Monday, 9 January 2017

LOUGH NEAGH's SAND DREDGING TRADE


Finn McCool, an Irish Giant lived on an Antrim headland and one day when going about his daily business a Scottish Giant named Fingal began to shout insults and hurl abuse from across the channel. In anger McCool lifted a clod of earth and threw it at the giant as a challenge, the earth landed in the sea.
                                
            

                              The giant Finn McCool painted on the side of a public house in the town of Bushmills in County Antrim, Northern - Stock Image 
                                                Finn McCool
                                         Fingal retaliated with a rock thrown back at McCool and shouted that McCool was lucky that he wasn't a strong swimmer or he would have made sure he could never fight again. McCool was enraged and began lifting huge clumps of earth from the shore, throwing them so as to make a pathway for the Scottish giant to come and face him. However by the time he finished making the crossing he had not slept for a week and so instead devised a cunning plan to fool the Scot.

McCool disguised himself as a baby in a cot and when his adversary came to face him Finn's wife told the Giant that McCool was away but showed him his son sleeping in the cradle. The Scottish giant became apprehensive, for if the son was so huge, what size would the father be? In his haste to escape Fingal sped back along the causeway McCool had built, tearing it up as he went. He is said to have fled to a cave on Staffa which is to this day named 'Fingal's Cave'.

One of the pieces of earth thrown by McCool landed way off mark and became the Isle of Man and the hole it left was Lough Neagh.

Noel Quinn’s “The Toome Sand Industry- A Short History” gives a more scientific explanation for the creation of the Lough and its sand deposits. To wit: It is believed that in the Caledonian period, circa 400 million years ago, massive tectonic shifts took place in Ireland which began to form the basin in which Lough Neagh now lies. Intensive volcanic activity in the area further shaped the landscape and then some 1.8 million years ago the various ice ages began. When the ice finally receded about 10,000 years ago, a somewhat lager lake than now emerged, into which had been deposited vast quantities of sand, possibly from as far away as Scotland, by glacial action. Fortunately for Toome, the main sand beds were along the north shore from Toome village to the Moyola River and inland toward Lough Beg. Another large pocket of sand was deposits at Traad Point close to Ballyronan. In the Lough itself, sand can be found from Toome Bay down where the Ballinderry River enters the Lough. This sand is still to be seen in the sandy beaches along the Lough shore from the Toome side of the Moyola River. There are also the remains of the sand beds clearly visible at Traad. The sand deposits can therefore by defined as the three distinct types: the beaches, the (mostly under bog) beds above the current water line (typically nine to ten feet deep) and deposits under the Lough waters. Distinctive methods of extraction have evolved in line with the deposit type”

The name of the Lough means “Lough of the horse-god Eochu” being the lord of the underworld who is supposed to live beneath its waters.

The first sand to be worked commercially in the area of the Lough came from the boggy areas inland from the shore commonly referred to as “shore”, “land” or “bog” sand. The inland lagoons created by the extraction of this sand also saw the use of the first “marine” craft, being a barge and later a converted flying boat tender fitted with a suction pipe and pump.

At 20 miles long by 12 miles wide, with an average depth of 12meters, Lough Neagh is the largest area of freshwater in the United Kingdom and, as well as providing (free and gratis?) over 40% of Northern Ireland’s potable water requirements. It has been accessed since 1763  by the  lagan Canal with its seventeen locks, with names such as ‘Micky Taylors’, ‘Molly Ward’s’ & ‘Hanna’s Lock’. One account of it’s history records “…there was a towpath all of the twenty five miles from Belfast to Lough Neagh which, until the motor engine arrived, was transited  by horse-drawn canal boats which were occasionally “poled” when empty…by 1850, the canal; journey had improved to less than a week. Barges carried non-perishable goods inland often returning with a cargo of Lough Neagh sand. At its peak, over 100,000tons of freight was carried annually. There is currently no single statutory navigation authority for Lough Neagh although a number of local authorities enforce rules and regulations in the vicinity of their marinas and facilities around the Lough.

