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Celebrating Ireland's Floating Heritage

Celebrating Ireland's Floating Heritage

Home arrow Vessels arrow Horse Boats arrow 53M - Shruleen - Horse Boat 36 - Portadown 1893
53M - Shruleen - Horse Boat 36 - Portadown 1893 PDF Print E-mail
21 September 2008



Technical Details

53M in Tullamore 2005
Reg Number:
Built By:
Riveted Steel
12' 9"
46 tons
Killaloe 1894 & 1913
Horse drawn up to 1928
Bolinder E Type, 15 HP
BMC Sea Lord 6 Cyl Diesel
Home Base:


There were two 53M's and distinguishing their sometimes merged histories has been a real puzzle for years. To really confuse things neither boat had the traditional M Boat hull i.e. round bow and stern. From the records that are available, and information forthcoming from former crew, we can now separate, with a fair degree of accuracy, the two boats.

"The Shruleen" was the first 53M which was an odd build and a smaller boat than the standard Grand Canal Company boat. It was built in Portadown 1893 and was measured and weighed in 1894 in Killaloe. Length 60ft, Width 12ft 9ins, empty her stem was 6ft 5ins and her stern was 6ft 8ins. It was given the number 36 and operated for the Grand Canal Company (GCC). This was in a time prior to engines and the boat was towed by horses on the Canal and by steamers on the rivers. The introduction of the Bolinder engine in 1911 signalled the demise of the GCC horse boats, which were retired over time.

In 1928 a bronze stern gear was fitted for a Bolinder engine and the barge was to be transferred to the maintenance department. However for some reason this didn't happen and she was numbered 53M and put into the cargo fleet. It had a horse boat shape and was reportedly a fast boat. Its odd size was a draw back as she couldn't take a standard 50 ton load, and this resulted in her been exchanged for 98B in 1955.

According to Gerard Darcy in 'Portrait of the Grand Canal' she was transferred to the maintenance department in 1955 and renumbered 93E. She went working on the Barrow with Jim Bolger and John Whelan. In 1962 Jim Gill from Graiguenamanagh worked her. They used her while erecting fencing, bank repairs, cutting back bushes etc. Eventually in 1968 she was brought to St. James's Street harbour where she was acquired by Rexie Rowan from Athy who changed her number back to 53M. On the way back down the canal in Inchicore she hit a submerged car which goes to show that the canal was considered a dumping ground in those days. Over the following years Rexie covered the hold and made some improvements and even brought her to the Shannon.

In 2004 Charlie and Bernie Mackey purchased her from Rexie who had retired and did not want to see her wasting away and was happy to know that she would continue to be based in Athy. In autumn 2004 she was brought under her own power from Athy to Belmont and was left there for the winter. In spring 2005 it was moved to Shannon Harbour and into the dry dock where the hull was power washed and she was surveyed. She needed a fair amount of work and as Shannon Harbour dry dock was busy it was brought to Tullamore where a dry dock was available. Over the winter of 2005 - 2006 re-plating work was done on the hull. Next step is a new superstructure.

Crew included-

Tom Connolly, Matt Smullen, Bonny McGrath both were supposed to have worked on her at one time. At another time Waxer Dunne was in charge with Jack "Porter" Farrell as engine man Paddy McNamee from Killina was deckman and Jim Press was greaser. In July 1942 Joe Connolly Shannon Harbour went to work on 53M to take up "Yank" Dunne's place. At that time Patsy Gordon from Harold's Cross was in charge with young Mick Lawlor. Tom Lawlor took over as skipper in 1954 with John Conroy as his engineman.

53M Shruleen Athy 2002 53M entering Tullamore Dry Dock
53M leaving dry dock Tullamore 2006  


Last Updated ( 04 December 2010 )
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