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Maritime News Archive 2009

The weather in Waterford has been unusually cold over the Christmas period with hard frosts and icy conditions, leading to hazardous driving, though it has been far worse elsewhere in Ireland. We were also spared the severe floods that affected many parts of Ireland prior to that in what were truly horrendous conditions up the west of Ireland in particular. Fortunately, there have been no storms, and, thankfully, no issues at sea around our coasts. Photo shows a flooded Ennis, County Clare, in November 2009, during the height of the floods. [28th Dec 2009]


The Mighty Suir was featured on Nationwide, an Irish TV programme, on Monday 7th December 2009. It examines all the moods of this fantastic river, its history, heritage and its ferocity when unleashed by storms and heavy rains.

Liam Clancy, the last surviving member of the Clancy Brothers, died today (4th December 2009), aged 74, in Cork after a long illness. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem were one of the best Irish ballad groups of their generation and for many years they charmed the world over with their music, songs and laughter, especially in America where they were a big hit. Liam loved sea songs and shanties and sang a good number of them, and well at that, over a long career. Liam was born in Carrick-on-Suir and he lived the later years of his life in Ring, the beautiful Gaeltacht area of County Waterford. Hooks and Crookes joined him once for a song on the quay of Waterford during the Tall Ships Race in 2005, when he broadcast live to the nation during that fantastic few days of Tall Ships, music, song and craic. We salute you Liam, and for a life well lived.

Liam Clancy

Since it was founded 185 years ago, the RNLI has rescued over 137,000 people off the coastal waters off Ireland & Great Britain. trent LifeboatIn 2009 alone, crew have been called out over 8000 times, up to end November. Responding to rescue calls in often atrocious conditions places an immense strain on the resources of the RNLI, and particularly the volunteer crews and their gear. Waterproof kit and safety equipment, which must be of the highest standard to withstand the terrible conditions they are exposed to, need constant repair or replacement. The RNLI have just launched an appeal for funds to kit out crew members (it can cost over 1100 euros to kit out a new crew member). Please give as generously as you can for this worthy appeal. Ring 1800 991 899 (quoting KIT) or send a donation to RNLI IRELAND, PO Box 4214, Freepost, Dublin 2.

On the morningEllen Vanin of 3rd December 1909 the SS Ellan Vannin of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co. left the Isle of Man at 01.13 bound for Liverpool. She was carrying 15 passengers, 21 crew plus mail and 60 tons of cargo. Captain James Teare of Douglas with 18 years of experience was at the helm. Although the barometric pressure was falling as she left port, the captain did not expect any trouble. However the weather rapidly deteriorated and, by 06.35 when she arrived at the Mersey Bar storm, force 11 winds with 20 foot waves battered the boat. She foundered between the Mersey Bar and the Q1 buoy on the Mersey approach channel. All passengers and crew were lost. Hughie Jones wrote a song about the Ellan Vannin, which was first performed by his group "The Spinners" from Liverpool. We have added this this beautiful and evocative song to our repertoire to commemorate the 100th anniversary of her sinking and the loss of her gallant crew and passengers.

The N25 Waterford City Bypass: Waterford has a new bridge over the majestic River Suir, the long, wide and tidal river that passes through our historic City. The cable-stayed bridge is the longest in Ireland and was officially opened on Monday 19th October 2009 by the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Mr Martin Cullen TD, himself a Waterford City man, who said that it this new gateway heralds a new beginning for Waterford and the south east. Around 14,000 vehicles a day are expected to cross the iconic 465 metre bridge, an imposing structure that that dominates the area visually. The new bypass will remove 12,000 vehicles a day from the Quay in Waterford City as they pass though the County on the way to Cork and beyond. Built at a cost of more than 500 million euro and 10 months ahead of schedule, the Suir now has another bridge. 'The Long Reach' here will never be the same ('The Long Reach' is the local name for the stretch of the Suir upstream of the new Bridge, sometimes stated as 'The Wretch')!

