Tag Archives: Shannon

Waterways update: work in progress (1759)

Here is some information about the work of Messrs Ockenden and Omer on Irish waterways up to 1759. It is extracted from a book by Henry Brooke; Ockenden had, twenty years earlier, subscribed to support Brooke’s play. It is not impossible that they were acquainted, in Ireland or in England. Apart from anything else, both were supporters of Frederick, Prince of Wales: see A N Newman “The Political Patronage of Frederick Lewis, Prince of Wales” in The Historical Journal Vol 1 No 1 1958 on Ockenden’s post in the prince’s household at £100 a year and here on Frederick’s “many attentions” to Brooke.

Brooke’s account contains some information about Ockenden’s work that I have not seen elsewhere. I found the reference to Brooke in Thomas McIlvenna This Wonder-Working Canal: a history of the Tyrone Navigation Coalisland Canal Branch IWAI 2005.

Who was William Ockenden?

William Ockenden has been described as a Dutch engineer who worked on three eighteenth century Irish navigations: the Mallow to Lombardstown canal, the Kilkenny/Nore navigation and the Limerick Navigation [Park Canal section], all of them notably unsuccessful.

It seems likely that he was English, not Dutch, but may have lived in Ireland before inheriting property in England. But was he an engineer or a mill-owner and MP? Were there one or two William Ockendens at the time?

Here is some information and some speculation. I would welcome more of the first.

The Newry bypass

I hesitate to criticise the Newry & Portadown Branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland, admirable folk who conduct regular work parties improving the Newry Canal. So perhaps I should say that I disagree with them instead — at least on the proposal for a Southern Relief Road, aka bypass, around Newry, linking “the Warrenpoint Dual Carriageway to the A1 Dublin/ Belfast Road“.

Such a bypass is a very good idea and, of course, far better than the insane Narrow Water handsacrosstheborder project. But the new road must cross  the Newry River and the Newry Ship Canal, and I would be vastly surprised if there were any economic justification for the cost of an opening section or for the disruption that each opening would cause to traffic. Certainly six or twelve sailing vessels would no longer be able to reach the Albert Basin in Newry, but the greatest good of the greatest number should surely prevail.

I can’t see that the absence of sailing pleasure craft from Newry would in any  way diminish the heritage or historic value of the ship canal or the basin, and they are of course entirely irrelevant to the stillwater canal.

A spokesman from the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland” says that

The IWAI was formed in 1954 to stop the building of low bridges on the River Shannon. Fortunately this campaign was successful otherwise there would be no hire boats on the Shannon today. Think of the loss of revenue. This should be a lesson to the bridge builders in Newry.

This is rubbish, for two reasons. First, sailing vessels on Carlingford Lough are never going to be available for hire on the Newry Canal, so their inability to reach Albert Basin would have little effect.

Second, the IWAI campaign on the Shannon was notably unsuccessful. Instead of swivelling bridges that would allow masted vessels through, the Shannon now has fixed bridges (Banagher, Shannonbridge, Athlone) and lifting bridges (Roosky, Tarmonbarry) that lift enough to allow motor cruisers through, but not enough for sailing vessels.

Ruth Delany [in Ireland’s Inland Waterways: celebrating 300 years Appletree Press, Belfast 2004] says that the IWAI Shannon campaign resulted in there being a minimum clearance of 4.3m on the Shannon, which is a long way from the 35m that the Newry & Portadown folk are seeking. The only Shannon bridge providing that clearance is Portumna, a swivel bridge, which (unlike the others mentioned above) was not — or its ancestor was not — built by the Shannon Commissioners.

By using the Shannon as a model, the N&P folk have actually weakened their case: the 9m clearance suggested for the Newry bypass is more than twice what the Shannon provides.

 

Dromineer

Not that many pubs, surely.

Ireland’s mystical waterway

Mystical logo

Perhaps you’ve noticed an outbreak of strange stickers on Shannon hireboats, proclaiming that the river is “Ireland’s mystical waterway”. Cynics will dismiss this as just more marketing bollocks, in this case associated with the claim that the Shannon, which is in the middle of Ireland, is part of something called “Ireland’s Ancient East“. I do wish that, when marketing dudes get these brainwaves, they’d keep them to themselves.

But wait! What if we’re all wrong? What if the Shannon really is a mystical waterway? After all, wasn’t there recently a miracle in Athlone?

Mind you, you may need an encounter with spirits yourself after reading that lot: the spirits that come in 70cl bottles.

 

The port of Limerick

Limerick was formerly an important place for exporting grain and provisions. At that time a fine fleet of schooners, principally employed in the trade to London, was owned there; and some large brigs, barques, and ships, engaged in the passenger and timber trade with North America, hailed from the port. But the maritime trade has declined greatly of late years, and the number of vessels has become proportionably reduced. At present the shipping consists of a few colliers and timber vessels, and a fleet of five screw steamers. The latter monopolize so much of the trade between the city and the English ports as the railways do not absorb. A number of foreign vessels, principally with grain from the Mediterranean, arrive at the port, and the seamen that are met with here are for the most part Italians, French, and Austrians. There is now a large floating dock at Limerick with gates 75 feet wide. A Sailors’ Home was recently erected here, but it has never been opened, as there are at present hardly any sailors to be found at the port, except a few such foreigners as have been just described.

“Visits to the Sea Coasts” in The Shipwrecked Mariner Vol VIII No XXIX January 1861

The current at Killaloe

I have been known to complain about the absence [on the interweb] of information about the state of the Shannon downstream of Banagher and Meelick.

