Tag Archives: trackway

Towing paths and trackways

…  it shall be lawful for any grand jury in Ireland to present at any assizes such sums of money as may be necessary to repair or widen, to any width not exceeding fifteen feet, any towing path and trackway on the bank of any navigable river on which boats have been accustomed to be towed by horses, such sums to be levied off all the baronies and half baronies in the county or riding of the county in which such towing path and trackway are situate; and such sums so to be levied may be originally presented for at the presentment sessions held in and for the barony in which such towing path and trackway are locally situate.

The Grand Jury (Ireland) Act, 1873

78. A trackway on the bank of any navigable river within the meaning of the Grand Juries Act, 1873, shall, without prejudice to the reasonable use thereof for any purpose connected with navigation, be a public highway, and shall continue to be maintainable as provided by that Act.

Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898

 

Tories on the Barrow and the Shannon

I read here that Olivia O’Leary, who chairs a Save the Barrow Line committee, says that the Barrow Line (trackway or towing-path)

[…] is a natural amenity and should be maintained as it is.

It isn’t. It is an entirely artificial creation, built to enable the use of horses to tow boats. Any geraniums, beetles, butterflies or tweetie-birds using it are interlopers, squatters and trespassers and should be paying rent; at the very least they should take second place to humans.

The Grand Canal Company often complained about the poor quality of the Barrow trackway: the surface was not up to the job. If it is to cater for more users, it may well need to be improved. That is an engineering decision on which I am not competent to pronounce but, as the Barrow is pretty well a dead loss for long-distance cruising by larger boats, it needs to be redesigned for walkers, cyclists and canoeists.

But at least the Barrow NIMBYs are prepared to accept more boats. Dr William O’Connor of the Old River Shannon Research Group writes about the Shannon here, complaining about the small number of “garish canoes” that occasionally travel downstream from Castleconnell to Clareville. Dr O’Connor asks

[…] why has it become a free-for-all for canoeists?

The answer is that there is a right to navigate, as I pointed out here (with an addendum here): I have had no response from the ESB so, while being open to correction, I maintain my position. Anglers may believe that their interests are paramount on that stretch of the Shannon: I disagree. Of course I would be all in favour of discussions between anglers, kayakers, dog-walkers and other users (even environmentalists), but such discussions cannot be based on a presumption that one group has all the rights, or that one activity is of supreme importance, and that the rest are secondary.

For some reason, canoes operated by commercial providers are particularly to be condemned, although it is not clear how salmon and lampreys can distinguish between public-sector, private-sector and voluntary-sector canoes — or whether they would be bothered anyway: Dr William O’Connor says

It is noted that there has been little scientific research on the ecological impact of canoeing.

In other words, there is no reason to believe that there is any basis for the concerns expressed by Dr O’Connor or by various anglers.

More broadly, though, the common factor on the Shannon and the Barrow is that existing users of public facilities are resisting new or expanded uses and seeking to protect their privileges. Irish Toryism is alive and well.

Addendum: this is probably the solution to the salmon problem.

Backtracking the Barrow trackway

Some time ago I put up a page about the Barrow trackway [towing-path]. For some reason, the page disappeared shortly afterwards. I have now recreated it; unless or until it disappears again, it is here.

Crossing the Barrow

The trackway [towing-path] on the River Barrow changes from the east {left) bank to the west at Leighlinbridge and back again at Graiguecullen/Carlow.

It seems to me that there may have been some difficulties in getting horse-drawn boats from one side of the river to the other and I have found no evidence on how it was done, so here is some speculation instead.

Luddite loons

I have commented from time to time on the reluctance of some Irish folk to move beyond the technologies of the eighteenth century. Thus we find Shinners wanting canals all over the place and folk in Leitrim determined that, if Ireland has oil and gas, they must never be used. [That’s the Leitrim that had both a coal and an iron industry, by the way, as well as hydroelectricity, railways, a brickworks and a dockyard, to name but a few industries that come to mind.]

The latest target of the ire of the Luddites is that newfangled invention, the bicycle. Waterways Ireland might like to provide for folk to cycle along the trackway on the Barrow Navigation; some folk want to keep the dreaded bicycle, and presumably its Lycra-clad users, away from the trackway along which they like to walk.

Happily, some sane folk have written letters to the blatts and IndustrialHeritageIreland has a sensible comment.

I presume that the Luddites insist that the grass be cut using scythes, thus creating much local employment.

Waterways Ireland and the cuts …

WI’s tree-cutting on the Barrow.

