Tag Archives: Erne

Races on Lough Erne

To the Editor of the Erne Packet

Me Editor — The stir visible amongst the seamen of the Lake, assures a most interesting contest. Four new boats are to enter the lists — their prowess will best prove the merit of those which have on former occasions been exhibited.

To the amateur, the scene cannot fail of proving most interesting, as well from the unrivalled beauty of the sailing ground, as from the superiority of the boats, some of which, built on the Thames, are considered to be superior to any other vessels of any size, for lake sailing.

The mariners of Donegal Bay will not, it is to be hoped, sleep on their oars; if rumour is to be credited, they are not to yield the palm so easily as they did last year. Four boats besides those already mentioned, are reported to be in readiness to invade the lake, from the sea, to assert the superiority of the Donegalian over his fresh-water competitor.

Some experiments are to be tried upon scientific principles,where lightness of draught of water, and form, altogether differing from what, for centuries, has been in use, are to be put into competition with bulk and beam. The well established speed of the Lough Erne cot is also to be tried, a boat being in preparation; these rivals to be pulled by Gentlemen of the lake. Great confidence is expressed by the owners, and any money for hands with good beam and bottom. NB — Dandies not admitted.

To cheer the toils of the seamen, two Balls are in contemplation, where all the rank and fashion of a wide extended country have engaged to attend. A very distinguished party from London, òn a visit to the Lakes and Bundoran, will also be present, and gratify the eye, as they have already done the mind’s eye of most of us.

Besides the beauty of the Lakes, much speculation exists to account for their visit, whether an examination into the minerals and collieries of the neighbourhood, or the general capabilities of Lough Erne, an extension of the navigation, and perhaps a decision of a question which has long barred up our Lake; the choice between a canal to Lough Neagh and Belfast, or one from Ballyshannon. In giving information to these sagacious explorers, Gentlemen will do well to bear in mind, that their evidence should be divested of any private favour, for should it be found to contain more affinity for party purposes than the general object, the benefit of the country, it will instantly, and perhaps not civilly, be rejected as unfit matter to enter into such an important digest.

NOTUS

Enniskillen Chronicle and Erne Packet
12 August 1824

Momentous day on the Ulster Canal

The day work finally began on the Ulster Canal, after many years of planning and consideration. The opening ceremony was attended by many of the local gentry; the royal standard was hoisted, a 21-gun salute was fired, hundreds of people had turned up to see it and “the country people were liberally supplied with ale”. That evening, those most involved dined together in Caledon with toasts to the king, to the queen and the rest of the royal family and to the army and navy.

I suppose that similar festivities would attend the start of work on any canal nowadays, but that was back in 1835, and the canal was the real Ulster Canal.

Interesting information about the Ulster Canal …

… as distinct from ministerial reelection photo opportunities.

By the way, some folk get confused about the location of the Ulster Canal; this map may help:

Saunderson's Sheugh -v- the Ulster Canal (OSI ~1840)

Saunderson’s Sheugh -v- the Ulster Canal (OSI ~1840)

Anyway, for folk who are interested in weightier matters than ministers talking through portions of their anatomies that they can’t distinguish from their elbows, here is some speculation about opening bridges on the Ulster Canal.

That’s the Ulster Canal Ulster Canal, not the Saunderson’s Sheugh “Ulster Canal”, by the way.

My OSI logo and permit number for website

 

Waterside Belturbet

Here is a small amount of information about Belturbet and some of its industrial heritage. The photos were taken on a brief visit in July 2011.

The importance of Saunderson’s Sheugh

Back in the days when nitwitted Irish governments believed the state had found the secret to permanent wealth, Sinn Féin was promised the Clones Sheugh, a rebuilding of part of the line of the Ulster Canal. For reasons that are not clear to me, the reason for the project was concealed by a lot of nonsense about economic regeneration.

Sinn Féin still want their sheugh, and have continually asked questions about it. They own the Northern Ireland department currently responsible for waterways. And they have, I believe, forced its southern counterpart to pretend it will deliver the sheugh. Admittedly it’s really just going to dredge the River Finn — Saunderson’s Sheugh — and call it the Ulster Canal, which is better and cheaper than doing anything about the real Ulster Canal, but we might wonder why the current southern minister, Heather Humphreys, a TD for the Cavan-Monaghan constituency wherein Clones lies, is quite so keen on sheughery.

