Tag Archives: Lough Allen

The Traveller’s Map of the River Shannon (1830)

The Traveller’s Map of the River Shannon. Arranged as a Guide to its Lakes and the Several Towns, Gentlemens’ Seats, Ancient Castles, Ruins, Mines, Quarries, Trading Stations, and General Scenery on Its Banks, Source in Lough Allen to the Sea, Leitrim, Longford, Roscommon, Westmeath, King’s County, Tipperary, Galway, Limerick, Kerry and Clare, Accurately Taken from the Survey made by J. Grantham, by order of the Irish Government, under the direction of the late J. Rennie. Printed and published for the Irish Inland Steam Navigation Company, 1830.

Oblong folio, 15 numbered maps printed in black with river and water features coloured in light blue. Original quarter calf green cloth boards, russet title to centre of upper boards, stamped in gilt with gilt fillet boarder. Repair to rear of plate 15, otherwise all maps in very good to fine condition.

Contents: 1. Map of Ireland, 2. Index Map. Lough Derg to the sea, 3. Index Map. Lough Derg to Lough Allen., 4. Kilrush to Tarbert and Foynes Island, 5. Foynes Island to Grass Island, 6. Grass Island to Limerick and O’Brien’s Bridge. 7. O’Briens Bridge to Killaloe and Dromineer. 8. Dromineer to Portumna and Redwood Castle. 9. Redwood Castle to Banagher, and Seven [Churches (Clonmacnoise)], 10. Seven Churches to Athlone and Lough Ree, 11. Lough Ree to Lough Forbes. 12 Lough Forbes to near Leitrim. 13. Leitrim to Head of Lough Allen. 14. map of Limerick, 15. Map of Killaloe.

Map 1 shows Ireland and its waterways at scale of 1″ equals 20 miles, Maps 2 and 3 show the key for 4-13, with table of falls of water along the route on former and table of distances on latter; Maps 4-14 each have a short descriptive panel; Map 14 shows Limerick from the north of King’s Island to the New Barrack in the south with key Map 15 from the town at left to Beal Boru at right.

Yours for only €1800 at Ulysses Rare Books in Dublin.

Lough Allen to Limerick 1786

The hopes of a gentleman of Limerick ….

The Slieve Anierin Canal

Carthach O’Maonaigh very kindly drew my attention to an item in The Schools’ Collection, “a collection of folklore compiled by schoolchildren in Ireland in the 1930s” made available on Dúchas.ie. The item in question, which has been scanned and transcribed, is what Patrick McLoughlin, aged 59, told Mary Josephine reynolds of Cormongan, Co Leitrim; it can be seen here but Dr Críostóir Mac Cárthaigh, Interim Director of the National Folklore Collection at UCD, has very kindly given me permission to reproduce the text here.

Slieve Anierin Canal and Cornashamsoge Furnace

About the year 1650, there was a furnace for smelting Iron ore in the townland of Cornashamsogue, situated on the east side of Lough Allen. The ore had to be conveyed to the furnace for a distance of about 3 miles.

For this purpose a canal was made. The canal ran by the foot of the mountain. Several rivers flow westward from the mountain into Lough Allen. The largest of these is the Stoney river, a river that becomes a roaring torrent in times of heavy rain, often overflowing its banks, and causing great destruction, to lands, crops and houses.

At the time mentioned above, about the year 1650, the water of the Stoney river was diverted into the canal. The canal then was fed principally by this river, and in a lesser degree by the other smaller rivers that ran in the same direction. All the rivers ran at right angles to the canal.

The water also supplied the power that worked the furnace. The site of the furnace can still be pointed out, and the field in which it is situated has got the name of the Furnace Meadow. This furnace was in operation about the same time as, and may have some connection with the furnace, or furnaces, at Drumshanbo, which would be about 3 miles away.

Iron ore was conveyed to the Drumshanbo furnaces by boat, on Lough Allen. The sources of supply, were, the Slieven an Iern, Ballinaglera, Arigna mountains, all situated around Lough Allen. It is thought that the town of Drumshanbo had its origin in these industries. As to the Slieve an Iern canal, there are but very meagre traces of it at the present time.

A canal built in 1650 would be a very early canal and I would be grateful for any information anyone can provide about it; please leave a Comment below if you can help. I can’t see any trace of either canal or furnace on the OSI 6″ and 25″ maps but I may not be looking for the right shapes.

 

 

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

Blueways and traffic

I wonder whether it would be wise to issue some guidance to masters of larger vessels about (a) the likelihood of meeting numbers of canoeists, kayakers, stand-up paddleboarders (SUPpers) and others on particular stretches of water and (b) what to do on meeting them. Guidance to operators of the smaller craft might be useful too. I’m thinking in particular of the restricted visibility on parts of the Camlin and the prospect of encountering a fleet of SUPpers on a tight bend.

