Tag Archives: lost

Ballygalane on the Blackwater

Lismore Canal lock 28_resize

The Lismore Canal lock

The only lock on the Lismore Canal is at Ballygalane, on the River Blackwater. Here is a new page about the canal, with photos of some of its important features.

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.


Two Limerick footbridges

The Black Bridge at Plassey has long had a place in the hearts of Limerick people. It was damaged in the floods of 2009 and has been closed to the public ever since. Limerick Council says it can’t afford to repair it. Limerick Council is, as far as I can see, in breach of the terms of its lease of the bridge from the Department of Finance; the Department of Finance could, but has chosen not to, insist that the Council repair the bridge.

In the meantime, the Minister for Finance, for reasons best known to himself, wants a new, er, iconic footbridge in Limerick city and is prepared to spend €6 million of taxpayers’ money, via Fáilte Ireland, on a structure that can scarcely avoid blocking some of the finest views in the city.

Now, the Limerick Leader tells us, the ghastly edifice is to cost almost €18 million: €6 million from the Minister for Finance (who represents Limerick), €4 million to be borrowed and €7.8 million from the leprechauns’ pot of gold under the thorn bush. Or somewhere. Even Fianna Fáil councillors think this is insane, which is saying something.

This ridiculous proposal should be abandoned immediately and a much smaller sum should be spent instead on repairing the Black Bridge as part of a European Route of Industrial Heritage.

The Minister’s €6 million is a gift-horse that should not only have its teeth inspected: it should be taken out and shot and its carcass sent to the burger factory.

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.


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 ….


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.




Saunderson’s Sheugh

The Minister for  Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht [who is also a Fine Gael TD for Cavan–Monaghan] spoke at the meeeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht on 25 November 2014. She said:

In addition to progressing North-South co-operation, my key priority is progressing the first stage of the Ulster Canal project from upper Lough Erne to Castle Saunderson, near Belturbet, County Cavan. I am working on this with the Government and other key partners, including the North-South Ministerial Council and Waterways Ireland. […]

It sounds, then, as if the minister intends to get work started on the Clones Sheugh, but only as far as Castle Saunderson, where there is a scouting establishment. The route from Quivvy Lough (location of the Quivvy Marina) is along the Finn River; the first 5.5 km of the route would be in the river and the last 8.5 km to Clones in a canal. The route to Castle Saunderson would, I imagine, require dredging and the removal of rocks as well as work on [or replacement of] Derrykerrib Bridge [I have not read all the details].

It would, of course, be faster to get there by road, but no doubt lots of people will travel from Foreign Parts for the excitement of seeing Castle Saunderson from the water and paying tribute to the memory of a stout Orangeman and founder of the Irish Unionist Alliance.

No mention of the treasure-hunting group who are to find the money, but there’s an election in the offing so money won’t be a problem. Until afterwards.

Quivvy to Castle Saunderson [OSI ~1840]

Quivvy to Castle Saunderson [OSI ~1840]

The minister also said:

Regarding the Ulster Canal, which stretches from upper Lough Erne to Castle Saunderson, we hope to get the project started on that section because that is the one part of the inland waterway system that has not been developed. If we get that done, the Ulster Canal will connect into Lough Neagh. That means we will have a complete network of waterways in Ireland, which is very important. It is also a cross-Border project, and there is a peace dividend in terms of that project. It is very important in terms of cross-Border relationships. It is one shovel-ready project that can be progressed.

The minister said that “a complete network of waterways in Ireland […] is very important”. She did not say why and I can think of no possible economic justification for the creation of such a “network”. Nor is it clear what the “peace dividend” is. But the phrase that evoked most terror is “shovel-ready project”, which I take to mean something that might buy votes in the next election.

The minister’s predecessor, Éamon Ó Cuív, a Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West, said:

I welcome the Minister’s continuation of the work on the Ulster canals. There was quite a bit of work done on that in my time and I was very anxious to see it progress on a step-by-step basis. I was going to bring it to Clones, I am not sure whether the place the Minister mentioned is further or nearer than that.

The minister interjected:

It is not as far as Clones. We will start it anyway and we will get it there.