As well as supplying the Provence with fresh water, in 2008 the Lough provided 1.7million tons of sand for Northern Ireland’s construction industry being 25% of its needs.

The mineral rights to the bed of the Lough are owned by the Shaftesbury Estate and the dredging companies pay a levy to The Shaftesbury Estate of Lough Neagh Ltd.

In 1963 a case was brought to the High Court, which was at that time the longest drawn-out case in history, to determine who owned the eel fishing rights of Lough Neagh. The outcome was that it was established that eel-fishing rights in Lough Neagh “…including the bed and soil of the Lough…” were awarded by Charles 1st to the Earl of Donegal in 1640. Ownership evolved from there to The Shaftesbury Estate of Lough Neagh Ltd. Registered number NI 005979.

The owner of the bed and soil of the Lower Bann is the The Honourable  The Irish Society, being a charity working for the benefit of the community in County Londonderry, as laid down in Royal Charters in 1613 and 1662 which govern its activities.


The sudden death of Lord Shaftsbury was followed by the death of his 28 year old son of a heart attack in May 2005. It is understood that the DoE turned down an offer to the rights of Lough Neagh but that they were formally advised to buy it to protect it but had not done so by the time his son Anthony Ashley–Cooper died just six months after his father. With two lots of death duties to pay, it was thought that the Shaftesbury Estate would be forced to sell but the Lough remains in the Estate’s ownership.

In addition to the Shaftesbury Estate, there is an exhaustive list of the organizations that have interests in the Lough, including:  Lough Neagh Sand Traders Association,  Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative Society, Lough Neagh Rescue, Lough Neagh Partnership, Inland Waterways Association of Ireland. There are also seven local councils with an interest and a management role in Lough Neagh, the Blackwater and the Upper Bann: Cookstown, Magherafelt, Craigavon, Antrim, Dungannon and South Tyrone, Armagh and Lisburn. The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure has a statutory remit to maintain the navigation channel and markers at the mouth of the Sixmilewater and also maintains 48 navigation markers in the Lough as a non-statutory public service. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment has responsibility for economic policy development, energy for tourism, mineral development and health and safety. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has a role in co-coordinating responses to incidents in the waterways. The Commissioners of Irish Lights have oversight of any navigation authority in respect of the aids to navigation that it places and maintains.

On 17th April, 2012 the Northern Island Assembly discussed the variously criticized management of Lough Neagh and agreed “ That this Assembly calls on the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure and the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to convene a working group to explore and pursue actively the potential for a cross-departmental approach to bring Lough Neagh back into public ownership.”           
       

History books make reference to 17th century settlers using sand from the Lough in house building and one William Robson’s Salterstown glassworks which may well have used sand from the Lough during its brief existence from 1611 to 1618 but extracting the sand from the Lough in significant commercial quantities mostly began operating after WWII in line with the widespread reconstruction required.

Noel Quinn refers to the first sand extraction “…In the early days the only resource available to win sand from the beaches was by manual labour, long tail shovels and horses and carts. Carts, which could carry up to one ton, were driven on to the beaches, even into the shallow water and were loaded by gangs of men wielding shovels-known as ‘dragging’. The loaded carts then made their slow way along rough country lanes and roads , to the railway station at Toome…”.  One Henry Catherwood was involved in the Lough’s sand business with his ownership of the sand deposits on the shore which is still known locally as “Catherwood’s Shore”

‘Quiet Places of the Lower Bann River’ by John Hughes and Donald Barton mentions “A Mr. Carey began the business of taking sand from the Lough, followed by a Mr. Ellis, Mr. O'Neill and Mr. Catherwoo, this was in the days of horse and cart. These pioneers were in turn followed by Andrew Hutchinson, Scott Brothers, Walls Brothers, The Maddens, McCanns and others.

