In 1822, Alexander Nimmo proposed that the sea and Lough Corrib be connected via a canal that would be cut from Woodquay, along Eglinton St. and the west side of Eyre Square, through Victoria Place, along by the Gasworks to the proposed new Commercial Dock. There was opposition to the plan because of the amount of excavation that needed to be done, and the possible undue loss of life in having a canal through the streets, and so the idea was abandoned.
The Harbour Commissioners were anxious to develop the New Dock. In 1845, there were about 300 boats at the Claddagh, and the amount of seaweed landed in the Spring of that year for manure was 5,000 boat loads, averaging 3 tons each. In that year alone, they counted 2,136 boats bringing manure in, too much traffic to allow foreign boats in.
So, on March 8th, 1848, work was started on the Eglinton Canal. The estimated cost was £27,000 with a further £11,047 being provided for the provision of tail races. This allowed boats from Cong and Maam to get to the sea, while improving the mill-power of the Galway River.
The canal opened on August 28th, 1852, and had 5 bridges, one at the Claddagh, one at Dominick St., one connecting Mill St. with the "New College" (i.e. New Road), one near the Presentation Convent and one connecting Beggar's Bridge with the workhouse (University Road). These were bascule bridges, made of timber with a steel frame. They swung open and were hand operated. The lock gates were at Parkaveara and the Claddagh Basin.
For some time the canal was busy. In 1880, the tolls collected amounted to £370. In 1904, 3,194 tons were carried through the canal, and the revenue was £992. In 1905, in addition to passengers, coal, meal, flour, bran, grain, manures and timber were carried. The waterway was in good condition, but there was concern about the need for a sufficient depth of water for the type of steamer in use.
By 1915, there was almost no commercial traffic on the canal, as apathy, neglect and drainage problems reduced its value. The last boat to use the canal was the "Amo II" seen in our photograph. It was a converted minelayer which had seen service in the 1st World war, and it later belonged to Ernest Guinness of Ashford Castle, who sold it to Frank Bailey of Eyre Square. It came down from the lake in 1954 and when the bridges were examined, they were found to be in a dangerous state. This meant either replacing them or laying fixed bridges. They decided on the latter, and that was the end of the canal as a navigation channel. It remains a most attractive feature of the city however, especially since Mrs. Nellie McHugh landscaped and tidied up some of the banks.
The house we see on the right of our photograph also had a small shop and was owned by O'Malleys, and later taken over by Mrs Hoad. To the right of that (out of picture) were 2 houses occupied by Brownes and MacMahons and beside those was a large field known as Riordan's field. The gable we see on the far side of the bridge was of a house once occupied by John Fahy and later by the Keady family. Next door was a Mrs. McDonagh. These houses were later developed into Barrett's Joinery.
As you turned into New Road West (Does anyone know where New Road East was) the corner house on the left was McDonaghs, a toll house where they collected tolls on the canal. It later belonged to the Bane family.
Our sincere thanks to Norman Campion for this photograph. Norman managed Palmers Mills in the early 1950's.
Finally, can I remind you of the St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church annual Garden Fete which takes place on Saturday at the Rectory in Lower Taylors Hill. It is one of the few fundraisers this venerable much loved church has, so please support it if you can.