide bins. Perhaps the local off-licence might sponsor them.
  7. Encourage local businesses and activity-providers to advertise their wares and happenings at the harbour.
  8. Persuade the operators of the Scariff.ie website to do more to encourage boat-borne visitors. As it stands, the site doesn’t even acknowledge that you can get there by boat. And [at time of writing] it has no information about a 2017 Scarriff Harbour Festival; I don’t know whether there is to be one.
  9. Improve the chart of the river: it’s too small to provide useful warning of the twists and turns.

On the same weekend, Dromineer seemed to be packed with boats and with non-boat people; Scarriff didn’t have many of either, and it seems a pity.

Giving confidence to our Lady friends

The water has also been kept at a proper level by lowering the river bar at Galway, and constructing a regulating weir there. At some time the navigation channel in the narrow rocky portions of the lake was deepened, the rocks raised; and by buoying and marking with pillars, rocks, and irons, the steamer’s track, it has been rendered navigable from Galway to Cong, and also to Oughterard, and to within a couple of miles of Maam hotel.

All the marks on the eastern side of our upward course from Galway are coloured white, and those on the western side dark.

It will help to give confidence to our Lady friends, who can almost touch some of these marks, triangles, and gridirons, from the Eglinton, to know that all these rocks were lifted by the present captain of the vessel, who was formerly employed here as a diver.

Sir William R Wilde MD Lough Corrib, its shores and islands: with notices of Lough Mask McGlashan & Gill, Dublin; Longmans, Green, and Co, London 1867

Who stole the technology?

I was thinking of buying a (secondhand) copy of Juliana Adelman and Éadaoin Agnew eds Science and technology in nineteenth-century Ireland Four Courts Press, Dublin 2011. But, even though the secondhand copy was much, much cheaper even than the publishers’ reduced price, I thought I should check what I’d be getting for my money. I therefore had a look at the contents list, which I reproduce here having nicked it from the publishers’ web page:

The list of contents

 

Is it just me, or is there a big gap there? How can you discuss nineteenth-century technology without an extended discussion of steam power, whether in ships, on railways, for drainage or in mills and other manufactories?

 

Mineral Oil Tax

Here is a list showing the number of returns for Mineral Oil Tax, the number of litres declared and the tax paid. Everyone in Ireland who owns a diesel-powered boat, and fuels it with green diesel, should be making a return; clearly very few are, and I suspect most of the litres (and the money) come from the hire firms. If that is so, their business is improving again.

Year Payers Litres Amount
2010 for 2009 38 n/a n/a
2011 for 2010 41 n/a n/a
2012 for 2011 22 141,503.29 €53,398.58
2013 for 2012 23 301,674 €113,841.45
2014 for 2013 20 279,842.4 €105,561.74
2015 for 2014 26 289,151 €108,934.80
2016 for 2015 18 371,666 €140,021.51
2017 for 2016 21 384,150 €144,724.65

As far as I can make out, in the nine months ending 30 September 2015 (the latest figures I can find here) the Irish Sailing Association [PDF] received €899,000 and individual sailing persons a further €114,000 from the taxpayer. Furthermore, pretty well the entire cost of the inland waterways is met by the taxpayer.

 

Float Bridge

I have added some information to the post The Avarice of the Ferryman about Float Bridge. The Comments too contain useful points.

Up the Inny

The navigation of the River Inny from Ballynacarrow upriver to Lough Sheelin.

The opening of the Royal Canal

On 27 May 2017 the Royal Canal Amenity Group and Waterways Ireland are to commemorate the fact that

In May 1817 the Royal Canal was officially opened from Dublin to the Shannon ….

[Unfortunately I am unable to find anything about the commemorative event on WI’s website, although they did send me some information about it.]

I wondered how the opening might have been celebrated in 1817, but I haven’t been able to find out anything about it. I am hoping that some more knowledgeable person might be able to provide information: please leave a Comment below if you can help.

Ruth Delany gives 26 May 1817 as the date on which the contractors said that the western end of the canal (to the Shannon at Richmond Harbour) would be ready to hand over to the Directors General of Inland Navigation, who were running the show after the Royal Canal Company collapsed under the weight of its debts.

