Paddle Steamer excursion

The Waterford Steamship Navigation Company river service commenced in 1837.  It ran daily return trips between New Ross-Waterford and Duncannon-Waterford, Monday to Saturday. In the Summer season Sunday trips were also offered. During the week the ships departed the Wexford towns around 8am arriving into Waterford in under two hours.  The return leg was in late afternoon.  In the time between, the ships were available for hire or were given over to other uses.

The ships preferred on the routes were iron built, shallow draught paddle steamers.  And they were versatile craft.  They were regularly used to tow sailing ships into port, or to attend rescues or act as  salvage vessels to damaged ships. But they also provided tours, special event trips and outings to harbour events such as regattas, horse racing in Duncannon or religious and political gatherings.

One event of July of 1864(1) gives a unique insight into their employment as a river tour vessel.

“The annual summer excursion of the pupils attending the Sunday-school Institute, took place on Wednesday last.  At ten o’clock the scholars, with their respective teachers, formed in their classes at the Protestant Hall (a distinctive, red bricked, building still to be seen in Catherine St. opposite the court house), and proceeded towards the magnificent little river steamer the Tintern, which, through the accustomed generosity of William Malcomson Esq., was kindly placed at the disposal of the committee of the Sunday School Institute for this joyous occasion.

A contemporary scene of Ballyhack with a paddle steamer heading down the harbour
accessed from

Soon the Tintern received its large and living freight, and the deck presented a scene most animating, there being about 400 children formed into little knots, including their respective teachers who, no doubt, felt much pleasure and delight at the sound of their youthful voices and merry laughter, as they spoke of the pleasure they anticipated enjoying during the day.

At half-past eleven o’clock the Tintern steamed away from the Adelphi Wharf, where she had been lying, looking gaily, with her flags flying, and an awning suspended over the after deck, a circumstance which gave those going on board the option of being entirely protected from the sun, or of enjoying its invigorating rays, and the stronger breeze which a person, generally speaking, placed on the forecastle deck, always enjoys.

A close up excerpt of the George Victor Du Noyer painting, showing clearly a paddle steamer off Ballyhack in the harbour

Her course was directed to New Ross, and indeed, the scenery, along the banks of the river was most attractive and pleasing. The well cultivated gardens, fields, and plantations exhibited ample proof of fertility our land; and showed the natural advantages which this country posses as an agricultural country, which, however, are too frequently disregarded. —causes monetary and political tending to -operate against the increase and fuller development of those resources which a bountiful Providence has placed at our disposal for our own profit and good.

The Ida, a later and larger ship of the company, but gives a sense of their popularity 

Coming to the Bridge at New Ross the steamer was turned about, and her course was then directed towards Duncannon Fort, past which she steamed most gaily and gallantly, all on board having an opportunity of seeing the outlines of that Fort, which is said to have been much shaken and loosened in its foundations, owing to the practice of the heavy guns used by the Waterford and Tipperary Artillery Militia regiments, during the past few years.

Having arrived at Broom Hill our little vessel was again turned about, this time with her head bearing towards the Quay of Waterford, where she arrived about half-past three o’clock, and proceeded up a good portion of the river before she turned into her berth at Adelphi landing stage.

It is indeed most satisfactory to be able to say that the utmost order prevailed during the day amongst the children, who amused themselves in various ways. The pleasure derived by the ‘ excursionists’ was greatly enhanced by the presence of the members of the Young Men’s Christian Association,
who, under the direction of Mr. Zinkant, performed a beautiful selection of music during the day.