The Camlin and the Lough Allen Canal in effect enforce their own speed limits, but I don’t know whether there is any limit on the Shannon between Tarmonbarry and Lough Forbes. If there isn’t, perhaps a limit should be imposed to protect those on small craft.

 

Blueways

Longford Tourism and Waterways Ireland are holding an information meeting about Blueways in Longford tomorrow. It’s in the Backstage Theatre on Tuesday 24 March 2015 at 7.00pm. The blurb reads:

Are you an activity provider, accommodation provider, walker, boater, canoeist, outdoor enthusiasts?

Longford Tourism, in conjunction with Waterways Ireland is delighted to invite you to a Public Information Meeting regarding exciting new recreation and tourism products called Blueways.

Blueways are a series of innovative, safe and easy to use water and land-based trails. These provide for guided and unguided paddling, walking and cycling. Visitors can opt to paddle along the Shannon Blueway, on a 10km looped trail along the Camlin and Shannon Rivers, while the Royal Blueway provides 16km of off road walking and cycling from Cloondara to Longford Town.

To celebrate this exciting trails development, Longford Tourism will host the inaugural Longford Blueways Festival in April. So, come along and hear how you can get involved. All are welcome to attend.

I wish them well and I hope this initiative works. I think that the Blueways are more likely to be successful than any attempted revival of the cruiser-hire business (although I’d like that to work too). However, I would like to learn more about the Blueways business model (if that’s the right term). Who has to invest how much and who gets what returns? Clearly, Waterways Ireland spends money up front, but far less (I presume) than (say) canal restoration would require. But are there viable businesses, or at least viable supplementary income-generating activities, for small local service providers? How do they reach overseas markets? Or is the focus on domestic markets?

One point that strikes me is that Blueways allow for more interaction between tourists and locals: something that used to be a strength of the Irish tourism offering (I’m trying to keep up with modern marketing jargon here) until we decided we were too busy being rich and successful to waste time chatting to tourists (or, if you prefer, providing unpaid support services to the tourism industry). Indeed we felt that even paid employment in tourist enterprises was beneath us: we could get nice people from overseas to do that work instead. Did we, I wonder, hollow out Ireland, removing the Irishness, the distinctiveness (whatever it was) from the tourist experience?

If so, the Blueways’ opportunities for interaction with small-scale and local enterprises might put them back again. There are difficulties in making a living from small-scale operations, but there are benefits too. And the Blueways might tap into other local, small-scale developments: for instance, the recent startling growth in the number of craft breweries. The Lough Allen and Longford Blueways each have a local brewery — St Mel’s in Longford and Carrig in Drumshanbo — and the products of at least one other brewery, Co Roscommon’s Black Donkey, are available on the North Shannon. Maybe, now that KMcG is back, “Places to find good beer” might be added to places to stay, eat and go on the Blueways website.

A Blueway is defined there as

a recreational water activity trail that is developed for use by non-motorised water activity enthusiasts. It is defined by trail heads, put in and take out points and readily available trail information. Blueways can be developed on canals, rivers, lakes or along the coast and can incorporate other associated land base​d trails adjacent to the water trail.

So what about a Blueway for Lough Oughter, with sailing, canoeing and camping?

[h/t Carthach O’Maonaigh]

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.

 

Shannon traffic figures to December 2014

I am grateful to Waterways Ireland for sending me the Shannon traffic figures for the last three months of 2014. They sent them last month but I didn’t have time to deal with them until now.

Regular readers may wish to skip this section

All the usual caveats apply:

  • the underlying figures do not record total waterways usage (even for the Shannon) as, for instance, sailing, fishing or waterskiing on lakes or river stretches, which did not involve a passage through a lock or Portumna Bridge, would not be recorded
  • the passage records would not show, for instance, a change in the balance of types of activities from those in larger cruising boats to those in smaller (sailing, fishing, waterskiing) boats
  • figures like these will not necessarily be representative of those for the year as a whole. The winter months, January to March, see little traffic in any year; for April, May and June, the weather can have a large influence on the amount of activity especially, I suspect, in private boats.

On the other hand, the figures do include the Shannon’s most significant tourism activity, the cruiser hire business. And they are our only consistent long-term indicator of usage of the inland waterways.

All boats

Shannon 2003-2014 01-12 all boats_resize

Total (private + hired) traffic for the full year

As we saw in September, traffic is down on 2013, but there has been little change over the last three years.

Private boats

Shannon 2003-2014 01-12 private boats_resize

Private-boat traffic for the full years 2003 to 2014

The vertical scale on this chart is different from that for hired boats so the changes in private boating from one year to another are exaggerated (by comparison). The good weather did not prevent a fall in activity.