And Mr Ó Cuív continued:

I take the view that even if she were to get it half a mile, we should just nibble away at it until we get it finished. It is of strategic national importance and if we could connect Coleraine, where I was the other day and where my poor car is getting mended, all the way down the coast through Lough Neagh down to Shannon and back up the canals, it would be a fantastic facility for the island. I will not be heard complaining in any way that it is in the Minister’s constituency – that just happens to be a happy coincidence in this case.

Actually, although both Quivvy Marina and Castle Saunderson are in the Free State, most of the River Finn route is in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

It seems that I must cease to speak of the Clones Sheugh: it’s Saunderson’s Sheugh. I suppose that, if reaching Castle Saunderson were enough to shut up the Shinners, who seem to be madly keen on Sheughery for some reason that is hidden from me, that might be a bargain: it would certainly be better than going all the way to Clones.

My OSI logo and permit number for website


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.



Ballinasloe footbridge

Here is a new page with a brief account of the Ballinasloe Line of the Grand Canal and some photos of a footbridge that seems to have been built across it in the twentieth century.

Thon sheughery business

It will be recalled that Her Majesty’s Loyal Home Rule Government in Belfast is considering investing in the Clones Sheugh [aka Ulster Canal] and that I asked DCAL, the department responsible, for a copy of the Business Case. To my surprise, it said:

Your request is being treated as a Access to Information request and will be handled under either Freedom of Information Act 2000 or the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

Either way, DCAL has now told me that I can’t see it. The Business Case, which is apparently an addendum to the 2007 Business Case (which was rotten: see here passim), won’t be complete until November. I have made a note to remind myself to ask for it then.

I quite sympathise with the DCAL folks: it can’t be easy thinking of any good reason to spend taxpayers’ [British or Irish] money on the Clones Sheugh. But perhaps DCAL can spin it out until the Shinners have taken over the Free State, at which point the economics of Grattan’s Parliament will be in vogue and we can all take up growing flax, spinning and weaving, giving grants for canals and making money out of the slave plantations.

Speaking of Shinners, there’s one called Cathal Ó hOisín, a member of HM Loyal Home Rule Government in Belfast representing East Londonderry, who said there recently:

The possibility of the reopening of the Ulster canal would open up limitless opportunities in tourism. The idea that, once again, we could travel from Coleraine to Limerick, Dublin and Galway by boat would be absolutely wonderful.

Well, you can do that: by sea. There was never an inland navigation from Coleraine, Limerick or Dublin to Galway, despite the urgings of Lord Cloncurry and the nitwitted ideas of Sir Edward Watkin.

As for a connection between Limerick or Dublin and Coleraine, I suspect that Mr Ó hOisín is perpetuating the error into which Her late Majesty Victoria, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, etc, seems to have fallen when she appointed

Commissioners to inquire respecting the System of Navigation which connects Coleraine, Belfast, and Limerick

which Commissioners reported in 1882. There was no such system and, if Mr Ó hOisín can provide evidence that any vessel ever travelled by inland navigation between Coleraine and Limerick, I would be glad to hear of it. I prefer to think of the Commissioners’ conclusion that

As an investment for capital the whole canal system in Ireland has been a complete failure.

I see no reason why politicians of the twenty-first century should repeat the errors of their predecessors in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

You expect the Parnellite members to have a bit more sense, but one John Dallat said in the same debate:

[…] when the Ulster canal is open, tourists will come in their thousands and that will benefit the Lower Bann, the Foyle as well, and right over to Scotland.

Er, John? There are actually canals in other countries. Even in Scotland. Folk are familiar with canals. They’ve seen them before. And a short sheugh to Clones is not going to attract tourists (apart from the relatively small number of canal twitchers, who will need to tick it off on their lists) unless the town of Clones is particularly attractive. Which … well, let me put it this way: why not look it up on TripAdvisor?

Of course I’m all in favour of Clones myself: I am quite interested in concrete engine-sheds and former canal stores.


A little information on Lacy’s Canal

Here is a new page about Lacy’s Canal.

Who writes this stuff?

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage on the Black Bridge at Plass[e]y and on Baal’s Bridge in Limerick.

It would be nice if the NIAH provided reliable historical information.