About one o’clock refreshments which were prepared for the children were partaken of, and the members of the band were provided with a luncheon which was laid out for them in the captain’s cabin. Indeed, a more pleasing scene could scarcely be witnessed than that presented on Wednesday last when so many of the rising generation, professing the true faith of Protestantism, assembled to enjoy a day’s recreation, beholding the beauties of nature in association with those whose exertions have been ever to instruct them in heavenly things, and point them from “nature to nature’s God”

I’d imagine, the boat and her crew had barely time to have a cup of tea before the passengers for the 4pm sailing to Duncannon trooped aboard.  PS Tintern was built in the Neptune Ironworks by John Horn and was launched on Aug 21st 1861. She would serve the good people of Duncannon and the SW Wexford area from 1861 to circa 1875 when she was replaced by the PS Vandeleur.  The Tintern was used thereafter as a relief ship by the company and was contracted out for other duties after this time.  She was eventually broken up and her hull used as a landing stage in 1897.(2)

(1) Nenagh Guardian July 20th 1864 page 1
(2) Malcolm McRonald. The Irish Boats Vol II. 2006. Tempus. Stroud, Gloucestershire.

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The Paddle Steamer Ida

Last week we looked at the river services operated by the Waterford Steamship Company.  This week I wanted to look at the work of one particular ship the Paddle Steamer Ida.

The PS Ida was launched from the Neptune Iron Works on Friday 27th September 1867 and was described at the time as “A very handsome little paddle steamer…of unusual size (149 ft x 19ft x 9ft) and beauty…intended to ply between this city (Waterford) and Ross (New Ross)” (1)

PS Ida circa 1898 leaving New Ross.  No standing room available
Andy Kelly collection

The Ida made her maiden voyage on Friday 31st January 1868 accompanied by the PS Shamrock , making it in 1hr 10 mins , both vessels getting a terrific reception when they reached the New Ross quays.  She would be a constant sight on the Suir and Barrow for the next 37 years.(2)  The steamers took freight, agriculture produce and passengers each way.  The Ida departed New Ross at 8.15am each morning (Mon-Sat) making stops as required at quaysides along the way.

I’ve heard she called to places such as Pilltown -where a hulk was stationed away from the quay- Great Island and Cheekpoint frequently, apparently it was all down to whether there were passengers or freight requiring transport.  Of course as is well known locally, boats dd not need to call to the shore as this fascinating account proves:  “But the most exciting experience of all was at Ballinlaw, when the ponderous ferry-boat with passengers and farm produce from the Great Island made contact with the Ida as she lay to mid stream.  To get the passengers safely aboard by means of a companion ladder involved considerable risk in rough weather.  But the Ballinlaw boatmen knew their job, and no accident occurred in living memory”

Once in Waterford the Ida and her sister ship the PS Vandeleur could be assigned to various tasks in the port, towage, maintenance works and indeed salvage and rescue missions for example the steamers featured in the wreck of the SS Hansa in 1899.  I’d imagine there was many a fisherman or boatman could thank these ships for a tow into town or up the Ross river against the tides, saving them from an agonising row.

PS Vandeleur at Cheekpoint (note no Barrow Bridge)
Andy Kelly Collection

The daily services ran Monday to Saturday but summer Sundays were used for special event trips, one of which started me on this quest to learn more. As I said last week Christy Doherty told me years back of memories of older folk of the Sunday outings, memories of which can still be found in newspaper searches of the time.  Bill Irish quotes one such account: “I have very pleasant memories of the shilling trips return every Sunday by steamer from Waterford to Dunmore East and the splendid tea for eightpence at Galgeys or Shipseys Hotel at Dunmore. These trips were the best value that have ever been offered to Waterford residents. The boats the Ida and Vandeleur left about mid-day or 3pm on alternate Sundays.  We had three hours in Dunmore and reached Waterford at 10pm” (3) As lovely as it sounds, it would appear to be very costly for ordinary folk.  But Christy Doherty did tell me that the special event trips called to all the quaysides and landing posts in the harbour and that a trip to Duncannon could be had for a few pennies and it cost nothing to walk the beach at Duncannon.  He also mentioned their roles in transport to and from regattas and events such as horse racing on Duncannon beach.

Bill Irish gives a first hand account from Captain Farrell of one such trip on the Ida to Duncannon when he was a boy. “A man named Friday, with one eye, played a melodeon box on the way up and down the river. The hat was then put around for a collection. The Ida stopped in Duncannon for about one hour to allow people to ‘stretch their legs’.  Along with the captain, was a first mate, two men to handle ropes, two engineers and two firemen”(4)

There were many episodes associated with the river service that I have come across.  But for sheer madness, this piece sent on by my good friend and heritage ally Frank Murphy must take the biscuit.

