Tag Archives: Portumna

Limerick gammon

Thanks to AOD for alerting me to an article by Morgan McCloskey “O’Maras of Limerick and their overseas business” [PDF] from the Old Limerick Journal summer 2001. O’Maras were bacon and ham curers: according to Frank Prendergast “The Decline of Traditional Limerick Industries” in David Lee & Debbie Jacobs, eds Made in Limerick: History of industries, trade and commerce Volume 1 [Limerick Civic Trust, Limerick 2003]

James O’Mara of Toomevara in County Tipperary had established the business in a small house on Mungret Street in 1839. He started bacon curing in the basement but it became so successful that he had to move shortly afterwards to the premises in Roches Street, which they occupied until its closure in 1987.

The waterways interest arises from McCloskey’s having drawn on Patricia Lavelle James O’Mara: a staunch Sinn Féiner Dublin 1961, republished in 2011 under a slightly different title. Lavelle’s O’Mara, her father, was also covered here and was the grandson of the original James who set up the business in 1839. We are concerned with neither of the Jameses: Stephen, son of the first and father of the second, is the man of the moment. McCloskey says that Lavelle says that Stephen preferred to go to Dublin by boat rather than by rail and that she gives this description of one such trip:

Then the boat went through the heart of Ireland; and the country, with its hills and green fields, was spread before him in all its changing beauty for the best part of a couple of days. The steamer left Limerick and made its way up the Shannon, avoiding the rapids by various canals and locks.

After Killaloe it reached the wide waters of Lough Derg. The passengers had the run of the boat and could get a snack meal if they wished. Once, when grandfather was travelling this way, terrible squalls sprang up and the lake was very rough, but usually they could stop for a moment at Holy Island and see the ancient ruins there, and pass on by the wooded heights of the Tipperary shore, past Dromineer to Portumna, crossing and re-crossing the lake until they found anchorage in Shannon Harbour, as far north as Offaly.

There was a big hotel there owned by the Grand Canal Company, where they all stayed for the night and got to know one another; and feasted on chicken and bacon and cabbage followed by apple pie, and then sat round huge turf fires swopping stories or playing cards.

Next morning the canal boat awaited them, gay with its overhead canopy to protect passengers from the heat of the sun or from inclement weather. The passengers sat in two long rows, back to back, and gazed out across the fields as the paddle lazily churned up the turbid waters and the boat made leisurely progress along the canal. The monotony was broken once in a while by the excitement of passing through a lock.

The problem with this romantic account is that, as presented, it’s rubbish.

Stephen O’Mara was born in 1844 and began work in the family business in 1860. The passenger boat service between Limerick and Killaloe ceased in 1848, when the railway reached Limerick (though there were occasional special excursions after that).

The service was by horse-drawn boat, not by steamer; though there had been some attempts at running steamers, the Limerick boats did not go beyond Killaloe, whence larger steamers ran to Portumna or, later, to Shannon Harbour and places further north.

Scheduled passenger services did not “stop for a moment” at Holy Island, which was off the main route to Portumna.

The canal hotel at Shannon Harbour effectively ceased operating as such in 1847, according to Ruth Delany The Grand Canal of Ireland David and Charles, Newton Abbot 1973.

The canal passage boats did not have canopies, the passengers sat facing each other rather than back to back and the boats were horse-drawn rather than paddle-driven. Furthermore, the service ceased in 1852.

I cannot explain the extent of the inaccuracies, but perhaps Lavelle’s account should have been attributed to the elder James rather than to his son Stephen. I would be glad to hear from anyone who can cast light on this; please leave a Comment below.

 

 

 

Holiday tours in Ireland VII

On Lough Derg

There are two Lough Dergs in Ireland. One is in the County of Donegal, within four and a half miles of Pettigoe, and is celebrated for its St Patrick’s Purgatory. The lake is but six miles long and four miles broad, and can hardly vie for scenery with its namesake in the south.

In order to reach this, probably one of the most exquisitely beautiful loughs in Ireland, it is necessary to make for the town of Killaloe. This can be done by leaving Euston at a quarter-past ten at night, when Killaloe is reached by 3.10 the following afternoon; or should the tourist prefer the Irish mail, he can leave at a quarter to nine in the evening and arrive at Killaloe at half-past eleven the following morning.