Hire boats

Shannon 2003-2014 01-12 hired boats_resize

Hire-boat traffic for the full years 2003 to 2014

Again, the lowest figure in my records, but the drop was small; perhaps the hire trade is bouncing along the bottom (as it were). I wonder whether anyone has a Grand Plan for recovery or rejuvenation.

Percentages of 2003 levels

Shannon 2003-2014 01-12 compared with 2003_resize

Percentages of 2003 levels

Private traffic at just over 90% of 2003 levels, hire traffic at just over 40%.

Private -v- hired

Shannon 2003-2014 01-12 private -v- hired_resize

Still roughly 50:50

Seasons

In the five months January, February, March, November and December, there were 385 passages altogether, less than 1% of total boat movements for the year. If money can be saved by ceasing to operate the locks and bridge during the winter, they should be closed except, perhaps, for one Saturday per month, to be arranged for a non-flood day.

Regions

Here is the order of popularity.

ALBERT LOCK 7205
ATHLONE LOCK  5775
CLARENDON LOCK 5650
ROOSKY LOCK 5565
PORTUMNA BRIDGE 5395
VICTORIA LOCK 4934
TARMONBARRY LOCK 3885
POLLBOY LOCK 1222
CLONDRA LOCK 1020
BATTLEBRIDGE 835
DRUMLEAGUE 797
DRUMSHANBO LOCK 387
SARSFIELD LOCK 97

Lough Allen is a delightful place but it is not popular.

Shannon traffic figures to July 2014

I am grateful to Waterways Ireland for letting me have the Shannon traffic figures for July 2014. All the usual caveats apply:

  • the underlying figures do not record total waterways usage (even for the Shannon) as, for instance, sailing, fishing or waterskiing on lakes or river stretches, which did not involve a passage through a lock or Portumna Bridge, would not be recorded
  • the passage records would not show, for instance, a change in the balance of types of activities from those in larger cruising boats to those in smaller (sailing, fishing, waterskiing) boats
  • figures like these, for a small number of months, will not necessarily be representative of those for the year as a whole. The winter months, January to March, see little traffic in any year; for April, May and June, the weather can have a large influence on the amount of activity especially, I suspect, in private boats.

On the other hand, the figures do include the Shannon’s most significant tourism activity, the cruiser hire business. And they are our only consistent long-term indicator of usage of the inland waterways.

Shannon all boats Jan to Jul 2014

Total (private + hired) traffic for the first seven months of each year

Traffic in 2013 was up a bit on 2012; 2014 is down slightly below the 2012 level. It’s the lowest seven-month figure in the series (ie since 2003), which is a bit of a surprise: I thought that the good weather would encourage more boating.

The changes are small, so their importance must not be exaggerated, but they’re not cause for celebration. Let’s see whether the drop was amongst private or hired boats (or both).

Shannon private boats Jan to Jul 2014

Private-boat traffic for the first seven months of each year

Private traffic is up a bit on 2012 but down on 2013.

Shannon hired boats Jan to Jul 2014

Hire-boat traffic for the first seven months of each year

Hire-boat traffic is down on both previous years, but the pace of decline seems to have slowed.

Shannon private and hired -v- 2003 Jan to Jul 2014

Changes since 2003: private and hired boats

Hire-boat traffic seems to be levelling off at 40% of its 2003 figure: a massive loss of business. I do not know whether anyone is trying to, or could, recover that amount of business. I am not aware of any new Shannon-based tourism business that could compensate for the losses in the cruising (hire-boat) business, but I would be glad to hear from anyone who knows of such projects. Something with high growth potential is required.

Private traffic is wobbling either side of its 2003 figure: the increases during the Celtic Tiger years have been lost.

Shannon private -v- hired boats Jan to Jul 2014

Still roughly 50/50

In the year to July 2014, hire-boat traffic was just above private traffic, but there is very little in it. Private traffic is now comparatively more important to Waterways Ireland [which may be why it is now trying to establish its economic importance] but it does not bring in much money from outside the two jurisdictions, so the case for public spending on waterways becomes much weaker.

And, quite clearly, opening more waterways doesn’t work: as this chart showed last month, the branches off the main lines of the Shannon, Erne and SEW are little used. The Lough Allen Canal, the Suck and the navigation to Limerick are very little used and I see no sign that the reopened Royal Canal has attracted many visitors to Ireland. What is needed is more intensive usage of the main waterways, not further dilution by the opening of more branches [to Clones or anywhere else].

SnnNav JanJun 6

High and low usage

Finally, I thought it might be interesting to see whether the monthly pattern of usage has changed since 2003. To avoid an over-cluttered chart, I included only four years: 2003, 2003 +5, 2003 + 10 and 2014. The chart is for all boats, private and hired.

Shannon all boats by month selected years Jan to Jul 2014

Monthly traffic, selected years

The season seems to have got going earlier in 2003 and even in 2008. Was the weather better in those years?