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Celebrating Ireland's Floating Heritage

Celebrating Ireland's Floating Heritage

Home arrow Vessels arrow Steam Boats arrow Phoenix - Steam Yacht - Waterford 1872
Phoenix - Steam Yacht - Waterford 1872 PDF Print E-mail
04 November 2008

 

Length 58'6" O.A. x 54' W.L.
Beam 10'6"
Draught 4'4"
Material 1/4 " Lowmoor iron plates on 2" steel angle-iron frames
Built Neptune Iron Works, Waterford (Malcolmstown Bros.) in 1872 Yard number 45
Designer Andrew Horn

 

The Phoenix was forty years old when the Titanic sank. She was built for Francis Spaight of Derry Castle on Lough Derg, possibly as a wedding present for his son, William. She was based in Killaloe until 1884 and then leased to Arthur Wailer, chief brewer in Guinness, who brought her down the Grand Canal - and that must have been fun with her draught!


My great-uncle Harry Lefroy bought her in 1903, Harry and his wife Min (Minchin), used the boat extensively for the next thirty-two years. He owned the Mill in Killaloe, where there was a covered dock, which is one reason for her survival when most other boats of her type rotted away. He used the Phoenix as a floating office and supervised the building of jetties and quays in Portumna, Grange and Spencer's Dock (Lough Allen) amongst others. But her main function was for pleasure: picnics, holiday trips to Lough Allen, shooting trips up Lough Derg in winter, acting as starting boat for regattas.


Harry re-boilered the Phoenix in 1912: she would do Killaloe Pierhead to Williamstown in one hour flat - which was 12.5mph! In 1927 Harry puchased, for £450, a marvellous two-cylinder, two-stroke diesel engine, made by Ellwe of Sweden. It had a compressed-air start mechanism and developed 36ihp at 475rpm - if it was in good humour.


Harry died in 1935. Min sold Phoenix to a Mr Scatt of Scott's Foods in Dublin, who kept her in Howth. He died in 1938 and left the boat to Robert Delamer, his chauffeur, who brought the Phoenix back to Killaloe. Dick Lee of Limerick bought her in February 1940 but worked for the British Admiralty during the war and had little time for his own boat. After the war, the Phoenix was spruced up and, for the first time, painted white: by tradition, gentlemen's steam yachts were always painted black. "Bunny" Goodbody bought her in 1950, using her from Waterloo Lodge, Kilgarvan, before making the Phoenix his family home in Dromineer for two years.

 

She was then laid up in Dromineer for a couple of years before George Newenham, of the Limerick Motor Works, bought her and transformed her. Off came the original teak wheelhouse and the pine main deck. In their place, soft-wood decks, covered in canvas - and a truly appalling wheelhouse made of what looked like tea-chests. George lived on her for a spell, but he was nervous of the engine and never went further than Dromineer. In the late fifties she lay unused, and was home to various people in the Cruising Craft hire-boat company that George's nephew, Hector, had established. In 1962 the Phoenix was re-fitted and did two seasons' hire with a skipper, the late Mick Conroy.
 

I borrowed the Phoenix after Christmas 1963 for a trip up the Shannon: ten days of adventure in which the whole family got involved. A deal was struck on 18 January 1964 and we used her as a family boat for a couple of years, finally replacing the old Ellwe engine in 1966 with a Perkins 56. But, as my brother and sister found jobs outside the country and then the gearbox failed, she was little used.


I was now employed with Emerald Star Line and was to move to Portumna. The Phoenix was certainly big enough for Sandra and me to live on, with Delilah the dog; we agreed to buy the boat and she moved to Carrick-on-Shannon for the fitting of new decks, wheelhouse (based on the original design), gearbox and galley. On 9 May 1971 we moved on board: not for the six months we expected, but for eighteen. During the seventies and eighties, the Phoenix was based in Portumna and used as a tug for grounded hire-boats, a flagship for many sailing events, a commentary vessel for rowing races and, of course, as a houseboat for the family during regattas and for trips up the Shannon. She transported President Childers from Banagher to Clonmacnois and back to Shannon bridge; she was ready to bring President Hillary from Scarriffto Mountshannon some years later, but for a gale of wind! Much work was carried out- new engine, new aft decks, new fit-out below - to try and bring her back towards her original style,


When we left Portumna, it was back on board until we could find a house in Killaloe. Finally, we built one beside the old canal, with a harbour for the Phoenix at the back door. She is now a venerable 134 years old, and has seen a third century. How much has changed on the river - but again, in a way, how little. When I read the old log, dating from before the first World War, the cadences are all the same - regattas, rain, visitors on board, magic spring days, frostbite trips in winter, picnics in summer - and long may it all continue!

 

Last Updated ( 03 July 2009 )
 
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