Killaloe or Cairo an illustrated talk by Brian Goggin
Brian Goggin, is a well known figure around the waterways of Ireland, and has a vast knowledge of the history of the waterways
This entertaining talk will look at the mystery of what happened to one of William Watsons 19th century steam boats.
Brian J Goggin and his wife Anne own the former River Suir tug-barge Knocknagow, parts of which are over 100 years old. Knocknagow now lives on the Scarriff River. Brian has been researching the Shannon steamers (1827 to 1860) for some years and has given many talks, on different
aspects of the subject, in both Britain and Ireland. His article on the Lady of the Shannon, the first steamer on the estuary, was published in The Other Clare in 2017.
Killaloe or Cairo?
From 1827 until 1848 (when the railway reached Limerick) the Grand Canal and the Shannon offered an alternative route from Dublin to Limerick and Ennis. Passengers took the horse-drawn passage-boat from Dublin along the Grand Canal to Shannon Harbour, then two steamers downriver to Killaloe (with a stop at Williamstown providing a route to Ennis).
Another horse-drawn passage-boat carried passengers to Limerick; from there they could take steamers on the Shannon Estuary to Tarbert (en route to Tralee and Killarney) and Kilrush.
Travel by boat was slower but cheaper and more comfortable than the mail- and stage-coaches, with meals and toilet facilities on board. This service was made possible by the introduction of steamers on the Shannon: before that it had been impossible to maintain reliable scheduled services.
For most of the period, the steamers were operated by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, which also ran a large fleet of steamers on the Irish Sea, mostly carrying livestock and agricultural produce to
Liverpool, with cheap fares for "deckers", deck passengers, making it possible for workers to earn money working on the English and Scottish harvests, then returning in time to harvest their own crops. Later, the company also carried the mails between Britain and Ireland.
The company was notably innovative: it had one of the largest fleets of
steamers at the time and was known for innovations in both management and safety such as navigation lights, watertight iron bulkheads, ventilation and preventive maintenance. On the Shannon, it had some of the most advanced steamers of their day, including the Garryowen on the estuary and the Lady Lansdowne on Lough Derg, two of the first iron steamers produced by Lairds of Birkenhead (which later became Cammell
But the link between Lough Derg and the estuary, the old Limerick navigation, posed particular challenges: it was a mix of river and canal sections. "Killaloe or Cairo?" is about one of the boats designed by the company for use on the Limerick navigation: William Watson's 120-foot long passage boat. It was a long, narrow boat, as such boats were known
to be faster than shorter wider boats for the same horse power. However, it was longer than the locks ....
The Shannon steamers, barges and passage boats of that era were not just of local interest. The company and its founder, Charles Wye Williams, were known worldwide as leaders in steam navigation and fleet management. The company's international links explain why it is possible that William Watson's boat, designed for the Shannon, may have ended up
on the Nile.