Few Irish towns contain so many antiquarian relics, combined with such beautiful scenery, for Killaloe stands on a hillside tufted with wood and surrounded by mountains. The old cathedral occupies the site of a church founded by St Dalua, in the sixth century. The present building dates from the twelfth century, with a central square tower whose effect is somewhat spoiled by a  modern crown. Its gem is a Hiberno-Romanesque doorway, which has, unfortunately, been blocked into the south wall of the nave. The precincts also contain a small stone-roofed church, said to date as far back as the sixth century.

The fishing is generally extremely good, though many prefer Castleconnell, some five miles to the south on the road to Limerick. In any case few portions of the United Kingdom furnish better salmon fishing than that reach of the river Shannon that lies between Killaloe and Castleconnell.

Lough Derg must, however, remain the greatest attraction of the district. It is twenty-three miles in length, and varies in breadth from two to six miles. Nothing can surpass the loveliness of the scene, especially on a fine summer’s day. On the one side the well-wooded and smiling hills of Limerick and Tipperary, where Thomthimia, with its slate quarries, slopes down to the water’s edge; while on the other the darker and more rugged mountains of Slieve Bernagh, Ballycuggeren, and the Crag form the most effective contrast.

Kincora was once the residence of Brian Boroimbh, King of Munster, and its magnificence was long the main theme of the ancient bards. But little now remains of the ancient palace beyond a long circular earthen fort, with a single vallum some twenty feet in height.

Inishcaltra or the Holy Island is, however, well worth a visit, and for this purpose it would be better to utilize the local service from either Scariff or Killaloe to Mountshannon, which faces the island. It possesses a round tower some eighty feet high, and seven churches, or cells, and oratories, the most remarkable of which is that of St Caimin, originally erected by him in the seventh, but subsequently rebuilt by Brian Borombh in the tenth century.

Scariff may this year be approached by steamer, and is a very prettily situated village, within access by road of Woodford, in County Galway, and Ennis in County Clare. The steamer then crosses the lake to Dromineer, at the mouth of the Nenagh river, where the ruins of the castle stand out with such picturesque effect. The bay is one of the most popular resorts, both of the angler and of the yachtsman; for to the latter it has earned a well-deserved reputation for its annual regatta.

The steamer then stops at Williamstown while a boat from Kilgarvan occasionally lands passengers and conveys them to the steamer. As soon as the new jetty has been constructed by the Board of Works, Woodford will be equally accessible; but there is no doubt that the approach to Portumna pier at the head of the Lough, lying as it does between the well-wooded demesnes of Portumna Castle on the one side and Belleisle and Slevoir on the other, presents one of the finest pictures that the lake discloses, for there we see the most striking contrast between the tame verdure of the river Shannon and the bold mountain scenery of Lough Derg.

It would be tedious to dwell on the varied beauties of those innumerable seats that dot the shores of the lake on all sides; suffice it to say that few parts of the United Kingdom present as many diverse attractions as this wide expanse of water. Much as one may appreciate Loch Lomond, Loch Maree, or the Caledonian Canal, this Irish lough certainly surpasses them; and much gratitude is due to the Shannon Development Company for bringing within such easy access of the average tourist a wealth of scenery that certainly equals, if it is not finer, the finest spots that either Scotland, Norway, or Switzerland can offer.

This is, however, but half the trip from Killaloe to Athlone. Portumna is chiefly remarkable for the ruins of a Dominican priory founded in the thirteenth century, as well as for the Castle, the property of Lord Clanricarde, in which he has not resided since his succession to the estate. The village of Lorrha, three miles further up, also contains the ruins of a Dominican abbey, an oblong pile 120 ft long, as well as a castle and two old ecclesiastical buildings called by the peasantry the English churches, owing to their having been built by Norman settlers.

The river now assumes a totally novel character, winding by graceful curves through low-lying but rich meadow lands. Their luxuriant appearance is largely due to the fact that they are usually submerged under the waters of the river during the winter months.

Meelick Abbey is next passed. It was founded by the Franciscans in the twelfth century, and was at one time a sumptuous structure, but is now a roofless and mouldering ruin; and a beautiful pillar which formerly supported the arches on the south side has been torn away with ruthless vandalism, in order to make headstones for the graves in the cemetery.

Banagher can boast of a fine stone bridge, opened some fifty years ago to replace the preceding structure, which displayed no less than twenty-three arches of various forms, with massive piers between, and was so narrow that only one carriage could pass at a time.

Shannon Harbour is best known from the description of its hotel in Lever’s Jack Hinton, but that building is now let in tenements. Shannon Bridge is one of the three fortified passes built to guard the Shannon, and is but four miles from Clonfert, whose cathedral, now being restored, contains one of the finest Hiberno-Romanesque doorways to be found in the three kingdoms.

