Tag Archives: estuary

Limerick flooded again

The waves covered the quays in some places to a depth of three and four feet, and rolled in to the adjoining streets with resistless fury. Shannon-street, Charlotte’s Quay, and the Mall were completely inundated, and in the corn stores on Honan’s-quay, Harvey’s quay, &c, the water reached a height of four feet in some instances.

I already had a page about the floods in Limerick in November 2009; here is an account of the floods in Limerick in 1850.

Navigations under threat

Limerick City & County Council [why don’t they shorten it to Limerick Council?] is examining options for an improved road from Limerick to Foynes, which is the main port on the Shannon Estuary. The options are set out on this website and you can download a PDF map that makes it easier to see the details.

The Red Route would cross the Deel Navigation just below Askeaton: the existing route does the same so there might not be any extra interference with the navigation. But the Red Route would also cross the Maigue and the Blue Route would do so just below the new quay at Adare. No doubt the Adarians would welcome a bypass but I imagine that some will be watching to ensure that navigation on the Maigue is not impeded.

Meanwhile we learn that some folk and some other folk want the railway line from Foynes to be reinstated. I have no idea why they think that’s a good idea: it’s not as if there were vast piles of incoming freight piled up at Foynes, unable to be shifted by road. Rip up the tracks and make a greenway, that’s what I say.

Shannon history

Folk interested in the history of the Shannon Navigation, and in particular in the work of the Shannon Commissioners in the 1840s, may like to get hold of an article “Steam, the Shannon and the Great British breakfast”, published in the Journal of the Railway & Canal Historical Society Vol 38 Part 4 No 222 March 2015.

What DAHG knows about waterways history

Commercial traffic on all waterways in Ireland ended during the first half of the 20th century.

For certain values of “half”.

The Deel navigation

The Deel linked the Co Limerick town of Askeaton to the south side of the Shannon Estuary. Here is a page about the navigation and some of its quays. Note that it is a long page with many maps and photos, although they’re all reduced in size to minimise the strain on tinterweb.

The madness of Daniel O’Connell

In 1828 Daniel O’Connell was elected to the House of Commons for County Clare. As a Roman Catholic, he could not take the Oath of Supremacy [Frizzell, the illustrator, seems to have got his date wrong] and so could not take his seat, but the Emancipation Act 1829 removed that obstacle. However, it was not retrospective, so O’Connell had to stand again in County Clare; he was elected unopposed in July 1829.

On Sunday 31 January 1830 “The Patriotic member for Clare, Daniel O’Connell Esq, sailed from Howth […] at 8 o’clock, for England, to attend his Parliamentary duties” [Tipperary Free Press 3 February 1830] and when Parliament resumed on Thursday 4 February 1830

Daniel O’Connell Esq took the oaths prescribed by the Catholic Relief Bill, and his seat as a member for the county of Clare. The honourable member seated himself on the third row of the opposition side of the house, and exactly opposite to Mr Peel.

[London] Standard 5 February 1830

O’Connell’s letter

Before he left Ireland, O’Connell issued a letter to “the people of the County of Clare”; according to the Morning Post of 20 January 1830 it was issued from the Parliamentary Intelligence Office, 26 Stephen-street, on 15 January 1830. It began

MY FRIENDS AND BRETHREN — I take up the pledges which I made to you when I called on you to repose in me the high and awful trust of being your Representative. I will endeavour honestly to redeem those pledges.

For this purpose I propose to leave Dublin on the 26th of this month. I go off at the commencement of Term, and I shall be absent for two, if not three, entire Terms. Men will sneer at me for talking of these sacrifices to public duty, who, themselves, seek their own individual advantage in all their political exertions. I readily consent, and will proceed to do my duty to you with alacrity, zeal, and perseverance.

There was more along those lines, and then he said

My Parliamentary duties will naturally divide themselves into two distinct branches: the first relates to your local concerns; the second, to those mighty interests in which your prosperity is involved with that of all Ireland.

There were four local concerns: two about canals and two about ports.

An asylum harbour

West Clare [OSI ~1900]

West Clare [OSI ~1900]

The first port proposal was to build an “asylum harbour” on the west coast. An asylum harbour was a port that provided refuge in storms: Kingstown [Dun Laoghaire] was an asylum harbour (amongst other things). O’Connell thought an asylum harbour on the west coast would provide a safe haven for vessels coming across the Atlantic, feeling the force of the Gulf Stream and the prevailing westerly winds: they risked being “embayed on the iron-bound coast between Loop Head and Hag’s Head” where the Cliffs of Moher are. It is not clear how vessels could safely enter such a harbour, given that it would require them to come close to the lee shore, but O’Connell said

The existence of an asylum harbour on Malbay would be of the greatest value to the trade of the British Isles. I do hope to be able to realise this project, in the execution of which the talents of my most valued friend THOMAS STEELE would be found to be most highly beneficial to that county which he adorns by his abilities and patriotism.

