Category Archives: The grain trade

Canal oats

The Freeman’s Journal of 25 July 1832 included a report on the Dublin markets of the previous day. The report from the Dublin Corn Exchange said

We had a moderate supply in market, and prices may be quoted same as last.

The grains traded included wheat (prime red and prime white), grinding barley, malting barley, bere, new oats, new bere, oatmeal, M’Cann’s and First Flour, as well as

Prime Feeding Oats, 14 st [stone] to the brl [barrel], 11s 6d to 12s 0d

Canal ditto, 9s 6d to 9s 9d


The term “canal oats” is used in a report from New York in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1843 and another in  The Economist in 1847; the Central New-York Farmer has it in 1844 and Walt Whitman used the term in 1846. More from that side of the Atlantic anon.

The earliest occurrence I have found in the British Newspaper Archive is in the Dublin Evening Post of 11 March 1819:

Dublin Corn Exchange, March 10. — Our Market was but poorly supplied this day, particularly with Farmers’ Grains, owing to their being so much occupied at field work. — Canal Oats were more abundant than the demand warranted, and they were heavy sale from 16s to 17s 6d; prime, and for feeding, could not be got under 20s to 21s, and seed from 22s to 30s. — Wheat and Barley steady. — Malt, Flour and Oatmeal without variation, and in but indifferent demand.

There are other Irish instances in 1824, 1825 and 1826; in all cases the price of canal oats is below that of feeding oats.

The only British examples from this period, in Gore’s Liverpool General Advertiser on 23 February 1826 and in the Glasgow Herald on 21 April 1826, are from reports on the Dublin market.

I have not checked every occurrence, but my impression is that, to the end of 1840 (I looked no further), the term “canal oats” was used frequently in Irish newspapers from all parts of the island. However, the term was used only about the Dublin and Belfast corn markets; canals served both conurbations. British newspapers used the term only in reports from the Irish markets.


I have found no definition of the term. Here, though, are some comments on possible connotations.

First, I presume that “canal oats” were oats that travelled [part of the way] to market by canal. It is likely that most oats came by road, probably on Scotch carts; that would have required packaging, no doubt in barrels of one kind or another. Some oats did arrive by non-canal boats: on 17 December 1838 the Dublin Mercantile Advertiser, and Weekly Price Current said

Limerick, Dec 15. — […] Oats since Wednesday in good supply by land carriage, prices declined ¼d to ½d per stone, to-day 11¾d is the highest down to 11d; by boat, 10d to 11d; barley, 12d to 15d. The depression of the London market on Wednesday accounts for the fall here.

Second, “canal oats” seems to have referred to oats of an inferior quality, or at least to oats that commanded lower prices. The Belfast Commercial Chronicle of 23 March 1839 referred to canal oats as “generally arriving out of condition”, proving difficult to sell and “going to warehouse for want of buyers”. The Pilot of 11 December 1839 referred to canal oats as “soft”; it is not clear whether that applies to their market or to their physical condition. On 16 February 1839 the Belfast Commercial Chronicle referred to canal oats as “unkilndried”: did that apply only to that batch or to all canal oats?

Third, the Limerick market report, above, suggests that lower prices may have applied to all oats arriving by water rather than by land. It is possible that the prices reflected something about the nature of the transport method rather than the inherent quality of the oats; alternatively, it is possible that water transport (which, where it was available, was probably cheaper than land transport) was chosen for the oats that would sell for less.

The first possibility has, I think, two sub-possibilities: that oats travelling by water might have been more at risk of damage or that their packaging might have been inferior: specifically, that they might have been a bulk cargo, poured loose into the hold, rather than packed in barrels. The Belfast Commercial Chronicle of 16 February 1839 might be taken to suggest that: “cargoes”, not barrels, were being sold, and by the ton rather than any lesser quantity:

Oats maintain their value, and cargoes have been sold from £8 5s [presumably per ton] to £8 7s 6d for unkilndried Canal Oats.

However, that is the only such example that my quick survey found.

