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Home arrow Vessels arrow Steam Boats arrow Guinness Liffey Barges - Belfast, Dublin, Preston 1873 to 1931
Guinness Liffey Barges - Belfast, Dublin, Preston 1873 to 1931 PDF Print E-mail
02 February 2009
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Guinness Liffey Barges - Belfast, Dublin, Preston 1873 to 1931
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One cannot discuss Inland Waterways’ barges without reference to the Guinness barges that plied their cargo on the one mile run from St James Street Quay on the Liffey to the Customs House docks. The steam driven barges conjure up romantic memories for Dubliners as they remember the smoke filled stacks being lowered to go under O’Connell Bridge at high tide.
The Guinness barges were truly a part of Dublin, being a daily sight since the opening of the first jetty at St James Quay in 1873. Sadly the development of road transport tankers, the building of new ships with massive stainless steel tanks, the advancement of brewing techniques, and the building of breweries elsewhere, marked the death knell for the Guinness Liffey barges, which finally ceased to sail on Midsummer Day 1961.
The original Guinness Jetty built in 1873 consisted of three berths, 1 st, 2 nd and 3 rd. An additional berth was added in 1887 known as 1 st Empty, another in 1890 known as Shannon’s Berth and the last one built in 1892 known as 2 nd Empty. The jetties were extended in 1913 with a further 5 added, three empty, two loading. These developments followed closely the growth of the Guinness export trade during this period.
Guinness Fleets
The first fleet of Guinness barges were numbered up to number 9, but little is known of them other than No. 9 was bought by the Grand Canal Company and used as a tug on the Shannon in 1916. The Barges that are best remembered were in fact two separate fleets which were named after Irish Rivers and later Dublin Place names. Many a Dubliner took pride in being able to name all of the Guinness barges.
Guinness Fleet – River Names
The first fleet of river class barge started with the Lagan, which was built by Harland and Wolfe in Belfast in 1877. Six years later in 1883, Guinness took delivery of the Shannon, a barge which had a rudder and a propeller at each end. The next ten barges were of a more conventional design and were delivered as follows – Liffey 1888, Lee 1889, Boyne 1891, Slaney 1892, Suir 1892, Foyle 1892, Moy 1897, Vantry 1902, Dodder 1911 and the Tolka in 1913. The Docena was purchased second hand in England.
No. 10 – The Lagan, 1877, Harland & Wolfe, Belfast
The first of the steam driven barges, called Lagan was steam powered by a marine return tube type boiler with a deliver pressure of 100lbs. The boiler, measuring 6ft diameter and 6ft long, drove a two cylinder reciprocating engine that powered twin screws. Another smaller engine of the same type was fitted amidships to drive the crane which could lift 12 ½ hundred weights (635kg).
No. 11 – The Shannon, 1883, Messrs. Allsop, Preston
The Shannon was a different type of barge. She was steam powered and twin screw, but the propellers and rudder were fitted at each end, i.e. fore and aft. She was a lot longer than The Lagan and could not swing around at the jetty, but could go up and down the river without having to turn around. She had a more powerful engine than The Lagan as she had long drive shafts from the engine room which was amidships. The loco type boiler fitted crosswise across the driving shaft, i.e. port to starboard, giving 100lbs pressure.
The engine room of the Shannon was very hot and very uncomfortable for the drivers when she was underway, as she had the main engine, the crane pillar, the crane engine (which fitted horizontally to the roof) and the driving shaft all fitted in the centre. The driver had to come up the ladder from the port side on to the deck and go down another ladder on the starboard side to keep on minding his boiler, oiling his engine and looking after his pumps.
She had a berth all to herself at the jetty known as the Shannon’s Berth which had three hand winches fitted for unloading. Her regular cargo was 110 butts for Holyhead and Birmingham stores.
No. 12 – The Liffey, 1888, Ross & Walpole, Dublin
Built in Dublin by Ross & Walpole she was the same type as the Lagan but a bit larger. She was originally given the name Anna Liffey but as this was already in use by another boat it had to be changed to Liffey. She was the first of the new barges to be built in Dublin. Her load was 230 hogsheads or 110 butts and 16 hogsheads.
An interesting detail to the Liffey and also to the Boyne barges is that they were both commandeered by the British Government during WWI and that the Boyne saw some service on the canals of France.
