Yes …. Canal Boat Rally No 47 did take place over last weekend in Shannon Harbour.
For the last forty-seven years, the IWAI and the local community have welcomed old boats and new boats from the rivers, lakes and canals of Ireland, to this canal and river confluence, for a weekend of celebration. Once again, people of all ages took part in the events on the lawn outside the old hotel keeping the spirit of fun, community, tradition and heritage alive.
This year, there had been doubts as to whether the rally would take place, but spurred on by the organisers, the boat crews were determined to see the event continue. In attendance were over thirty cruisers and barges of all types, including many of the old GCC working boats, refurbished and used as recreational vessels today.
Thank you to our sponsors, attendees, the local community and Waterways Ireland for supporting us. Congratulations to all event participants, including the winners of the Endeavour Cup, Pat Carolan Cup, Pat Henry Cup and the Guinness Shield.
A great weekend – hope to see you all at Canal Boat Rally 48 next year!
Canal Boat Rally 47
Friday June 15 to Sunday June 17 – 2018
1930 The weekend starts with a Wine & Cheese Reception in the Hall – bring your own Glass
We encourage all participants to decorate their boats w/bunting, flags and lights over the weekend
1100 Coffee/Tea Morning – BYO Mug
1100+ Register for the Event and receive your Rally Pack
Sat Bouncy Castle – will be available all day on Saturday
Sat/Sun Face painting for Children at various times
Throughout the day – begin decorating your Gangplank, building a Model Boat, creating your Miniature
Garden, completing your Colouring and Dingbat competitions and practicing for the Talent Competition
1600 Children’s BBQ – hamburgers and sausages – cook your own
1800 Picnic on a Blanket – BYO Picnic – weather permitting on the Lawn
2100 Pat Henry Mischief – Adults – across from the Pub
1100 Coffee/Tea Morning – BYO Mug
1200 Arts & Crafts Event – Adults & Children over 12 years
1200+ Sports Events for Children – on Sun afternoon
1300 Gangplank Decoration – Adults & Children – judging
1400 Colouring and Dingbats Competitions – Adults & Children – to 33M
1400 Miniature Garden – BYO Container – Adults & Children – judging
1500 Model Boat Competition – Adults & Children – judging
1600 Pat Carolan Talent Competition – up to 16 years
Prize giving for all events – following the Talent Competition
Unless stated otherwise, all events will take place on the Lawn
For the Gangplank Decoration, the Model Boat and the Miniature Garden Competition the judges will be looking for ingenuity and use of recycled materials.
Your Model Boat needs to float and will be tank tested.
The IWAI actively discourages the use of environmentally damaging plastics and related products, such as single use plastic bottles, plates, utensils, cups and paper cups with plastic linings etc.
The Canal Boat Rally has been up and running, at Shannon Harbour, since 1971.
Linda McGee, in her article ’Remembering the First Annual Canal Boat Rally at Shannon Harbour’ , quoted the original chairperson Mr. Gerry Brady, who recalled how “the idea of the rally originated about 1969-1970 among regular visitors who moored boats at Shannon Harbour from time to time, in conjunction with the residents of the village.”
According to Mr. Brady, the event hoped to “…recapture the halcyon days of the Grand Canal in the early 19th century before the coming of the railway”. He went on to recall how “the village was ‘en-fete’…the occasion was a great success and a rally has been held every year since.”
According to Ms. McGee, the very first rally was formally opened by Mr. John Scott, the last chairperson of the Grand Canal Company on Friday, June 18th 1971.
In the article, Mr. Brady recalled ‘…how the Shannon Harbour National School Band played on the steps of Mr. Eugene Byrne’s house for the occasion. In his address, Mr. Scott also spoke of the history of Shannon Harbour and its connection with the Grand Canal down through the years.
According to Mr. Brady: “He mentioned the enormous number of people who had travelled through Shannon Harbour in the fly boats before the advent of the railways, especially during the famine years of the 1840’s when the village was full of boarding houses because the hotel was unable to cope with the number of travellers.”
Remembering the role of the hotel in the village, Mr. Brady spoke of how in the early days part of the hotel was used as a police barracks, with the basement serving as a cell for prisoners. At this time the Shannon Steamers, ‘The Lady Landsdown’ and ‘The Lady Burgoyne’ carried passengers to Limerick and to Athlone. At the height of the canal’s importance ‘The Apostle of Temperance’,
Fr. Theobald Matthew administered the pledge to great crowds standing on the steps of the hotel in 1842.
