Tag Archives: Tarmonbarry

Tarmonbarry 1851

To the Editor of the [Dublin] Evening Mail

Sir

In your impression of the 3d instant, under the head of “The Famine Advances and the English Press”, I find a reference to the (so called) improvement of the Shannon; that of the sum of £313009 advanced by government, £230325 has been repaid. In this case you say (and most truly say) “the jobbing was most flagrant, and the reckless waste of the public money unparalleled”.

So far you are correct, but you are, no doubt, labouring under a very common mistake when you say the works have very recently been completed, such not being the case. Some handsome bridges, with swivel arches, and spacious locks — one in this neighbourhood too small to admit an ordinary river steamer. Nor was the level properly taken, there not being sufficient water to carry tonnage drawing more than 5 feet 6 inches, during the greater part of the summer.

Now, I should wish to know, through your well informed medium, to what cause is to be attributed the present state of the weir, or lock dam, adjoining Tarmonbarry, a span of nearly 500 feet. Owing to the improper manner in which the same has been executed, upwards of 60 feet have given way, and when examined by the engineer of the board, the entire is found in such a state as will involve the rebuilding.

In justice to this gentlemen, I am bound to say he was not the engineer under whom it was constructed, nor do I think, until very lately, he had anything to do with the Shannon Commission, every work in which he has been engaged, being acknowledged to be well executed.

I am not aware whether you are in possession of this fact, that in order to make the Shannon improvements available or remunerative, it has been considered necessary to construct a canal to “Lough Erne”, adjoining Belturbet, and thence to communicate with Belfast, by “the Ulster canal”. You will, I am sure, agree with me in the old adage, that “this would be going round the world to look for a short cut”; but the cut I allude to is not so short, as it involves, I am informed, thirty miles of new canal, and several large and expensive locks.

But, Sir, I must inform you, that the tolls of the river Shannon, from Carrick-on-Shannon to Limerick city, are barely sufficient to pay the lock-keepers’ salaries. The Shannon Commission I would henceforth style “the Shannon job”.

I remain, Sir, though a bad dancer, one who must

Pay the Piper

[Dublin] Evening Mail 17 November 1851

From the British Newspaper Archive

The opening of the Royal Canal

On 27 May 2017 the Royal Canal Amenity Group and Waterways Ireland are to commemorate the fact that

In May 1817 the Royal Canal was officially opened from Dublin to the Shannon ….

[Unfortunately I am unable to find anything about the commemorative event on WI’s website, although they did send me some information about it.]

I wondered how the opening might have been celebrated in 1817, but I haven’t been able to find out anything about it. I am hoping that some more knowledgeable person might be able to provide information: please leave a Comment below if you can help.

Ruth Delany gives 26 May 1817 as the date on which the contractors said that the western end of the canal (to the Shannon at Richmond Harbour) would be ready to hand over to the Directors General of Inland Navigation, who were running the show after the Royal Canal Company collapsed under the weight of its debts.

However, as far as I can see, the British Newspaper Archive contains no mention of any opening ceremony at any time in 1817. The Lanesborough Trader, the first boat to travel from the Shannon to Dublin did so in January 1818 [Saunders’s News-Letter 2 February 1818] and in May Mr Peel moved that a further £15000 be granted for completion of the navigation, where “shoals were
found to interfere” [Dublin Evening Post 23 May 1818].

Traffic increased later in 1818: in October the directors of the New Royal Canal Company went by boat

… from Dublin to Tarmonbury, and thence to the termination of the Canal, near the river Shannon, to inspect the works and give every necessary direction for the entire completion of that great and important undertaking ….
[Dublin Evening Post 20 October 1818]

The same newspaper reported that several boats of coal, found on the banks of the canal near Tarmonbury, had arrived in Dublin. It seems, therefore, that the canal was usable even if not entirely finished.