Few spots, however, offer greater attractions to the antiquary than do the celebrated seven churches of Clonmacnoise. The most remarkable of these are the Diamhliag Mhor or Great Church, which dates from the fourteenth, and Fineens Church, built in the thirteenth century. The former was originally the work of Flann, King of Ireland, in 909, and contains several bits, more especially the sandstone capitals of the west doorway, that may be traced to the earlier period. Besides these churches, there is much to be seen at Clonmacnoise, which includes among its ruins the episcopal palace and castle of the O’Melaghlins, a nunnery, two round towers, Celtic crosses, and inscribed stones. The grand cross, formed of a single stone 15 ft high and elaborately carved, surpasses every other in beauty of execution and elaborate detail.

Though the tourist may gaze upon Clonmacnoise as he approaches and leaves it and enjoys a particularly fine view of its beauties as he passes by the curve of the river on whose banks it is situated, no provision has yet been made to enable him either to land or to make a closer acquaintance of its many beauties as he passes by. This is due to the refusal on the part of its proprietor to meet the proposals of the company. It is, however, to be hoped that more favourable terms may be made in the future, as the traveller must now proceed straight to Athlone and visit the ruins from there either by road or by water.

Much more might be said of Lough Derg as well as of the Shannon from Killaloe to Athlone. Fair hotel accommodation may be obtained at Killaloe, Dromineer, Portumna, and Athlone at from eight to nine shillings a day. Lodgings can also be procured at Killaloe, where the proprietors have learned to cater for the requirements of those anglers who frequent this highly-favoured spot.

Return tickets may be obtained from Euston to Killaloe by the North Wall at
£4 13s 6d first, £2 16s second, and £2 third class. Lough Derg may also be visited from Athlone by the Midland Great Western Railway from Broadstone. The fares by Kingstown and the mail are somewhat dearer.

Pall Mall Gazette 1 August 1898

From the British Newspaper Archive run by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited, in partnership with the British Library.

Shannon water levels 8 December 2015

North to south (more or less)

Floods 20151208 Shannonbridge 01_resize

Shannonbridge upstream

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Shannonbridge downstream

Floods 20151208 Shannon Harbour 04_resize

Shannon Harbour: 36th lock

Floods 20151208 Shannon Harbour 06_resize

Shannon Harbour: below the 36th

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Shannon Harbour: road to Banagher closed

Floods 20151208 Banagher 03_resize

Banagher: the harbour above the bridge

Floods 20151208 Banagher 05_resize

Banagher: the harbour’s sole inhabitant

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Banagher: work goes on

Floods 20151208 Portumna bridge 01_resize

Portumna Bridge: Hawthorn moving

Floods 20151208 Portumna bridge 03_resize

Portumna Bridge

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Below Portumna Bridge

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Above Portumna Bridge

Floods 20151208 Portumna bridge 12_resize

Portumna Bridge: Waterways Ireland yard

Floods 20151208 Mountshannon 01_resize

Mountshannon

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Mountshannon: the main quay

Floods 20151208 Scarriff 01_resize

Scarriff: the river in flood

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Scarriff: the river flowing on to the road to the harbour

Floods 20151208 Scarriff 06_resize

Scarriff: sandbags blocking the road …

Floods 20151208 Scarriff 04_resize

… to the Waterways Ireland Shannon HQ. Anyone in the building must have waded there

Floods 20151208 Tuamgraney 01_resize

Tuamgraney

Floods 20151208 Killaloe 16_resize

Killaloe: the flash lock

Floods 20151208 Killaloe 26_resize

Killaloe bridge from downstream

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O’Briensbridge

Floods 20151208 O'Briensbridge 05_resize

Water level with the quay at O’Briensbridge

Floods 20151208 O'Briensbridge 10_resize

Flooded fields at O’Briensbridge

O’Briensbridge is on the original course of the Shannon, downstream of Parteen Villa Weir, which controls how much water goes via the original course and how much goes to the hydroelectric power station at Ardnacrusha.

Normally, the original course gets the first 10 cubic metres per second (10 cumec, they say) of water and Ardnacrusha gets the next 400, 100 for each of its four turbines. In floods, any excess is sent down the original course, through O’Briensbridge, Castleconnell and Plassey. One newspaper today said that, on Monday 7 December 2015, 315 cumec had been sent down the original course and, on Tuesday 8 December, 375 cumec.