Boats, with collapsible bottoms, were introduced to lift and carry sand from all over the Lough before dumping it close inshore. Machines were put to work, that sucked the sand off the bottom and mixed with water forced it through a large pipe onto the shore. From there it is loaded onto lorries for transport to its destination. The location where the sand is brought ashore is mostly along the Strand Road outside the village and close to the boundary of the disused airfield.”

Today, sand extraction is Lough Neagh’s largest industry providing the raw material for a range of products within the glass, tile and concrete business. It is not known exactly how long sand has been extracted from the Lough but a glass works was established on the western shore at Salterstown where William Robson leased the land in 1611. Production ceased in 1918 when, it is assumed, there was a problem with the lease

Dredging for sand in the Lough from the  early 1930’s was undertaken by a number of local businessmen including Ben Brown & Sons in Kinnego, Patrick Wall / The Walls family around Ballyronan, Norman Emerson  in Ardmore and Arthur Mullholland / AE Mullholland around Derryclone

The Lough has been lowered four times, the first in 1846, and the last in 1959 allowing, in the 1930’s and 40’s, with the level of the Lough much higher than now, sand was extracted from the edge of the Lough loading wooden barges by wheelbarrow and sold for two or three shillings a ton. Sand was also dredged in Derryclone Bay and taken up the Lagan Canal to Belfast amongst other places, Lough Neagh sand was used on the building of Stormont and seven thousand tons was used to prepare the playing surface of Croke Park, headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association.



Both the Walls and Scott families first pumped sand from lagoons inland from the Lough’s shore.

Noel Quinn records “The introduction of sand pumping is universally attributed to the ingenuity of Mr. Fred Fallon, who was originally manually dragging out sand from the shallow water at Mc Grogan’s shore. It is not clear where this idea came from originally but it transformed the industry by increasing production capability and also making accessible the sand beds below the water table level and in the reserves in the deeper waters of the Lough.”

The problem of balancing the proportion of water and sand such that the suction pipe does not choke when dredging marine aggregates is well understood by the crews of all aggregate dredgers. Being so, they will fully appreciate the following account of the early pumping trials on the Lough “ John Joe Walls still remembers Fred Fallon standing in the shallows with a rope over his shoulder controlling the suction pipe, to ensure that the sand and water mix flowed steadily. Blockages were a constant problem if the suction pipe was not managed properly. The 60 ton dredge pipes of modern sea-going aggregate dredgers, dredging in 50 metres of water with a heavy sea running, use swell compensators and relief valves in place of Fred Fallon’s broad shoulders!



“ Patsy Walls remembers buying his first pump in 1954 and starting to pump shallow water sand from the Lough. This involved placing the pump on the shore and extending a floating section of suction pipe out into the water. The sand was pumped ashore into a sod dam from where it was excavated after drying”

 Following start of sand pumping, in the early 1950’s, a number of Guinness’s own barges relocated to Lough Neagh by way of the Irish Sea & Lower Bann River where they found gainful employment in the sand trade.

At least six of the John Kelly dumb barges, used on the Lagan for transporting coal from the John Kelly colliers, were used in the Lough Neagh sand trade. Some as-built with tugs and others after being fitted out with diesel engines. Many of these barges were built by Portadown Foundry with one, the Kathleen being converted to a pump boat moored in Toome Bay.



                                                                Guinness barge

The dredge pipes on the modern Lough Neagh dredgers point forwards such that they cannot trail dredge as most aggregate dredgers do. Instead, when stationary on the tideless Lough, with the dredge pump running, the dredge pipe is lowered to the bed of the Lough and the end, known locally as the “gub” being local slang for “face”, (crews of sea-going aggregate dredger crews would best recognise it as being similar to a “shark’s mouth”) of the pipe is carefully driven a few metres into the seabed by an ahead movement of the main engine. The dredge pipes are 12 or 14 inches in diameter and cargoes of 200tons are loaded in less than one hour.





                     The gub of the dredger Rams Island is seen on the left of the photo.

