Category Archives: Shannon

The vast utility of internal navigation

As a manifest proof of the vast utility and advantage of internal navigation, the present price of land carriage to Banagher, which is that particular part which the Canal is to extend to in its Westerly progress, is 2s 4d per hundred weight, or 2l 6s 8d the ton, but the freightage and tonnage by the Canal cannot exceed thirteen shillings, which in some articles, either sent to or from the capital, must reduce the price upwards of forty per cent.

From this calculation we suppose the tonnage to be three halfpence a mile and the freightage a penny, but there will be many loadings that will not be rated or charged at so high a price; as for instance, lime, stones, flag and slate, which are to pay but a halfpenny, fuel a farthing, and dung, marl, and gravel for manure, entirely exempt from any charge.

Of what infinite use it will be to the manufactures of this kingdom in the article of fuel only, may be evinced by the price of Kilkenny coal being reduced more than one-half, and corn, flour, with an infinite variety of other matters, being sent much cheaper to this city. The profits resulting will enable this useful design to be still extended, by forming collateral branches, with all the navigable rivers in the central counties, and perhaps making communication with the remotest part of this kingdom.

Saunders’s News-Letter 24 October 1785

Big it up for Banagher

Banagher: the old canal (OSI 6″ map ~1830s)

I was in Banagher yesterday, visiting the site of the old (pre-Shannon Commissioners) canal on the north (virtual west) bank. The area is a park operated by a community group [I would welcome details and a link] and includes a pitch-and-putt course, an outdoor swimming pool in the river and storage for canoes (a group of young people was about to get afloat as I left).

It is also, as the map above shows, rich in waterways and military artefacts. Much of the waterways material can still be seen and a series of signs shows old drawings and provides useful information (though the lock, surprisingly, has no sign). I think I am right in deducing that the signs reflect the work of historian James Scully, one of those who gave an extremely enlightening and entertaining talk about Banagher Bridge a few years ago.

The park is well used by local people but it should also attract many tourists to take the short walk from their boats on the far side of the bridge. It is an excellent example of local initiative drawing on local expertise to illuminate local history and create a sense of place and it could be emulated at many other waterways sites along the Shannon.

Furthermore, added to Banagher’s other historic and literary associations, it shows the wealth of interesting material offered in this town. It is not, unfortunately, on the main tourist routes by road, but it should be possible to attract the interest (and the spending) of water-borne visitors.

I hope that will work for the community; in the meantime, I applaud their initiative.

 

Leave no trace? It’s rubbish

More folk believe that the Shannon is the great dividing line in Ireland: civilisation and a modern economy to the east, primitive tribalism to the west. Of course that isn’t true — except in one respect: rubbish bins on the lower Shannon.

There, counties Offaly and Tipperary, on the east side, provide rubbish bins for boaters at harbours; on the west side, counties Clare and Galway do not, save for a dog-poo bin at Portumna Castle Harbour.

Waterways Ireland has signs in some places saying that it has a “Leave no trace” policy: that is, I presume, intended to excuse it from providing bins, and paying for rubbish collection, at its own harbours. I guess — I am open to correction on this — that the local authorities on the civilised side of the Shannon are happy to bear the cost of providing for boaters, while those on the wilder side are not. It’s not just boaters, though: the new camper-van park at Portumna Castle Harbour, admirable in so many ways, has no bin service.

Now, having to take your rubbish home after a one-day picnic is not a particularly great problem. Doing so after a full week on a boat or in a camper is rather more difficult, especially if your rubbish includes the dog-poo that you have nobly and civil-spiritedly picked up. [Incidentally, I felt like an idiot in Ballinasloe, picking up a small dog-poo beside a vast pile of steaming horse-shit.]

Those boaters and camper-vanners who have cracked the code — worked out the distribution of bins — can of course hold on to their rubbish until they reach civilisation, but I met several folk (natives and visitors) who hadn’t worked it out. I didn’t meet anyone who thought the absence of bins was a good idea. And most people don’t have space on board their boats or vans for a week’s or two weeks’ worth of rubbish, never mind airtight storage to keep smells in and flies and rodents out.

The western local authorities are free-riding on the ratepayers of the eastern counties, and at some point the easterners may get fed up. A bank holiday weekend produced overflowing bins at Banagher: they were emptied very promptly on the Tuesday morning, so well done Offaly County Council. But I suspect that some of the rubbish should have been disposed of west of the Shannon. At what point will the eastern local authorities cry “enough!”?

Rational economic man, faced with the absence of bins at harbours in Clare and Galway, would adopt a simple solution: if on a boat, put everything into a bag with a large stone and throw it overboard in the middle of the river; if in a camper, sling it into a ditch somewhere. The policy of the western local authorities is designed to encourage littering.

And there’s no point in telling me about Leave No Trace Ireland, which strikes me as yet another Irish solution to an Irish problem:

Leave No Trace is an outdoor ethics programme designed to promote and inspire responsible outdoor recreation through education, research and partnerships.