O’Connell no doubt had in mind Thomas Steele’s talents as a urinator.

Carrigaholt and Kilrush

O’Connell also wanted

[…] the construction of two suitable piers, with other works, completely to protect shipping; the one on the Bay of Carrigaholt, the other on Scattery or Kilrush Harbour.

The commerce of Kerry, Clare, and Limerick, are interested in these works. We shall certainly obtain the powerful assistance of the patriotic Member for Limerick. His assiduity, information, and public spirit, render him a model which Irish representatives should imitate.

He wasn’t quite as complimentary about Thomas Spring Rice a few years later, when O’Connell’s five-hour speech in favour of the repeal of the Acts of Union was topped by Spring Rice’s six-hour contribution.

Here is a page about Kilrush. I haven’t done a page about Carrigaholt so there follows some information to fill the gap until I get around to doing it properly.

The earlier pier at Carrigaholt was built by Alexander Nimmo and was more successful than his harbour down the road at Kilbaha. Despite the description on the DIA site, I assume that it is the one shown on the 6″ OSI map.

Carrigaholt map 1

The old quay at Carrigaholt (OSI ~1840)

Here’s a photo.

Carrigaholt August 2011 7_resize

The old quay at Carrigaholt as extended

Commander James Wolfe’s Sailing Directions [PDF], compiled some time before 1848, say

Round Kilcradan, to the northward, and protected by it, is the anchorage or Road of Carrigaholt. It is a very fine secure anchorage with all winds from the westward, but from the ENE to S much sea prevails, though not heavy enough to endanger a vessel well found in ground tackling. With SW gales, a long rolling swell sets in round Kilcradan Point, which renders riding here at those times very uneasy. These roads have the advantage of being free from any great strength of tide.

The ground is level all over the road, but from six fathoms it shoals gradually towards the shores; the bottom, of sand over clay and mud, is generally considered good holding ground. The best anchorage for a large ship is with the top of Ray Hill in one with the Coast-guard Watchhouse W ¾ N, and Moyarta Lodge, just open of the point on which Carrigaholt Castle stands, nearly N ½ W in 5½ to 6 fathoms low-water springs.

The shore forms two smaller bays, the northern of which takes its name from the village which stands on its shores, and the southern is called Kilcradan. Both are very flat and shallow; in the latter there is a coast-guard station, but it is not a boarding station. The village is a poor miserable place, and does not afford supplies of any sort, nor can a ship complete water here. At the village is a small pier, accessible only (to loaded boats) at high water. It is used by the turf-boats, though most of these load on the beach.

Carrigaholt Castle, a high square tower on the point, and the chapel, a cruciform building, with its belfry, are very conspicuous objects.

As those directions were written some years ago, I suggest that you should not use them for navigating nowadays. You can tell that they are out of date because the village does now afford most excellent supplies, chiefly in the Long Dock. The Long Dock does not, alas, seem to have updated its website since 2006, having gone over to the Dark Side of FaceTweet which, at least to me, is impossible to search, so I can’t point you to a list of the interesting beers the Long Dock stocks in addition to its excellent food.

My spies tell me that, if you happen to be driving a barge from, say, Donegal to Limerick — not that I’m encouraging you to do anything of the sort — Mr Luke Aston of the Carrigaholt Sea Angling Centre will be able to advise on moorings. He’s got a Lochin, so he must be sound. You can have a day’s sea angling with him or a day watching dolphins with Geoff Magee (to whom I owe a glass of sherry), followed by a meal at the Long Dock: what more could you want?

Carrigaholt new harbour 24

Luke Aston’s Lochin [I assume] and Geoff Magee’s Draíocht

Well, if you were Daniel O’Connell, you’d want a new pier or quay.

Carrigaholt map 2

Carrigaholt old and new quays [OSI ~1900]

The old quay was extended at some stage and a new quay was built at the castle. I don’t know have dates for either of those, but I think the new quay was built as a fisheries pier in the 1890s. If, Gentle Reader, you know the dates, and can save me from having to plough through years of Board of Works reports, do please leave a Comment below.

If O’Connell had any role in having the old pier extended, that would have been the only one of his four local concerns on which he had any success, although he could also claim a minor supporting role in having the pier at Cappa, Kilrush, extended in the 1840s.