Waterford Bridge

Alexander Nimmo Master Engineer 1783-1832. 2009 is the 200th anniversary of the setting up of the Commission for the Bogs of Ireland. The Commission was arguably the first attempt by the government of the United Kingdom after the Union to address the infrastructural deficit of Ireland. The Commission brought to Ireland Alexander Nimmo, friend of Thomas Telford and until then rector of Inverness Academy. Nimmo spent the rest of hisNimmo Book life in his adopted country. His influence on it was profound, not only in the civil engineering structures he left behind (including many ports, piers and harbours, of which there are some in Waterford), but in his seminal role in the emergence of the Irish Ordnance Survey, the Office of Public Works, the Hydrographic Survey of Ireland and the Fisheries Commission. A new book on his life and times, written by Professor Noel P Wilkins, was recently published on the life of this unique and important character and his role in events in early nineteenth century Ireland. It gives new insights into events and persons of the time never previously covered and questions some long-held beliefs regarding them and the pre-famine period. Based on four years of research in archives and libraries all over Ireland and Britain, it reveals and explains for the first time, the motivation and full range of his activities in Ireland and Britain. Well worth buying. A nice Christmas present

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) was established under an International Convention in Geneva in 1948 and the IMO first met in IMO1959. It maintains a comprehensive requlatory framework for shipping and oversees safety, environmental issues, legal matters, technical co-operation, security and the overall efficiency of shipping on the oceans of the world. Every year the IMO celebrates World Maritime Day which is usually celebrated by individual Governments in the last week of September. The IMO has also declared that next year, 2010, will be the Year of the Seafarer, which will give the international maritime community the opportunity to celebrate and pay tribute the world's seafarers for their contribution to society.

September 18-20th 2009: How many of us seafarers have fond memories of watching Mutiny on the Bounty in our younger days, that beauBountytiful film depicting glamour and treason on the high seas in 1789 of Taihiti. Well, you have an excellent opportunity to relive the days of your youth because The Bounty is visiting Cobh in County Cork this weekend. The present replica boat was built in 1960 and she is on a six month tour of Europe. Fresh from participating in the Tall Ships Race in Belfast, she should be a major attraction this weekend in Cork

Kinsale plaqueKinsale is a beautiful coastal town just west of Cork City which once had a thriving boat-building industry. For example, in 1727, the Admiralty Dockyard at Kinsale had a master carpenter with 60 joiners and turners, a master boatswain, forty shipwrights, a master caulker and his men, together with smiths, malsters, coopers and their labourers. However the Admiralty Dockyard moved to Haulbowline in 1805 but several boatyards continued to operate in Kinsale. One of the more popular boats to be built in the Kinsale boatyards was the Kinsale hooker. These were from 30 to 40 feet in length and weighed from 15 to 20 tons. While they were used mainly for fishing, they probably also carried supplies from the area. Unfortunately no Kinsale hooker survives unlike the Galway Hooker, of which there are many.

The Stavros S Niarchos was in Waterford on September 9th 2009 and tied up on the Quay. Owned by the Tall Ships Youth Trust, this magnificenStavros Niarchost 60 metre square-rigged brig works 12 months of the year around the UK and abroad, offering Tall Ship Adventure Sailing Trips. She is a two masted vessel with square sails on both masts and carries five yards on each mast (moving up: Course, Lower Topsail, Upper Topsail, Topgallant and Royal), and a total of 18 sails. In good conditions she has managed speeds of just over 13 knots (24 km/h). A beautiful boat. Another 60m square-rigged brig, the Prince William, is for sale by the Tall Ships Youth Trust so that four 22m ocean going yachts can be purchased by the Trust. She was a regular visitor to Waterford under Captain Keating, a Waterford man. Both brigs were in Waterford for the Tall Ships Race in 2005.

A MEMORIAL dedicated to those died while saving lives at sea has been unveiled at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) headquarters at Poole, Dorset, UK. The new sculpture commemorates the 778 people, including 65 Irish, who died at sea while saving others. Former Dun Laoghaire lifeboat volunteer Billy Scully read out the list of Irish lifeboat stations that lost people while on rescue missions and crews around Britain and Ireland held a one-minute silence at 12.20pm as well as lowering the RNLI flag. The 4.5m high sculpture of a person in a boat saving another from the water was designed by Sam Holland and is inscribed with the family motto of the RNLI's founder, Sir William Hillary: "With courage, nothing is impossible".