Perhaps Wikipedia can help.

Cavan-Monaghan constituency, general election 2011

Cavan-Monaghan constituency, general election 2011

Unmodified text released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-SA); no endorsement by the licensor is expressed or implied.

How true these words are …

… even today.

Connected system

Are the Sheughers …

seeing sense?

A cynic (not that there are any of them around here) might say that DAHG feels that it has done as much as it’s going to do (admittedly at Waterways Ireland’s expense) by dredging the River Finn and that it has told Monaghan Council that, if it wants any more Sheughery for Clones, it will have to pay for it itself. The Council might like a canal, but only if someone else pays for it, so it will have to be content with a greenway.

And rightly so.

 

Good news for Sheughers

I noted recently that, according to the Department of Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Waterways Ireland’s budget for the Clones Sheugh assumed a cost of land [including legal costs] of just over €52,500 per acre, when “the majority of [the land] is poor quality agricultural land”. I have asked Waterways Ireland for more information about this.

But today [as I am sure all regular readers will be aware] the Irish Farmers Journal Agricultural Land Price report 2014 has been published. It says that the average price of Co Monaghan land (based on 25 completed transactions) was only €9384 per acre, with a range from €1049 (for a 43-acre lot of which 12 acres were bog) to €40000 for land with development potential near Carrickmacross. A 25-acre “holding of prime agricultural land overlooking the lake at Emyvale” went for €14800 per acre and the county’s weighted average was €8103 per acre.

In Fermanagh, in Northern Ireland, the average price was £7493 (€10126) per acre, but “Lots of poor, rocky and heather land sold for around £1700/acre”.

 

Saunderson’s Sheugh and northsouthery

Northern Ireland Assembly written question AQW 42836/11-15 tabled 25 February 2015

Mr Cathal Ó hOisín [SF, East Londonderry]: To ask the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure to outline the North South co-operation and coordination involved in the recently announced Ulster Canal restoration project.

Ms Carál Ní Chuilín [SF, North Belfast; Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure]: Arising from the Agreement establishing the North South Implementation Bodies Waterways Ireland was tasked with progressing the possible restoration and development of the Ulster Canal. Waterways Ireland, in conjunction with my Department and The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht as sponsor Departments north and south, identified the progression of the project in a phased approach as the preferred option. The recent announcement refers to phase 1 of the restoration, which will be capital works along the River Erne from Quivvy Lough to Castlesaunderson. Waterways Ireland intends to commence the works in April 2015.

Shannon–Erne Waterway traffic

I have reported regularly on Shannon traffic figures [most recently here] but I have paid relatively little attention to the Shannon–Erne Waterway [SEW]. I am therefore grateful to Waterways Ireland for supplying me with the last five years’ monthly traffic figures for Locks 1 and 16 on the SEW. I had some queries about the figures for certain months and I have put them to Waterways Ireland, but I presume that the annual figures are OK.

Shannon–Erne Waterway traffic 2010–2014

Shannon–Erne Waterway traffic 2010–2014

Clearly, not all boats go all the way through: if they did, the figures for Locks 1 and 16 might be the same. The hire bases for Locaboat, Riversdale and Corraquill were all on the Erne side of the summit level; does Lock 1’s excess of traffic over Lock 16 suggest that hirers, perhaps wishing to minimise the number of locks they passed through, headed for the Erne rather than the Shannon? The figures, which I presume are gathered automatically, do not distinguish between private and hired boats.

The other point that strikes me is that the level of traffic is actually quite low. I put in the figures for Pollboy and Athlone locks to allow comparison. SEW traffic is greater than that on the Lough Allen Canal, but it is not much greater than that on the River Suck to Ballinasloe. In that case, WI is [according to its Business Plan 2015] considering automating Pollboy Lock to reduce costs.

Pollboy lock passages 2005–2014

Pollboy lock passages 2005–2014

The SEW locks are already automated, but the costs and benefits may have to be re-examined, especially now that Locaboat has moved from Ballinamore to Quigleys Marina at Killinure on Lough Ree: I presume that that will result in less traffic on the SEW.