On Saturday evening July 23rd 1870 the Ida departed her normal berth at the hulk (The Duncannon Hulk I presume based on the events mentioned) on the quay at 4pm.  She proceeded down the Suir.

Opposite the Mall a drunken passenger jumped onto the railings and hurled himself into the river in an apparent suicide attempt.  The Ida immediately stopped her engines and the crew tried to effect a rescue.  The gentlemen was struggling in the water, fully clothed and with his boots on.  However he didn’t seem minded to accept the crews help.

The Clerk of the Waterford Petty Sessions, Mr PF Hanrahan was rowing by in a small boat and came close to the man offering him an oar.  He was met with abuse and turning on his back, the ‘drowning man’ proceeded to kick water and practically over turn Hanrahans craft.  A boatman in a prong met a similar fate.
A dock worker named Kelly had stripped on the quay and dived in to attempt a rescue also, however he met with an uncooperative client.  Kelly was picked up by the prong and the two men then managed to overpower and haul the ‘drowning man’ aboard.  In the melee that ensued Kelly ended up knocking the gentleman out with a punch who was then rowed ashore where he was arrested on the spot.
Meanwhile another rescue was required.  A considerable crowd had assembled quayside and in an effort to get a better vantage of the incident, some rushed aboard the ship Malakoff moored alongside the quay Proceeding to the bridge, they leaned out to view the scene, pressing against some netting designed to provide security but not to take the weight that was now placed on it.  The netting ripped and ten spectators ended up in the Suir fighting for their lives!  All were successfully rescued by a fleet of small boats that were gathered at the scene. The instigator of the drama was whisked off by the police. The writer of the piece expresses the hope that the miscreant will face the full force of the law at the next court session, something assured if Mr Hanrahan had any part in it surely.  The Ida then proceeded with her trip (5)

The final chapter of the gallant PS Ida, Bristol 1908
Andy Kelly collection

So many dramas, so many journeys, so many memories.  The Ida last sailed on the route in 1905.  I’m not yet sure when she last steamed down the harbour, but it took her to Bristol where she was broken up at Clevedon Pill in 1908.

My thanks to Frank Murphy, Pat Murphy Cheekpoint and Andy Kelly for their assistance with this piece.(1) The Cork Examiner. Monday 30th September 19867

(2)Decies #53 Waterford Steamship Company. pp 67- 89. 1997.  Bill Irish
(3) ibid
(4) ibid
(5) This is an edited and abridged extract from the piece published in the Tipperary Free Press – Tuesday 26 July 1870

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Waterford Steamship Company river services

As a child in Cheekpoint I was told that in the past I could have travelled to Waterford by paddle steamer.  Christy Doherty RIP, one of the old school fishermen related stories to me of the paddle steamers calling to Cheekpoint quay, picking up passengers and heading down to Dunmore East for a regatta or Duncannon for a day on the beach. As a child I never really knew what to make of such stories.  I suppose I regarded them with some skepticism as we were so used to hearing yarns and tall stories that it was often impossible to tell one from the other.  It was further complicated by the way the older guys tended to collude with each other, so going from one to the other, they could often embellish a yarn rather than correct it.  So in time to come I was fascinated to learn the truth of the river service, the ships that travelled it and the vibrancy that was the rivers in what I personally consider a golden age.
PS Vandeleur at the Duncannon hulk in the city. Paul O Farrell collection.

The river service originated with the Waterford Commercial Steam Navigation Company which was formed in 1836 to provide cross channel steamship services.  In 1837 a river service was initiated, providing links between the city and both New Ross and Duncannon.  Two new paddle steamers were built. The Shamrock 135 tons was built in 1836 in Glasgow, the Duncannon 200 tons was launched in the John Laird yard of Birkenhead in 1837.

PS Ida at New Ross.  Andy Kelly collection
An advert of the time gave the following information:

Shamrock leaves Ross 8.45am arriving at 10am.
returns from Waterford at 3pm. Except Sundays
Fare: Cabin 2 Shillings. Deck 1 Shilling 3 pence.

