Tag Archives: Spencer Dock

WI and the canals

Three important documents [all PDFs] available for download from WI’s site:

  • Action Plan for Grand Canal Dock and Spencer Dock​ here
  • Grand Canal (rural) Product Development Study here
  • Royal Canal (rural) Product Development Study here.

These are lengthy documents [50, 177 and 175 pages respectively] and it will be some time before I can comment on them, but I welcome their publication. I also hope to be able to comment on the presentation Ireland’s Inland Waterways – Building a Tourism Destination which WI made to the recent meeting of the NSMC; I’m told it’s on its way to me but it hasn’t arrived yet.

 

More reading material

A bit of a break from the politicking ….

First,  the long-awaited second edition of David Walsh’s extraordinary book Oileáin is now available from Pesda Press. It’s an exhaustive guide to the islands around Ireland, seen from a sea-kayaker’s perspective. It tells you where they are, how you get there, what the tides and currents and hazards are, whether you might be able to camp …. A lot of this is, of course, aimed mainly at folk rather more athletically minded than I am, but I got it for its information about the islands in the Shannon and Fergus estuaries. David’s website keeps an electronic version updated, so that you can check the latest information before you set off, but even if you’re unlikely to start paddling to the Skelligs yourself you may find the information and the photos of interest.

Shannon enthusiasts will be familiar with Richard Hayward’s Where the River Shannon Flows, written as Hitler’s war was breaking out. It is an account of a road trip down the Shannon during which a film about the river was being made: the party was in Portumna when Hayward heard, on a wireless set through a window, that Britain was at war with Germany. I was privileged, some years ago, to be able to see the film and to match it with the scenes from the book, from which L T C Rolt drew information for his Green and Silver. Hayward was a proud Ulsterman, but one who was happy to meet, converse and exchange songs with anyone of any creed anywhere in Ireland. He was, if I remember correctly, a confectionery salesman by way of a day job, but more importantly he was an actor, a writer and a singer. His style is of its time, and perhaps rather laboured by modern standards, but he was a decent skin and I haven’t read anything of his that I didn’t enjoy. I am pleased to learn that a biography, An Unrepentant Romantic — the life and times of Richard Hayward by Paul Clements, is due to be published by Lilliput Press in May.

In the same month, UCD Press is to publish James Murphy’s Ireland’s Czar: Gladstonian government and the lord lieutenancies of the Red Earl Spencer, 1868–86. That’s this chap here, whose claim to fame is that he has a dock on the Royal in Dublin, and a harbour on Lough Allen, both called after him.

I don’t know whether I want to shell out €50 for Nigel Everett’s The Woodlands of Ireland, 700–1800 [Four Courts Press, May], but I like the idea that it

Focuses on the fundamentally pragmatic and commercial view of trees adopted by Gaelic civilisation, and the attempts of the various Anglo-Irish administrations to introduce more conservative woodland practices into Ireland.

Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmaid? Why, we’ll import seacoal from Whitehaven, of course.

Finally, I am hoping that Joe Curtis’s Terenure: an illustrated history [The History Press, Ireland, March] will have more information about the remarkable Bourne family.

The information on forthcoming books comes from the magazine Books Ireland, which was until recently edited by old Shannon hand (and, if I mistake not, former Ditchcrawler) Jeremy Addis. Jeremy has now passed over the tiller and the magazine is now edited by Tony Canavan and published by Wordwell.

 

Maureen O’Sullivan asks sensible questions …

I am happy to report that Maureen O’Sullivan TD [Ind, Dublin Central] asked some sensible written questions in the Dáil on 15 January 2014.

Under the rather odd heading “Waterways Ireland Remit“, she asked Jimmy Deenihan [FG, Kerry North/West Limerick; Minister for the City of Culture]

[…] if he will include work on land maps to determine what land abutting the canals is owned privately, by Waterways Ireland, the Railway Procurement Agency, Iarnrod Éireann, Dublin City Council, Office of Public Works or other; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The minister replied:

I am informed that Waterways Ireland already has an ongoing programme to modernise historic canal ownership maps and register navigation property in its ownership.