Jeanie JohnstonThe Jeanie Johnston is owned by the Dublin Docklands Authority (DDA) and they have decided to run the replica famine ship as a floating museum in 2010, due to funding difficulties, and the ship will no longer sail unless funding is made available in future years. The Jeanie Johnston is modelled on a three-masted barque built in 1847 which was used to carry Irish people escaping the Famine to north America. Not one life was lost on the 16 voyages she made, due in part to the captain, James Attridge, who kept a tight ship, and the doctor on board, Richard Blennerhasset, who looked after the passengers. The Jeanie Johnston was built in Fenit, Co Kerry, and left the slipway in 2002, after many years in the making, having incurred considerable cost overruns in the process. She was fitted out with 2 Caterpillar main engines and generators and is compliant with the highest standards of ocean going vessels. She visited Waterford for the Tall Ships in 2005 and again in 2008 when Hooks and Crookes were delighted to sing for the gallant pilgrims who sailed from Waterford to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago. She is unlikely now to sail again for some time though the DDA have, apparently, engaged a west of Ireland company to ensure that she remains in tip-top shape and sailworthy.

TALL SHIPS OF THE SKY....crew member Olly Lupton was in Chambley air base, France in late July for the biggest hot air balloon event in Europe. 326 balloons ascending at the same time. What a sight!

The Tall Ships are coming to Belfast from the 13th-16th August 2009 and the port of Belfast will play host to several of these magnificent vessels onTall Ship the last leg of the Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge. They are in Belfast for 4 days in what should be a spectacular event. There is a Maritime Festival in the area at the same time and five main sites are dedicated to various activities: Clarendon Dock, Pollock Dock, Queens Quay, Albert Quay and entertainment is scheduled for Custom House Square. So look out for fireworks, Yakolev displays (acrobatic aircraft), continental markets, funfair rides, street entertainers, climbing walls, a dive tank, arts and crafts, live music, a strongest man competition and much much more (strangely, there appears to be no shanty groups........hmmmmm). So head for Belfast this August if you want fun and frolics among some of the most spectacular ships in the world.

Cover of bookRambling Down the Suir is the title of a new book, launched on the 21st May by Michael Ryan (of Nationwide) in the Book Centre in Waterford City. Written by noted author and travel writer, Michael Fewer (his 17th publication), the book describes the Suir as it flows from humble origins high up in the Devil's Bit Mountain right down to where it joins the other two rivers that make up the Three Sisters on its way to the sea. Hooks and Crookes were delighted to sing seasongs and riversongs with a local flavour at the launch. The book is published by Ashfield Press.

An engraved wall panel on the Interpretative Centre at the Hook Lighthouse has the following dedication:

Roll of Honour

Distinguished Mariners Who Originated From Churchtown The Hook Co. Wexford

Capt. Matty Colfer
Square Rigged Master

Commodore John Breen
White Star Line Liverpool

Capt. Patrick Colfer
Royal Auxillary Service

Capt. John Fortune
Blue Funnel Line

Capt. Michael Crowley Snr.
Lieutenant American Navy

John Crowley
Mate in Sailing Ship

Charles Colfer
SS Port Chalmers, Cunard Line

Dedicated to those brave Mariners who By Hook or by Crook Sailed the seven seas with Honour and Distinction

The Lusitania was a luxury ocean liner owned by the Cunard Company and built in Scotland by John Brown & Company. She was hit by a German torpedo on the 7th May 1915 off the Old Head of Kinsale on the south Irish coast while on her way from New York to Liverpool. This week marks the 94th anniversary of the sinking, in which 1198 of the 1959 people on board lost their lives. Only 289 bodies were recovered and 169 of these were buried in the Old Church cemetery in Cobh, County Cork, in three mass graves. Other victims are buried in the grounds of the Church of St Multose in Kinsale, Co Cork. The anniversary was commemorated in Cobh on the 4th May 2009 with a ceremony, prayers, laying of wreaths and a parade to the Lusitania Peace Memorial in Casement Square led by representatives of the Royal Naval Association and other maritime and historical groups.