Since its original event in 1971, the Canal Boat Rally has attracted huge numbers of people to the village of Shannon Harbour each year, with interest increasing with the passing of time, new elements being added each year. Joining Mr. Brady on the organising committee on the first year of the event were: Mr. Peter Denham, Vice Chairperson; Mr. Eugene Byrne and Mr. Peter Dobbs, Joint Honorary Secretaries; Mr. Dan Moore and Mr. Jim Thomas, Joint Honorary Treasurers; Mr. Jack Kelly Rogers and Mr. Duncan Bain, Joint Rally Marshals and Berthing Masters.
Mr. Brady explained that the first year of the event was an action packed festival, with large crowds in attendance. Some of the events included: a barge teams tug-o-war competition, a radio controlled model boat display, a dinghy racing, campfire sing songs, a fancy dress competition, and a novel buoy rolling competition. Helicopter trips, subsidised by W&R Odlum Limited, at only £1 each were also on offer, ‘enabling people to get a view of the village from 2000 feet’.
Mr. Brady spoke of the CIE vessel St. Brendan served as a floating bar and snackery to augment the three Shannon Harbour public houses, Gleeson’s, Guinan’s and Temple’s. To link in with the festivities of the Grand Canal Boat Rally a Grand Canal Historical Exhibition was held in the school house, consisting mostly of of items from Robertstown Canal Hotel Exhibition courtesy of Robertstown Muintir na Tíre and Fr. Patrick Murphy, recalled Mr. Brady.
Many of the barges that took part in this first rally and subsequent ones were renovated barges that had previously been owned by CIE. “After CIE ceased to operate commercially on the Shannon in the early 1960’s several of their barges were purchased for conversion to recreational use,” said Mr. Brady. Most of these barges were approximately 60 feet in length and were powered by 15HP Bolinder engines, manufactured in Sweden Mr. Brady explained that they “turned over at 420 revs per minute’ saying that ‘they were started by swinging a large fly wheel manually after heating up the engine hearth for 15 minutes with a blow lamp.”
in its first year, attendance at the rally included several of these barges including the 39M, manufactured at Liffey Dockyard in 1927, recalled Mr. Brady, who said that this particular vessel was purchased by Mr. Peter Todd and then renovated, with the cargo area being adopted to accommodate five double cabins, a galley and toilets. According to Mr. Brady, an 82 year old vessel was also in attendance at the event. This particular barge was the second iron barge to go into service on the Shannon. “It was retrieved from the bed of the river at Killaloe, where it had lain for 36 years, by Mr. Seán Bayly of Dublin who converted it into a floating bungalow with TV lounge and sleeping accommodation for nine,” said Mr. Brady.’
In the article, Ms. McGee notes how one particular barge, the 79M, held ‘…particular significance for Mr. Brady as he himself acquired it in 1966 with Mr. Joe Deasy. In renovating it, Mr. Brady explained that they replaced the Bolinder with a modern 14 HP Leyland diesel engine. Other features of the restoration were; the provision of three double cabins, a large lounge, a galley with gas cooking, a fridge, a toilet, a shower, a wheelhouse and a 12 volt electric system. The vessel won the ‘Best Barge award’ at the inaugural rally.’
The article concludes by observing that, as the first rally was such a great success, it was decided that it should become an annual event to be held in the latter part of June each year so that, during school and college holidays, younger members of the community could partake in the festivities.
This year’s rally takes place on June 19th, 20th and 21st.
The blessing of boats will be on Sunday 21st at 12:30pm.
All are welcome.
68M was built by Vickers (Ireland) in 1936; one of a series of purpose-built “M” (motorised) boats purchased by the Grand Canal Company (GCC) in the 1920’s and 1930’s. She was transferred to Coras Iompair Eireann (CIE) in 1950 when the State’s transportation system was nationalised.
Ten years later, when commercial carrying ceased on the canal, 68M was not sold off but was kept by CIE for maintenance work. She was used as a mud boat (also known as clay or gravel boat) until 1980. As a maintenance boat, during the era of the GCC, she would have been renumbered to an “E” (Engineering) boat, but this practice did not continue after commercial activity ceased.
At one time before 1980 there was a plan to fit her out like the Carpenter’s Boat 51M, so her cabin was stripped out in Athy Dry Dock. However, for some reason ClE changed their minds. Her Bolinder engine was then removed and sold, ending up in England where it was carefully restored and installed in a traditional English Narrowboat. Her hull was left to rust away with other disused barges, partially submerged in the Grand Canal at Ballycommon. A year or so later, because of vandalism, all of these boats were taken into Tullamore Harbour for safe keeping. 68M then sank and remained under water until August 1993. The inside of her hull, underwater in Tullamore Harbour, appeared in the 1991 Waterways series which featured 45M.
