THE SHANNON NAVIGATION by Ruth Delany
Book Review By Brian Cassells
Ruth Delany is a highly respected expert on the Inland Waterways of Ireland who has produced numerous works on her beloved Shannon and other waterways. This book is a resource which is a masterpiece of research. This is a book to be cherished, virtually three hundred pages lavishly illustrated with scenes of today and yesterday depicting the changing scenes of time on the mighty River Shannon.
In her own inimitable style, Ruth has achieved perfection; this is not only a book to be read and enjoyed, but a resource that will live long as a testimony to a remarkable lady who has gained the respect of academics, enthusiasts and those of us who love the river.
Ruth describes the human side to making this great waterway navigable, schemes specifically designed to enhance transport infrastructure yet also to alleviate distress of the impoverished native Irish. The navvies employed were often those at the bottom of the socio economic ladder, yet sympathetically Ruth values their contribution. She describes how difficulties became challenges for the designers of the period; ever reminding us that it was here in Ireland that many of the great European engineers learnt their trade and gained the experience to enable them to become experts in their own field and have their name recorded in history. The line drawings, the copy letters all combine with photographs old and new to enable the mystery to unfold. The author complements the illustrations, relating the facts and introduces us to the compassionate story, the life and times of those who lived and worked on the river, those who traveled from afar to appreciate the beauty that is rural Ireland.
Over the years there have been those visionaries that have kept a watchful eye on schemes which could have threatened the very life of the river. The author was part of that foresight. Pictures illustrating simple picnics that sent out a powerful message to decision makers, here was people power, those who cared enough to speak out and to warn ‘hands off’ any scheme that could impede navigation.
The boating life is recorded in great detail, from the commercial barges to sailing yachts, to the ‘water wags’; pictures that evoke the smell of calico sails, the chug of the engine, the excitement of the race and the chat in the club house after the event.
The notes, references and bibliography at the end of the book are themselves a resource to challenge others to take up the baton of research or simply to read to inform of the life and times of the mighty River that is and has been the very life blood of transport and communication in Ireland.
Published by Lilliput Press “The Shannon Navigation” is available from the IWAI On-Line Bookshop