Tag Archives: Leitrim

Lough Allen to Limerick 1786

The hopes of a gentleman of Limerick ….

ESB water discharge info

Here is the ESB’s Notifications page, with info on the rate of discharge from its hydroelectric dams and weirs. Today (14 December 2015) Parteen Villa Weir is discharging 440 cumecs (cubic metres per second or, roughly, ton[ne]s per second down the original course of the Shannon. That’s 44 times the 10 cumec usually discharged and more than replaces the 400 cumec diverted through the headrace to the Ardnacrusha power station. The Shannon is therefore running at its pre-Ardnacrusha levels and the Falls of Doonass have regained their power.

Of course if Ardnacrusha didn’t exist, its 400 cumec would be coming down the original course of the Shannon on top of the 440 cumec already there, which would make for interesting levels of flooding.

That ESB page has a link to this infographic, which shows the sort of information I was trying to get across here. I usually start from Leitrim [village]; the ESB starts slightly further upstream at Lough Allen. Note that the Shannon’s few locks are concentrated upstream of Lough Ree: between them and Killaloe are only two locks, at Athlone and Meelick, so the river’s fall is very slight.

 

News from the Windsor and Eton Express

A memorial to the lord lieutenant from the gentry and landed proprietors of Sligo, Leitrim, Fermanagh, and Cavan, lies in Enniskillen for signatures. It prays that a canal may be formed which will connect Lough Earne [sic] with Lough Allen, and that again with Lough Gill, which is navigable to Sligo. This, with the canal already sanctioned between Lough Erne and Neagh, will open a communication across the kingdom, from Sligo to the ports of Newry and Belfast. In a commercial point of view, this undertaking is of the greatest importance to Ireland.

Windsor and Eton Express Saturday 28 May 1825

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.

 

WI to close Carrick-on-Shannon office?

Leitrim Observer story here.

If Carrick is being reviewed, I presume other offices are too. I’m sure Scarriff is lovely, but ….

It seems that at least some folk are beginning to realise how bad Waterways Ireland’s financial position and prospects really are.

Ticking all the boxes

Sometimes an idea comes along that is just so good, so right, so advantageous on all counts that it is simply irresistible. This idea comes from the Americas, from the US Coast Guard. Adapted to the Irish inland waterways, and specifically to the Shannon, it could:

  • help to promote industry in recession-hit rural areas
  • create direct employment
  • help to stimulate indirect employment
  • promote Irish energy independence by reducing reliance on imported hydrocarbons
  • counter pollution of water-courses
  • reduce the number of heavy trucks using remote rural roads
  • use environmentally-friendly water transport, by barge along the Shannon
  • honour and promote the industrial heritage of Co Leitrim and the transport heritage of the Shannon
  • help to defray the costs of maintaining the Shannon Navigation
  • solve Dublin’s water supply problem, at least for non-potable water.

How could anybody resist?

The US Coast Guard has proposed that wastewater from fracking [PDF] should be transported by barge, rather than by truck or railway train, from the fracking sites to remote storage or treatment facilities. So, when fracking begins around Lough Allen, the wastewater could be carried down the Shannon by barge and, if necessary, pumped to Dublin.

It sounds like a winner to me.

The Underpants Gnomes and the Shincliffe Traveller

Here is an article from 1792 about the virtues of the River Shannon. It was written by an unidentified Traveller from Shincliffe, near Durham. It is interesting as an earlyish example of the Irish waterways cargo cult which, it has been pointed out to me, resembles the business plan of the underpants gnomes.

The Upper Shannon Renewal Scheme

The Irish state’s dedication to the interests of builders has been well discussed in Conor McCabe’s very readable Sins of the Father. That dedication is evident along the upper reaches of the River Shannon, where ludicrous tax incentives encouraged the building of ridiculous numbers of houses. Some of them are intended for colonies of white settlers, as at Dromod, but even allowing for holiday and retirement homes there are far more houses than will ever be used.

IrelandAfterNama discusses “Housing vacancy 1991-2011 in the Upper Shannon Renewal Scheme counties” here. It shows that by 2011 21.8% of houses in Longford were vacant, 22.1% in Cavan, 22.2% in Sligo, 23% in Roscommon and 30.4% in Leitrim. Some of those vacancies are actually holiday homes, and there are other caveats, but Rob Kitchin’s (measured) conclusion is:

All five counties show a marked increase in the housing vacancy level. Even allowing for obsolescence and replacement, and demand for holiday homes, it is clear that housing was being built in excess of demand and in response to the tax incentives (as clearly illustrated by Figure 5). The result is a significant oversupply of stock and a helping hand in the collapse of the banks (see Figure 6 for vacancy levels per ED).

I’d put it rather more strongly: the Upper Shannon Renewal Scheme was a gigantic waste of resources.

What happened to the Wingate?

On 22 September 1870 the Irish Times said that the owner of the new steam launch Wingate was

 willing, in case of six or eight gentlemen joining, to defray the expenses of making a cruise through the Grand Canal, down the Shannon to Limerick, and then up the river to its source.

The notice said that the launch would steam through Loughs Allen, Kay [now Key], Dee and Derg. I don’t know where Lough Dee is: perhaps it’s a typo (or printo) for Ree. There would be a side-trip to Lough Gill, taking the Lady of the Lake steamer to Sligo, and the launch would then take the Leitrim Canal (now the Shannon–Erne Waterway) to the Erne, covering the whole of it from Belturbet to Belleek.

After that, the Wingate would travel by the Ulster Canal to Lough Neagh and Coleraine, returning “either by Newry or the Royal Canal” to Dublin. It is not clear how the Royal Canal (which links Dublin to the Shannon) could form part of a route from Lough Neagh to Dublin.

Whoever wrote the notice suggested that the cruise would take ten days, which suggests a degree of optimism not consonant with a knowledge of the distances involved.

An ad appeared in the next day’s paper, offering for sale the Wingate, a composite steam screw launch lying at Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire), and saying that a cruise of 10–12 days, only as far as Lough Erne, could be arranged pending sale.

According to the invaluable Clydebuilt database, a launch called Wingate was built by T Wingate & Company of Glasgow in an unspecified year. But why was a new launch being offered for sale?

Richard Heaton’s genealogy website includes a collection of newspapers, and one of them, the Supplement to the Warder for 3 [not 31] September 1870, has an account of how the Wingate reached Dublin (Kingstown) from Scotland, where the owner had failed to find half a dozen hardy souls willing to accompany him on a tour of the Western Isles and the Highlands. This is scarcely surprising as the Wingate was an open launch only 35 feet long.

So who owned the Wingate? Did the owner manage to reach the Irish inland waterways, or was he forced to sell his launch? I would welcome more information.

From the hearts of cranes

Several ports on the Shannon Navigation have old cranes (or parts thereof), most of them nicely painted. Their age may not be apparent, but it is possible that they date back to the days of the Shannon Commissioners in the 1840s; at least one of them may be even older than that.

This page shows photographs of those cranes I know of, and discusses their possible ages. But there is much that remains unknown, and readers may be able to cast light on some of the mysteries.