Waterways Ireland

On the Waterways Ireland website, on the “About Us” menu, there’s a “Water Levels” option which takes you to this OTT Hydromet page. Perhaps my security settings are too high (or too eccentric), but at the top of the page all I see is

Alternate HTML content should be placed here. This content requires the Adobe Flash Player. Get Flash

At the bottom I read

Click here to obtain list of todays 9am Values. Please Note – Levels are recorded in meters to MSL Malin Head.

There is also a disclaimer.

The link goes to this page where the locations of various gauges are categorised by waterway. The furthest south [on the Shannon] I can find is …

Meelick Weir Gauge SS_MEELICK Water level 0001 32.62m 2018-07-07 07:30:00 5400

… from which I deduce that the water level at Meelick Weir is 32.62 metres above mean sea level at Malin Head. From that, of course, I can deduce the depth of the water at Meelick, or I could if I knew how far the bed of the river was above MSL Malin Head, and by charting the daily returns I could see whether the level was increasing or decreasing.

OPW

Alternatively, I could use the OPW’s gauge at Banagher, only a little way upstream, which shows me the depth, the change over 35 days and the level in relation to various percentiles of previous levels. That is a lot easier to read and a lot more useful: although a measure of flow would be more useful still, I can assume that a high level will be accompanied by a faster flow.

ESB

I have recently discovered that the ESB has a page with (admittedly for a small number of sites) information in a more user-friendly format than either WI or the OPW. To find it from the home page, select “Our Businesses”, then “Generation & Energy Trading”, then “Hydrometric Information”, then “River Shannon”, then “Beware of the leopard”. Alternatively, try www.esbhydro.ie/shannon for a list of PDFs.

Either way, the files available include

  • a hydrometric forecast for the Shannon
  • one-year charts showing levels at each of five locations: Bellantra sluices, Lough Ree; Thatch, Lough Ree; Athlone Weir downstream; Portumna Bridge; Pier Head, Killaloe
  • even more useful for anyone going near Killaloe Bridge, the total flow [in cubic metres per second] at Parteen Villa Weir and at Ardnacrusha.

Here, in flagrant breach of the ESB’s copyright, is the chart for Parteen Villa Weir:

The flow at Parteen Villa Weir

The flow has been pretty well flat, at 0, for some time. The Parteen and Ardnacrusha charts have accompanying tables giving the figures for the last 30 days; here are those for Ardnacrusha:

The flow at Ardnacrusha

Each of Ardnacrusha’s four turbines uses about 100 cubic metres per second [cumec]. The flow through Parteen Villa Weir is divided between the old course of the Shannon [which must get 10 cumec] and the new channel through Ardnacrusha. The combined flow through Parteen has been 11 cumec for the past week, and Ardnacrusha has been getting nothing (except a tiny amount on 3 July). That explains why the level of water at Castleconnell, on the old course, is slightly higher than normal summer levels (11 rather than 10 cumec).

And with no water going through Ardnacrusha, the level of Lough Derg is normal (see the chart for Killaloe) and there is no strong current at Killaloe.

Note, by the way, that the levels shown by the ESB are referenced to the older Poolbeg ordnance datum, not the Malin Head used since 1970: “Poolbeg OD was about 2.7 metres lower than Malin OD.”

Other sites?

If, Gentle Reader, you know of any other accessible web pages with user-friendly information on flows or depths on the waterways, do please leave a Comment below.

 

 

Ardnacrusha tours 2018

Tours of the Ardnacrusha power station are available again this year; info here.

An Athlone nitwit

Councillor Frankie Keena “is asking for a feasibility study on reopening the Athlone canal to navigation to be carried out. Cllr Frankie Keena will table a motion to this effect at Monday’s meeting of the Athlone Municipal District of Westmeath County Council.”

I presume that the point of the proposal is to get Cllr Keena’s photograph in the local papers. Goodness knows why they fall for that sort of thing.

 

Selling the Shannon

We have purchased the steamer Ballymurtagh on favourable terms, and have placed her on the river Shannon, for the purpose of facilitating your trade in that district. This steamer carries its own cargo, and can be worked with economy in conjunction with your steamers already plying on the Shannon. The arrangement so made places at your disposal the steamer Shannon, which has been employed heretofore in towing boats between Carrick-on-Shannon and Killaloe. We purpose selling the steamer Shannon, when a suitable price can be obtained.

From the report of the directors of the Grand Canal Company, to be presented at its half-yearly meeting on Monday 24 August 1868, reported in the Galway Vindicator, and Connaught Advertiser
22 August 1868

SCREW STEAMER FOR SALE BY AUCTION

FOR SALE BY AUCTION, on Tuesday, the 21st July 1868, at Ringsend Docks, Dublin, at One o’Clock, By order of the Directors of the Grand Canal Company,

Their powerful and strong-built Towing Steamer

SHANNON

She is 71 feet long, 15 feet 6 inches beam, iron-built, and fitted with Marine condensing engines, 45 horse power. Her machinery is in excellent repair, and a large sum of money has been recently laid out on her boiler.

She can be seen at Ringsend Dock, Dublin, and further particulars may be had from Mr Samuel Healy, Grand Canal Harbour, James’s-street, Dublin; William Digby Cooke, Esq, Secretary, or JAMES FOXALL, Broker.

Freeman’s Journal 18 July 1868