The name of Fethard, Co Wexford, was changed to Fethard-on-Sea following a tragic loss of life at sea when the lifeboat Helen Blake capsized in 1914 on a service mission to the schooner Mexico off the Keeragh Islands. Nine of the crew of the Fethard lifeboat tragically died and just five survived. There was a huge outpouring of sympathy for the village and money came in from all around the world. However there are two Fethards in Ireland and much of this money ended up in the other Fethard, which is in County Tipperary, so the name of the village where the crew were from was changed to Fethard- on-Sea to distinguish it. This now has modern implications in that tourists, wishing to visit Fethard-on-Sea, and who key in Fethard on their in-car GPS satnav units are being sent to Tipperary! So if you are visiting Ireland and wishing to visit Fethard-on-Sea make sure you key that name in or Fethard, Wexford.

The Tenacious is coming to Waterford. Sailing from Southampton, England, SV Tenacious is due to arrive in Waterford on the 26th May 2009. Shetenacious will then sail on an exciting 11 day voyage exploring the Irish coastline before finally departing Waterford en route to Liverpool on the 7th June 2009. The Jubilee Sailing Trust (JST), the UK based international sailing charity, who run this Tall Ship, are offering Irish citizens 3 voyages where up to 40 people can experience the thrill and adventure of tall ship sailing, regardless of their physical ability. Voyage 1 is from Southampton to Waterford, 18th - 26th May (9 days), Voyage 2 is around the coast of Ireland from Waterford and then back to Waterford, 27th - 06th June (11 days) and finally Voyage 3 is from Waterford to Liverpool, 07th - 13th June (7 days). Tenacious and her sister ship, Lord Nelson are the only tall ships in the world purpose designed and built to enable able bodied and disabled sailors to sail side by side as equals. The JST is keen to hear from anyone who would like to sail aboard Tenacious this spring.

Richard SibleyRichard Sebley is a freelance photographer who specialises in photographs of tall ships, traditional boats and seascapes of every description and his beautiful images can be viewed at exhibitions all over Ireland, Britain and in and Europe. He is in Waterford from mid-March on for a week, displaying his many fine photographs (he was outside Dunnes Stores last Saturday, 14th March and was enthusiastically engaged by our own Captain Long - an image of the Asgard will soon arrive!).

Tall Ships 2009: The event starts in April and concludes in August 2009. A fleet of Tall Ships will compete in each leg of the race which is open to any monohull sailing vessel that complies with the Sail Training International Racing and Sailing Rules and Special Regulations. Anyone with a sense of adventure can sign up to take part as a trainee crew member in any of the race legs for an experience of a lifetime! Sailing in the Challenge will be exciting and competitive … and the Race will visit host ports in Vigo (Spain) at the end of April, Tenerife in the Canary Islands (14-17 May), Bermuda (12-16 June), the US (Charlestown and Boston, 26 June to 12 July), Halifax in Canada (16-20 July) and finally to Belfast in Northern Ireland (13-16 August). All these ports are currently preparing a fabulous welcome for the fleet and trainee crews. One of the ships taking part is the Tenacious, the largest wooden tall ship of her kind in the world and constructed using an innovative wood epoxy laminate, started in 1996. She competed in the Tall Ships' Race for the very first time in the 2005 visit of the Tall Ships to Waterford and enjoyed considerable success finishing 2nd in Class A of the first race from Waterford and 4th in Class A of the Newcastle Gateshead to Fredrikstad race.

Lighthouse DunmoreAlexander Nimmo was a remarkable engineer. Born in Kircaldy, Scotland in 1783, he moved to Ireland in 1811 where he was employed by a number of government bodies on various key projects throughout the country. In 1814-15, not long after arriving in Ireland, Alexander Nimmo was commissioned to design and oversee the construction of the harbour at Dunmore East, including the lighthouse (see photo left). He conducted surveys for the Bog Commission in Kerry and Galway and in 1820 he was employed by the Commission for Irish Fisheries, for whom he surveyed two-thirds of the coastline. Some of his notable projects include the erection of over forty piers along the west coast, the founding of the village of Roundstone in Galway and the construction of two hundred and forty-three miles of road in the west of Ireland. He died at his home in Marlborough Street, Dublin, in January 1832.