The water levels are still below the peak achieved in November 2009, but there is more to come: as the Shannon drains a very large amount of Ireland, and as it is falls very little in its upper reaches, it takes a long time for the runoff to reach Killaloe and Parteen Villa. It may be that the ESB, which controls Ardnacrusha and Parteen Villa, is now running down the level of Lough Derg to make room for the water that has yet to arrive from the upper Shannon.

 

How true these words are …

… even today:

The swivel bridges at Portumna and Banagher seem to have been badly situated with regard to the passage of vessels, both being placed in the concave bend of the river which makes it difficult, in blowing weather, and going down stream, to shoot the bridge safely.

From the BNA

That is from the Clare Journal, and Ennis Advertiser of 12 September 1850. The swivel bridges of yesterday are the navigation arches of today. The deficiencies of the Shannon Commissioners’ work were evident as soon as they had completed it.

However, although the article from which the sentence was taken is a condemnation of the Shannon Commissioners, the Journal was mistaken in blaming them for Portumna: that bridge was not built by the Shannon Commissioners.

Pollboy Lock

I mentioned some time ago that, according to its Business Plan 2015, Waterways Ireland was considering automating Pollboy Lock, on the River Suck to Ballinasloe, in order to save costs. Like other offshoots from the main Shannon Navigation [Killaloe to Lough Key], the Suck is relatively little used.

According to the Connacht Tribune, the automation is to proceed and the lockkeeper is to be reassigned. It seems that some local councillors and “business interests” — who do not, as far as I know, contribute to Waterways Ireland’s income — regret the loss of an ambassador for the town. The keeper, Mr Coyne, was indeed extremely helpful to visiting boaters.

However, he could help only those who arrived at his lock: he could do nothing to attract more boating visitors to the town. That is not in the least a criticism of him, but rather a suggestion that councillors and business interests might perhaps have done, or yet do, more to attract visitors and increase the usage of the splendid harbour in Ballinasloe. Perhaps they might even appoint and pay a town ambassador?

A Sinn Féin councillor quoted in the article seems not to be entirely familliar with the duties of lockkeepers. Furthermore, he does not take account of the fact that the Shannon–Erne Waterway succeeds without lockkeepers — or that it was proposed that the Clones Sheugh [not-the-Ulster-Canal] operate in the same way. Surely a Sinn Féin councillor is not suggesting that, without keepers, the Sheugh might not be the enormous success that his party purports to believe it would be?

PS: the Tribune also has a piece about rubbish at Castle Harbour, Portumna.

 

RVRC joy at Portumna

Our friends in the Recreational Vehicle Rights Campaign tell us that they are happy to see that Waterways Ireland has received conditional planning permission for improvements at Portumna Castle Harbour:

The development will consist of the refurbishment of existing harbour area including re-decking of existing mooring fingers with the provision of new service bollards. Refurbishment of existing service block providing disabled toilet and shower facilities. Resurfacing of the existing vehicle parking area incorporating a new facility to accommodate a serviced area for recreational vehicles. Gross floor space refurbishment 73.38sqm.

WI said, as part of its submission, that “a new water supply to be metered and installed in accordance with the requirements and standards of Irish Water and GCC [Galway County Council]”. For wastewater, “Established system whereby a holding tank is regularly maintained and emptied/treated in Portumna WWTP”. WI had to submit a full Natura Impact Assessment.

The eight conditions seem to be fairly harmless but they include a requirement that WI install three bat boxes and another that WI has to show how public lighting will provide for both public safety and the desires of our feathered friends, the bats and the various creepy crawlies around the place.

The disused pumpout in the first bay to the left as you enter will be replaced by a “Hoist for disabled access to boats”; the working pumpout on the entrance (aka the barge berth) will be replaced and “connected to existing foul pumping main”.

The isolated dolphins, which were practically impossible to tie to, will be integrated into the finger jetties, which will be covered by timber surface and cladding. Some mooring bollards will be removed; the fingers will have cleats for mooring, while service bollards will supply shore power, light and water. However, the berths along the wall at the north end will have only light and water. CCTV is to be installed.

There will be spaces for 18 camper vans (RVs), with light, water and power available. There will also be a “New ticket kiosk for RV parking”; I don’t know how that is to be managed or any restrictions on numbers are to be enforced.

Fáilte Ireland is to pay for this out of its Lough Derg Stimulus Fund.

Portumna drawbridge

BORRISOKEEN, July 14. — The Solicitor-General, Mr Doherty, will arrive here to-morrow for the purpose of investigating the late unfortunate occurrences of this town on the 26th and 28th ultimo. This measure of the Government seems to restore some confidence to the minds of the people. Had this investigation not been granted, no person could calculate on the consequences of the expressed resolution of the peasantry to come into Borrisokeen, in a body of 50,000 or 60,000, to have vengeance for the loss of their relatives and neighbours.