The Lagan and Lough Neagh in 1830

Philip Dixon Hardy wrote in The Northern Tourist, or Stranger’s Guide to the north and north west of Ireland: including a particular description of Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway, and every object of picturesque interest in the district referred to William Curry, Jun and Co, Dublin 1830:

The river Lagan, although of very considerable breadth in the immediate vicinity of Belfast, and running nearly thirty miles, is yet by far too inconsiderable to be of any great advantage to the town in the way of trade or commerce. By its means, however, a regular communication is kept up between Belfast, Lisburn, and Lough Neagh. Since the year 1755, upwards of £100,000 have been expended in forming a canal, by the assistance of cuts in various places along the line of the river, where it was found too shallow for lighters to pass.

The Lagan Navigation Company have now the direction of the entire line, and have made such judicious improvements, as materially to promote the desired object — a speedy transit of goods and merchandise. This, however, can, after all, be only partially accomplished, as, from the circumstance of the Company not being able to have a horse-track-way along the entire line, nor to introduce steam power, the journey can be performed in a much shorter space of time by waggons and drays going direct. On Lough Neagh there is a small steam-vessel, by which the goods taken up in the lighters are rapidly conveyed to the different towns which lie in various directions round that extensive sheet of water.

W A McCutcheon, in The Canals of the North of Ireland David and Charles, Dawlish 1965, confirms the point about the trackway:

As a result [of various improvements in the early 1800s] traffic greatly increased, though water supply problems remained, and there was a horse-towing path for only part of the length of the navigation.

He gives no details, though, so I don’t know why the trackway was incomplete, how lighters travelled on those stretches that had no trackway or when and how the deficiency was remedied. My guess is that those stretches were along the river rather than the artificial cuts and that the riparian landowners were unhelpful, but I would welcome further information.

McCutcheon does not mention the steamer on Lough Neagh. However, D B McNeill mentions it in Coastal Passenger Steamers and Inland Navigations in the North of Ireland Belfast Museum and Art Gallery Transport Handbook No 3 1960:

The first steamer on the lough was the Lagan Navigation Company’s Marchioness of Donegall. She was built by Ritchie and MacLaine of Belfast, her engines were obtained from David Napier of Glasgow and she was launched at Ellis Gut in November, 1821. She was the first inland navigation steamer in Ireland and was used for towing the Lagan canal boats across the lough. When new, she was reputed to have had a speed of two knots. She was uneconomical and her owners tried to sell her in 1824, but there were no buyers. It is believed the Marquess of Donegall used her occasionally as a yacht. She was broken up sometime about 1840 and her engines were stored in Belfast.

In his Irish Passenger Steamship Services Volume 1: North of IrelandAugustus M Kelley Publishers, New York 1969 he says that the Marchioness was a wooden paddle steamer, built in 1821 and broken up in 1843, 73′ long with a beam of 16′, with a simple single-cylinder engine. He says that the engine cost £1,400, provided 30hp and gave her a speed of 6 knots. A passenger service was considered but never provided, but picnic parties could charter the boat for five guineas a day.

 

A use for the Royal

In an article on making use of the Royal Canal, I wrote:

[…] I am neither active in user groups nor a confidant of Waterways Ireland, so it is quite possible that folk have developed, or are developing, some plans to increase use of the Royal and Grand Canals (and the Barrow): plans that involve boats rather than, say, cyclists or walkers, who don’t actually need a functioning canal, just wayleaves and interesting artefacts to look at. I’d like to see such plans published on the Waterways Ireland website, but I haven’t found anything there.

But it seems that the cyclists may get in first. According to a report in today’s Irish Times [which may eventually disappear behind a paywall]:

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has instructed the National Roads Authority to examine possible routes for a cross-country cycle path from Dublin to Galway, similar to the award-winning Great Western Greenway in Co Mayo.

Mr Varadkar, who is also responsible for tourism and sport, said he wanted to secure funding for the project he predicted had the potential to bring in at least €15 million per annum. While a proposed route remained to be decided, the Royal Canal was an “obvious candidate” for the stretch outside Dublin from Mullingar to Maynooth, he said.

[…] Mr Varadkar said the proposed Galway-Dublin facility should be open to walkers as well as cyclists, like the Great Western Greenway.

Nothing wrong with any of that, of course. And perhaps walking and cycling routes could be developed in other ares, eg from Belturbet to Clones ….

Notice, by the way, that the news story mentions the National Roads Authority and the National Transport Authority. But which body is not mentioned?

Who took the arch? A Shannon whodunnit

O’Briensbridge is a village in Co Clare, islanded between the headrace of the Ardnacrusha hydroelectric power station and the River Shannon. Up to 1929 the river was the navigation between Limerick and Lough Derg (and eventually Dublin), and the bridge itself was something of an obstacle to navigation.

In 1832 the engineer Thomas Rhodes drew a sketch of the bridge with 14 arches, whereas nowadays it has only 12. We know when the seven arches on the Co Limerick side were reduced to six, but it has not been clear when an arch was removed from the Clare side. I think I know the answer; you can read it here.