Later that month Christopher Dillon of Athlone, who had been trading on the Grand Canal and the Shannon, announced that he was moving his boats to the Royal Canal — but the western terminus for his boats was at Ballymahon, from which (although he did not say so) goods could be carried by road to Athlone: just the situation the Grand Canal Company had feared. [Dublin Evening Post 27 October 1818]

I have found no evidence of an opening ceremony in 1817; nor have I found evidence that the canal was actually open from the Shannon to the Liffey (or the Broadstone) in 1817, in that no boat seems to have travelled between the Shannon and the Liffey. At least one boat did so in 1818, but again I have no evidence of any opening ceremony.

There is one further mystery. The Royal Canal harbour at the junction with the Shannon is called Richmond Harbour. I presume that that is a compliment to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, His Grace Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond, 4th Duke of Lennox, 4th Duke of Aubigny, KG, PC. But he had ceased to be Lord Lieutenant in 1813 and was presumably unable to dispense favours after that, so why was the harbour named after him? I don’t know when the construction of the harbour was begun or finished.

I have not visited the National Archives in Dublin to look at the papers of the Directors General of Inland Navigation, which may have something on the events of 1817 and 1818. Perhaps WI’s archive has something relevant too. I would therefore be glad to hear from anyone who has searched those archives or found other evidence about the period.

Newspapers cited here were accessed through the British Newspaper Archive.

 

The Lanesborough Trader

Inland Navigation

The numerous individuals interested in the prosperity of the Royal Canal, as well as the Public at large, must be highly gratified to learn, that the trade on the extended line of that navigation has commenced with all the spirit and activity that could have been anticipated by the most sanguine. The first boat from the Shannon (the Lanesborough Trader, Patrick Connor, owner) arrived at the Broadstone harbour on Saturday [31 January 1818], amid the cheers of numerous spectators, with a fiddler playing merrily upon her deck.

Saunders’s News-Letter 2 February 1818

Notes from the north

Some observations from a trip to the hyperborean regions.

Navigation

The 2015 edition of Shannon Leisure Development Company’s Navigational Guide to the Shannon and Erne Waterways includes the numbers of some of the markers; I found that helpful, especially on the longer river stretches.

The Guide is wrong about Clonmacnoise: there is no water supply. At Hodson Bay, a suggested course appears to cross a shoal.

Eh?

Eh?

This was the first marker I noticed with a suffix to its number; I presume that means it’s a new marker.

Boxty

As far as I know, boxty is the only contribution made by the north midlands to world cuisine. We bought several varieties in Lanesborough, and jolly good they were too; I regret that I did not record the manufacturers’ names so that I could provide links to their websites.

However, boxty was not the only comestible to be found north of Portumna Bridge. Shannon Crafts and Coffee Dock in Athlone, on The Strand across the river from the lock, provides excellent cakes; boaters can tie up outside and stock up.

TripAdvisor folks liked it too.

Had I been there on a Saturday, I’d have had bratwurst.

Shannon Crafts and Coffee Dock

Shannon Crafts and Coffee Dock

The Em’raldstar Galactica

Les grands bateaux de Monsieur Thibault must have been breeding: we met several of the things.

Emraldstar Galactica 2015 01_resize

It’s big …

Emraldstar Galactica 2015 03_resize

… and, I’m told, luxuriously fitted out …

Emraldstar Galactica 2015 04_resize

… with good outdoor space on the roof …

Emraldstar Galactica 2015 02_resize

… and it accelerates quickly and smoothly from rest, suggesting a good underwater shape …

… but I still think it’s the boating equivalent of the SsangYong Rodius.

Work in progress

Geotechnical investigation works on the N63 bridge at Lanesborough were being carried out from this pontoon, which was assembled at Hanleys Marina at Ballyleague.

Moving the pontoon into position

Moving the pontoon into position

And here’s a Waterways Ireland boat, a Pioner I think, returning upstream to its launch site at Meelick Quay. Perhaps it had been investigating the possibility of providing berths near Meelick village.

WI Pioner

WI Pioner

Wrecks?

Iskeraulin wreck 03_resize

On the Iskeraulin shoal on Lough Ree

Copy of Boat ashore between Blackbrink and Galey bays

On shore between Blackbrink and Galey bays

I don’t know anything about either of these vessels. The second might, I suppose, have been careened for work on its hull.

Out to lunch

The closing of locks at lunchtime has got to stop.

