Tag Archives: Fergus

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.

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

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.

 

 

 

Steam, the Shannon and the Great British Breakfast

That is the title of the Railway and Canal Historical Society‘s 2014 Clinker Memorial Lecture, to be held at the Birmingham and Midland Institute, Margaret Street, Birmingham B3 3BS, at 1415 on Saturday 18 October 2014.

The lecture will concentrate on the period before 1850 with such interesting topics as

  • Shannon steamers
  • the Grand and Royal Canals
  • the first Irish turf (peat) to reach the USA (possibly)
  • port developments in Dublin, Limerick and Kingstonw
  • the Dublin and Kingstown Ship Canal
  • the Midland Great Western Railway
  • what “cattle class” really means
  • bacon and eggs.

Admission is free and booking is not required. However, if you plan to attend, it would be helpful if you could e-mail […] to this effect.

The Clinker Memorial Lecture is named for Charles R Clinker, an eminent railway authoe and one-time historian of the Great Western Railway, who died in 1983.

If you would like the contact email address, leave a Comment below and I’ll get in touch with you direct.

 

 

More reading material

A bit of a break from the politicking ….

First,  the long-awaited second edition of David Walsh’s extraordinary book Oileáin is now available from Pesda Press. It’s an exhaustive guide to the islands around Ireland, seen from a sea-kayaker’s perspective. It tells you where they are, how you get there, what the tides and currents and hazards are, whether you might be able to camp …. A lot of this is, of course, aimed mainly at folk rather more athletically minded than I am, but I got it for its information about the islands in the Shannon and Fergus estuaries. David’s website keeps an electronic version updated, so that you can check the latest information before you set off, but even if you’re unlikely to start paddling to the Skelligs yourself you may find the information and the photos of interest.

Shannon enthusiasts will be familiar with Richard Hayward’s Where the River Shannon Flows, written as Hitler’s war was breaking out. It is an account of a road trip down the Shannon during which a film about the river was being made: the party was in Portumna when Hayward heard, on a wireless set through a window, that Britain was at war with Germany. I was privileged, some years ago, to be able to see the film and to match it with the scenes from the book, from which L T C Rolt drew information for his Green and Silver. Hayward was a proud Ulsterman, but one who was happy to meet, converse and exchange songs with anyone of any creed anywhere in Ireland. He was, if I remember correctly, a confectionery salesman by way of a day job, but more importantly he was an actor, a writer and a singer. His style is of its time, and perhaps rather laboured by modern standards, but he was a decent skin and I haven’t read anything of his that I didn’t enjoy. I am pleased to learn that a biography, An Unrepentant Romantic — the life and times of Richard Hayward by Paul Clements, is due to be published by Lilliput Press in May.

In the same month, UCD Press is to publish James Murphy’s Ireland’s Czar: Gladstonian government and the lord lieutenancies of the Red Earl Spencer, 1868–86. That’s this chap here, whose claim to fame is that he has a dock on the Royal in Dublin, and a harbour on Lough Allen, both called after him.

I don’t know whether I want to shell out €50 for Nigel Everett’s The Woodlands of Ireland, 700–1800 [Four Courts Press, May], but I like the idea that it

Focuses on the fundamentally pragmatic and commercial view of trees adopted by Gaelic civilisation, and the attempts of the various Anglo-Irish administrations to introduce more conservative woodland practices into Ireland.

Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmaid? Why, we’ll import seacoal from Whitehaven, of course.

Finally, I am hoping that Joe Curtis’s Terenure: an illustrated history [The History Press, Ireland, March] will have more information about the remarkable Bourne family.

The information on forthcoming books comes from the magazine Books Ireland, which was until recently edited by old Shannon hand (and, if I mistake not, former Ditchcrawler) Jeremy Addis. Jeremy has now passed over the tiller and the magazine is now edited by Tony Canavan and published by Wordwell.

