Tag Archives: schooner

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.


Shannon Regatta

The Shannon regatta commenced on Tuesday at Kilrush, which is crowded with visitors from Limerick, Tarbert, Ennis, and the sea coast frequenters at Kilkee and Malbay. In respect to the memory of the late Judge Vandeleur, it was supposed the stewards would defer the annual gala for a fortnight, but as several yachts had arrived from distant stations, a majority of the committee decided on proceeding. A stiff breeze from the North West, with occasional squalls, prevailed for the last three days. The prizes on Tuesday for the rival yachts were — Kent cup, a purse of £20, and two purses of £10 each.

The Cork Harbour Regatta will hold four days, 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th August. The highest prize is one of £60 for all yachts.

The Marquis of Waterford’s yacht, Gem, now at Cove, is a beautiful specimen of naval architecture, and it is hard to know which to admire, the beautiful symmetry of her construction, or the perfect seamanlike manner in which she is rigged and fitted up. She is a Polacca schooner, of about 110 tons, carrying 6lb brass guns, and a swivel forward. Capt Lane RN is sailing master.

Dublin Morning Register 26 June 1835

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

The Purton boat graveyard

If you happen to be driving across southern England and Wales — say from Fishguard or Pembroke to London — and you want a break, you could turn off the M4 or M48 and drive to the Purton ships’ graveyard in Gloucestershire. It’s roughly 25 miles, 35 minutes, each way: a two-hour break will give you an hour on site — and take you a world away from the busy motorways.

Purton gives you two waterways for the price of one: the Severn estuary and the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, which bypasses part of the estuary.

The estuary

Big estuaries — including the Shannon and the Suir — always give a sense of space, with big open skies, but somehow the Severn looks even bigger when the tide goes so far out.

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The long and level sands stretch far away

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Note the train on the far bank, behind the signpost

Incidentally, the west bank too seems to have a place called Purton, if Messrs Google’s map is to be believed.

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Drawing a line in the sand

The canal

Purton has two of the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal‘s swing bridges, a weir and other interesting features.

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Purton lower bridge

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Purton lower bridge control room. The keeper operates both bridges

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Swinging room

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Purton lower bridge from downstream

Purton upper bridge

Purton upper bridge

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Information board beside the lower bridge

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Purton weir

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Weir bridge and sluices

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Weir inflow

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Weir sluices

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Weir outfall

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Canalside cottages (all occupied)

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One of several designs of self-closing gate

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Boats 1

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Boats 2

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Boats 3

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Boats 4

The hulks

The hulls of old vessels were used to shore up the embankment, between canal and river, at Purton. [This practice was also used in Ireland, on both the Barrow and the Suir, but not on anything like the same scale.] The result was the creation of a boat or ship graveyard that preserved, and makes reasonably accessible, the hulls or frames or at least parts of a large number of inland, estuarial and coastal vessels. And some of them are vessels that traded with Ireland.

The Friends of Purton have an informative website here; please also read their page about access here. I can confirm that parking is restricted on the site; it would be easy to annoy the local people by careless parking.

Good information is provided on site.

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Information board

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All identified wrecks have plaques like this

I had allowed an hour for my visit, but didn’t see everything; it would have been easy to spend twice as much time there. In the summer, growth hid a few of the artefacts, but there was plenty to see without trampling on the shrubbery.

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The Mary Ann

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… is in there somewhere

There are quite a few concrete (ferrocement) barges, built during the Second World War.


Up close


Bows on

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Information plaque

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Stacked up

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Deck details

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Merging into the bank

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One side

Of the other vessels, the Dursley is apparently in reasonable condition but, on my visit, was largely hidden in the grass.

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Dursley plaque

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Dursley sternpost and rudder

The same was true of the Katherine [or Catherine] Ellen, built in Dungarvan.


Katherine Ellen plaque


Katherine Ellen site

I failed to find the Jonadab, a Severn trow that traded to the (Munster) Blackwater, but I did see the remains of the Scottish-built Dispatch, which is amongst the vessels listed by Niall O’Brien as having visited the Munster Blackwater [Blackwater and Bride: navigation and trade 7000BC to 2007, Niall O’Brien Publishing, Ballyduff Upper, 2008].


Dispatch plaque


Dispatch hull

Then there were the dramatic remains of Sally, renamed King, of London.


Sally plaque


Sally remains 1


Sally remains 2

And many more. Even isolated timbers or iron ribs had their interest. But let me finish with a wreck that is not on the embankment but just offshore.

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Tanker offshore

You can read about the loss of the tankers Arkendale H and Wastdale H here and here. They are remembered on a plaque at the site.

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Plaque about the tankers

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I don’t know which of the tankers is shown in my photos

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The wreck is a reminder of the hazards of estuaries

Purton is well worth a visit — but it is only one of the waterways delights close to the Fishguard/Pembroke to London route.

Things not to do on a boat …

… at least if you’re close to an airport.

If the boat had rammed an aeroplane it might have become as famous as the schooner Cymric.

h/t Kids Prefer Cheese