Fourth, it is possible that canal oats were not used for human or equine consumption. The Dublin Morning Register of 3 November 1838 reported that

The supply of oats from the neighbouring farmers was short, and brought at the opening 13s to 13s 6d per barrel. Canal oats, of which rather a good quantity appeared, was taken off at 12s 6d to 13s per 196lbs. The distillers, anxious to get into stock, gave these prices freely. The advance is fully 1s 6d a barrel since Friday.

Again, that is an isolated example; it may be that the distillers did not always use oats.

Fifth, a case heard in the New York Court of Appeals in 1851, and reported in Henry R Selden Reports of Cases argued and determined in the Court of Appeals of the State of New York; with notes, references, and an index Vol I Little & Company, Albany 1853, concerned a contract for the sale of canal oats. The appeal was against the verdict in a case in which Messrs Vail and Adams sued Mr Rice

[…] in the court of common pleas of the city of New York for the breach of a contract dated New York April 28th 1847 for the sale of “a lot of canal oats, say about four thousand bushels, more or less, at forty seven cents per bushel, deliverable in all the month of May next, from boats at or near the foot of Broad street in this city, cash on delivery”.

The ultimate decision turned on other issues, but the relevant part is that Vail and Adams had called a witness who was in the grain trade and who said

[…] that oats sent by the canal vary about five per cent when they arrive from what they were when shipped. They generally overrun or fall short about five per cent. This is always expressed by the words ‘more or less’. We always make our contracts in that way and we mean by ‘more or less’ to provide for an excess or a diminution not over or under five per cent. We use the word ‘about’ to express the same thing. It is generally customary among us that the purchaser takes whatever it is, and gets the benefit or suffers the loss, not exceeding five per cent. On his cross examination the witness stated ‘The custom is a general custom. I have never known any particular instance. All the grain dealers do. SS & Co have such a custom. I can’t mention a particular instance. I can’t give any other instance. I have sold grain to M & D this way.’

If Irish usage was the same as American, this might strengthen the suggestion that canal oats were a bulk cargo, not measured before shipment, and thus with some uncertainty about the exact amount being shipped, bought or sold. That uncertainty might account for a lower price.


None of that amounts to conclusive evidence, and I would be glad to hear from anyone [please leave a Comment below] who knows more than I do about canal oats.


State of trade on the River Suir [1842]

People who read this will hardly believe that such a state of things, as it details, can exist in any portion of the British dominions; and yet, in the year 1842, undoubtedly in Ireland, and in Ireland only, can we find such facts — positive facts.

It is still more surprising to find that this extraordinary state of things should exist on a river on which a very considerable export and import trade passes — and yet so it is.

A fair challenge to the Chambers of Commerce of Clonmel and Waterford is now given. Let them deny the following data, if they can, seriatim, honestly and plainly:—

  1. That the boat trade between Clonmel and Waterford is in the hands of so few persons that it is, in truth and fact, a monopoly to all intents and purposes.
  2. That those corn factors, who export their produce by these boats, are allowed to import coal, iron, timber, groceries, or other goods, at a lower rate of freight than merchants or shopkeepers, who only import those articles, and do not export.
  3. That combination exists amongst the boatmen to such an extent, that they are, in point of fact and truth, the masters of the river, and have in reality succeeded in their “strikes”.
  4. That only a certain fixed number of boats are allowed to ply on the river, and that when a new boat is built, part of an old boat must be worked up into the new one.
  5. That although great improvements have been effected at Carrick in deepening the river, and thus bringing up vessels to the new quay there, the boatmen of Clonmel and Carrick will not navigate any boats from Clonmel which are to ship their cargoes at Carrick, but they insist and do take such boats on to Waterford.
  6. That when the bill for the Limerick and Waterford railway passed, and £100000 was granted in aid — which railway was to pass through Carrick, Clonmel, Caher, and Tipperary — not one merchant in Clonmel took a share.
  7. That the exports of Waterford amount to above two millions annually, a considerable proportion of which is the produce of the vally [sic] of the Suir, and descends that river.
  8. That the state of the river Suir, as a navigation, between Clonmel and Carrick, is the worst in Ireland; that the import trade in these boats is dragged up the river by horses; that great delays take place, to such an extent, that the import trade suffers most considerably, to the detriment of every person in the community.
  9. That the expenses of the towing path &c fall upon the county at large.

