Tag Archives: Ireland canals Grand Royal

Clontarf to Clondra

The Clontarf Yacht & Boat Club, recreating the Club’s 1925 trip, entered the Royal Canal sea lock from the Liffey on Saturday morning, 16 April 2011; some boats have reached Abbeyshrule this evening, and they hope to reach Clondra tomorrow evening, which will be four days from the Liffey.

That’s very fast: for Blanchardstown to/from Clondra, IWAI Dublin Branch estimated 5 days X 8 hours and I estimated 6 days X 7 hours, plus another day from the Liffey to Blanchardstown (12th Lock). I understand that CYBC has been doing very long days; I’ll get details later. In the meantime, well done CYBC.

Royal steam

How many steamers were used on the Royal Canal? The standard answer is five, but the right answer might be nine or ten. Read about Fishbourne, the unknown carrier, here.

The Liffey before the Lagan

According to the Heritage Boat Association, the Guinness jetty on the Liffey was built in 1873, but the first steamer, the Lagan, was built in 1877. The Guinness Storehouse‘s fact sheet confirms the 1873 date, but is vague about when the first boats were built. So why the four-year gap? Why would Guinness build the jetty before it had the boats to use it?

At the half-yearly meeting of the proprietors of the Midland Great Western Railway Company, held on 7 September 1876, the Chairman (Sir Ralph Cusack) said that the largest trader on the Royal Canal (owned by the MGWR) was about to retire from business because of ill health. Sir Ralph said:

[…] it might be very inconvenient to persons in the country, who carry on the canal materials that are not exactly suited for a railway, such as coals, timber, slates, bricks, etc. […] it is therefore our intention to commence — perhaps in a small way at first — carrying with a couple of boats on the canal, so as to relieve the railway of this rough kind of traffic, and at the same time to benefit the country through which the canal runs. [Irish Times 8 September 1876]

Sir Ralph said that the company had ordered a small steamer:

We don’t propose that the steamer shall carry goods, but we propose to have a few small tugs similar to those used by Sir Arthur Guinness on the Liffey to draw laden boats. […] we will begin in a small way and see what way the thing will do. We cannot lose very much by it. We are getting one small tug, and I suppose we will get another.

So in 1876, one year before the Lagan was built, Guinness was using dumb barges, towed by small tugs, on the Liffey.


Royal Canal shrinks

According to the 1994 Guide to the Royal Canal of Ireland, the smallest lock on the Royal, Lock 18, is 75 feet (22.9m) long, with a breadth of 13.3 feet (4.0m) and a depth of 4.7 feet (1.4m) on the cill.

According to Waterways Ireland, the navigational criteria for the Royal Canal are:

Length: 21m
Beam: 3.9m
Draft: 1m

L T C Rolt, in Green and Silver, said that the maximum size of vessel that could navigate the whole of the Royal was 70 feet by 13 feet 1 inch by 4 feet six inches “(theoretical)”. He said that lock sizes varied considerably, the shortest being 75 feet and the narrowest 13 feet 3.75 inches.

The navigational criteria for the Grand are:

Length: 18.5m
Beam: 3.9m
Draft: 1.2m (1m in Dublin)

So the Royal is throughout shallower than the Grand (except in Dublin) and the locks have got narrower and shorter.


Right Royal rant

I have written a page suggesting that, on good economic principles, the Irish government should use the Royal Canal as a giant rubbish dump.

This step would solve the impending shortage of landfill sites, avoid the need for an incinerator at Poolbeg and allow Keynesian bottles to be used to provide employment and stimulate the economy.

I have also suggested an alternative use for the Royal, but I’m afraid the alternative is almost laughably implausible: it is that folk should be encouraged to go boating on the Royal. I even suggest — I know it’s ridiculous — that some folk might like to complete the “Irish ring” or triangle: along the Grand to Dublin, to the Shannon along the Royal and then completing the circuit by travelling south along the Shannon.

If the numbers travelling were to justify the upkeep of the canals, large numbers of hirers would be needed, as would large numbers of hire boats. But not all of the existing hire firms are keen on the idea and none of them (as far as I know) is advertising the route. Waterways Ireland promoted it at a recent Birmingham boat show, but without the sort of detailed information that a would-be hirer would need.