Duncannon arrives at 9.15am every morning
Leaves Waterford for Ballyhack and Duncannon daily at 4pm.  3pm in winter.
Fares: Cabin 1 Shilling.  Deck 6 pence

unidentified paddle steamer at Duncannon.  My guess is PS Vandeleur
Andy Kelly collection

The PS Duncannon ran until 1861, and when she needed a break for repairs etc a relief steamer the PS Taff was used.   She was replaced by the PS Tintern which operated up until the 1870’s and was subsequently replaced by the PS Vandeleur.  The Tintern was then used as a relief vessel.  The Vandeleur was built in the Neptune iron works of Waterford (Park Road) in 1866 for the Shannon estuary, and where she served until her return to Waterford. She was originally constructed as a partner vessel to the PS Rosa, a ship that was also to feature on the river service of Waterford.  One other ship I am aware of was the Repealer, a ship that has featured on the blog previously.  She sailed the Waterford New Ross route in 1842, but possibly in short lived competition rather than as a relief boat.

Foreground is steam yacht Maritana with PS Rosa and PS Ida berthed on the city quays. 
All three vessels were built at the Neptune Iron works. Andy Kelly collection.
The following year 1867 the neptune turned out another paddle steamer which went onto the New Ross route, the PS Ida. It appears that the Ida replaced the Shamrock, but another ship mentioned on the route was the PS Maid of Erin. The Ida went into service on 31st Jan 1868 making her sailing to Waterford in one hour and ten minutes. She was 149 feet long by 19 feet with a 9 foot draught. The PS Ida gave 37 years of loyal service. She last sailed in 1905.
The end of the river service came with the undermining of their freight and passenger service by the railways.  The Ida was made redundant in 1905. The Vandeleur actually stopped on the Duncannon route in May 1893 and was broken up in 1908.  At the time of writing I’m not sure when the actual service stopped, but I understand the Duncannon service persevered into the first world war era. 
Next week I hope to look at a few incidents associated with the ships including an amazing ten person rescue on the waterford quays.  An indulgence I know, but surely I deserve that from time to time.
All the details contained in this mornings blog come either from my own notes or specifically from the work of Bill Irish.  
Irish. Bill. Shipbuilding in Waterford 1820-1882.  A Historical, technical and pictorial study. 2001. Wordwell. Wicklow
Bills article from Decies #53 Waterford Steamship Company. pp 67- 89. 1997
Also thanks to Andy Kelly for his ongoing support and Paul O’Farrell.  Their willingness to share images is much appreciated.
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Waterford to New Ross by paddle steamer 1842

I recently had some American and English visitors on a tour of the village.  I found it interesting to hear their thoughts on the area and I always get as much from their perspectives and questions as I ever give.  In the same way the perspective of others from years back can be very illustrative and informative about our country or our locality.  I have used the travels of Arthur Young before to illustrate what life was like in Faithlegg and Cheekpoint in the late 18th C. But today we have a German visitor, JG Kohl, who traveled from Waterford to New Ross on a paddle steamer whilst touring Ireland in the autumn of 1842.  

Waterford possesses
two prominent features which are of the greatest advantage to its trade: first,
one of the most wonderful quays in the world; and, secondly, one of the finest
harbours in Ireland. The quay is a mile long, and so broad and convenient
withal, that it must be invaluable to merchants and mariners. It is skirted by
a row of elegant houses; and the scenery on the opposite side of the river,
which is here a mile and a half wide, is extremely picturesque.