For over 50 years, she has endured storms, even hurricane-force winds. So it was fitting that the South Rock lightship's final day on-station, guarding the dangerous area off the County Down coast from which she gets her name, was a pleasant, sunlit one. The very last of the lightships stationed aroundSouthrock the coast of Ireland, the South Rock was only automated in 1982. Now her great red bulk has been replaced by a modest state-of-the-art navigation buoy. Although lightships have been anchored off the Irish coast for more than two centuries, the one off the South Rock is a recent blow-in, having been there for just over 120 years. Manned by up to seven of a crew, life on board would have been fairly tedious on quiet days and "interesting" in bad weather. But technology and cost have taken their toll. The ship has been replaced by a much cheaper navigation buoy. It has even been connected to the lightship's former anchor chain. On Wednesday, the LV Gannet seemed a little forlorn as it was finally towed away behind the Irish Lights huge service vessel, Granuaile. In the past it would have been off to the scrapyard, but this time it is off to await a new owner. The ship has been put up for sale and one Irish Lights commissioner quipped that she has "delivery mileage only".

Bill Irish publiBill Irish's Bookshed a fine book in 2001 on Shipbuilding in Waterford in the 19th century, to much acclaim. It is a remarkable study of shipbuilding on the Suir, which bounds our beautiful county to the north and east. A new book, Blackwater and Bride, Navigation and Trade, 7000O'Briens Book BC to 2007, has just been published by Niall O'Brien and describes in some detail the navigation and trade on the River Blackwater which borders the west of our county. The book combines neglected published material along with a vast range of unused archive material. The various river quays and ferries along both Blackwater and Bride are also described. The book should be available locally and is priced at €25 (Bill Irish's book should also be available at €40). The Suir and Blackwater are two of the major rivers in Ireland and we are fortunate to now have a historical record of previous activities on both.

New BridgeThe Mighty River Suir will soon have a new and dominating bridge. The N25 Waterford Bypass route crosses the River Suir near the bend in the river at Granny, close to Granny Castle and a new cable-stayed bridge with its 100 metre tall tower is currently under construction. 230 metre main span will be the longest span bridge in Ireland. A series of stay cables" fan out from the top of the tower to support the main span at intervals of about 10 metres. Corresponding cables fan to the back spans using the weight of the back span and anchor piles to balance the forces and "keep the tower standing straight". The cable-stayed design means the bridge can be built without in-river supports so there is little or no construction works in the fast flowing and deep river and hence no interference with salmon passing upriver to spawn. The design also ensures that there will be a greater clearance for boats and craft to pass under the bridge. The photograph shows the present state of the bridge in mid-February 2009.

Local architect and prominent businessman, Nicky Fewer, died 26th March 2009. He was a keen amateur sailor and was the main man behind the veryNicky fewer successful visit of the Tall Ships to Waterford in 2005, when 450,000 people came to visit. He particularly liked shanties. Hooks and Crookes are proud to have sung for him, and again for one last time as he was laid to rest in Ballygunner cemetery on Saturday 28th March. Our deepest sympathies go to his family.

East Coast wrecks coverThere are around 15000 shipwrecks in Irish territorial waters, and at least 3000 of these are off the counties of Louth, Meath, Dublin and Wicklow. The Underwater Archaeology Unit of the Department of Environment Heritage & Local Government has spent the last 10 years quantifying Ireland's maritime heritage and creating an archive of recorded incidences of wrecking around our coast. This has resulted in a comprehensive inventory and is now presented in a highly illustrated volume (February 2007), The Shipwreck Inventory of Ireland: Louth, Meath, Dublin and Wicklow, compiled by Karl Brady and published by the National Monuments Service at €35.The book should help raise awareness of the need to protect and record the many different elements of our maritime heritage and lead to a better understanding of the maritime history of the east coast of Ireland. Well worth supporting by all shanty men.