Who thinks up this rubbish? There are many responsible boat- and camper-users who want to be able to dispose of their rubbish properly during their holidays. We need bins, not propaganda.

 

The fate of Captain John William White

John William White was captain of the steamer Dover Castle on the Shannon Estuary when it was owned by the Limerick Shipping Company. However, after the steamer was bought by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company in 1841, his employment ceased. He became instead captain of a small schooner called Native, owned by Francis Spaight of Limerick and employed on the Limerick–London route. Here is the story of what happened to the Native and to Captain White.

The Traveller’s Map of the River Shannon (1830)

The Traveller’s Map of the River Shannon. Arranged as a Guide to its Lakes and the Several Towns, Gentlemens’ Seats, Ancient Castles, Ruins, Mines, Quarries, Trading Stations, and General Scenery on Its Banks, Source in Lough Allen to the Sea, Leitrim, Longford, Roscommon, Westmeath, King’s County, Tipperary, Galway, Limerick, Kerry and Clare, Accurately Taken from the Survey made by J. Grantham, by order of the Irish Government, under the direction of the late J. Rennie. Printed and published for the Irish Inland Steam Navigation Company, 1830.

Oblong folio, 15 numbered maps printed in black with river and water features coloured in light blue. Original quarter calf green cloth boards, russet title to centre of upper boards, stamped in gilt with gilt fillet boarder. Repair to rear of plate 15, otherwise all maps in very good to fine condition.

Contents: 1. Map of Ireland, 2. Index Map. Lough Derg to the sea, 3. Index Map. Lough Derg to Lough Allen., 4. Kilrush to Tarbert and Foynes Island, 5. Foynes Island to Grass Island, 6. Grass Island to Limerick and O’Brien’s Bridge. 7. O’Briens Bridge to Killaloe and Dromineer. 8. Dromineer to Portumna and Redwood Castle. 9. Redwood Castle to Banagher, and Seven [Churches (Clonmacnoise)], 10. Seven Churches to Athlone and Lough Ree, 11. Lough Ree to Lough Forbes. 12 Lough Forbes to near Leitrim. 13. Leitrim to Head of Lough Allen. 14. map of Limerick, 15. Map of Killaloe.

Map 1 shows Ireland and its waterways at scale of 1″ equals 20 miles, Maps 2 and 3 show the key for 4-13, with table of falls of water along the route on former and table of distances on latter; Maps 4-14 each have a short descriptive panel; Map 14 shows Limerick from the north of King’s Island to the New Barrack in the south with key Map 15 from the town at left to Beal Boru at right.

Yours for only €1800 at Ulysses Rare Books in Dublin.

Eel fishing

In Foreign Parts.

h/t Tyler Cowen

Goodbye Shannon–Erne Waterway?

Brian Lucey suggests that we should consider [note: not that we should definitely decide on] sealing the border with Northern Ireland. That would mean running a wall down the middle of the Woodford River section of the Shannon–Erne Waterway and would put paid to this business idea. We could of course cover it with solar panels, but I hope Prof Brian isn’t suggesting the Mexicans should pay for it.

Manby, Napier, Oldham, Williams, Grantham

Here is a piece about the Aaron Manby, the first iron steamer to make a sea voyage, and its links to Irish inland waterways transport.

The piece was first published in the rally magazine of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland Lough Derg Branch in July 2017.

The Lady of the Shannon

Folk interested in early steam transport in Ireland may wish to know that the latest issue [Vol 41] of The Other Clare, journal of the Shannon Archaeological & Historical Society, has an article, “Mr Paterson’s steamer”, about the Lady of the Shannon, the steamer built on the Clyde in 1816 for James Paterson of Kilrush.

While the steamer and its operations are well known (see for instance the page by Senan Scanlan on the Clare County Library site), a lack of contextual information has meant that the scale of Paterson’s achievement is not widely appreciated. His steam boat was built only four years after PS Comet, Europe’s first commercially viable steamer, began operations on the Clyde. Paterson, who built baths at Kilrush at the same time as he acquired his steamer, may have intended to imitate Henry Bell’s operations.

At the time, most steamers operated on rivers and estuaries, but some undertook longer delivery voyages to new areas of operation in Britain and Europe. But Paterson’s may have been the first to brave the rigours of the Atlantic: it probably travelled west off Ireland’s north coast, and then down the west coast to the Shannon. Ensuring that coal was available along the way must have required a good deal of planning.

Commercially, Paterson’s steamer was not a long-term success, and the possible reasons for its failure are explored briefly in the article.

The Shannon Archaeological & Historical Society does not itself appear to sell its journal online; Scéal Eile Books in Ennis may be able to supply it by post, as may the Celtic Bookshop in Limerick.

Ardnacrusha tours

From 26 June through 1 September 2017, ESB will be providing guided tours of Ardnacrusha hydroelectric power station. It’s not usually open to the public and, if you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth a visit. Go here to book.

I have some information about the site here, here and here, but you should try to see it for yourself.