Waterford later in the century, but highlighting how busy it was

The embouchure of the
river Suir, which forms the harbour, is wide and deep, without islands or
sandbanks, and affords all possible security and convenience to ships. I have
already said that Waterford harbour has a great similarity to the bay of Cove,
near Cork. Cleaving the land in a similar manner, it runs from the sea, taking
with it the sea water, for ten or fifteen miles into the country. At its upper
end it divides into two branches, one of which runs west, and the other
northwards, while at New Ross it receives the Barrow and the Nore. All this
extent of land and water, as far as Waterford and New Ross, and then somewhat
farther up the Suir, Barrow, and Nore, is one of the most beautiful and
charming districts in Ireland…

By The original uploader was Thyra at German Wikipedia(Original text: unbekannter Künstler) – Transferred from de.wikipedia to Commons. Transfer was stated to be made by User:CJLippert.(Original text: [1]), Public Domain,

…when I came to the
river, it was exactly low water. Several vessels were lying on their sides in
the mud, as if stranded. Above the beautiful bridge, the Suir seemed almost
entirely drained, and the banks were slimy and muddy. But as the tide rolled
in, the sand-banks were covered, the ships righted themselves and danced upon
the waves, the artery of the river was filled, and the landscape again
reflected in its restored mirror. The sun mounted high in the heavens, and our
steamboat, The Repealer, rushed forth through the waves. What is there to be
found in Ireland that has not some connexion with repeal? I was informed that
the repealers go almost exclusively by this boat, and hence it was also called
the People’s Steamer. On the flag which waved from the quarter-deck were the
words, ‘Hurrah for the Repeal of the Union!’ O’Connell can now, at his
meetings, truly boast that the repeal cause is progressing with the rapidity of
steam. In this corner of the earth, indeed, steam does not go very far—only to
the town of New Ross, fifteen miles distant, whither we were bound. Nor does it
afford any exclusive advantage to the repealers, as the anti-repealers also
employ steam in their cause. Another steamboat, bound to the same place, splashed
alongside of us, in opposition to ours. In England one never gets rid of this
opposition: it follows him every where.

Had I not been in
Scotland, and sailed down the Firth” of Clyde, I would pronounce this trip
on the arms of Waterford Harbour to be the finest in the United Kingdom. Or,
were there not much that is beautiful out of the United Kingdom, I could also
say that it is the most delightful journey I ever made in my life. But it is
sufficient to affirm that the landscape on the shores of these waters is as
picturesque, pleasing, and diversified in its kind as any other in the world.
The waters flow through the deep and convenient bays somewhat more quickly than
through a lake; and as its entrance from the sea is concealed from the
spectator by a very sudden turn, he actually believes he is on an inland-lake,
and is astonished at the large ships which ascend it, seeking harbours hidden
far in the heart of the land. At times the shore is a hill, sloping down to the
water, which, like almost every river-bank in the United Kingdom, is studded
with charming seats and pleasure-grounds; at others, it juts out in steep,
rocky, and wooded headlands, which the Repealer almost grazes as she speeds

An example of the paddle steamer trade, PS IDA
Via Andy Kelly

At no great distance
below United Kingdom are seen, in the background of a bay, the immense ruins of
the far-famed Abbey of Dunbrody, one of the most celebrated and beautiful ruins
of Ireland, which are here held in about the same estimation as the ruins of
Melrose are in Scotland. Alas! they are now, like the times of their grandeur,
in the far distance; and the Repealer has too much to do with the opposition
steamer, which is walking close upon her heels, and forces her to keep her
straightforward way, to turn from her course, and give the traveller a look at
the ruined abbey. In truth, it afforded us no little amusement to see our
rival, as she was about to turn into the mouth of the Barrow, run aground on a
sand-bank, where, as our captain drily observed, she must stick till the tide
would rise somewhat higher, and float her off. As for the Repealer, being
obliged to be at New Ross by a certain time, she soon left Dunbrody far behind,
and splashed away with the flowing tide up the Barrow. The British Islands must
reap important benefits from the double alternating currents, one landwards,
the other seawards, of the navigable rivers. In no other country do the waters
of the sea flow so far inland, bearing ships into the very heart of the

Kohl’s view of the meeting of the three sister rivers,
without the Barrow railway viaduct

