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Home arrow Memories arrow The Old Canal at Lusmagh - 1981
The Old Canal at Lusmagh - 1981 PDF Print E-mail
16 August 2009

 

The following was found by Gerry and Geraldine Gavin. It was written by Mary Whelan of Corclough, Lusmagh and first appeared in the parish magazine, The Lusmagh Herb in 1981.
 
"The old canal at Lusmagh was constructed around 1750. It stretches from a point known as the Devil’s Elbow to Feinagore, where it joins the Shannon a short distance below Hamilton’s Lock. It is the oldest canal on the Shannon Navigation and was opened to bypass a ford at Meelick and make the Shannon navigable to Limerick.
 
The Devil’s Elbow got its name because of the difficulty in navigating a boat into the canal. Through the canal the cargo and passenger boats were towed by a rowing boat and poled along by poles on either side. In later years a steam tug boat was employed. Horses were not used on this canal buy they were later used on the Grand Canal.
 
Looking at the canal banks today, which are a maze of overhanging trees and bushes, it is difficult to realize that up to about seventy years ago, they were completely bare except for one lone bush on the bank between the Mill Bridge and Killeen’s old house. That bush was a well known landmark and was locally called Lally’s bush. Peggy Lally, an itinerant, is reported to have died while sheltering under it and was buried close by.
 
Apart from being used for passenger and cargo services, the canal also served as a means of transporting turf by the local people. The landlord, Joseph Radcliffe who owned Ballymacoolahan, a towns land adjoining the canal, also owned Monaloon Bog and he provided his tenants with a turf barge. The present drain behind the ruins of Rourke’s house in Cloonaheenogue near Monaloon Bog was the boat drain which connected the bog with the Little Brosna River. Downstream at the confluence of the Little Brosna and the River Shannon, the boat entered the canal, passed through Hamilton’s Lock and up the canal to the quay near Ballymacoolahan. This quay where the unloading took place is still to be seen.
 
The traffic flow on the canal was controlled by means of a flag system. When a boat entered the canal at the lower end a flag was hoisted at the lock. This flag could be seen at the upper entrance to the canal. The reverse procedure applied when a boat was entering at the upper end, thus eliminating the possibility of boats meeting in the canal which could only accommodate one boat at a time.
 
The canal was designed by Thomas Omer and only had one lock. It was built in 1755; the date cab still be seen on the Lock House at Hamilton Lock. In 1791 William Chapman carried out a survey of the Shannon. The lock at Lusmagh he found to be in particularly bad repair, “the present gates are in such a wretched state, through want of swing beams, sluices, etc., that even with the help of loose boards to stop the openings and other contrivances, it requires nearly three hours and a considerable force of men to pass a boat through the lock”. Chapman’s report probably led to the repair of the lock in 1800.
 
Although the lock was built in 1755 it was not officially named until 1806. In August of that year the Right Honourable Sackville Hamilton, then Chairman of the Board of National Navigation visited the River Shannon and inspected the works from Portumna to Athlone. To commemorate the visit the lock was named Hamilton’s Lock.
 
There are the ruins of the Old Mill beside the Mill Bridge, officially known as Kilscragh Bridge on the Canal. The Mill was owned and managed by Denis Killeen who is a direct ancestor of the Killeen family who still reside in the Mill House. The mill was first used a tuck mill. The Irish tuck mills of the 17th and 18 th centuries were small buildings in which woollen cloth, woven on cottage hand looms, was finished by being felted and scoured. The mill was later acquired by a local man, Edward Dolan, and used as a corn mill.
 
The canal today is hardly recognizable as a canal, since a dam built at Gortachallow Bridge in recent years restricted the flow of water and it is now completely over grown. A similar canal at Clondara in Longford has in recent times been cleaned and opened to traffic."
 
 
Located at: 53° 10’53.93” N 8° 03’31.00” W
Last Updated ( 03 April 2011 )
 
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