Can it then be matter of surprise that, under such circumstances, Ireland is so much behind hand as she is?

Dublin Evening Mail 28 March 1842

A lesson to estate agents

The Derry Castle Estate and splendid Demesne, near Limerick, on the Bank of the Shannon, exceeding 4500 Acres, with its vast Lake.

MR GEORGE ROBINS is flattered by having received the instructions of the excellent Proprietor,

Michael Henry Head Esq,

to SELL (without any limit as to protecting price), by PUBLIC AUCTION, at the GRESHAM HOTEL, in SACKVILLE-STREET, DUBLIN, on THURSDAY, the 27th of AUGUST, at Twelve o’Clock, in One Lot,

The magnificent ESTATE, which is Freehold of Inheritance, and designated


which, for its splendour and renown, stands high amongst the most favoured throughout Ireland. This circumstance is not a little refreshing, inasmuch as the writer is relieved from an attempt to do it adequate justice, and to content himself with a mere outline.

It may be well, first, to observe that, fortunately, the Estate is free from that fearful pest to agricultural improvement and the yeomen’s comfort — the middle men. All are yearly tenants; the tithe is commuted; and it is a fact of no small importance to know that the use of spirituous liquors is unknown throughout this vast district; the necessary consequence is a total absence of


of any kind. Having thus cleared the ground of the great difficulty that has but too frequently prevailed in the minds of


it may be well to point out a few of its multifarious advantages.

The Mansion is of importance; it stands on an elevated position above the level of the water, and is entirely suited to a family of high pretensions, with corresponding offices within and without. This edifice and its noble demesne is on the


the finest river in the empire. In front is a


20 miles in length, adorned by several delightful islands, whereon are interesting ruins of ancient castles.

The whole comprehends about


of land, highly cultivated, and in the occupation of a happy and contented tenantry. The best illustration of this circumstance is the fact that the arrear is literally a mere bagatelle.

The mountain scenery, which forms a magnificent amphitheatre, is really of surpassing beauty; the cloud-capp’d mountains rising in majestic grandeur until they seem to approach the clouds — the mighty lakes like oceans of liquid silver — the valleys teeming in fertility — present a scene of such grandeur, beauty and variety, as quite to forbid the hope of conveying a just idea of it by description. The views are extensive and indescribably beautiful, extending over the rich surrounding country, and including


and alone terminated by

“Its mighty waters, ever rolling on
Their myriad countless waves.”

Nature has vouchsafed its kindness to a degree infinitely beyond comparison anywhere, and presents a scene well calculated to elevate and impress the human mind, and incline it better to estimate “THE PERFECT PARADISE BELOW”.


may safely challenge competition throughout the civilised world. Millions of water fowl congregate on the vast lake. It should be remarked that, independently of


from the Lands, there are


of which the engineers’ report speaks most intelligibly: proving, past doubt, that for quality, extent, and situation, Mr Pennant’s favoured works, now producing


are not at all superior. Copper and Lead Mines are also on this estate, which, if worked, would realise an immense income. Much more might, and perhaps ought to be said, in praise of Derry Castle. Mr Robins, however, prefers to entreat of the intended competitors to seek ocular demonstration. He knows full well that this hasty and imperfect sketch will not impress them with half the delight they are sure to find there.

To those who may still be sceptical it may be added that the vast renown acquired by this


has rendered it indispensable to indulge the nobility and travellers visiting Ireland by throwing open wide the demesne two days in each week throughout the year.

To conclude — an immense additional income is within reach by those who have money at command, by building


The estate is in the quiet, unpolitical part of Ireland, thirteen miles only from the city of Limerick.

