Tag Archives: regatta

Lough Derg Regatta 1834 (b)

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, 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.


Lough Derg Regatta 1849

The Dublin Evening Mail of 19 September 1849 has come to hand.


The Regatta on the above-named beautiful lake came off last week. Monday, the 10th of September commenced the annual aquatic sports: the day was tolerably fine, and at two o’clock, PM, the Commodore, the Right Hon Lord Viscount Avonmore, started four yachts for a 30 Guinea Challenge Cup, with £12 added. After a drifting match (for it fell flat calm shortly after three o’clock), they came in as under:—

Gem, 12 tons, James Spaight, Esq
Hero, 8 tons, Dash Gainor, Esq
Iris, 19 tons, Wills C Gason, Esq
Foam, 24 tons, Lord Avonmore.

This was a time race.

While the yachts were absent several cot races came off.

On Tuesday, the 11th, the yachts sailed down in fleet to Killaloe, but the following day it blew a whole gale of wind, and the match that was to have been sailed for on that day was put off till the next; however, in the evening there were some well contested cot races.

The course was as usual — start from the Jetty, over the diagonal wall (built by the Shannon Commissioners to keep the water to a proper level in summer), under the bridge, round Friar’s Island, and back: to a stranger, it is astonishing to see a boat go down an incline nearly four feet high, which they are obliged to do in the race, and what is more extraordinary, any cot that is not rowed at it pretty fast, is almost certain of being upset.

Thursday, the 12th, at the Commodore’s signal, all the yachts got under weigh, and came to anchor off Derry, and at two o’clock, PM, five yachts started for a Silver Cup, valued at £15, witn £5 added. This was a time race for yachts under twelve tons. The wind was WNW, and blew a fine gaff-topsail breeze; at half-past four o’clock the yachts came in as under:—

Hero, 8 tons, Dash Gainor, Esq
Gem, 12 tons, James Spaight, Esq
Willy Wa, 9 tons, Captain Hon F Yelverton
Vampire, 9 tons, Arthur Vincent, Esq
Midge, 7 tons, Bassett W Holmes, Esq.

This was a beautiful race, all the yachts coming in almost together: the Hero only winning by 27 seconds — indeed she may thank the Midge for winning the prize, as going free the first round she got the Gem under her lee, and kept her back some minutes. Shortly after the signal was given to weigh anchor, and start for Portumna, where the fleet arrived at a late hour. In passing Scilly Island the Foam carried away her rudder head, and was near going ashore.

Next day, Friday the 14th, the yachts assembled off Portumna Castle, and at three o’clock, PM, the Commodore started the following boats for a 40 Guinea Challenge Cup, with a purse of Sovereigns added, for all yachts. A handicap race.

Novice, 4 tons, Dash Ryan, Esq
Midge, 7 tons, Bassett W Holmes, Esq
Vampire, 9 tons, Arthur Vincent, Esq
Gem, 12 tons, James Spaight, Esq
Foam, 24 tons, Lord Avonmore
Iris, 18 tons, Wills C Gason, Esq.

This was a most exciting race, and during the first hour it was difficult to tell which would be the winner. Before rounding the second flag boat the Novice put about and gave up the race, and off Church Island, the Midge carried away the jaws of her gaff, and was obliged to give up the race, which she was almost sure of winning — having gained two minutes the first round. The course was a long one, and the race was not over till after eight o’clock, when the four boats came in as follows:—


During each day of the Regatta, the City of Dublin Steam Company placed one of their fine steamers at the disposal of the Sailing Committee, who took out all their friends, and accompanied the yachts each day during the race.

In the evening, after several cot races and other amusements too numerous to relate. The ladies and gentlemen present were entertained at Belle Isle, the beautiful seat and hospitable mansion of Lord Avonmore; and at a later hour assembled some 120 of the elite of Tipperary, Galway, and King’s County, at the Clanricarde Arms, Portumna, where dancing was kept up with spirit until morning.

The population of the Portumna DED declined by 30.46% between 1841 and 1851.