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Celebrating Ireland's Floating Heritage

Celebrating Ireland's Floating Heritage

Home arrow Vessels arrow Royal Canal Floats arrow Float No 53 - Royal Canal - Longford 53 - 1890's (remains)
Float No 53 - Royal Canal - Longford 53 - 1890's (remains) PDF Print E-mail
02 November 2008




Longford 53 How do you go about tracing the origins of an old canal boat? Let's see how we manage with this boat lying on the bank of the Royal Canal near Killeshin, Longford.


This barge, which can be seen on the left bank of the Royal Canal near Killeshin approaching Longford, has been reduced to a set of rusting ribs by the ravages of time. However, on closer examination you will notice the fine lines that are indicative of a horse boat from the 1890's. It was of mild steel construction on the lines of GCC Horse Boat 53 (4E), so it could well have been built by the Passage Dock Company in Cork. Maintenance boats on the Royal Canal were called Floats and were generally retired trade boats of various vintages and types.

A Hugh Hickey from Clondra reported some years ago that his uncle and a colleague worked on this barge at Killeshin when she was a maintenance boat commonly called a Float, as they were used as floating platforms. When the canal closed they were ordered to sink it where she was, at the junction ofthe Longford branch line off the Royal Canal.

It is possible to identify the number "53" painted on her hull which is the only reference we have to her past. Reviewing the indexes in Gerard Darcy's "Portrait of the Grand Canal'; there were two no "53's" one became 25M which is now 4E and the other "53" became 4M. 4M was sold off and became a "Bye Trader" 123B in 1943. She was purchased back in 1945 and given the number 4M again. She was later moved to the Engineering Dept and re-numbered 86E. We don't know where 86E ended up, however from looking at old photo's of 4M we can identify close similarities that would suggest that Longford 53 and 4M/86E could be one and the same boat. This is further supported by the fact that a maintenance boat on the Grand Canal may have been transferred to the Royal Canal for works.

The Killeshin barge is the only one of the five 'Float' series that is believed to have had a previous life as a motorised barge. However when it was working on the Royal it didn't have any engine and had to be pulled along by the men working on it.

Due to its original position in the Canal, it was in the way of Waterways Ireland's dredging programme. Ownership of the barge was transferred to Waterways Ireland who in turn managed to move the boat from the bottom ofthe canal to the side bank without distorting the original shape of the barge. Its lines are now as good as the day she was built.

Is she too far gone to bring back? That's a matter of opinion, especially when one considers some of the rebuilding jobs that's been done on other barges over the past 20 years. All that is needed is a person of vision with deep pockets and a determination to deliver her to her former glory.



Longford 53 Longford 53
Last Updated ( 11 February 2011 )
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