At Meelick, on a windy day, the lower gates were open at lunchtime and two boats were blown forward on to the sill. There, and at Athlone, the waiting pontoons and quays are utterly inadequate to the volume of traffic. Two boats occupied the whole of the Athlone pontoons and only two boats (one a barge) were able to fit on the quay wall. The combined length of boats waiting was about two and a half times the length available for tying to.

Athlone waiting pontoons

Athlone waiting pontoons

Why is it not possible to have staggered lunchtimes? Or to come up with some other arrangement that puts the interests and the safety of the boaters first?

Oddities

Is this a waterside thunderbox or privy?

Perh privy above Athlone_resize

Outdoor sanitation above Athlone?

In the next photo, the small white sign in the middle says “No shooting”, which is about tweetiebirds rather than citizens. But what is the long-stemmed mushroom on the right? It looks like those gas thingies youo see scattered around the countryside, presumably to provide shelter while you strike a match to light your pipe, and there’s another on the other side of the river. Does that mean that there’s a gas pipe under the river? Or what?

Mushroom_resize

What’s the white thing on the right?

Imperfections

The pale patch of concrete suggests that the corner bollard is missing at the quay below the bridge in Shannonbridge. That makes the short angled section of wall very difficult to use.

Missing bollard at Shannonbridge_resize

Missing bollard?

At Portrunny, some of the timber edging to the pier has rotted; it may be a trip hazard.

Portrunny pier edge 2015_resize

Portrunny pier

The taps on Portrunny pier defeated us. I would be grateful to anyone who could give me the specification of the adapter required to connect these taps to standard garden/boat hoses.

Portrunny tap

Portrunny’s giant taps

Back on Lough Derg, we found that a barrier had been erected at the end of the pier at Rossmore.

Rossmore barriers 01

Rossmore

This barrier makes the end of the pier unusable by boats. I have twice seen the end used when strong winds, and waves rolling into the bay, made conditions dangerous.

On one occasion a boat, pinned against the outer (upwind, exposed) side of the pier, worked around to the other side with ropes around the end of the pier; the barrier would have made that manoeuvre impossible.

On another, again with wind and waves coming into the bay, and with the head of the T occupied by other boats, a boat tied to the end of the pier, with its bow into the waves, using strong ropes from bow and stern to bollards along the pier. Again, the barrier would have made that impossible.

Rossmore barriers 02

The barrier

I do not know whether such considerations affected the decision to erect this barrier. If they did not, I suggest reconsideration.

Enterprise

Romaris in Athlone

Romaris in Athlone (no, no: I took this one)

Romaris Motor Yacht is offering upmarket cruises in Athlone. And Baysports water park in Hodson Bay seems to attract favourable reviews.

Richmond Harbour

Finally, some thoughts on Richmond Harbour, our terminus ad quem. It is quite a delightful place and Waterways Ireland has done much to improve the amenities and maintain its appearance. Furthermore, Paddy, the patroller who let us up into the harbour, is helpful, friendly and enthusiastic about the Royal Canal.

But what a pity that WI doesn’t do more to promote both Richmond Harbour and the Royal Canal.

First, the Guide might usefully include Paddy’s phone number so that boaters, especially those (like hirers) without lock keys, might be enabled to get into the harbour. The numbers given on p15 don’t include Paddy’s.

Second, the text of the Guide might be updated: it makes it clear (p7) that some hire boats are allowed to use the Grand Canal but makes no equivalent statement about the Royal.

Third, WI might do more to establish an identity for Richmond Harbour itself, with information about its history, layout, buildings and other features. Maybe there was an information display; if so, I missed it.

Fourth, WI might provide information at Richmond Harbour (and perhaps elsewhere) to encourage boaters to venture even a few miles up the Royal. Such information might say what’s where (village X is Y miles/Z hours away), why X is worth a visit, what help is available, where a boat can turn, why it’s worth doing, what boaters should watch out for (mainly, I imagine, weed on prop or in filters). Or perhaps the RCAG or IWAI could do that.

Fifth, folk who use Richmond Harbour for free parking should find their boats below (or even above) the 45th Lock, thus leaving more space for visiting boats.