The Irish Pub is the name of a beautiful book published in 2008, describing some of Ireland's best known pubs. Written by James Fennell and TurtleIrish Pub Bunbury, and published by Thames and Hudson, at €24.99, the book includes photographs and details of just two pubs in Waterford, one of which, Kennedys of Callaghane, is our spiritual home where we practice, sing, talk about songs, the sea and the general state of the nation. Recently, an RTE television crew visited Kennedys to record a programme for Nationwide, and this was was broadcast on RTE1 on Wednesday 11th Feb, 7-7.30. Hooks and Crookes sang a song, Roseanna, a part of which was aired during the programme.

Three TowersTramore Bay has always been a notorious graveyard for boats of all sizes, and particularly for sailing ships in the 19th Century. In the period 1816-1899, there were a total of 83 shipwrecks in the Bay, with the loss of 44 lives. In 1821 beacon towers were erected on either headland at the entrance to Tramore Bay, with three towers at Great Newtown Head on the western side and two on the eastern side at Brownstown Head in an effort to direct ships away from the Bay. However they proved to be ineffective in bad weather or at night. Nevertheless, the famous Metal Man at Great Newtown Head is still standing and telling all who venture near to stay clear of the Bay. He was given a coat of paint recently and now looks much better than shown in the photo. He is standing on one of the three towers (the middle one) at Great Newtown Head on the west side of Tramore Bay.

Metal Man

Eoghan Massey, from Waterford, was the captain of the Ouzel, a galley that sailed out from Ringsend in Dublin one day in autumn 1695 with a cargo bound for Ismir in Turkey. She was never heard of again (assumed lost at sea) until she sailed back up the Liffey five years later to the strains of an old sea shanty as the crew heaved her toward the howling crowd on the quay. Was she captured by Algerine corsairs or did the crew turn to piracy (her hold had a more valuable cargo than she left with)? When in Sixmilebridge we met a man, Vincent Delaney, from a seafaring family who very kindly sent us on the words of a song about the Ouzel. The ballad is called "The Ouzel from Ringsend" from Joe Ranson who wrote Songs of the Wexford Coast.

One of the verses is:
The Ouzel bound for Tripoli, set sail from Dublin Town
And since she was a gallant ship, her owners travelled down
To Ringsend in the morning, while the sailors slaved and swore
To see her slip her moorings for that rich eastern shore

One of our own crew, Captain Long, wrote a song about the same Ouzel and the second verse is:

The Ouzel was a Galley from Dublin Town
She plied her trade in the oceans around
With a large local crew and some officers on board
The captain named Massey was from Waterford

The Met Office's Marine Automatic Weather Stations (MAWS) network consists of 11 moored buoys and seven systems on lightships andMAWS islands. Each moored buoy measures air pressure, air and sea temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, wave height and period and are solar powered. During winter 2007/8 the moored buoy network recorded several extreme wave events. In December the K3 buoy measured a wave height of 18.2 m and in March K2 measured a wave height of — the two highest wave events ever recorded by the network. The incidence of severe wave conditions in the north-east Atlantic is increasing and the buoy network provides key time series to monitor these changes. The stations transmit their observations hourly — 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

200 years ago on Tuesday 27th January 1809, the Brig "Caledonia" of Glasgow with John Stewart as Master and bound from Alicante to Belfast with 500 bales of Bartilla, 500 bundles of cane reeds and bags of nuts was wrecked in Tramore Bay. Thankfully the crew of 14 were saved. Tramore Bay is west of Brownstown Head (to the left of the headland shown below).

200 years ago, on the 17th January 1809, a 350 tons ship called the "Trinity" from Bristol, was on route from Bristol to Tobago with a cargo Brownstown Headof dry goods and earthenware, when it was wrecked at Brazen Head near Brownstown Head in east Waterford. Out of the crew of 21 and 2 passengers on board, 7 crew were saved. Many of the bodies including the Master James White were buried at Stradbally, again on the coast of Waterford and within sight of the sea.