Particulars and Plans, and a drawing of the Castle, are in progress, and may be had 28 days antecedently, at the mansion — of Mr Salmon, at his Offices, 44, Moorgate-street, or Mr David Daly, Solicitor and Receiver, Fitzwilliam-street, Dublin — at Messrs Pyne and Richards’s, George-street, Hanover-square — Gresham Hotel, Dublin — the Auction Mart — and at Mr George Robins’s Offices, London.

PS — The title is clear, concise, and intelligible.

Dublin Evening Mail 7 August 1840

It is possible that Robins was brought in, with his purple pen, after earlier ads failed to attract a buyer. In March 1840 the Limerick Reporter carried an ad that concentrated on the estate’s earning potential.


To be sold, the
With Mansion House, and suitable Square of Offices; Extensive Old Plantation of  Valuable


Generally of above 100 years’ growth, situate on that part of the River Shannon

Which forms that Beautiful Expanse of Water, called


Above 20 Miles long, and 4 broad, on which STEAMERS and TRADING VESSELS ply between Limerick and Shannon Harbour, giving this Estate all the advantages of the

And Trade between Limerick and Dublin.

THE HOUSE stands in a most commanding position with respect to this Magnificent LAKE, with most picturesque Mountain Views, and overhung by ranges of nearly 100 Acres of young plantation along the adjoining slopes, planted from 20 to 30 years’ since, by the late Michael Prittie Head, Esq. It is impossible adequately to describe the


The town and harbour of Killaloe is distant about 3 miles, Nenagh about 9, and Limerick about 12 miles, by land or water.

The Mail Coach Road, from Dublin to Limerick, runs through the detached part of the Estates, called Burgess.


Of a most Peculiar and Valuable quality (and the quantity inexhaustible) is obtained from Lough Derg, for the entire Estate, at all seasons.

It is a BLUE SHELLY MARL, which is dredged from the bottom of the Lake into boats by the Tenantry, for which Quays and Harbours are arranged. It has been analysed, and was found to contain 50 per Cent of CARBONATE OF LIME, with other valuable properties set forth in the Analysis.

The more elevated divisions of these Estates abound in


So long celebrated as SUPERIOR to any in EUROPE, and are now in full operation, with the splendid outlay of capital by the IMPERIAL SLATE COMPANY, in whose employ several hundred men are permanently engaged to the great advantage of the proprietor of the Estates, who participates in the income under the deeds of contract.

The specimens of COPPER and LEAD MINES afford every reason to believe that, if properly brought into operation, they may become


The MOUNTAIN COMMONAGE comprises about 550 Acres, which has


having regard to the MARL raised from the LAKE, being far superior to lime, and an


The extensive ranges of


Outside the Demesne, along the elevated Divisions of the Estate, are also of GREAT VALUE, comprising large sections of

OAK, LARCH, FIR, &c &c

The thinnings of which would materially tend to the improvement and growth of the Timber.


Are estimated at considerably above £10000.

The Estimated PRODUCTIVE RENTAL VALUE of the Estate, exclusive of the Mansion, Offices, &c may be set down by way of General outline, at £3000 per annum, with the ADDITIONAL INCOME to be derived from the vast outlay of capital by the Imperial Slate Quarry Company, to a proportion of which Mr Head is entitled.

Mr Head had arranged with the principal incumbrancers to the amount of about £30000, to allow their demands to remain outstanding at 5 per cent interest, being disposed to pay off other claims by instalments; but some creditors becoming pressing, he has at length decided upon selling the entire Estate, or a competent part, to pay off the Incumbrances, and a purchaser may, if so disposed, avail himself of


to suit his convenience.

Any further particulars will be explained by Michael Henry Head, Esq, Derry Castle, Killaloe.

David Daly, Solicitor, No 26, Fitzwilliam-street, Dublin, is Receiver and Land Agent of the Estates, and has all Rentals, &c and will give every information, furnish statements of title, and receive propositions from purchasers, and under Mr Head’s sanction, will at once conclude a contract for sale.

Te title is perfectly clear, concise, and intelligible, and all seaarches ready for inspection.

The Estates contain 4347 statute Acres, and the young plantations 74800 Trees, exclusive of the old plantations in the Demesne.