Boats arrive at the end of the Royal Canal; the canal itself, and the Harbour, should be promoted to them.

Incidentally, the Clondra Canal needs traffic lights: the cheerful and inventive keeper does his best with hand signals, but the systemn is scarcely foolproof. And it would be useful to have something (other than trees) to tie to at either end of the canal.

Weather

There were days to make Tim O’Brien eat his heart out. But some really bad days that are likely to damage next year’s tourism. I’ll get to the traffic figures anon.

 

 

 

 

Interesting info from Waterways Ireland

Two interesting PDF documents available on this page:

No mention of Saunderson’s Sheugh, but I suppose dredging of the River Finn is proceeding.

Blueways and traffic

I wonder whether it would be wise to issue some guidance to masters of larger vessels about (a) the likelihood of meeting numbers of canoeists, kayakers, stand-up paddleboarders (SUPpers) and others on particular stretches of water and (b) what to do on meeting them. Guidance to operators of the smaller craft might be useful too. I’m thinking in particular of the restricted visibility on parts of the Camlin and the prospect of encountering a fleet of SUPpers on a tight bend.

The Camlin and the Lough Allen Canal in effect enforce their own speed limits, but I don’t know whether there is any limit on the Shannon between Tarmonbarry and Lough Forbes. If there isn’t, perhaps a limit should be imposed to protect those on small craft.

 

Shannon traffic figures to December 2014

I am grateful to Waterways Ireland for sending me the Shannon traffic figures for the last three months of 2014. They sent them last month but I didn’t have time to deal with them until now.

Regular readers may wish to skip this section

All the usual caveats apply:

  • the underlying figures do not record total waterways usage (even for the Shannon) as, for instance, sailing, fishing or waterskiing on lakes or river stretches, which did not involve a passage through a lock or Portumna Bridge, would not be recorded
  • the passage records would not show, for instance, a change in the balance of types of activities from those in larger cruising boats to those in smaller (sailing, fishing, waterskiing) boats
  • figures like these will not necessarily be representative of those for the year as a whole. The winter months, January to March, see little traffic in any year; for April, May and June, the weather can have a large influence on the amount of activity especially, I suspect, in private boats.

On the other hand, the figures do include the Shannon’s most significant tourism activity, the cruiser hire business. And they are our only consistent long-term indicator of usage of the inland waterways.

All boats

Shannon 2003-2014 01-12 all boats_resize

Total (private + hired) traffic for the full year

As we saw in September, traffic is down on 2013, but there has been little change over the last three years.

Private boats

Shannon 2003-2014 01-12 private boats_resize

Private-boat traffic for the full years 2003 to 2014

The vertical scale on this chart is different from that for hired boats so the changes in private boating from one year to another are exaggerated (by comparison). The good weather did not prevent a fall in activity.

Hire boats

Shannon 2003-2014 01-12 hired boats_resize

Hire-boat traffic for the full years 2003 to 2014

Again, the lowest figure in my records, but the drop was small; perhaps the hire trade is bouncing along the bottom (as it were). I wonder whether anyone has a Grand Plan for recovery or rejuvenation.

Percentages of 2003 levels

Shannon 2003-2014 01-12 compared with 2003_resize

Percentages of 2003 levels

Private traffic at just over 90% of 2003 levels, hire traffic at just over 40%.

Private -v- hired

Shannon 2003-2014 01-12 private -v- hired_resize

Still roughly 50:50

Seasons

In the five months January, February, March, November and December, there were 385 passages altogether, less than 1% of total boat movements for the year. If money can be saved by ceasing to operate the locks and bridge during the winter, they should be closed except, perhaps, for one Saturday per month, to be arranged for a non-flood day.

Regions

Here is the order of popularity.

ALBERT LOCK 7205
ATHLONE LOCK  5775
CLARENDON LOCK 5650
ROOSKY LOCK 5565
PORTUMNA BRIDGE 5395
VICTORIA LOCK 4934
TARMONBARRY LOCK 3885
POLLBOY LOCK 1222
CLONDRA LOCK 1020
BATTLEBRIDGE 835
DRUMLEAGUE 797
DRUMSHANBO LOCK 387
SARSFIELD LOCK 97

Lough Allen is a delightful place but it is not popular.

