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Celebrating Ireland's Floating Heritage

Celebrating Ireland's Floating Heritage

Home arrow Vessels arrow Horse Boats arrow 108B - Bowler - Horse Boat 17 - Cork 1898
108B - Bowler - Horse Boat 17 - Cork 1898 PDF Print E-mail
13 October 2008


Bowler was built in 1898 as a horse-drawn boat, No. 17 by the Passage Dock Company. Fifteen years later, in 1913, a Bolinder engine was fitted - two years after the first of these engines were fitted to barges - it was re-numbered the 17M.

"Patrick Nolan moved Up to the 9th Lock at Clondalkin and, with the 108B tied up to the bank, opened a general store which became a popular stop for boatmen" In about 1930 the barge was bought by Patrick Nolan, a boatman from Rathangan who had previously owned the 80B. The barge was again re-numbered as a hack boat, the 108B. Patrick was well known up and down the Grand Canal System as the 'Bowler Nowlan' as he characteristically wore a bowler hat. It was from him that the barge derived its name, the Bowler.

In the early 1950's, following the transfer of the Grand Canal Company to CIE, work for the private boatman became slack so Patrick Nolan moved up to the 9th Lock at Clondalkin and, with the 108B tied up to the bank, opened a general store which became a popular stop for boatmen. Sometime in the middle to late 1950's, Patrick Nolan sold the barge to ClE. The engine was removed and the stern gland was filled with concrete. The barge was then used as a gravel boat in the Engineering Department and was re-numbered to 94E. See photo on Grand Canal here IWAI Photo

The barge ended its working days at the 12th Lock where it lay half submerged for a good many years. At that time it had wooden decks throughout and a companionway across the middle of the hold. There were no engine room or bow cabin housings; these were entered through open hatches in the deck. The barge was of standard length but it was well known that it was marginally beamier than other barges at the stern. On occasion, the barge got stuck in lock gates. It was essential that for those locks which were slightly narrower, the lock gates had to be completely open before the barge could enter the chamber.

In December 1970, it was auctioned by Morrisseys Auctioneers on behalf of CIE. The barge was bought at this auction by five university students; it was refloated and towed by car into Dublin with the intention of dry-docking at the Grand Canal Harbour, James's Street. Unfortunately the basin and dry dock were closed while on passage so the barge ended up at Wilton Place on the 'Ring' where the initial first conversion began. Following objections by local residents because of noise from angle grinders and welders, the barge was moved on to the Herbert Place section, where work continued for a further 12 months.

The barge, now known as the Bowler and reverting to 108B, was towed back to the 12th Lock by car and tractor lorry and with the assistance of two outboard engines strapped to the rudder, made it to the 13th Lock. The Bowler remained there until 1979 when she was towed by rowing boat with an outboard engine by Paddy and Anne Wilkinson to Athy, a trip that took seven days to complete. A Coventry Climax 36HP marine engine was installed. Finally under her own 'steam' she was taken down the Barrow to Fenniscourt Lock where she was completely stripped and the superstructure built in its present form, retaining the original tiller, by Paddy Wilkinson. Paddy was the former owner of 76M.

In the late 1980's the Bowler was taken to Dromineer on Lough Derg where she provided sleeping accommodation for a sailing school. In 1991 the hull was completely replated and since then the Bowler has been based at Shannon Harbour. She has undergone a number of internal and structural modifications with the assistance of Paul Doran and Jean Colvin of the MV Liverpool, including the installation of a new 78hp Nissan marine engine. Of the original five students just one remains; for the last 30 years the Bowler has been owned by Philip Mayne and, since his return to Ireland, it operates principally between Lough Ree and Lough Derg.

Last Updated ( 11 March 2017 )
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