Broken dredge pipes are an ever present danger for any aggregate dredger with the weighty dredge pipes of sea-going aggregate dredgers having substantial recovery gear which generally allows the crew to recover the pipe without outside assistance. Not so for the Lough Neagh dredgers which have a rudimentary system employing a recovery rope and often the necessary assistance of another vessel.

Dredging depths are anything between three and fifteen metres and the dredgers mostly work only during daylight hours and can often do three cargoes in a day.

There are no prescribed dredging areas (known as “pumping grounds”) as, much like on a trawler, it’s the skipper’s experience of the different material found at various places on the bed of the Lough which dictates the quality of the cargo, fine sand for general building sharp/course sand for cement making. A significant amount of the ships dredge in areas sheltered from the prevailing south west winds on the west side of the Lough nevertheless, locals speak of the “three sisters” wave pattern which can occur in strong winds and give rise to sea conditions which require the relatively small dredgers to take care.

When moving to a new area it takes a few weeks for the dredgers to fully break up the compacted bed of the Lough.

The modern Lough Neagh dredger works daylight hours and delivers up to three cargoes a day.

Discharging is done either grab, dumped into man-made embayment and pumped ashore or, currently the most common method, by re-watering the cargo from ashore and using a shore suction pipe to extract the saturated cargo from the dredger’s hold. At one time the pump boats pumped material ashore via a pipeline, with another defunct method being the loading of dumb barges by grab barge anchored offshore. Emerson’s Ruth being one such barge which had a Caterpillar 215 tracked digger on her for the purpose.



In the early days, with no sophisticated navigational equipment on board, the crews of the sand dredgers only had a magnetic compass and watch with which to navigate the Lough which was particularly difficult on foggy days. Dead reckoning being the best skippers could do on such days. Today’s sand dredgers are equipped with GPS, VHF, Auto pilot, echo sounder and radar.

The Lough is littered with the remains of sand barges and dredgers which have ended their days in a variety of ways. Two, the Lagan and Killiney respectively form part of the quay wall at Scotts’ Sandy Bay site and part of the Ballyginnif breakwater. The Vartry can still be seen sunk west of breakwater near the entrance to the Toombridge floodgates. The Foyle is all but buried in the sand on the shores of Lennymore Bay at the mouth of the Crumlin River. The Slaney lies in Queens Gap, north of the Toome Canal on the Lower Bann River. Lying in 20meters of water off Doss, the Clonsilla foundered in a storm in Toome Bay



                     Clonsilla approaching Toombridge lock en route to Lough Neagh

As the trade increased so did the size and relative sophistication of the vessels involved, not to mention the tricky logistics of getting vessels too large to access Lough Neagh via the River Bann.

Lough Neagh sand currently provides over 30% of the Northern Island construction industry sand and is also variously used by sports grounds, golf courses, horse paddocks, horticultural centres with its silt by-product covering ducting for BT, Cabeltel & Phoenex cables.

Prospecting for the best aggregate is a significant and on-going aspect of the marine aggregate dredging industry and Noel Quinn records how it was carried out on the Lough: “….Walter (Scott) asked the barge skippers to range over the Lough and retrieve sample loads, noting where they came from. Everywhere was tested from Ram’s Island, Crumlin River and Sixmilewater at Antrim for example. This exercise was extremely useful as he was able to identify that the best sand was in the region of the mouth of the Ballinderry River, about one and a half miles offshore. This bank, or ‘bru’ is still the main extraction area today”

                       VESSELS INVOLVED IN LOUGH NEAGH’S SAND DREDGING TRADE

Julia Pat         
Suction dredger
Specification / history: Built London 1962 by the Thames Dry Dock Company as a motor barge for Bishop’s Wharf Ltd Warrington, Lancashire. 62 Net 109 Gross

                                                MULHOLLAND / LAGAN

AE Mulholland & Sons have been extracting sand from Lough Neagh since the 1940’s. The business was originally started by Arthur Eamond Mulholland with a small boat and a shovel but these days the sand is removed by the ex Dutch vessels Lennie & Libertas. 
                                                  

Lagan owns 80% of Mulholland Brothers Brick & Sand Co

In the early days of extracting sand from the bed of the Lough the need for affordable and available vessels was partly and coincidently met by the demise of the Guinness Liffey river barge traffic which was being reduced due to the use of road tankers. At least two M boats of the Grand Canal Company, the 44M and 64M, which were used in the Guinness trade, had their Bolinder engines removed and were used as in the sand trade by the Mulholland Bros. towed by their tug Bantam 2 which also worked with the pump boat Enterprise from 1969.