She put another question to Jimmy Deenihan under the same heading; you can see the link between the two questions:

[…] having regard to the prospective re-opening of the Royal Canal towpath at Portland Place in Summer 2014 further to the refurbishment of the collapsed wall at Portland Place and having regard also to the Spencer Dock Greenway Project and the re-lining works to be carried out at the sixth level, if he will direct Waterways Ireland to commission a strategic environment assessment for a new canal-side walkway along the south side of the sixth level of the Royal Canal at Phibsborough from Shandon Gardens to the railway bridge at the seventh lock with a new pedestrian crossing (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The only problem with this is that even getting an environmental assessment done is likely to strain WI’s budget at the moment, so it’s not a good time to be suggesting new expenditure. However, it didn’t matter in this case, as Jimmy Deenihan explained:

I am informed by Waterways Ireland that it does not own the lands on the southside of the Royal Canal between Shandon Gardens and the 7th lock, at Liffey Junction and therefore will not be commissioning a Strategic Environment Assessment for a new canalside walkway.

She also asked Alan Kelly [Labour, Tipperary North] about that:

[…] noting that it is the intention of the National Transport Authority to pursue a cycling and walking greenway along the Royal Canal in Dublin city, if he will ask Iarnród Eireann, the Railway Procurement Agency and Dublin City Council to assess the viability of opening a new walkway along the Royal Canal, 6th level, from Shandon Gardens to the 7th lock with a new footbridge at the 7th lock railway crossing linking to the existing Greenway route; if, in particular, this option will be explored alongside any re-lining work that might be undertaken by Waterways Ireland along that level.

He said:

The development of walking and cycling facilities within the Greater Dublin Area is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) in conjunction with the relevant local authority, which is Dublin City Council in this case.

The NTA provides funding to local authorities for a range of schemes to benefit pedestrians, including new walkways, under the Sustainable Transport Management Grants Programme. Accordingly, I have sent your request to the NTA and have asked them to reply to you directly in relation to the above matter.

I’m all in favour of getting money from other people to pay for waterways.

Finally, under the heading of Inland Waterways Development, she had another question for Jimmy Deenihan:

[…] if he will explore all possible options within current fiscal constraints to advance and develop the potential of the Royal and Grand canal lines that pass through Dublin city; if he will establish an inter-agency group on the Dublin City reaches of the Royal and Grand canals; if he will explore ways to advance their development, examining funding options, including existing funding streams and the leveraging of funding from other sources and the possibility of EU funding which may be available.

I might say at this stage that I don’t see why TDs are asking ministers about stuff that they could find out themselves by asking WI directly. It’s not as though they’re going to get a lot of favourable publicity by doing so: this isn’t the PAC grilling a hospital or charity board and the meeja aren’t really interested.

Anyway, Jimmy Deenihan replied:

As the Deputy may be aware, the Dublin City Canals Study [PDF] was launched on 20th July 2010. This was prepared by consultants on behalf of Waterways Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, Dublin Docklands Development Authority and Dublin City Council. The study examined the existing activities on the Royal and Grand Canals and identified an overall vision for the development of the City Canals within the M50. I am advised that following on from the study an Operations Liaison Group plus two sub-groups (one for the Royal Canal and one for the Grand Canal) were established and continue to meet to deliver the recommendations identified, within the current fiscal constraints.

I am informed that to complement the above study, Waterways Ireland engaged additional consultants to carry out a detailed study of Grand Canal Dock and Spencer Dock with the objective of producing a Master Plan, currently at draft stage, that realises their potential as a recreational amenity and a living, vibrant part of Dublin and its Docklands. Waterways Ireland will continue to work collaboratively to unlock the pivotal role of these two major docks and to attract funding to develop a maritime quarter within the city of Dublin.