Carrigaholt new harbour 30_resize

Carrigaholt new quay seen from the old quay

The canal to Ennis

Daniel O’Connell’s third local concern was

The opening of the navigation of the Fergus to Ennis, so as to make that town a sea-port. The tide rises about half a mile beyond that town; and if there were a short canal cut near the village of Clare, of about 300 yards, vessels of burden could deliver their cargoes at Ennis, and carry away the produce of the country to the most remote markets.

This was a proposal that came up several times, but it was never implemented. The Shannon Commissioners built a fine quay at Clare [now Clarecastle] in the 1840s, but they left it as the head of the navigation.

Wolfe’s Sailing Directions made it clear that the passage of the Fergus estuary was not to be undertaken lightly:

A mile to the eastward of the Beeves is the principal and only navigable entrance to the River Fergus, which comes from the NNE amid vast banks of mud, and numerous islets and rocks. Having passed the Beeves, steer up for Feenish Island till you bring the tall square tower of an old castle (called Court Brown) in one with the north point of Low Island, WNW¼W, which is studded with white houses.

You must then keep rather more to the northward for the round hill of Coney Island, until Cannon Castle is in one with the peak of Grady Island, W¼S, when you must bear away for the east point of Coney Island; you will then shortly come into five and six fathoms, where you must anchor with the sharp peak of Coney Island bearing N by E and Cannon Castle WSW1/3W in about six fathoms soft muddy bottom.

Grady's and Cannon Islands from off Innish Corker [Admiralty Surveyors 1841 by kind permission of the UK National Archives]

Grady’s and Cannon Islands from off Innish Corker [Admiralty Surveyors 1841 by kind permission of the UK National Archives]

Beyond this it would be impossible to proceed without a pilot. The river beyond Coney Island winds through vast banks of mud, extending from 1 to 1½ miles from the shore, decreasing gradually in width from 600 yards, and varying in depth from nine to three feet up to the town of Clare, nearly seven miles in a direct line, and nine following the channel.

At Clare the bed of the river is dry at low water, but there is a quay, alongside of which vessels load. Clare is a miserable place, though the shipping port of Ennis. It is a military station.

Pilots may be had at Low Island, but no vessel above 150 tons should go up to Clare.

Clare_resize

The bridge at Clare[castle] [OSI ~1840]

As well as a lock, some opening mechanism would have been required for vessels to get though the bridge, which was not the current flat structure; here is a photo of the old bridge.

Clarecastle Fergus Navigation June 2007 07_resize

Looking from the Shannon Commissioners 1840s quay at Clare towards the bridge

Clarecastle November 2014 16_resize

Clarecastle gandalows at the quay

Clarecastle old quay from far side 03_resize

The quay from across the river

Very low water at Clarecastle 5_resize

Low water at Clarecastle

The interesting thing is that, even though a boat could not pass through Clarecastle to the estuary, there must have been some navigation on the Fergus; I would like to know more about what and how much was carried when. There was a quay, Parson’s Quay, in Ennis …

Ennis_resize

Parson’s Quay in Ennis [OSI ~1840]

… and another quay further downstream. I put the next map in black and white to make it easier to see things; it’s scaled down from the Ennis map.

Quays_resize

Ennis and district [OSI ~1840]

The map also shows that O’Connell was right about the tide: it did flow well above Ennis.

The other canal

Although the first three proposals were not implemented, and probably would have been either uneconomic or unsuccessful, they weren’t absolutely bonkers. His fourth idea, though, was nuts.

The fourth local concern relates to a communication by a canal from the bay of Galway to Limerick. The point of junction should be somewhere in the neighbourhood of Killaloe. The entire of the western and midland counties of Ireland would derive great advantage from such a canal.

Getting through the hills above Killaloe would have been fun. But the real problem with the proposal is that O’Connell fundamentally misunderstood the nature of the Irish economy. Each Irish port served its own hinterland, shipping out its produce and shipping in coal, timber and other overseas goods. But the ports did not need to trade with each other, as each performed the same function.

The exception to that was created by the application of steam on the inland Shannon, which allowed perishable produce from the Limerick area to be carried across Ireland for export through Dublin to Britain. That role was soon taken over by the railways.

But there was no point in connecting two westward-facing ports by canal: if they needed to trade with each other, they could do so by sea.

My OSI logo and permit number for website

Boat Trade on the Barrow

BOAT TRADE

Dublin to and from Waterford
CALLING AT ROSS AND GRAIGUE

The Public are respectfully informed that the Boats of the BARROW NAVIGATION COMPANY call regularly each week to and from the above-mentioned Towns, say on the Mornings of MONDAY and THURSDAY, at Three o’Clock, making TWO deliveries weekly at each end.

