Yesterday I posted a notice from the Limerick Chronicle of 20 August 1834, outlining the schedule of events for the regatta to be held on Lough Derg later that month.
In a comment, Vincent Delany M.A. (Hist.) said
Lough Derg YC was founded c. 1836 but regattas to approx the same format existed on Lough Derg before the formalising of the yacht club.
My thesis ‘yachting and yachtsmen on the Shannon 1830s to 1930s’ discussed the issues extensively.
I have not seen the thesis, alas, but I thought I’d see what else the invaluable British Newspaper Archive had on the subject. The first result was that there was no mention, in any newspaper, of a Lough Derg regatta before 1834. I have not attempted to search for all possible terms involving sailing boats, races, yachts and so on; I think I can say that the 1834 event was the first on Lough Derg to be designated a regatta.
There had been similar events on the estuary before then: the Limerick Chronicle of 30 July 1834 reported the early events of the Royal Western Yacht Club’s regatta at Kilrush. Just below that it said
The Committee of the Lough Derg Regatta met at Killaloe on Friday, when a Commodore, Stewards, Secretary, and Treasurer, were appointed.
The 1834 regatta was covered by The Pilot on 29 August 1834. At the time, the term “upper Shannon” distinguished the freshwater from the tidewater: “lower Shannon” meant the estuary.
LOUGH DERGH REGATTA
Lough Dergh Regatta, Upper Shannon, commenced on Tuesday under most favourable auspices. The beautiful scenery of that romantic region will now be seen to great advantage, and many visiters [sic] have left to enjoy the treat. On Wednesday the boat races were to take place at Killaloe, and the Messrs Paterson, from Kilrush, 70 miles distant, on the Lower Shannon, have entered to contest the prize in that department. The band of the 91st Regiment, from Limerick, attended the regatta.
There were not less than ten thousand people assembled on the shores at Williamstown and Drumineer [sic] to witness the scene on Tuesday, and the Lake was literally covered with row boats, filled with ladies and gentlemen. There were five yachts started for the challenge cup, from Drumineer to Holy Island and back. The Corsair, Mr White, came in first; Ida, Mr Bailey, second; and Thomas, Lieut Tully RN, third.
There were only three minutes between those three boats — the others were not placed. Wednesday’s race was to be run by the same boats, for the Salver; and on Thursday the rowing matches take place at Killaloe. The Lady Lansdown [sic] steamer attended, and was crowded to excess, so much so that they were obliged to refuse taking more company on board.
A somewhat confused reporter there, but never mind. Interesting to note that Tom Bailey was navigating Ida around the Shannon way back then: he must be older than he looks.
The Northern Whig of 4 September 1834 added a little colour:
This Regatta commenced on Tuesday sen, as we announced, and the numerous gentry who attended from the adjoining counties, fully realized the anticipations we had formed of its attractions. The delightful scenery of the Upper Lakes, enlivened by the gay yachts, crowded with beauty and fashion, floating on their bosoms, had a most pleasing effect.
So many visiters [sic] arrived at Killaloe, to enjoy the diverting sport, that it became almost impossible to procure even ordinary entertainment. […]
In the following year, the Roscommon and Leitrim Gazette (18 July 1835) reported that
The Lough Derg Yacht Club have adopted the rules and regulations of the Royal Western Yacht Club, and the Regatta commences at Killaloe, the 23d inst; Dromineer, the 24th, and at Williamstown, the 25th instant.
Whose idea was it?
My interest in this topic is in the involvement of Lieut John Tully RN. He visited Limerick in 1829 to make arrangements for the arrival of the first City of Dublin Steam Packet Company [CoDSPCo] steamer to operate on the Shannon, the Mona. It was replaced later that year by the Kingstown, which Tully captained for some time. In 1831 he was the company’s Limerick agent (John Grantham was its acting manager) and from then on, for the rest of his working life, he seems to have been an agent or otherwise working for or with the Company; he spent much time as Agent at Killaloe and later at Athlone. The yacht he sailed in 1834, the Thomas, may have belonged to the company’s founder, Charles Wye Williams, who in 1829 had a 10-ton schooner of that name at Liverpool.
Tully was Secretary and Treasurer of the first Lough Derg Regatta. It involved the provision of special packet boat services on the Limerick Navigation (controlled by a company strongly associated with the CoDSPCo. The regatta spent one day at Killaloe, where the company owned a hotel, and another at Williamstown, its private harbour, where it likewise owned a hotel. It also used either one or two of the company’s Lough Derg steamers.
Most importantly, though, it attracted visitors to Lough Derg, and thus supported the CoDSPCo’s marketing efforts. They included sponsorship of publications, special attention to visiting writers and large-scale advertising.
None of this is evidence that the CoDSPCo invented the Lough Derg Regatta, but I would not be surprised to find that it was at least an early and enthusiastic supporter of the concept.
For an account of a later Lough Derg Regatta, that of 1849, see here.