I wasn’t very impressed by the Dublin City Canals Study, which didn’t seem to me to be rooted in actual conditions in Dublin. I will look forward to seeing the master plan for the two dock areas.

Anyway, that was a more sensible set of questions from Maureen O’Sullivan, and it kept her off the subject of Effin Bridge.

“Ireland has no inland waterways …” says Minister for Transport

Those very words came from Leo Varadkar [FG, Dublin West], Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, in a written answer to a Dáil question on 3 December 2013.

I have, of course, quoted him selectively and out of context. The full sentence was

Ireland has no inland waterways within the definition of the EU legislation as Ireland’s inland waterways are not navigable for commercial traffic and we do not have any interconnected inland commercial transport for the purposes, or on the scale, envisaged by EU proposals in this area.

The poor man was responding to yet another question from the Pest of the Royal Canal, Maureen O’Sullivan [Ind, Dublin Central], who was continuing her misguided campaign to get public money from anywhere at all to replace Effin Bridge, the lifting railway bridge at Newcomen Bridge over the Royal Canal in Dublin 1. I reported on her campaign here, here and here, with the last of those showing that current demand for passages is less than the (admittedly restricted) supply. That being so, I cannot see how any expenditure on replacing Effin Bridge could be justified, especially in the country’s current situation and with Waterways Ireland desperate for money. I would, of course, have no objection to any voluntary fund-raising campaign that Ms O’Sullivan might initiate.

Ms O’Sullivan questioned two ministers on 3 December. She asked Leo Varadkar:

…  if his attention has been drawn to Inland Waterway Transport Funding, the Funding Guide for Inland Waterway Transport in Europe published by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Energy and Transport in 2008; the reason the 19 countries’ inland waterways systems referenced in the publication does not include Ireland; if he will ensure that any future edition of the guide will contain a country profile for Ireland including information on major inland waterways and ports together with an overview on the national inland waterways transport funding policy, funding programmes and institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The saintly and erudite minister replied:

The Funding Guide that the Deputy refers to was published following the launch of the 2006 NAIADES Action Programme, a multi-annual programme on the promotion of inland waterways transport. The Commission has recently decided to update and renew this programme until 2020. Ireland does not have a country profile in the Funding Guide as, in general, Ireland is exempt from EU inland waterways rules and proposals since they relate to waterways of a greater size and carrying a greater capacity of goods than exist in Ireland. The European Union’s inland waterway network spans 20 Member States with about 37,000 kilometres of inland waterways. Every year, these transport around 500 million tons of cargo, in particular in the densely populated and congested areas of Germany, the Netherlands, France and Belgium.

Ireland has no inland waterways within the definition of the EU legislation as Ireland’s inland waterways are not navigable for commercial traffic and we do not have any interconnected inland commercial transport for the purposes, or on the scale, envisaged by EU proposals in this area.

My Department is responsible for licensing all commercial inland craft in Ireland. There are no commercial cargo craft on Ireland’s inland waterways, apart from some small workboats. There are a number of domestic passenger boats and ships operating locally as tourist excursion vessels.

Ireland keeps a watching brief on EU inland waterways matters, mainly to ensure that any proposals do not conflict with, or overlap, the existing maritime safety regimes.

I expect that Ms O’Sullivan will be back shortly to propose the setting up of a horse-drawn barge fleet on the Royal Canal, returning Ireland to the late eighteenth century, to which the Irish left (and republicans) seem so devoted.

Her other questions were to Jimmy Deenihan [FG, Kerry North/West Limerick], Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. She asked:

… if he will identify the various State agencies whose operations bear upon the management of the Royal Canal and the steps they are taking, individually or collaboratively; if he will increase commercial-leisure use of the Royal Canal since the reopening of Spencer Dock to navigation in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

… if the European Regional Development Fund has been considered as a possible source of funding towards the costs, estimated at over €5 million, of overcoming obstacles to navigation, namely, the lifting bridge and the fixed Spencer Dock bridge on the sea level of the Royal Canal; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The patient and polite minister said:

[…] Waterways Ireland is the navigation authority for the Royal Canal and is responsible for the management, maintenance and development of the Royal Canal, principally for recreational purposes. Waterways Ireland undertook the work to re-commission the Royal Canal prior to its reopening in 2010 and continues to develop the canal and its facilities, and promote its use for recreation.