Seascapes is the name of a book published by Tom MacSweeney, RTÉ Marine Correspondent and presenter of the Seascapesprogramme of the same name for a good many years (Tom asked us to sing live for the radio programme he did in Waterford for the Tall Ships visit to the City in July 2005). The book includes some of the fascinating stories to feature in the show over those years such as the coastline of Ireland, the achievements of Irish mariners at home and in world history, stories of adventure and heroism, including the landing of the Munster Fusiliers at Gallipoli in World War One; why 400 people died to build Dun Laoghaire Harbour, the amazing Barna bog boat; the West Cork schooner attacked by the German Air Force; sleeping on the job at the Baily Lighthouse; the last of the Ringsend boat builders; the Derrynane sailor at the top of the world and an amazing submarine commander and lots of other interesting and informative accounts. Well worth a read for anyone interested in the sea. Price is 25 and should be in local bookshops or libraries.

The Lady Lansdowne, a paddle steamer of 140 tons, 130 feet long and 17 feet wide is the world's oldest surviving iron paddle steamer. She was built in Liverpool in 1833 at the Birkhead Iron Works (later to become the renowned shipbuilders, Cammell Laird Foundry). Because she was so big she had to be assembled piece by piece from parts carried by barge from Dublin vie Lough Derg to Killaloe. She was the world's first iron ship with watertight bulkheads and she was the largest steamship to ply her trade on Ireland's largest river, the Shannon, ferrying cargo and passengers between Portumna and Killaloe until around 1866. She had two 45 horsepower steam engines and could pull up to four barges and she usually completed the trip from Portumna to Killaloe in around 2 hours and 15 minutes. She was eventually beached in the shallows on the Ballina side of the Shannon and now lies submerged at Ballina's Derg Marina. Because of her age, she is protected under the Irish National Monuments Act. However hopes are now high that she may be raised and incorporated as a maritime feature in a major but locally controversial development proposed for the site.

Lough Derg

The Traditional Boats of Ireland, published in June 2008, is a monumental work on the rich diversity of traditional boats found throughout Ireland. As well as the book itself, published by The Collins Press,, there is a website accompanying the publication which provides additional information on the book, boats and people involved in traditional boats in Ireland: see There is also a photographic gallery which, among all the photos,shows snap-net fishing on our home river here in Waterford, the might Suir.

Snap-net Fisherman

December and January have always been hard months for those at sea and especially here in the south east. For example, this month is the 91st anniversary of the sinking of the two Waterford steamers the Coningbeg and the Formby with the loss of 83 lives (1917). But it was 120 years this December in 1888 that the sailing ship the ETTA sank off Creadan Head as she sailed into Waterford harbour to escape the bad weather on her way from New Brunswick in Canada to Lancashire in England. This was the same year that the Sailing Ship Alfred D Snow sank at the entrance to Waterford Harbour with the loss of 29 lives, (this fine boat gave its name to the main bar of the Ocean Hotel in Dunmore East). Compare these tragedies with 1867 when on the 19th January the Suir (apparently) was frozen from bank to bank or, on the 4th December 1878, when the Suir froze between Carrick on Suir and Waterford.

A beautiful painting of the SS Portlairge, also painted by KB Cleere, accompanies the Great Western in a prominent position on the sitting room wall of one of the crew's quarters. What a beautiful image it is too and captures the old Mudboat (as she was affectionately known) in all her glory as she made her way up Waterford Harbour past the Hook. Built in Dublin in 1907, she was 140 feet long and was capable of carrying up to 500 tons. She was the last working steamship of her type in Ireland and she dredged the berths around the Quay of Waterford for 75 years, powered by steam and coal, until she finally broke down in December 1982. She left her native City in 1987 and now lies in ruin at Saltmills Co Wexford.


Nice to seen that old warhorse, The Great Western, hanging beautifully on the wall in one of the crew quarters. What a lovely picture, superbly painted by KB Cleere in 2004, showing her as she passed the Hook on her way upriver to berth not far from the Col.

Great western

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