However, as far as I can see, the British Newspaper Archive contains no mention of any opening ceremony at any time in 1817. The Lanesborough Trader, the first boat to travel from the Shannon to Dublin did so in January 1818 [Saunders’s News-Letter 2 February 1818] and in May Mr Peel moved that a further £15000 be granted for completion of the navigation, where “shoals were
found to interfere” [Dublin Evening Post 23 May 1818].

Traffic increased later in 1818: in October the directors of the New Royal Canal Company went by boat

… from Dublin to Tarmonbury, and thence to the termination of the Canal, near the river Shannon, to inspect the works and give every necessary direction for the entire completion of that great and important undertaking ….
[Dublin Evening Post 20 October 1818]

The same newspaper reported that several boats of coal, found on the banks of the canal near Tarmonbury, had arrived in Dublin. It seems, therefore, that the canal was usable even if not entirely finished.

Later that month Christopher Dillon of Athlone, who had been trading on the Grand Canal and the Shannon, announced that he was moving his boats to the Royal Canal — but the western terminus for his boats was at Ballymahon, from which (although he did not say so) goods could be carried by road to Athlone: just the situation the Grand Canal Company had feared. [Dublin Evening Post 27 October 1818]

I have found no evidence of an opening ceremony in 1817; nor have I found evidence that the canal was actually open from the Shannon to the Liffey (or the Broadstone) in 1817, in that no boat seems to have travelled between the Shannon and the Liffey. At least one boat did so in 1818, but again I have no evidence of any opening ceremony.

There is one further mystery. The Royal Canal harbour at the junction with the Shannon is called Richmond Harbour. I presume that that is a compliment to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, His Grace Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond, 4th Duke of Lennox, 4th Duke of Aubigny, KG, PC. But he had ceased to be Lord Lieutenant in 1813 and was presumably unable to dispense favours after that, so why was the harbour named after him? I don’t know when the construction of the harbour was begun or finished.

I have not visited the National Archives in Dublin to look at the papers of the Directors General of Inland Navigation, which may have something on the events of 1817 and 1818. Perhaps WI’s archive has something relevant too. I would therefore be glad to hear from anyone who has searched those archives or found other evidence about the period.

Newspapers cited here were accessed through the British Newspaper Archive.

 

Float Bridge

This post was originally entitled “The avarice of the ferryman” but, as more information has been added, it seemed best to name the post for the remarkable Float Bridge itself, which links road, rail and waterway transport.

The avarice of the ferryman

Castlepollard, Sept 11. Last Week the following Accident happened at the Ferry, or Float, plying for Passengers over the River Inny, in the County of Westmeath: — A Post-Chaise and Four, with a Lady and Gentleman, were imprudently put upon this dangerous Conveyance, without separating the Cattle from the Carriage; unfortunately a Car and Horse had been put in before them, which, with the Post-Chaise and Horses, occupied the full Length of the Float.

On the Passage, the Car Horse grew very uneasy, and going back, the Car annoyed the Post-Chaise Horses, which occasioned them to back in like Manner, until the Post-Chaise fell into the River, and dragged the Horses after it; three of the Horses were drowned, being entangled with the Harness; the other broke through his Harness, and swam over to a boggy Place, but could not get upon Land; one of the men followed him in a small Boat, to lead him to a proper landing Place, but not being able alone to guide the Horse and row the Boat, the Horse got too near it, and striking it with one of his Feet, overset and sank it, by which the Man was drowned; the Horse then swam, and was saved.

It was very lucky for the Lady and Gentleman that they alighted from the Chaise at going into the Float. The Carriage, which belonged to the Gentleman, was got out with much difficulty; the Horses were Hacks. The Avarice of the Ferryman occasioned this melancholy Accident.

Hibernian Journal; or, Chronicle of Liberty
18 September 1775

 

 

That report came just about a year after this next one.

Good shot wanted

FERRY-BRIDGE, over the River Inny, between the County of Westmeath and Longford, 3 miles from Castlepollard, 12 miles from Mullingar and Longford, Sept 1st, 1774. Complaint having been made, that the Smallness of the Float rendered it inconvenient, and occasioned timorous People to drive or ride many Miles round to avoid the Ferry, the Proprietor therefore has undertaken to build a Bridge at his own Expence, which will be finished with all convenient Speed; in the mean Time, a Part of the intended Bridge, above 30 Feet long, Battlements fixed on each Side, properly gravelled over &c, will be made Use of to ferry over Carriages, &c. A Coach and four may now pass with the utmost Safety, without taking off the Horses, or 20 Head of Cattle, &c in less than 2 Minutes; and, to accommodate Graziers and others, as soon as said Bridge is compleated, Droves of large Cattle, above 30 in Number, will be passed over at the Rate of a British Shilling per Score, private Soldiers with Furlows from their Commanding Officers, in Time, gratis, all other Passengers, Cattle, &c at the usual Rates taken above these 20 Years.