68M was raised by her new owner Dick Kearney in 1993. Dick with the help of his sons Declan and Paul then towed her to Lowtown where she remained tied to the canal bank under the watchful eye of Paddy “Waxer” Dunne until she was purchased by Gerry Burke in August 1995. She made her way east on the Grand Canal and south on the Shannon River with two outboard engines mounted on to a bracket on the tiller. With no dry dock facilities on Lough Derg, she was pulled ashore with tractors in December 1995.
In March 1996 the work began. She was sandblasted and painted and over the following months the bilges were re-plated on both sides. She was re-launched (rolled back into the water) in June that year and the current engine was fitted the following week. She was used extensively in 1996 attending her first of many Shannon Harbour and Lough Derg Rallies. While the living conditions were basic, with the crew sleeping on boards in the cargo hold under a leaky canvas cover, everybody had lots of fun.
Over the following years the superstructure was designed and created and twenty tons of loose stone were added as ballast. Work stopped each summer while the crew enjoyed themselves. In late 1997 the wheelhouse was added and cabins started to appear below. Summer 1998 included a trip to Belturbet and later that year the interior fit-out was completed.
Since 1996 68M and her crew have travelled along all the navigable inland waterways. As well as her annual appearances at the Lough Derg and Shannon Harbour Rallies, 68M has made the trip from Clare to Dublin a number of times; the first time was in 2001 for the official launch of the Heritage Boat Association (HBA) at the World Canals Conference.
Limerick is a favourite destination; the last time was in September 2010 when in her distinctive colours of black and cream and crewed by some of the ex GCC boatmen, she was a focus for the Arthur’s Day celebrations. The cargo, some barrels of Guinness, was loaded in Killaloe and delivered to Limerick Docks and Dolan’s pub.
68M has also been on a number of trips up the Erne visiting Belleek, Boyle and Lough Allen. In 2005 she navigated the Barrow River for the first time, visiting the Tall Ships Festival in Waterford, New Ross, Carrick-on-Suir and Inistioge as well as some cruising in the Suir Estuary. In the summer of 2007, with a fleet of HBA boats, she cruised the Shannon Estuary traveling out as far as Scattery Island. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t settled and a trip to Loop Head had to be postponed.
This year, 2011, 68M is back on the Barrow Navigation, making her way south to the Nore and the Suir as part of the HBA’s Three Sisters Fleet, heading to the Tall Ships Festival in Waterford.
If you see her along the way, don’t be afraid to say hello.
Here the Boatmen recall her various crews during her commercial days.
They included “Old Gent” McDermott (Daingean), her first Skipper in 1936. Dick Kearney was a Greaser in 1939 with Paddy Connolly (Killina), Tom Hilbert (Ballyteague) and Gannon Melia (Ticknevin) as crew. In the early 1940’s crew consisted of Amby Dwyer (Newcastle), Tom Doonican (Pollagh), “Banagher” Tom Carroll, “Banagher” Jack Carroll (Tom’s brother), Jack Kearney (Dicks brother) with “Baker” Sheridan (Littletown) as Skipper. Gannon Melia was Skipper from c1943-47. Paddy Kearney (Dicks brother) and Bill Cox worked on her c1947 with Anthony Donohue (Allenwood/Killaloe) as Skipper. Tom Nolan took over from him around 1948 with Peter Brien as Engineman and Tom’s brother Paddy Nolan as Deckhand.
Tom stayed in charge of her until circa 1953, when Tom left his brother Paddy took over as Skipper and his other brother Jack joined as Deckhand. Peadar Boland (Robertstown) worked on her for a short while in the early fifties. Peter Brien left in late 1954 and Tommy Anderson (Allenwood/Carlow) replaced him as Engineman. Paddy Nolan was skipper for about eighteen months and was replaced by “Gurkyman” (Peter) Anderson (Tommy Anderson’s brother). Around 1955 P addy Doherty (Graiguenamagh) and his two sons John and Paddy took out 68M and worked her until she was laid up with all the other CIE boats when canal operations were halted at Christmas 1959.
In January 1960, when 68M was brought back into service for six months to help in the decommissioning of the canal system and to continue drawing Guinness to Limerick her crew consisted of ‘Waxer’ (Paddy) Dunne as Skipper, Tom Connolly was Engineman and Tom “Mocus” Farrell (Ballyteague) was Deckhand.
Willy Anger, Tommy “Skranny” Kelly (Rathdangan) and Kit Moran (Robertstown) crewed her from 1968 until 1972 when she was worked as a maintenance boat. Willy left in 1972 and Mick Donaher (Umeras Bridge) replaced him; this crew stayed in place until 1980.