It may be that Waterways Ireland is holding back until an adequate water supply for the Royal has been secured and until the obstacles at the Dublin end have all been removed. Perhaps it intends to persuade hire firms (new or existing) to provide packages; perhaps it will have a super new marketing campaign once everything is ready, and perhaps it’s just playing for time at the moment.

The problem with that approach is that it risks losing goodwill from potential hirers who, having heard of the reopening of the Royal, are now finding it difficult to arrange a trip.

One of the major sources of difficulty, as I see it, is the absence of information about what a trip might entail. Only the IWAI Dublin Branch seems to have made any effort to help folk who want to travel the route; neither the RCAG nor the Waterways Ireland site is of much use to anyone.

Accordingly, I have written a second page with some suggestions about how a hirer might tackle the trip. I still think it’s ridiculously difficult to plan, especially for a would-be hirer form overseas, and my information is not complete. I hope that folk will suggest improvements and help to tie down the details. And if anyone knows of a hire firm that is offering packages, with all the schedules worked out and the bookings made, do please give the details.


Dublin saunter

I’ve made some changes to my pages about (parts of) the waterways in Dublin. Essentially, I’ve suggested a walking route that would take you:

  • from Connolly Station to Newcomen Bridge and Lock 1 on the Royal Canal, then up the Royal as far as Lock 5 (with possibilities for refreshment)
  • back a bit to the junction with the abandoned Broadstone Line, then down that line to Constitution Hill
  • from there to the Liffey quays, with some thoughts on the Guinness Liffey barges, then up Steevens Lane and James’s Street to Echlin Street and the filled-in Grand Canal Harbour
  • around the harbour before ending in the Guinness Storehouse.

More information here or go directly to this page.

Arthur’s Day

I spent today helping the skipper of a barge to carry a cargo of Guinness by water to Limerick, fifty years after the last Grand Canal Company commercial cargo, which was of Guinness to Limerick. (Actually, my help was minimal, confined mostly to acting as ballast, a role I fill very well, and taking 1,439 photographs.) There will be a ceremony at Dolan’s in Limerick tomorrow at the appropriate time.

Folk in other parts of the country may find it easier to undertake a pilgrimage to Uncle Arthur’s final resting place.  Here are links to some maps:

in relation to the Grand Canal. Towards the top right of the page, you can see a little castle symbol, which is roughly where the graveyard is. Notice that the road to the right of the symbol has a sharp bend; the entrance to the graveyard is just north of that bend. It’s a narrow country road, so be careful
– in relation to the N7. The orientation is slightly different on the Google map but you’ll recognise the shape of the area enclosed by the roads
– with the path into the graveyard on the OSI map.

Updates 25 June 2009

I’ve added photos to some of the boat pages. Several of the new photos were kindly supplied by Tina of Wasserrausch, to whom I am very grateful. The additions are:

Traditional boats and replicas has a new photo of an Erne cot, supplied by Tina

Waterways Ireland workboats has photos of the new vessel Inis Cealtra (I’ve already announced these) and two photos of small boats at Munster Harbour. It also has a link to a page of detailed photos of Inis Cealtra

Non-WI workboats has photos, supplied by Tina, of ferries and workboats on Lough Erne and of two boats operated by environmental authorities

Sailing boats has photos of the skutsje Nieuwe Zorgen, which arrived on the Irish waterways in 2008

Wooden boats has several new photos of wooden boats photographed recently at Shannon Harbour, as well as a few better photos of boats that were already listed

Boats that are different has one addition.

As always, if I’ve got anything wrong, or omitted anything, do please leave a Comment at the bottom of the relevant page.

A Grand Canal lock: Belmont

To complement my page about Athlone lock on the Shannon, here’s a description of Belmont lock on the Grand Canal. As always, I welcome comments, suggestions or ideas about anything I have omitted or misunderstood.

Wooden boats

I’ve moved my photos of wooden boats on Irish inland waterways from pbase.com to here, with a few extra photos added.