Fine lines – Clear Water  -Heritage Boat Association

By Richard Ellis


I feel that the pleasure to be had from cruising our fantastic waterways can be added to greatly by some knowledge of the history of the many old vessels we encounter. Fine Lines – Clear Water, in conjunction with its predecessor, Cool Metal – Clear Water, provides exactly the resources to satisfy that curiosity.

Fine Lines – Clear Water builds for the reader a historical context in which he or she can better understand and enjoy the tales and exploits of these fine old ladies and their crews.

Within the sixteen chapters, such diverse topics as the Suir Navigation, The Boatmen of the Grand Canal, Webbing (or “cadging”), the amazing Barcroft propeller and a selection of Boatmen’s songs and ditties are explored.

The details of the actual boats are conveniently divided into dedicated chapters on:

-Floatels (Floating Hotels)

-Working Boats

-Barges from the Netherlands

-Flying boat Tenders

-Wooden boats


You have to admire the determination of the researchers for the level of detail which pours from every page.  Just look at the number of name changes which have occurred on some of these boats. For example the barge 1B, built circa 1920 which became 30M, which became 125B, then became the Talisman, but most commonly now known as the Peter Farrell ! It is a credit to the HBA, who have taken the initiative to record it whilst it is still in living memory.


It would also seem that many of these old boats were pioneer ‘organ donors’; the gearbox of Chang-Sha ending up in the St Patrick and the old eight inch suction pump which was used in Hawthorn, when she dredged the river Moy in Ballina, making its way onto the above mentioned Peter Farrell which was worked up and down the Shannon by the famous John Weaving.


I now realise that a pair of ‘related barges’ lie in two regular haunts of ours: one, in the Inner Lakes on Lough Ree the other in Killaloe. These were at one time united to form the Shannon Queen floating Hotel.  In over fifteen years of enjoying these waters I had never come across that little nugget of local history until I read Fine Lines – Clear Water.


I can assure you that Fine Lines – Clear Water is not only a fine reference book but also a very enjoyable read. The individual characters and humour of the many contributors shine out of each article and add greatly to the enjoyment of its reading. So engrossed was I, that I had it read from cover to cover in four sittings over a single weekend. However, I would certainly recommend that a little more time be taken  to savour its contents and  to study the many fine colour and black & white photographs: over 230 in all.


Cool Metal – Clear Water the predecessor of the current book Fine Lines – Clear Waters, is always close at hand on our cruiser Reflection and  is, by this stage, nicely dog-eared from frequent consultation as we encounter an unfamiliar barge on our travels. The writers of Fine Lines – Clear Water have improved immensely the usability of this latest book, by dividing the boat descriptions into easy to find colour coded chapters on each boat type. Additionally, a very useful and easy to use boat index has been added at the back. This index is in alphabetical order covering both books, pointing the reader directly to the appropriate book, page number and detailing other name(s) if appropriate, along with year of build where known.


Whilst Fine Lines – Clear Water will make a fine companion to Cool Metal – Clear Water beside the helm of any boat as a reference source; it will be just as useful and enjoyable on the coffee table or in a bookcase, ready to be leisurely browsed from time to time.


Richard is a member of IWAI Lough Derg branch


Published by the Heritage Boat Association

Fine Lines – Clear Water and Cool Metal – Clear Water are both available from the IWAI on-line book store shop