 

A threat to an existing navigation

I have a page here about the River Maigue, one of Ireland’s oldest improved navigations, and I suggest here that, as far as I can see, the navigation has never been officially closed; nor has the Office of Public Works been officially relieved of its responsibilities as navigation authority. I think, therefore, that the Maigue is still officially an open navigation, although I am open to correction on that.

Incidentally, the river’s name is locally pronounced Mag, to rhyme with bag.

In 2009 I wrote to the Powers That Be to suggest that the (much to be desired) bypass of Adare, a major bottleneck on the N21 Limerick–Tralee/Killarney road, should pass to the south of the town, thus avoiding the interference with the navigation that would undoubtedly have resulted from a northern bypass. It was no doubt the strength of my case, and a recognition of the importance of the navigation, that caused the Powers to opt for a southern bypass. A proposed link to a proposed M20 Limerick–Cork motorway may have been a minor factor in their decision: as nobody was going to build a motorway to Kerry, Adare would piggyback on the motorway to Cork.

However, An Bord Pleanála overturned the decision [PDFs available here] because the M20 proposal was withdrawn. The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association is pleased because it wanted a northern bypass of Adare, to be linked to a new road from Limerick to the port of Foynes; its submission on the matter is here [PDF]. A Limerick ICSA chap has a letter to the editor about the Foynes link in the current issue of the Limerick Leader, although it’s not yet available online.

Now, this proposal has the drawback that it might actually be slightly sensible: a better road to Foynes might stop people agitating for a restoration of the railway line and enable a speedy ending of port activities in Limerick, thus removing large piles of scrap from the riverside. But have the ICSA not considered the damage to the turf-boat traffic to Adare if a road bridge is added to the railway bridge downstream of Adare?

Ballylongford (and Inishmurray/Cahircon)

SHANNON-RIVER. This is by far the most considerable river in Ireland, or perhaps in any known island, not only on account of its rolling 200 miles, but also of its great depth in most places, and the gentleness of its current, by which it might be made exceedingly serviceable to the improvement of the country, the communication of its inhabitants, and consequently the promoting inland trade, through the greater part of its long course, being navigable to a considerable distance, with a few interruptions only of rocks and shallows, to avoid which there are in general small canals cut, to preserve and continue the navigation.

Thus Wm Wenman Seward, Esq [correspondent of Thomas Jefferson], in his Topographica Hibernica; or the topography of Ireland, antient and modern. Giving a complete view of the civil and ecclesiastical state of that kingdom, with its antiquities, natural curiosities, trade, manufactures, extent and population. Its counties, baronies, cities, boroughs, parliamentary representation and patronage; antient districts and their original proprietors. Post, market, and fair towns; bishopricks, ecclesiastical benefices, abbies, monasteries, castles, ruins, private-seats, and remarkable buildings. Mountains, rivers, lakes, mineral-springs, bays and harbours, with the latitude and longitude of the principal places, and their distances from the metropolis, and from each other. Historical anecdotes, and remarkable events. The whole alphabetically arranged and carefully collected. With an appendix, containing some additional places and remarks, and several useful tables printed by Alex Stewart, Dublin, 1795. [Google it if you want a copy.]

Seward was one of many people who saw the Shannon as a valuable resource, even if they were vague on how it was to yield a return. I was reminded of that on reading the Strategic Integrated Framework Plan for the Shannon Estuary 2013–2020: an inter-jurisdictional land and marine based framework to guide the future development and management of the Shannon Estuary. The Introduction includes this:

The Shannon Estuary is an immensely important asset and one of the most valuable natural resources in Ireland and the Mid-West Region in particular — the fringe lands and the marine area both provide space and location for development, activities and opportunities to progress economic, social and environmental growth within the Region.

This report is an attempt to show how the estuary could deliver a return. The core point seems to be that a small number of areas are designated as “Strategic Development Locations for marine related industry and large scale industrial development”, thus protecting them from the attentions of the environmentalists: the whole of the estuary is a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area.