I am advised that Waterways Ireland has not sought funding to redevelop the lifting bridge referred to by the Deputy and has no plans to seek such funding at this time. Ongoing operation of the bridge continues to be kept under review with Iarnród Éireann, while Dublin City Council remains responsible for the operation of the Spencer Dock Bridge at Sheriff Street.

And rightly so.

Note that the €5 million figure referred only to Effin Bridge; replacing Sheriff Street Bridge would be another kettle of fish.

Dublin docklands

A conference to be held on 21 September 2013.

Canal Boat No 279

There is a mystery about Canal Boat No 279, which sank in the entrance to Spencer Dock, on the Royal Canal, in December 1873. Actually, there are several mysteries, and readers’ comments, information and suggestions would be welcome. Read the story here.

Newcomen Bridge again

Last month I wrote about the lock at Newcomen Bridge on the Royal Canal:

Industrial Heritage Ireland has created a page giving the history of the railway crossing at Newcomen Bridge. However, it would be nice to have some documentary evidence about the resiting of the lock — and about the headroom under the bridge before the lock was moved.

Here it is, from the Freeman’s Journal of 12 April 1873, in an article about the new Spencer Docks:

Above the new metal bridge there is a basin for Canal boats, with a quayage of 450 feet at either side and a depth of six feet. In connection with the new works, the lowering of Newcomen-bridge on the Clontarf-road must be alluded to. To effect this the old lock had to be moved higher up, and the old bridge replaced by one suited for the requirements of the tramway traffic. The arch of the bridge crossing the Canal was lowered five feet, and a new girder iron bridge crosses the railway at the same level. The Main Drainage Board wisely took advantage of the opportunity of the Canal being drained to make a main sewer under the canal and the railway above Newcomen-bridge at the low level required.

Happy, Mick?

Dublin

Dublin City Public Libraries have some nice photos available online. The section on the Port of Dublin includes 1926 aerial photos of the Guinness wharf and of Spencer Dock (not busy) and Grand Canal Dock (including the section beyond the railway line, now filled in). There is also a photo of a steam barge at the Guinness wharf. In the Commercial Dublin section, I saw two businesses beside the Grand Canal, Ever Ready Batteries at Portobello and Gordon’s Fuels at Harold’s Cross.

Spencer Dock

The Royal Canal meets the River Liffey at Spencer Dock (more or less: older OSI maps suggest that the section between Sheriff Street and the Liffey is Royal Canal Docks, with Spender Docks north of Sheriff Street). Much development has been proposed, and perhaps undertaken, in the area, where CIE (the public transport authority) owned much land.

Now, the Sunday Business Post tells us [perhaps behind a paywall], CIE’s subsidiary Irish Rail, which runs railways, is to sell land at Spencer Dock to a “private sector buyer”. The proceeds will enable Irish Rail to get rid of another 120 workers: it planned to lay off 300 workers this year but only 89 left because Irish Rail could not afford the terms of a voluntary redundancy scheme. The departures will reduce its wage bill.

I don’t really understand why CIE doesn’t simply shut down Irish Rail altogether, with the possible exception of the Dublin commuter services. Even its main-line trains are surely unnecessary now that most major conurbations are linked by motorways, on many (if not all) of which Bus Éireann, another subsidiary of CIE, runs express services. Lunatic ideas like the Western Rail Corridor don’t help, of course, but when, as the SBP reports,

[…] a train was recently left stranded in Galway after a local supplier refused to provide further credit […]

and when the company (again according to the SBP) cannot afford toilet rolls or receipt rolls for credit card machines, it may be that the market is trying to give the owners of the business a message: “close down now”.