A boat doesn’t go forward if each one is rowing their own way.- Swahili proverb

Celebrating Ireland's Floating Heritage

Celebrating Ireland's Floating Heritage

Coolawn - Steamer - Portadown 1898 (remains) PDF Print E-mail
04 November 2008

Coolawn As you pass north of Clashganny Lock you may notice the twisted remains of an old barge on the West bank. This is all that remains of the Steam Boat called the "The Coolawn"which had a colourful history on the Lower Barrow. Originally built as a steam boat in Portadown, it was first weighed in 1898. In 1908 she passed ownership from Wallace & McCullagh to a Mr. M.J. Murphy (great grandfather of K. Murphy who owned The Bat) and a Mrs. Prendergast for £127. A new boiler from Ward of Leeds was installed in St. Mullins at this time for £116. Mrs. Prenderdast sold her share to M.J. Murphy in 1913.

The Coolawn was used as a hack boat for his grain and starch business and assisted in the building of Redmond Bridge in Waterford around 1913. At some point it was fitted with a twin cylinder Bolinder engine, which allegedly had a gearbox, a real luxury at the time, in order to manage the tide in the estuary.

The Doherty family ran the boat for many years with canal records showing regular journeys in the 40's and 50's, carrying bulk wheat to Waterford, with P. Doherty as Skipper. There were also many journeys listed carrying timber from Bahana Woods to Waterford and Graiguenamanagh, though it appears to have been laid up for a year or so in the late forties. When Tim Connolly was laid off work on the canal he was given a job by M.J. Murphy helping to refit The Coolawn after which she transported grain to Waterford for a few years. There are records of nine journeys to Waterford with bulk grain in October - November 1951 alone. Family legend tells of a trip to Waterford with the Brass Band and the Temperance Society, where on the trip back there were problems with people falling off the Barge because of drink!

In the mid 50's the boat was finally laid up and left on the quay in Graiguenamanagh. It was then anchored out on the river on a fore and aft mooring from which it broke free and wedged itself across the bridge, the mark of which can still be seen on the hull today.

The hull was bought from Murphy's and brought up river, with an outboard motor, where it wedged in the locks because it had spread. It then got washed onto the weir at Clohastia at the top of the Ballykeenan lock cut before finally being abandoned above Clashganny lock. After a few years it was moved to the west bank of the river where ClE staff tried unsuccessfully to sink it. She was eventually dragged up on the bank with a bulldozer, the damage to an already wrecked hull is evident today.

Last Updated ( 04 December 2010 )
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