                               

                                                   Batam 2 in retirement

Mullholland’s Enterprise, was a motorised barge with a crane on board which, like Scott’s the Royal Daylight, moor on the dredging ground and grab load barges which moored alongside. The Enterprise is now permanently located beside Waterside House on Oxford Island. It was built in Portadown Foundry around 1900. It was used originally on the Lagan Canal before being converted to a sand barge working on Lough Neagh and is believed to be one of the last 1930s sand barge to be used on the Lough. Craigavon Museum Services has been involved in a project to restore the barge to illustrate the history and heritage of the inland waterways in the surrounding

               
                          
                          Sand barge Enterprise entering the Upper Bann

In 2008 Mulholland Bros has purchased a new 55 metre barge as part of ongoing investment in dredging operations at Lough Neagh.

Purchased in 2004, with a 6.5 metre beam, a 2.9 metre draught and weighing 250 tonnes, Cornelis SR is the largest sand dredger operating on the Lough. With a capacity to carry 400 tonnes per trip she could comfortably deliver over 200,000 tonnes of dredged sand a year.

The barge was built in Holland and was purchased from a local family who lived on board and transported cargo for a living on the Rhine Canal system.

Following inspection in a dry dock, the vessel set out on a five-day voyage to Lisahally Port in Derry where it was prepared for one of the largest road transport operations ever seen in Ireland. 

Two 500/t cranes lifted the barge out of the water onto a special road trailer. The wheelhouse of the vessel had to be removed to comply with height restrictions identified by a structural survey of bridges on the route.  Many roads were closed and in Dungiven street lighting, road signs and overhead cables had to be moved to enable Cornelis SR to pass through.

The journey took over ten hours to cover a distance of 44 miles. 

At Toomebridge, the barge was transferred to a specially built slip and placed on plinths before being lifted into the Lough. The barge was then towed to Sandy Bay, where it was converted to a sand barge by the Mulhollands team.

When loaded barge arrives at Lagans (Mullholland Bros) Sandy Bay quay for processing, Lough water is added to the system to prime the pump & slurry the mix for processing. Water is recycled from a holding silo where sand is held prior to being lifted and separated before being pumped to the dewatering towers.  Mullholland have a site at Galweys Gate.

In 1987 Lagan Holdings acquired a Dutch Rhine river barge converted her to a suction dredger with a cargo capacity of 500tons and re-named her Tramp. She was delivered by road in two halves and welded together at Antrim. On 14th August 2002 she sank in 5 metres of water 1.25 miles off the Ballinderry River after being in collision with the Norman. Lough Neagh Rescue was quickly on the scene and took off the Tramp’s crew. After several unsuccessful attempts, she was raised, towed to Sandy Bay where she was refurbished, including a new wheelhouse. As a precaution, the Norman was briefly beached near Curran but soon after refloated and returned to Derryadd Sand Quay for repairs

Fairhead        
Suction dredger 

Tramp
Acquired 1987
Suction dredger
Length 58mtr 

Libertas         
Suction dredger 

Lennie           
Suction dredger 


Bantam 2                   
Tug
Launched September 1955. L 7.62mtr B3.66mtr D2.13mtr. Purchased by Mulholland about 1969. Sank but raised. 