No. 13 – The Lee, No. 14 – The Boyne, No. 15 – The Slaney, No. 16 – The Suir, No. 17 – The Foyle, No. 18 – The Moy, No. 19 – The Vantry, Ross & Walpole, Dublin
Barges numbered 13 to 19 were all built to the same size and specification as the Liffey, between 1889 and 1902.
No. 20 – The Dodder, 1911, Ross & Walpole, Dublin
Built in 1911 she was the same size as the others barges in this series, but had no mechanical power or winch and therefore, relied on other barges to be towed and discharged. She could carry a larger load of 260 hogsheads or 130 butts. A petrol driven crane similar to the one on the Tolka was fitted later.
No. 21 – The Tolka, 1913, Ross & Walpole, Dublin
This barge was known as the Motor Boat as she had two Brooks Marine petrol engines of 55hp each which were mounted on deck. The engines were geared down below deck to twin reciprocal screws. A petrol driven crane (Brooks Marine 35hp) was mounted amidships that worked faster and better than the steam cranes. Because of the introduction of petrol engines, the drivers were supplied from the Guinness Garage, until the Engineering Department took over in 1921. As these engines were cranked by hand, starting them tested the might of any man at 4am on a frosty morning!
No. 22 – The Docena
The Docena was bought second-hand in England in 1920 and was towed over. She was slightly smaller than the existing barges with a different hold and equipment layout. Her triple expansion steam engine with condenser drove a single screw. The boiler was tube type, 5’6” diameter which was smaller than the 6’6” boilers fitted on the other barges. Her funnel was larger than her counterparts but balanced by a large weight to ease the lowering at bridge. One long hold was serviced with a small winch and high mast (45’) with a derrick, mounted on the forward deck which could reach any part of the hold to discharge cargo. She could carry up to 200 hogsheads and had seen her best days before coming to Guinness in Dublin.
Guinness Fleet – Dublin Place Names
This new fleet consisted of ten 80ft Motor Barges which were built by Vickers (Ireland) Limited, (the Dublin Dockyard Company). This fleet made its debut on the 29 November 1927 with the arrival of the first barge Farmleigh. The remaining nine barges, Knockmaroon, Chapelizod, Fairyhouse, Castleknock, Clonsilla, Killiney, Sandyford, Howth and Seapoint were delivered in succession up to 1931. They were all of similar specification and fit out, being 80ft long by 17ft beam with a draft of over 6ft when fully loaded and a very different barge from the previous fleet. Being well equipped and easy to manoeuvre they were ideally suited for the type of work required and could deliver 7 ½ knots with a full load of 105 tons.
1920 to 1922
There are various accounts in the Guinness archive of extraordinary behaviour of the Guinness Crews during the period of the War of Independence and the subsequent Civil War. During the Black and Tan period when Dublin was under curfew all drivers and boatmen were issued a pass from Dublin Castle so they could start work at the jetty in the early mornings in order to deliver their precious cargo on the tide to the steam ships at Custom Quay. It was only coincidental that most of this cargo was due for consignment to England.
There were other times during this troubled period when passage through the city was considered unsafe and the drivers and boatmen slept in the Brewery premises while continuing to maintain their daily delivery schedule.
Later in 1922 there are accounts of the barges continuing to operate along the Liffey as the Civil War started with the assault of the Four Courts and gunfire continued to be exchanged across the river for about a week.
To quote an extract from John Doyle, Foreman Boat Engine Drivers... “Anyway, we did sail down the river and they were sniping at one another across the Liffey. I need not tell you that the only man on deck was the skipper. There was a lot of firing going on in O’Connell Street too. We sailed all during that week and got an extra weeks pay as danger money. There was not a day at the time but at least eight barges sailed fully loaded from the jetty to Dublin Port.”
Later during the Emergency 1939-1945 when fuel was scarce, Doyle highlighted that it was ... “The proud boast of the boat engine drivers was that during the whole of the second World War not one cross channel boat of our own or belonging to any of our other companies left the port of Dublin one minute late due to any delay from the barges.”
The above extract highlights the dedication and commitment to duty that was characteristic of the Guinness drivers and crews.
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Last Updated ( 06 April 2011 )
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