The last boat to use the canal

On March 8, 1848, work was started on the Eglinton Canal. The Harbour Commissioners had been anxious to develop the New Dock. There were about 300 boats in the Claddagh and the amount of seaweed landed for manure in the spring of 1845 was 5,000 boat loads, averaging three tons each. The seaweed factory had been moved up to ‘The Iodine’, so the work on the canal was vital. It would allow boats to go from the Claddagh Basin up to the lake, boats from Cong and Maam to get to the sea, and improve the mill-power on the Galway River.

The canal opened on August 28, 1852, and had five bridges, one at Dominick Street, one connecting Mill Street with the ‘new college’ (ie, New Road ), one near the Presentation Convent, and one connecting Beggar’s Bridge with the workhouse (University Road ). They were bascule bridges made of timber with a steel frame, they were hand-operated and could swing open. There were two lock gates, one at the Claddagh Basin and one at Parkaveara which had a lift of 14 feet.

For some time the canal was very busy; in 1904, 3,194 tons were carried through, coal, meal, flour, bran, grain, manures, and timber. By 1915, however, there was almost no commercial traffic and apathy, neglect, and drainage problems reduced its value. Eventually, they examined the bridges and found them in a dangerous state. They could either replace them or lay fixed bridges. They decided on the latter and in 1954, the last boat to use the canal came down from the lake, the Amo II. It was a minelayer which had seen service in World War I, was owned by Ernest Guinness, and he sold it to Frank Bailey who brought it down to the docks.

Our photograph was taken from the New Road Bridge and shows the Amo II moored. The Parkaveara Lock (described as being near Folan’s Lane ) is in the distance. The buildings on the left are the backs of Parkaveara houses. The stone wall just beyond them was originally part of Cloherty & Semple’s Atlantic Sawmills. It was a big operation which included a 98-foot chimney, and was also the location of the first turbine in Ireland. This was later occupied by Johnny Lydon’s Woollen Mills, and was later taken over by Corrib Printers. There was a small footbridge over that part of the canal known as the Madeira River, which led to led to another branch of Lydon’s Mills (where the car park is today ). I presume the place name Parkaveara derives from the Irish ‘Páirc an Mhéara’, The Mayor’s Field.

Our thanks to Galway County Library for today’s image.


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