Shannon traffic 2013

Some weeks ago Waterways Ireland kindly supplied me with the Shannon traffic figures for the final three months of 2013 and I have just now had a chance to add them to my spreadsheets and produce some graphs.

The usual caveats apply: the underlying figures do not record total waterways usage (even for the Shannon) as, for instance, sailing, fishing or waterskiing on lakes or river stretches, which did not involve a passage through a lock or Portumna Bridge, would not be recorded. The passage records are our only consistent long-term indicator of usage of the Shannon but they would not show, for instance, a change in the balance of types of activities from those in larger cruising boats to those in smaller (sailing, fishing, waterskiing) boats. On the other hand, they do include the Shannon’s most significant tourism activity, the cruiser hire business.

It is good to note, incidentally, that, in its draft Corporate Plan 2014–2016, Waterways Ireland says that it intends to

Develop and implement a research programme to measure waterway usage and inform planning and development.

It won’t be easy to do, but we need much better measures of all types of activities on all seven of the waterways managed by WI.

The final outcome for 2013 won’t greatly surprise anyone who has read earlier bulletins on this subject, like this covering the figures to end-September 2013. All the illustrations are based on information supplied by Waterways Ireland, with some minor adjustments by me to eliminate anomalies, but the interpretation and comments are mine own.

All boats full year

Total Shannon traffic 2003–2013, private and hired

The decline in traffic since 2003 seems to have been halted …

All boats full year %

Total Shannon traffic as a percentage of 2003 traffic

… but it is 40% below what it was in 2003.

Private boats full year %

Private-boat traffic 2003–2013 as a percentage of 2003 traffic

Traffic in private boats seems to be recovering, but what is perhaps more significant is that it never went more than 10% above or below the 2003 figure. It has been remarkably stable over the period, despite the economic crash and despite the anecdotal evidence of boats being sold to overseas owners and trucked out of the country. Perhaps larger boats were replaced by smaller? Perhaps only boats bought in the boom were sold in the bust? Unfortunately the deficiencies of the registration system make it very difficult to determine what has been happening.

Hire boats full year %

Hire-boat traffic 2003–2013 as a percentage of 2003 traffic

But if private-boat traffic has been remarkably stable since 2003, the same cannot be said of hire-boat traffic. The best that can be said of 2013 is that the figures didn’t get [much] worse, but a 60% decline since 2003 is really, really dreadful.

WI’s draft Corporate Plan, which does not explicitly mention the hire industry, talks of

… unlocking opportunities to achieve recreational growth, and economic and social development.

I don’t know whether that omission means that WI sees little prospect of a rejuvenated hire-boat industry. And I note that, other than in the titles of organisations, the draft plan rarely mentions tourism or tourists. Are the waterways only for natives? If so, is that a deliberate policy decision? Or is there something that could be done, cheaply, to help to revive waterways tourism?

Emma Kennedy, writing in the Sunday Business Post on 23 February 2014, wrote about Fáilte Ireland’s latest brainwave, which is to “target” three groups:

  • social energisers, which are gangs of young people interested in “new and vibrant destinations”, which I take to mean Temple Bar
  • culturally curious folk aged 50 or over, with money, who are interested in “exploring new landscapes, history and culture”
  • great escapers, who like energetic rural holidays with their partners.

No families with kids, I see, although “Families & Loved Ones” (the latter term, by the way, nowadays seems to mean either dead people or their relicts) were one of the two “primary target customer segments” identified in Fáilte Ireland’s Inland Cruising Market Development Strategy. (Fat lot of good that strategy did, but we mustn’t be bitter.)

Anyway, without having done any market studies (though WI has funded lots of them), it seems to me that there is scope for more tourism on the waterways, but it might not be on traditional cruisers. It might involve outdoor activities like cycling and walking along the canals and Barrow: WI’s plan discusses them, but without adverting to an overseas market. And it might involve small-boat activities — canoeing, touring rowing, small-boat sailing, camping — on Shannon, Erne and SEW: WI says it will support micro-enterprises, and those providing outdoor activity holidays may need expertise and assistance rather than hard cash.