On Saturday last a person named Dagg, a Protestant, residing in Borrisokeen, but who left it on account of the late occurrences, was apprehended at the mountains of Thoreebrien, when the country people held a consultation on the most effectual mode of putting him to death. Disregarding his entreaties and professions of innocence, he was dragged along by about 500 persons, and, on coming to Portumna, they determined to tie his legs to one part and his arms to the other part of the drawbridge across the Shannon, and then open it, that he might be drawn asunder. Fortunately at the time a gentleman from Borrisokeen passed by, and by his interference, with that of the parish priest, the life of the unfortunate man was spared.

Salisbury and Wiltshire Journal 27 July 1829

From the BNA

Newspaper accounts at the time suggest that there was an affray in Borrisokane at the end of the fair. Five mounted police either attacked or attempted to disperse the crowd; stones were thrown; Captain Dobbyn, a Stipendiary Magistrate, read the Riot Act and ordered the police to fire, which they did, killing two people. Two days later, during the funeral of one of those shot, one John L—, an Orangeman, and four companions, fired on the mourners from behind portholes on his house, or sallied forth to fire, killing four immediately and mortally wounding another. There is nothing to suggest that the unfortunate Mr Dagg was in any way involved.

Shannon traffic figures to May 2015

I am grateful to Waterways Ireland for letting me have the Shannon traffic figures for the first five months of 2015. 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.

The big news is that there is an increase in the amount of hire-boat traffic and a decrease in the amount of private traffic. [Personal observation suggests very little activity on Lough Derg, apart from the sailing bods.]

Shannon traffic Jan to May 2015 all boats

All boats. Note the slight increase in total traffic — or is it a dead-cat bounce?

Shannon traffic Jan to May 2015 hire boats

The increase comes from hire-boat traffic …

Shannon traffic Jan to May 2015 private boats

… as private-boat traffic is down on last year

Shannon traffic Jan to May 2015 compared with 2003

Nonetheless, hire-boat traffic is still close to 40% of what it was in 2003, with no sign of a major recovery

Shannon traffic Jan to May 2015 private -v- hire

But, at least for April and May, hire boats are the major users of the Shannon

In January, 18 boat passages were recorded, 9 of them at Portumna Bridge. There were 20 passages in February and 362 in March. Is there any point in keeping the Shannon open throughout the winter?

In the first five months, 11 boats used Sarsfield Lock, the sea-lock in Limerick. There were 88 passages through Pollboy Lock on the River Suck. On the Lough Allen Canal, 96 boats went through Battlebridge Lock, 95 through Drumleague and only 38 through Drumshanbo. These branches can’t be paying their way.

 

ESB and the Shannon

I wrote here that I had written to the ESB, on 27 May 2015, to ask about navigation on the Shannon from Castleconnell downstream. One month later, I have not yet received a reply.

I did hear this weekend that ESB had contacted certain boat-owners to inform them that they were not to moor to the ESB embankments between Portumna and Meelick. As a riparian landowner, ESB is no doubt within its rights, but it would be interesting to know how much of the bed of the Shannon it claims to own in that area.

I have still not been able to find out, from the ESB, the clearance under its high-voltage lines crossing the Shannon (and other navigations). I gather that the ESB works on the principle that, if it provides no information, it can’t be blamed if owners of masted vessels electrocute themselves, whereas if it did provide information it might be sued. Strange that a public sector body should have such a blasé attitude to the prospect of the electrocution of the citizenry.

Perhaps if I asked questions under the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations 2007/2011 I might get replies.

 

Hurrah for the red, white and orange

Colour discrimination seems to be rampant in Ireland. Of the sets of colours [red, white and blue] and [green, white and orange], there is Official Endorsement of two, green and blue, while red, white and orange are ignored. Even the North/South Ministerial Council has got in on the act, with a whole page on its website about greenways and blueways. They must have been overdosing on the Erne flag. Their page is a list of links, sort of plonked there without context or explanation, but there’s probably some hands-across-the-borderism or something going on.

I read in the Guardian today of a proposal for a greenway on the former railway line between Roscrea and Portumna via Birr. And a jolly good thing too, but how many greenways and blueways can one small island accommodate? How thinly will the tourists be spread? And what about those of us who hate walking, cycling, kayaking and other such energetic pursuits?