Almost all the Strategic Development Locations are already industrialied in some way:

  • Limerick Docks (in Limerick city)
  • Ballylongford (of which more below)
  • Tarbert (power station)
  • Aughinish Island (alumina)
  • Askeaton (Nestlé)
  • Foynes Island and land to the rear of Foynes (main port on the estuary)
  • Moneypoint (power station).

There is one more, Inishmurry/Cahircon (which is not boring), which is even more interesting because there is no industry there at present. It was used as a resting place for certain vessels, but it was also proposed as the site for an explosives factory. Perhaps the designation as a Strategic Development Location suggests that that proposal is not dead but merely sleeping.

Ballylongford is equally lacking in industry, despite activity at Saleen in the early nineteenth century. However, Shannon Development assembled a large landbank nearby; the report’s Executive Summary says:

The Ballylongford Landbank benefits from a significant deepwater asset and extant permission for a major LNG bank.

Here is the area in question. Note that the red oval is just to indicate the rough location; it does not show the boundaries of the landbank.

Ballylongford (OSI ~1840)

Ballylongford (OSI ~1840)

You can see a proper map and a marked-up aerial photo in Volume 1 of the report [PDF] on page 73 (77/174).

Shannon Development agreed to give a purchase option on a little uder half of the site to Shannon LNG Ltd, which proposed to build a liquefied natural gas terminal there, to be supplied by ship; much information is available here.

The Commission for Energy Regulation decided to introduce charges that would have increased Shannon LNG’s costs; the company took the matter to court but, yesterday, lost its case. The Irish Times report here will probably disappear behind a paywall at some stage; the Irish Independent report is here and the Limerick Leader‘s here (its photo shows Tarbert and Moneypoint; the Ballylongford site is off to the left).

If the Ballylongford development does not proceed, plans for economic growth on the Shannon estuary may prove to be for the birds.

My OSI logo and permit number for website

No queue for the quay …

… at Querrin on the Shannon Estuary. The page discusses its building and the early years of its operation.

Up with this sort of thing

Folk interested in the history of the Shannon before 1850 may like to know of a talk …

The smart green technology of the 1830s: the Shannon steamers and the definition of Ireland

… to be delivered to the Thomond Archaeological and Historical Society on Monday 4 November 2013. It’s in Room T.1.17, TARA Building, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, at 8pm.

A related topic …

Charles Wye Williams and the Anglo-Irish Trade

… will be discussed in one of the papers at the Eighth [British] Waterways History Conference on Saturday 26 October 2013 at the University of Birmingham. Leave a Comment below if you would like contact information for the conference.

Mountshannon seaplane

News from the Clare Champion about the possible cessation of commercial seaplane activities at Mountshannon. The article reports comments by Mr Emelyn Heaps, chief executive officer of Harbour Flights Ireland Ltd.

Harbour Flights

The Companies Registration Office finds four occurrences of the term “Harbour Flights”, all giving their address as 13 Parnell Street, Ennis, Co Clare. One is a business name; the others are:

  • Harbour Flights (Ireland) Limited
  • Harbour Flights (Couriers) Limited
  • Harbour Flights (BES Nominees) Limited.

According to the B1 Annual Return for Harbour Flights (Ireland) Limited to 30 September 2012 [the most recent available], the directors of the company are:

  • Ronan Connolly of Ennis, Co Clare, who is the Secretary; he holds seven other directorships of companies, two of which are Harbour Flights (Couriers) Limited and Harbour Flights (BES Nominees) Limited
  • Emelyn Heaps of Tulla, Co Clare; he holds nine other directorships of companies, two of which are Harbour Flights (Couriers) Limited and Harbour Flights (BES Nominees) Limited.

