Tag Archives: Ranks

Carrick-on-Shannon in 1949

T W Freeman “The town and district of Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim” in Irish Geography (Bulletin of the Geographical Society of Ireland) Vol II No 1 1949:

There is no mill in use now, though flour is sent from Rank’s in Limerick by barge to Carrick, but no farther. Before the 1939–1945 war general cargo was also brought to the town by barges which could convey 50 tons of coal; other goods included timber and galvanised iron for builders. At present, stout is the only commodity brought by barge to the solidly-built stone warehouse of the early nineteenth century, whence it is distributed for some twenty miles in every direction.


For the record

The Limerick Leader article about a proposed Limerick river bus has some statements that do not accord with my understanding.

The venture will see the river bus depart Guinness Pier – across from Athlunkard Boat Club at O’Dwyer Bridge – every two hours, bound for the power station […].

As far as I know, the pier in question was the Ranks jetty and was not used by Messrs Guinness. The Eclipse Flower, and other vessels owned by Ranks and their predecessors, sailed up the Shannon from there rather than attempt the stretch from Baal’s Bridge to Custom House Quay.

The boat will follow the route taken by barges of old – both passenger and commercial – some of which historically transported Guinness to the city up until the mid-1960s.

“It is a tried and tested route,” said Mr Flynn, stressing the viability and safety of the route, which passes Long Pavement – the edges of which have been repaired and grassed over – and finishes at the hydro-electric plant.

“Every passenger and commercial barge that came to Limerick for 50 years used that stretch of water. It is very safe. It was navigated by all the barges,” he said.

The route to Limerick through Ardnacrusha came into use only after the construction of the power station in the 1920s and was used for a little over thirty years. To the best of my knowledge, there were no passenger services in those years: passenger carrying stopped in the first half of the nineteenth century, when traffic was still using the old Limerick Navigation. There have been some trip-boats in recent years, but they did not (and do not) use “barges of old”. Some old barges, now converted and with more powerful engines, have safely navigated that stretch, but they do it when conditions are right.

During the final phases of Ardnacrusha’s construction, both old and new navigations were closed; the Grand Canal Company (GCC), the main commercial carrying company, ran to Killaloe and had its cargoes carried onward by rail to Limerick. When the new route through Ardnacrusha was opened, the GCC thought it was so dangerous that it refused to use it for about a year. It resumed operations only when a boom was put across the river above Baal’s Bridge and posts were provided upstream of O’Dwyer Bridge to which barges could tie while waiting for suitable states of the tide.

I accept that the proposed river bus will not be going downstream as far as Baal’s Bridge, but it will still be navigating on a stretch of water where Waterways Ireland advises that boats should not navigate when more than one turbine is running at Ardnacrusha. The ESB can run up to four turbines, each of which is said to add a knot to the current, and it can switch them on immediately, with no warning to any boat using the river.

Other pages on this site make it clear that I share the promoters’ enthusiasm for Ardnacrusha and the canal and river thence to Limerick. I do not say that the difficulties of that stretch cannot be overcome, but I do not think that they should be dismissed.


That Limerick “river bus” …

… from the (presumably artificially created) photograph in the Limerick Leader seems to be the Cailín Turána, formerly part of the Aran Islands Fast Ferries fleet at Doolin and seen here out of the water at Cork Dockyard in 2004. The vessel has not been on the Dept of Transport’s List of Certified Passenger Ships since 2007 (and may have come off the list before that: I have not kept copies of the lists earlier than 2007). It could of course have been used in Ireland for purposes other than carrying fare-paying passengers, or outside Ireland for any purpose, after 2004.

And it may be that the vessel shown in the photo is not that which is to be used in Limerick.

Up the creek

Ballycorick Bridge is north of Ballynacally, on the western side of the Fergus estuary in Co Clare. There is a small quay just below the bridge; Samuel Lewis mentioned the trade to that quay in 1837, and it stayed in use until the 1950s.

It’s not the bleeding Grand Canal

To Limerick City Council offices this evening, where the family of Cecil Mercier, Mill Manager of Bannatyne’s in Limerick and later supervisor of all Ranks mills in Ireland, were handing over his papers to the Limerick City Council Archive.

No photos of the Ranks boats that worked on the Shannon, alas, but perhaps there are some in the archives.

A booklet, Cecil Mercier & the Limerick Rank Mills, was distributed (free): an interesting account of the man and the industry. But it contains this sentence:

At the turn of the twentieth century there were other flour and animal feed mills in and around the city such as the Lock Mills at the junction of the Abbey River and the Grand Canal and the maize mills in Mount Kenneth and Mallow Street.

The canal in Limerick is one of five sections of the Limerick Navigation, and has recently been dubbed the Park Canal. It was not constructed by the Grand Canal Company. It was not owned by the Grand Canal Company. It was not operated by the Grand Canal Company. The only connection between that canal and the Grand Canal is that the Grand Canal Company was permitted to operate its boats on the route and was provided with premises at the canal harbour in Limerick. It put its name on the transhipment canopy, and perhaps that may have given people the mistaken idea that the Grand Canal Company owned the canal. But during the period when the GCC operated its boats, the canal was owned and operated by the Board of Works (Shannon Navigation).