Land was created to provide a place for boats to visit. - Brooks Atkinson

Celebrating Ireland's Floating Heritage

Celebrating Ireland's Floating Heritage

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St Ciaran & St Brendan- Passenger Boats - Colchester 1936 & PDF Print E-mail
02 February 2009


In 1954 a group of VIPs were brought for a trip along the Shannon, aboard the St. Clare, and they became convinced of the river’s potential. In 1956 CIE was charged by the government to develop boating on the Shannon. CIE sourced and acquired two boats in England, subsequently renamed the St Ciaran and the St Brendan.

St Ciaran
The St Ciaran, whose original name was the Wroxham Belle, was built for Yarmouth Services at Rowhedge near Colchester in 1936 by Rowhedge Ironworks. She was the first motor-driven passenger boat on the Norfolk Broads.
At the outbreak of WWII she was commandeered by the Royal Navy for patrol work on the Broads before being shipped out to Sierra Leone as deck cargo. She was later returned and was acquired by H.G.Hastings of Kingston who owned her from 1946 to 1956. She was operated as a passenger boat along the Thames near Teddington and Surbiton, before being acquired by CIE.
As a passenger boat on the Shannon, the St Ciaran was mostly stationed at the old railway terminus at Ballina (Killaloe), giving short cruises in that area. She occasionally ran from other points along the Shannon such as Portumna and Banagher.
St Brendan
The St Brendan was originally named Cardinal Wolsey. She travelled from England to the Shannon under her own power in 1957.
The St Brendan was stationed in Athlone and ran cruises around Lough Ree up as far as Lanesborough.
Cruises on the Shannon
The boats required minimum headroom of 14ft and that was enough to ensure that no low fixed bridges would be built across the Shannon.
CIE installed new Thorneycroft RNR 6MV engines in each boat, along with maple decks and new canopies for dancing, public address systems and coloured lights run off generators. The boats were used intensively for many years catering for day tours, school trips, etc., giving many people their first trip on the river. CIE ran day trips from Dublin transporting people to the boats and back again.
New Ross Floating Restaurant & Cruises
In 1974 both boats were offered for sale by tender and dick Fletcher who was running a cruising restaurant business in New Ross was successful in buying the St. Ciaran. He subsequently managed to buy the St. Brendan in 1977.
Dick made substantial changes to both vessels, putting the helms aft, adding extra seating, raising decks and enabling easier access to saloons, galley accommodation and toilets. The windows have been enlarged on both boats. He installed a Gardner 6 cylinder engine which gives little vibration and low noise at only 1500 rev.
Both have been involved in The Galley business since 1974 bringing passengers on cruises up the Nore, Suir and the Barrow. The business now runs under the ownership of the Minihan family. While the St. Ciaran is still in operation with lunch, afternoon tea and dinner cruises, the St Brendan is currently lying idle.
Wroxham Belle near Surbiton 1950s St Ciaran on the Barrow 2005
St Ciaran on the Barrow 2004
St Brendan arriving at Athlone from Killaloe 1950s from Clare Library Collection St Brendan (Cardinal Wolsley)
Last Updated ( 04 December 2010 )
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