In the Clare Champion article, Mr Heaps “said the four directors and five shareholders will meet this weekend”; it is to be presumed that the two extra directors have recently joined the Board. The B1 return does say that the company had five shareholders:

  • Mr Heaps with 300000 ordinary shares
  • Mr Connolly with 300000 ordinary shares
  • Mr Adam Cronin of Cobh, Co Cork with 300000 ordinary shares
  • Mr Stewart Curtis of Bodyke, Co Clare with 100000 ordinary shares
  • Harbour Flights (BES Nominees) Limited with 4152 “A” ordinary shares.

The company’s authorised share capital is €105000 made up of half a million “A” ordinary shares at 1c and ten million ordinary shares, also at 1c; the issued share capital is €10041.52, of which €41.52 is the “A” ordinary shares and the rest the one million ordinary shares at 1c.

The financial statement of Harbour Flights (Ireland) Limited

The company has lodged abridged financial statements for the year ending 31 December 2011 [they refer to the company as Harbour Flights Limited, omitting “(Ireland)”].

The independent auditor said:

There is an excess of liabilities over assets, as stated in the Balance Sheet, and, in our opinion, on that basis there did exist at 31 December 2011 a financial situation which under Section 40(1) of the Companies (Amendment) Act 1983 requires the convening of an extraordinary general meeting of the company.

The abridged balance sheet shows a loss of €103944 in 2010 and €295130 in 2011. The Capital and Reserves section showed

  • Called up share capital 10042
  • Share premium account 26946
  • Profit and loss account (295130)
  • Shareholders’ funds (258142).

The other two companies

The balance sheet of Harbour Flights (BES Nominees) Limited as at 31 December 2011 showed current assets of 100 financed by called up share capital of 100. The company had two directors, Mr Connolly and Mr Heaps, and two shareholders, Mr Connolly and Mr Heaps, each with 50 shares.

The balance sheet of Harbour Flights (Couriers) Limited as at 31 December 2011 showed current assets of 100 financed by called up share capital of 100. The company had four directors, Messrs Connolly, Cronin, Curtis and Heaps, and four shareholders, the same four people, each with 25 shares.

Almost 21 months have passed since then and it is possible that all three companies have prospered greatly since 31 December 2011, especially after flights began in July 2013.

Operations

In January 2013 the Irish Independent reported that the company hoped to acquire a seaplane and its own website suggests that it made its first flight in July 2013 and intended to carry 10000 passengers in its first year. However, it seems that the Air Operator Certificate is held by National Flight Centre, Dublin, which says it will be operating the floatplane (seaplane) “in conjunction with Harbour Flights“.

I know nothing of aeroplanes, but the plane seems to be EI-CFP, a Cessna 172, which is said to carry three passengers. Assuming a seven-month tourist season (April to October) and seven-day-a-week operation, there are 214 days available for carrying passengers. The target of 10000 passengers a year would mean carrying 47 passengers a day, which means 16 flights a day, every day.

However, the first year’s operations do not seem to have started until 10 July, leaving only 113 days to carry 10000 passengers. That would mean 89 passengers a day, which would require 30 flights. The shortest flight time is 20 minutes (at €85 a head; longer flights are available) but I imagine that at least ten minutes are required at start and finish for boarding, so the operation must have been working 20-hour days all summer. I haven’t been in Mountshannon for some time, so I was unaware of the frenetic level of activity, but it must have been exciting.

addendum

I see that RTÉ reported, on 3 September 2013, a “test flight” to Galway. Such “test flights” have taken place to other locations, eg Cork, although it is not clear what distinguishes a test flight from, say, a marketing opportunity. RTÉ said that the flight was by a Cessna 206, which takes five passengers, but the photo shows EI-CFP, which is not (as far as I can tell) a Cessna 206 but a smaller Cessna 172.

There have been earlier announcements of services, eg to Limerick, where services were to begin in summer 2011. This website mentions an earlier proposed start. Some folk don’t seem confident of the soundness of the original business model.

Lakeland Seaplane Tours, based on Lough Erne, seems to have ceased operations.