The Company having selected Men of the besst characters as Masters of their Boats, they engage the safe delivery of all Goods forwarded, and hope by moderate charges and dispatch to give satisfaction.

GOODS FOR ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND to be forwarded by these Boats, should be directed to the Agents of the Company.

Goods can be forwarded by careful carriers to the following towns, viz:

FROM FROM FROM Waterford
Graigue To
To Ross Carrick-on-Suir
Borris Clonmel
Innistiogue To Dungarvan
Thomastown Dunmore
Enniscorthy Ballyhack
Wexford Tramore

For further particulars, apply to the Company’s Agents

Mr JOHN KELLY, Grand Canal Harbour, Dublin

Mr JOHN M’DONNELL, Custom-House Quay and Lower Thomas-street, Waterford

Mr M W CARR, New Ross

Mr M RYAN, Graigue

Or to the Secretary of the Company, P D LaTOUCHE, Esq, Castle-street, Dublin

Waterford Chronicle 4 November 1854

Greyways and the Black Bridge

Martin McGuinness [SF] was asked recently, in the Northern Ireland Assembly, about blueways:

Leslie Cree [UUP]: It was interesting to read that Waterways Ireland has developed this first blueway in the Carrick-on-Shannon area. Can he share with us if, in fact, Waterways Ireland has developed any projects for the Erne waterway itself?

Mr McGuinness said:

These projects are under ongoing consideration by Waterways Ireland, as the development of blueways and greenways could add to our tourist potential. It is clear from how greenways have been used, particularly in the west of Ireland, that they have huge health benefits for those now walking and cycling and involved in physical activity.

There is a proposal for another greenway from Derry city to County Donegal. Blueways and greenways offer important tourist potential, and it is exciting to see that Waterways Ireland is considering the linkage in the Leitrim area and how it can be extended to Lough Erne.

But, if I might remind TPTB, not everybody likes walking, cycling and physical activity; not everybody is going to be rolling around in a kayak or paddling a canoe. There are older folk, there are those who rightly view exercise with the gravest of suspicion and there are those whose interests simply lie elsewhere.

The Greyway concept

It is for such folk that I have developed the Greyway [TM]  concept. It’s the same as a blueway or a greenway but without the sweating or the lurid dayglo clothing.

The basic idea is that you form a “route” or “way” as a marketing concept to get more people using your existing assets. Your expenditure is low: research, product development, marketing and information provision rather than infrastructure; self-guided rather than staffed user experiences. Direct income might be low too, although there may be ways to extract cash from users; there might also be spin-off opportunities for other providers. [All my usual reservations about small-scale providers apply here too.]

There might be Greyways catering for

  • walkers: gentle walks with opportunities for sitting down, drinking tea and getting a taxi back to the start
  • drivers: long-distance routes taking in several sites
  • boaters: most of Waterways Ireland’s sites are accessible by water and by road. Furthermore, some trip boats might use elements of the Greyway material in providing information for their passengers.

Themes

You need a theme to attract people: “come and walk/drive the X Greyway and see all the lovely/interesting Ys”. No doubt there are several possible values for Y: bunnies, trees, fish, bogs, hills …. But the main thing that Waterways Ireland has to sell, and that it does not currently sell, is its industrial heritage. The Shannon, in particular, exists as an improved navigation only because of (a) steam, (b) the British industrial revolution, (c) Irish agriculture and (d) low politics. And industrial heritage is something that interests some at least of the older folk. Package it into routes and sell it for grey pounds, euros or dollars.

There is all sorts of interesting stuff along the Shannon, mostly just lying there, and it should be put to work. The most concentrated section is along the old Limerick Navigation, from Limerick to Killaloe: for instance, last time I looked seven of the original twelve milestones were still present. [The distance was 12 Irish miles, approx 24 km or 15 statute miles.] It’s a walkable route and it includes

  • the neglected Black Bridge at Plassey, whose very existence reflects the Victorian version of Just-in-time delivery
  • the bridge and artefacts at O’Briensbridge
  • the richest waterways heritage site in Ireland at Killaloe.

But there could also be driving tours along the middle Shannon, between Portumna and Athlone, where there is lots to see, and from Lanesborough upwards. Shannon Harbour might eventually house a museum ….

ERIH

What I’m suggesting is that Waterways Ireland should designate the Shannon as the first route (as opposed to site) in Ireland within the European Route of Industrial Heritage [ERIH] framework. ERIH’s website includes descriptions of the route system and of anchor points, which may be too advanced for present use, but why not a European Theme Route in Transport and Communication? Ireland might even make a case for the use of advanced (or at least interesting) transport technology (steamers) in carrying agricultural produce to industrial markets.