On the deck of an
Irish steamer there is seldom a want of entertainment. On the quarter-deck the
company is twice as talkative as on that of an English steamer; and the
forecastle resounds even with music and singing. To the music, which, of
course, was that of the bagpipes, we had dancing. Since Paddy, as I have before
remarked, generally uses only an old door, or a couple of boards laid close
together, for a dancing-floor, he naturally finds it impossible to leave
unoccupied the beautiful space which, on the deck of a steamer, remains vacant,
between butter-firkins, flour-bags, egg-boxes, hen-coops, baskets of turkeys,
tied-up cows, and a confused heap of grunting pigs. He therefore lays aside his
stick, and throws his cares and his sorrows to the winds, with much greater
ease than can be done by the rich man of five thousand a year who is looking at
him; with good-humour in his face, he seizes a struggling maiden, and, in a
merry and lively jig, or Scottish reel, he shakes his rags as if they were the
bell-tipped lappets of a fool’s dress. The splashing paddles of the steamer
beat the time for him, and the lovely banks of the Barrow give to this
spectacle a decoration which the ballet-dancers on the boards of Covent-garden
or Drury-lane cannot boast of.

The evening was
wondrously calm, and even the fishes, though still poorer than Paddy, jumped in
the water for joy. I planted myself beside the captain, on the high platform in
the centre of the vessel, and, while I observed the grave and serious rich on
the quarter-deck, and the merry poor in the forecastle, I could not refrain
from praising the justice of God, who, while he makes man poor, at the same
time renders him more capable of taking delight in the most trifling things.

The beautiful seats of
the Powers, the Asmonds, and other families which lay along the banks, are all
so charming that one would like to take a sketch of each separately. Near
Castle Ennis, in a broad beautiful meadow, stands the largest, most lordly, and
picturesque oak I ever saw. One looks on these mansions with increased
interest, if, as I had, he has an Irish priest as confessant at his side, who,
from being intrusted with the private affairs of the families that reside in
them, can give him a sketch of the history of each. While I listened to my
priestly confessant, I was somewhat amazed at the extra-ordinary things which
happen in the usual every-day life of these families. In one of these mansions
there yet dwells an old lady, the widow of one of the most distinguished of
those rebels who were beheaded by the English during the last rebellion in

As we passed a rock,
our cannon were fired, in memory of a sailor, who, some months previously, had
fallen overboard at this spot, and was drowned. The reports were re-echoed from
the rock, and the manes of the dead were no doubt highly gratified by the
honour thus conferred upon them.
New Ross 1832, a few years before his visit
Public Domain,

We anchored at New
Ross, and as this place is the extreme end of the Barrow navigation, and the
brightest gem in the entire landscape-gallery of the neighbourhood, it would no
doubt have well repaid us to pass this delightful evening here. It is at once
apparent that New Ross is an old town, since it does not present that
picturesque grouping which is peculiar to new regular towns: at the same time it
is also a fallen place, for it is said once to have possessed a great part of
the trade which Waterford has now entirely drawn to itself. It no longer
dispatches a single ship to sea, and merely sends agricultural produce to
Waterford, to be from thence exported. Beyond New Ross the waters, which had
hitherto been broad and deep, seem entirely to lose themselves in a thicket of
woods and rocks. In this thicket there are said to be most beautiful scenery,
splendid landscapes, and waterfalls. Yet it was not granted me to explore these
beauties any further. As I found my travelling companion disposed to avail
himself of the beautiful moonlight night to continue his journey, at eleven
o’clock we troubled an Irish horse and a little jaunting-car to take us over to
Wexford, about twenty miles distant.

Johann Georg Kohl (1808-1878) was a German scholar, cartographer and geographer, who visited Ireland in 1842. His intention was to see it “without any object in view other than to become acquainted with the country, and to see everything that was interesting and remarkable in it” He was a native of Bremen, and he studied and traveled widely and was noted for his unbiased perspective.  As such his views on Waterford and the harbour should be seen and judged in this light. A man after my own heart, you might say!

I’m only speculating that the Repealer was a paddle steamer, but most ships involved in the Waterford New Ross or Waterford Duncannon ferry trade were to my knowledge.  I had not heard of the Repealer before but an online thread suggests she was brought in as a rival to challenge the Waterford New Ross Steam navigation company but only lasted some months.

Extracts taken from J. G. Kohl, Travels in Ireland, translated from the German, (London 1844)
You can read the entire book here

Thanks to Frank Murphy for his kind assistance.

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