February 21

Limerick Reporter 20 March 1840

Neither ad was successful; the estate was not sold until 1844.

The Derry Castle and Burgess estate, county of Tipperary, was knocked down to Francis Spaight, Esq, of Limerick, for £39500 at the Chambers of Master Goold, on Tuesday. The highest bona fide offer for this property at the sale last May was £37500, and it was then bought in at £38000. The estate comprises 3000 acres of land, with mansion house, and offices, on the most picturesque and frequented part of the Upper Shannon, near Killaloe.

Statesman and Dublin Christian Record
16 August 1844



Killaloe in the age of steam

That’s November’s talk at the Killaloe-Ballina historical society; details here and an account of Sandra Lefroy’s talk about the Phoenix here.

Closing the Irish ports

[The Rev Charles Boyton FTCD] has a great deal of wit. Indeed in this respect he is the Irishman all over — he evinces no symptom of degeneracy from our models of the last century. His remarkable speech on the Marquis of Anglesey‘s interview in Cork with Doctor Baldwin will never be forgotten.

Lord Anglesey had spoken, in rather a threatening fashion, of “blocking up all the Irish ports with four gun-brigs, and inflicting on the Irish a total suspension of intercourse with England. What then would you do,” continued his Excellency, “if deprived of the English market? What would you do with your corn, and butter, and pork?”

“What would we do with our corn, and butter, and pork?” repeated Mr Boyton. “Why eat them, to be sure! — What else would we do with them? But our viceroy”, continued the speaker, “seems to think that Ireland would suffer, and that England would not, if the intercourse between the countries were suspended. We export food to England; their exports to us are chiefly manufactured articles — the cutlery of Sheffield, the china ware of Worcester, the carpets of Kidderminster. Suppose now our intercourse with England suspended; which party would be worse off? Paddy, who would gladly devour the food which England refused to receive; or John Bull, whose English stomach, notwithstanding its powers, could scarcely digest a Sheffield whittle, or a Worcester tea-cup?” — Mr Boyton is the darling of the Conservative party, and no wonder.

From “Irish Eloquence” in The Dublin Penny Journal Vol IV No 170 October 3, 1835

The Hind

The River Hind Navigation is not well known, which may be attributable to its non-existence. There were several proposals to make the Hind navigable, to link the town of Roscommon to Lough Ree on the Shannon, but none of them were implemented. One of them almost made it, though, and such interest as the topic has is the result of the Hind’s inclusion (or semi-inclusion) on the list of navigations for which W T Mulvany, Commissioner for Drainage, was responsible in the late 1840s and early 1850s.

Mulvany was responsible for five drainage-cum-navigation projects (and many drainage projects), whereof the Hind was the least important. The other four were

  • the Lough Oughter navigation, upstream on Lough Erne from Belturbet, which was never completed: various (mostly Fianna Fáil) insane politicians in the area are still trying to have it completed
  • the Cong and Belturbet Canals, which were abandoned before they were finished
  • the Junction Canal in the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Drainage District, later known as the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Canal, which had a brief and notoriously unprofitable existence, but which was later transformed into the Shannon—Erne Waterway, which was a good investment for Ireland because the Germans [or someone] paid for it
  • the Lower Bann navigation, linking Lough Neagh (which already had two links to coastal ports) with the North Atlantic in the middle of a beach near Coleraine. This was the only one of Mulvany’s navigations that was completed and that remained open, despite its complete uselessness, as the railways got to the area before the navigation did.

In this catalogue of commercial nitwittedness, the Hind had the advantage that it was delayed: an even more insane proposal, to drain the Suck into the Hind, meant that the Hind navigation scheme was deferred long enough to be abandoned altogether, which was just as well as the railway soon made any navigation unnecessary.

However, the proposal was there and, if you are very bored, you might like to read about it. But this is for anoraks: the subject is unimportant, the detail [163 endnotes] outweighing what little interest the scheme possesses. There are no photos of boats or of locks, because there weren’t any; there aren’t even any cat videos.


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.


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.


Both the OSI and 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.


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 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.