Cornelis         
Suction dredger 

Enterprise                  
Grab dredger
Specification / history: Ireland’s Hertitage Boat Association record in 2011:-  It is believed that the Enterprise is the last floating example of a Lagan lighter; she has recently been purchased by Craigavon Museum Service who intend restoring her as a dry land exhibit. She was built in Portadown foundry in the 1890’s, is sixty feet long and thirteen feet six inches wide. She is made of riveted iron, though was re bottomed with welded sheets in Hanna’s dry dock in Lisburn in the early 1950’s. 

She was one of three barges sold to W D Irwin and was sailed with the Margaret up the Lagan canal to Lough Neagh. The Margaret was eventually scuttled and presently lies sunk at Mulholland’s sand quay. Both barges were re-named by the Irwin family, but to date the original names elude us. Details of the third barge are unknown, we are hopeful we can still find some documentation to complete the picture. The Enterprise operated on Lough Neagh as a sand dredger for quite a number of years before being abandoned in the 1980’s. 

Originally she would have been horse drawn but was later fitted with a Bolinder engine, which was in turn replaced by a more modern diesel engine which is also now gone. The gentleman who removed the Bolinder, now in his 80’s, still works as a fitter for Irwin’s Bakery. The engine was donated to Lisburn Technical College, the present whereabouts are unknown. 

The original pot bellied stove and shelving are still in the living quarters. There was a crude cabin constructed on the rear deck, this was not original and has been removed. The original tiller and arm are still in existence even though the steering has been modified. A JCB digger had been mounted on deck; this has also been removed though the girders put in place to strengthen the barge are still in situ. 


When the boat was lifted ashore in recent years she came complete with a lovely tapered shaft and a big bronze prop. Sadly within 24 hours of being lifted out someone cut through the shaft and stole the prop. 

Funding to restore the barge has now been secured and we look forward to a new life for this grand old lady as an interpretation centre for the new Inland Waterways Museum at Oxford Island. 
       
                  WALLS

The Walls family began taking sand from the shore of their own land at the mouth of the River Moyala in the early 1900’s and soon after supplied sold it for four pence per ton to Courtney Catherwood of Belfast. Noel Quinn records Walls “…..put their three horses and carts to this operation and because of the poor condition of the road to Toome, they could only manage three loads per day each. In winter, hurricane or candle lamps were attached to the carts to enable working to continue after dark…”

1925 Patrick Joseph Walls founded P. J.Walls. 1949 Incorporated. 1986 Walls Holding Ltd established.

Lee                      
Ex-river class Guinness barge Lee sold to PJ Walls by Norman Emerson. Used as platform for their grab alongside their harbour wall  

Liffey                                     
Motorised Barge
Specification / history:  River class Guinness barge built in 1888 by Ross & Walpole of Dublin. No 12 of the Guinness fleet commandeered by the British Government & saw service in France during the First WW. A little larger than to Lagan she was originally named Anna Liffey but was changed to Liffey as another vessel had the name. 
                       

                     12th September 1962. Last Guinness Liffey barge is towed home

Boyne                
Motorised barge
Built by Ross & Walpole of Dublin in 1891 as No 14 of the Guinness River class fleet commandeered by the British Government & saw service in France during the First WW. Now forms part of the harbour wall at P J Wall’s quay in Toome Bay 

Lee                 
Motorised Barge
River class Guinness barge built in 1889. First belonged to Norman Emerson and subsequently sold to P J Walls who use her as a platform for their grab in their harbour wall  

Delcapo                     
Suction dredger



           EMERSON

1945 Norman Emerson (1919-2007), the second child of 15 siblings, began processing sand from a field adjacent to his home in Ardmore with an N5 Commer truck and a navvy shovel and later, after WWII, was the first company to move into Lough Neagh dredging. Noel Quinn’s account of Emerson’s early days records Norman Emerson “…acquired an RAF craft used for fuelling seaplanes… into which he installed a six inch Gwynne pump. This combination was anchored some way off shore and was connected to a steel discharge pipe running to the shore. This pipe was held in place by pairs of steel rods hammered into the bed of the Lough, which can still be seen  today…..The depth of sand was limited and hence everything had to be moved on a regular basis. 