Pollboy and the CLones Sheugh

In 2006 Pollboy traffic was used as the basis for estimating likely traffic to Clones on the Ulster Canal’s “SW section”:

The total number of boat parties/groups for the SW section is assumed to be 600. This is based on a comparison with another “offshoot” like the Suck Navigation which had around 1,250 boat parties/groups in 2005 (obtained by dividing the passages through Pollboy Lock by 2) in a much busier section of the whole system. So, for the SW section, a level of around 50% (ie. 600) is regarded as a reasonable assumption.

Waterways Ireland Socio economic Summary Report for the NE and SW Sections of the Ulster Canal Final Report February 2006

Now that Pollboy’s traffic is half what it was in 2005, no doubt the estimate for the number of boats that would visit Clones, if a canal ever reached it, has likewise been halved, which would give an average of about ten boats a week over a seven-month season: four boats every Saturday and one a day for the rest of the week. Folk intending to build restaurants to cater for the cruiser traffic might be wise to reassess their investment plans:

In overall terms, the benefits of waterway restoration derive from the fact that these can facilitate a variety of leisure and recreational activity, that the users will benefit from this activity, and that there will also be wider spin-off benefits in the areas, e.g. facilities such as restaurants etc built to service canal traffic.

Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Restoring the Ulster Canal from Lough Erne to Clones Updated Business Case February 2015

There’s not enough business there for a burger van, never mind a restaurant.

The magic of the Shannon–Erne Waterway

But if Pollboy, the River Suck and Ballinasloe are no longer cited as support for the construction of a Clones Sheugh, the Shannon–Erne Waterway is still used as an example, in that and in other contexts. Take, for example, this:

Shannon–Erne Waterway magic

Shannon–Erne Waterway magic

I’ve nicked that from a slide show called Economic, Recreational and Social Benefits of Rural Waterways in Ireland, which was to be delivered [PDF] by Garret McGrath of Waterways Ireland at the World Canals Conference [PDF] in Milan in 2014.

Now, if the Shannon–Erne Waterway had caused all that construction activity, we’d have to drag Waterways Ireland before the Irish banking enquiry. Skipping lightly over the question of the ghost estates, and the departure of Locaboat from Ballinamore, we come to the real problem with this sort of stuff: the post hoc fallacy. We are invited to believe that

  • a waterway was built
  • prosperity followed
  • so the waterway must have caused the prosperity.

Well, maybe it did and maybe it didn’t, but the argument presented in the slide show isn’t sufficient to prove it. You would have to check to see whether there were any other possible explanations: any other changes that might have resulted in all that construction.

Along the Shannon–Erne Waterway, I can think of two other possible factors: Sean Quinn’s business empire and the Upper Shannon Rural Renewal Scheme, a tax dodge that applied in Leitrim, Longford, Roscommon, Cavan and Sligo, five of the six counties that had the highest rates of vacant housing (excluding holiday houses). So there are two problems here:

  • much of that construction activity may have been driven by tax breaks rather than by the existence of a nearby waterway
  • the construction itself may not have had beneficial effects.

You can read more about that here, noting in particular, on the map, the areas around the upper Shannon and the SEW with vacancy rates of over 25%; you might wonder whether Waterways Ireland is wise to claim credit for housing over-development.

But my main concern here is a different one: that, if you want to claim credit for economic benefits that followed waterways development, you have to measure the benefits and subtract those attributable to other factors, such as Sean Quinn and the Rural Renewal Scheme. Then it would be useful if you compared the remaining benefits with the cost of constructing your waterway: it might then be possible to say that waterways development is a good investment.

It may be that such a study has been done on the SEW, but if it has I don’t know where it is; I would like to see it if it exists. Until then, I regard this sort of thing, from DAHG’s Business Case, as drivel:

The broad existence and nature of the potential socio-economic benefits of canals and restored waterways are therefore well established and not really at issue.

Sorry, minister: that’s rubbish. As far as I know no proper evaluation has ever been carried out on the costs and benefits of any restored or new-built Irish waterway. So you’re not getting away with that one.