The person rowing the boat seldom has time to rock it. - Anonymous

Celebrating Ireland's Floating Heritage

Celebrating Ireland's Floating Heritage

Home arrow Vessels arrow Woodies arrow G-Boats - Carlow, Dublin, Shannon Harbour 1939 - 1945
G-Boats - Carlow, Dublin, Shannon Harbour 1939 - 1945 PDF Print E-mail
15 October 2008


G9 at Barrack Street 1940s


Most people will have seen ex-Grand Canal trading boats, now converted into spacious pleasure craft, and still making their way around the waterways system. The M-boats, formerly Grand Canal Company (GCC) motor boats, are most common, but B-boats survive too: they were owned by "bye-traders': independent individuals or companies, rather than by the GCC itself. E-boats were run by the GCC Engineering Department. Boats could change categories and sometimes GCC boats were hired out as hack boats, often to their own skippers.

But what about G-boats? Well, back in 1939, much of the world was engaged in a spot of bother that became known as the Second World War. Independent Ireland was officially neutral, but was affected by developments elsewhere. Accordingly, on 3 September 1939, the Oireachtas declared a state of emergency. Incidentally, it didn't get around to rescinding that state of emergency until 1976, when it declared another one instead. During the main part of The Emergency, 1939-1945, fuel was in short supply, so the government sought to have more turf brought to Dublin. As the canals conveniently pass through bogs, the government funded the construction of 29 wooden horse-drawn canal-boats, which were leased to various traders but were marked as G-boats. Matt Thompson remembers them-

Canal knowledge - by Matt Thompson

When the Second World War broke out in 1939, even though we were not directly involved, it had severe repercussions on Ireland: coal shortages affected almost everything. Railway services were cut down and in some cases branch lines were closed. The two canals running into Dublin were working flat out; everything that could float was brought into use including the E-boats, if they were available, drawing briquettes from Lullymore to Spencer Dock in Dublin.

My dear friends the Smullen family had a turf bank near Mount Street Bridge: people came from all over to buy. This family were working 28B and 7M; they also leased out 7G. It was great to see the canal so busy.

Big crowds gathered at Mellons Lock (Grand Canal St. Bridge) on the day 1G set out on its maiden voyage to Turraun for its first load of machine-cut turf. To mark the occasion, the horses were put aside and GCC 36M was detailed to tow the new barge. The Irish Times had a splendid weekly issue called the Times Pictorial and the newspaper sent a reporter to travel with the crew to Co. Kildare to record this great event.

The working life of the G-boats was not very long, but during their time they played a very important part in the Emergency. Although the war ended in 1945 and the nation was slowly coming around to some kind of normality, the worst winter for years was to occur in 1947. The Grand and Royal Canals worked flat out to keep the city of Dublin from freezing: logs, turf (some very wet), briquettes and even sawdust were used.

After that, the G-boats became redundant. They could be found tied up or water-logged all over the system. One became a home for a gentleman and his dog at the mouth of the River Dodder at Ringsend: Mickey Blue told me he was very happy in his beautiful G-boat.

G7 Launch in Carlow G Boat under construction
G7 after launch G9 at Market Cross 1940s
G Boat Bow 2006 G Boat Stern & Rudder 2006
Last Updated ( 04 December 2010 )
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