Furthermore, if CIE were to cooperate, the railways might be brought in too, and the livestock trade, and Dublin Port, and a regional route linking to Liverpool and the railway to Manchester ….

There is an interesting story to be told about the Shannon and its links to the east coast and beyond; its industrial heritage could be used to attract tourists and entertain natives.

 

 

 

Down to the sea in steps

On 28 January 1907 James Robinson Kilroe [near the bottom of the page] of H M Geological Survey read to the Royal Irish Academy a paper on “The River Shannon: its present course and geological history” [Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy Vol XXVI Section B No 8 Hodges, Figgis & Co Ltd, Dublin; Williams & Norgate, London 1907]. I thought that Plate V was interesting.

Shannon Derg to sea

Plate V

Kilroe wrote:

It will be perceived that instead of the river being shallow over the unyielding Silurian slate-rock, set almost vertically, and striking across the river-course, it is deeper than over the limestone of Lough Derg, and much deeper than over the comparatively easily eroded Old Red Sandstone at Killaloe. The river-bed actually drops below the datum line above the town, while at the town it is 100 feet above datum.

Old Red Sandstone strata are here to be seen in the river-bank, and Silurian rocks in situ in its bed. A barrier is thus formed, partly of Silurian, and partly of Old Red Sandstone rocks, which without the artificial impounding weir would retain the waters of Lough Derg to a depth of some 104 feet opposite Derrycastle — two miles above Killaloe.

One might have expected to find a fairly level shallow bed from Killaloe northward, a sudden drop from slate-rock to the sandstone floor, and  a pronounced wide, well-formed valley in the limestone district southward to Limerick.

None of these elements exist; instead, we have the formidable barrier at Killaloe, naturally damming up a considerable depth of water in Lough Derg, and the river falling away southward by a series of rapids which correspond with drops in the canal, south of O’Briensbridge […], along an alternative course, possibly one used by a branch of the Shannon.

Here is an extract from the Plate V map, showing the steps of the (pre-Ardnacrusha) Limerick Navigation between Lough Derg and the sea.

Shannon Killaloe to Limerick

The steps of the canal (click to enlarge)

Upstream

Kilroe wrote of Lough Ree:

The waters of Lough Ree stood some 10 feet higher within recent times than they now do, as proved by evidence of solution, with under-cutting of limestone blocks, to be seen about five miles north-west of Athlone, close to the railway, in the townland of Cornaseer.

Under these conditions the lake must have been, perhaps, twice its width, and for a considerable period. Its ancient surface-level is clearly indicated by the caps of the mushroom-shaped blocks.

And of the Shannon between Lough Ree and Lough Derg:

The extreme flatness of the river between Athlone and Meelick is such that, consequent upon the completion of the Suck Drainage-works in 1892, it was found that the callows along the Shannon above the confluence of the Suck at Shannonbridge were much more liable to sudden and frequent floodings than they previously had been.

The more rapid discharge of the Suck waters into the Shannon, before ordinary extra water had time to pass away, had the effect of modifying the regimen of the main stream to an extent which resulted in an action at law [La Touche -v- The Suck Drainage Board].

I have found only one account of that case, in the Freeman’s Journal of 1 July 1893. The plaintiffs, Messrs Harrison and La Touche, owned land at Cappaleitrim, on the west bank of the Shannon above Shannonbridge. They said that the actions of the Suck Drainage Board had caused their lands to be flooded:

[…] that the defendants brought water from the Suck into the Shannon, containing a drainage of 40 miles, with such velocity and such volume that the Shannon was penned back, and that the back water caused the damage to the lands complained of.

[…] The jury disagreed and were discharged.

I don’t know whether the matter ever again came before a judge.

Piracy on the Shannon

The Henrietta sloop, of Ballylongford, was boarded last Friday morning, in the mouth of the Adare river, on her passage home from Limerick, by six men, armed and with their faces painted, who ordered all the passengers up on deck, and rifled the persons of every one of them, carrying off a good booty. While engaged in this daring outrage, the ruffians presented fire arms at the heads of their victims, threatening instant death in the event of resistance. They also went below and seaarched the cargo, consisting of groceries, woollens and mercery, and plundered a bale of silk handkerchiefs, muslins, laces, and shawls.

On the same night a sail-boat belonging to Knock, county Clare, was also plundered by a party of ruffians, who boarded her in the Shannon.

Reading Mercury &c 12 December 1831