I admit to having little evidence on this, but it seems to me to be too early to give up on the tourism potential of the waterways. And the decline of the cruiser hire business does not necessarily mean that all waterway tourism is doomed.

Private -v- hire full year

Private boats overtake hire boats

That said, 2013 was the year when, for the first time since Noah was an Able Seaman, the number of passages by private boats exceeded that by hire boats.

Checkpoints 2013

The points at which numbers were recorded

Finally, this chart suggests that any structures that were not built by the Shannon Commissioners in the 1840s will not attract many visitors. The extensions off the main stem of the Shannon — south to Limerick, west to Ballinasloe, east through Clondra, north to Lough Allen — are much less used than the main line from Lough Derg to Lough Key. It seems unlikely that any further extensions, especially to small towns that it would take three hours (at canal speed) to get to, are likely to be any more successful in attracting traffic.

Shannon traffic to June 2013

The figures for Shannon lock passages to the end of June 2013 are now available. The decline continues, though perhaps more slowly.

Shannon traffic Jan to June percent

Shannon lock and bridge passages January to June as percentages of the 2003 number

The usual caveats apply: the underlying figures (kindly supplied by Waterways Ireland) do not record total waterways usage because, for instance, sailing, fishing or waterskiing on lakes or river stretches, which did not involve a passage through a lock or Portumna Bridge, would not be recorded. The passage records are our only consistent long-term indicator of usage of the Shannon but they would not show, for instance, a change in the balance of types of activities from those in larger cruising boats to those in smaller (sailing, fishing, waterskiing) boats. It is quite possible, therefore, that overall usage might be increasing while long-distance cruising was declining.

Shannon traffic Jan to June private

Shannon lock and bridge passages by private boats January to June

As it happens, the figures show a small increase over 2012 in passages by private boats. I suspect that July’s warm weather will spur a further increase.

Folk living in Ireland, whether owners or prospective hirers, are likely to be able to react quickly to better (or worse) weather by doing more (or less) boating; folk living abroad may be less able to change their holiday plans. Accordingly, July’s weather might (I’m speculating here) mean an increase in passages by private boats and by boats hired by Irish residents; it might not lead to an increase in hiring from abroad.

Traffic in hired boats continued to decline in June.

Shannon traffic Jan to June hire

Shannon lock and bridge passages by hired boats January to June

That decline outweighed the small increase in private traffic, leading to an overall decline in the first six months as compared with the same period in 2012, which itself continued the pattern set in 2007.

Shannon traffic Jan to June all

Shannon lock and bridge passages by all boats January to June

I wondered whether the figures might show any change in the geographical distribution of activity. WI’s reports don’t show separate figures for private and hired boats for the individual locks, but it seems to me that the hire business is becoming more concentrated on northern waters, from Lough Ree upwards. If that is so, then there might be an increase in the proportion of passages through the northern locks, from Tarmonbarry upwards, and a decrease in the proportion passing through Portumna Bridge and Meelick (Victoria) Lock.

I put the WI reporting stations in four groups:

  • Portumna + Meelick
  • Athlone
  • Tarmonbarry, Clondra, Roosky, Jamestown (Albert), Knockvicar (Clarendon)
  • the also-rans: the three locks leading to Lough Allen, Pollboy leading to Ballinasloe, the Limerick sea-lock (Sarsfield).

The figures suggest that the distribution is indeed changing, but gradually rather than dramatically. Athlone’s figures are pretty steady, the outliers are declining slightly and Portumna + Meelick are declining a bit more; the northern locks (Tarmonbarry to Knockvicar) are taking the gains. Comments or alternative interpretations welcome.

Change by region

Lock passages by group

The figures for 2013 are for the six months January to June; those for other years are for twelve months.

The locks could of course be grouped in other ways, and I may try some of them in future months.

A disappointed reader …

… or so I imagine.  One person has today viewed my post about swinging moorings – after using the search term “swingers tarmonbarry”.

Swingers? In Tarmonbarry? Who knew?