This Road is now in good Repair, and well known to be many Miles nearer from Dublin to the County of Longford, Leitrim, Roscommon, Sligo, Mayo, &c than any other Road; a commodious Inn, near Ferry-bridge, on the Westmeath Side, is building, and a Carriers Inn on the Longford Side, will be both soon finished, and proper People to keep them.

Wanted, to take Care of said Bridge when finished, and to collect the Toll, &c a sober, honest, careful, active, middle-aged, single Man; he must be a Protestant, write a good Hand, and if a good Shot, and understands fishing in Lakes and Rivers, and delights in those Amusements, it will be more agreeable &c. Comfortable Lodging and Board, and not less than £12 per Ann will be made good to the Person approved of, and shall be treated (as far as can be reasonably expected) agreeable to his former Manner of Life. None need apply but such as have an undeniable good Character, as to Honesty and Sobriety, from his former Employers or Neighbours. Inquire of the Printer hereof.

Saunders’s News-Letter
2, 7, 9, 12, 14 September 1774

Sir Thomas Chapman

The Dublin Evening Post of 9 August 1810 advertised part of the Meath and Westmeath estates of Sir Thomas Chapman Bart to be let. They included

The Tolls of the Float near Castlepollard
And an excellent house and fifty acres of land

Applications were to be sent to Sir Thomas at St Lucy’s, Athboy, or to Mr High Dickison at the same address.

St Lucy’s was also known as Killua Castle, set of the Chapman baronets, of whom Sir Thomas was the second. Do be sure to read about the seventh baronet.

Sir Benjamin Chapman

Sir Benjamin James Chapman was the fourth baronet. Ewan Duffy writes:

Float bridge was a privately owned toll bridge. Its owner, Sir Benjamin Chapman, offered the bridge to the Midland Great Western Railway if they would build a station at Float, for which he would also give the necessary land. He subsequently suggested a variation on the agreement that if the company were to cease using the station, the land and bridge should be re-conveyed to him!* As the bridge remained in CIE ownership up to 1971, when it was transferred to Westmeath County Council under the Transport (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1971, he clearly did not get such a deal!

The original bridge is no longer there — I paid a site visit there last year, given its railway connection, but it has been replaced sometime in the 20th Century.

* W E Shepherd “The MGWR’s Cavan Branch – 1” JIRRS Vol 16 No 104, pp 282–3

 

Waterways Ireland’s boat register

A boat-owner of my acquaintance received a text message today. [A text message is a new-fangled form of telegram sent to a telephone, using technologies that need not concern us here.] The message, which I have redacted, read:

Hi, Boater, Waterways Ireland is currently data protecting the boat register. Please confirm your boat registration number S[????] by replying with your email address or to stop text WWSTOP to [?????].

This is not a type of communication that is familiar to me: if it were genuine, I would have expected some more formal message, perhaps a letter or a Marine Notice, to emanate from Waterways Ireland. Furthermore, the phrase “currently data protecting the boat register” is nonsense. And the acquisition by the originator of the boat-owner’s email address does nothing to validate or update the register of boats on the Shannon.

Accordingly, I regard this with deep suspicion, and I have advised the owner to ignore it. However, the owner tells me that the registration number given in the message was correct. That might mean that some evildoer has gained access to the Waterways Ireland register of boats and is now, for some unknown but nefarious purpose, seeking to match email addresses to boats.

I would be glad to hear from anyone who knows more about this. I would also be glad to be assured of the sanctity of WI’s boat register.

Update 13 May 2017

Usually reliable sources tell me that the communication is from Waterways Ireland and represents an attempt to check and update their register of boats. Two points, however, remain:

  • I cannot tell [though others more skilly in these matters may be able to do so] how the, er, lay reader can be assured that such a communication is genuine
  • the communication is itself unclear: I would prefer a more explicit statement of what WI is trying to do and what the recipient is expected to do.