Current MD is Norman’s son George Emerson with four of his five brothers also in management positions. Grandson Colin is the Group’s general manger. Seven other grandchildren work for the group 

In June 1998 Norman Emerson & Sons purchased a Dutch barge, the Verandering, from the Meinen family who had worked and lived on her since she was built in 1939, the present owner, Jan Meinen, having been born on board. With a length of 46 metres, she was too long by over 15 metres to transit the River Bann so another route from Holland was requires. A log (compiled by 'tridentport' of shipsnostalgia.com) of her journey to her new home makes interesting reading:-

29th May 1998 Surveyed at Meppel. 

June.  Purchased Norman Emerson & Sons Ltd. 

July.   Departed Rotterdam bound for Belfast via Caledonian Canal 

29th July.  Arrived Belfast 


21st August .   80 tons of ballast was removed in preparation for lifting her out of the water at Belfast. However, due to the combined height of the barge and bogies there was insufficient clearance of the bridges on the roads from Belfast to Toomebridge. Even with the top half of the wheelhouse removed the combined height was 5.55metres, the maximum permissible air draft for the route being 5.48 metres. She was also too large to transit the Lower Bann locks so an alternative route had to be found.

It was decided to sail her to Lisahally, County Londonderry, lift her out and complete the last 43 miles of the voyage by road.

23rd September. The eighty tons of sand ballast was replaced in preparation for her sea passage.

25th September. Departed Belfast. Arrived Lisahally. 

2nd October. Lifted onto low loader. 

11th October Departed Lisahally en route by road for Toomebridge.

The road journey required a great deal of planning and co-ordination between the various agencies and a rolling road block which was bound to cause problems for residents and road users along the way so the trip was scheduled on a Sunday. Those involved included the Department of the Environment (Roads), Northern Island Electricity, British Telecom and the Royal Ulster Constabulary’s Traffic Branch. The ten hour journey saw electricity and telephone lines temporarily moved and drew a great deal of attention as the Verandering crept towards her new home.

11th October. Arrived Toombridge and parked outside the offices of competitor Scotts of Toombridge 

2th October shifted to the Lough side yard of P & J McCann and lifted on to keel blocks. A crane then lifted her bow and the keel blocks were replaced with a series of telegraph poles. Her stern was then similarly lifted and when her entire length was resting on telegraph poles, she was pushed along the poles and launched into Lough Neagh. Later that day she sailed under her own power to her home port, Ardmore, where she berthed ninety minutes later having practically circumnavigated the County Antrim. 

16th December entered into service as a suction aggregate dredger.. 

March 1999. Renamed Norman after the company’s founder, Norman Emmerson.


                                                    Norman Emmerson

Ardmore Point quay (Genflo jet pump technology):

Sand off-loading and processing is carried out on a peninsula of land out into Lough. As with other sites, the system is primed with Lough water and the sand/water mix pumped to large holding tank after which it is screened and de-watered. The run-off water is settled in a series of three settlement tanks prior to discharge to a channel which takes water to end of peninsula where it is discharge into the Lough. As the sand cargoes are discharged in a saturated state they don’t need to de-water their cargoes en route to port as do the all sea aggregate dredgers.

Bay Shore                  
Date Acquired: 2003   
Suction dredger
Ex Nijverheid launched at Toome Bay October 2003. Arrived by road 






                      

                                     VERADERING / NORMAN EN ROUTE TO LOUCH NEAGH

Sunrise                       

Suction dredger
Specification / history: On 5th July 2008 the Sunrise struck rocks / foundered in heavy weather. Coincidently a helicopter from the Republic was in the area on a training exercise and took off the crew who had launched their liferaft. She was subsequently raised and refurbished. 

Jodi                
Suction Dredger 

Helen             
Hopper barge 

Patricia          
Hopper barge 

Lydia Margaret         
Hopper barge 
                         
 
                                               
                                                                 Ruth at work                                          
Ruth
ex Guinness barge Boyne)       
Pontoon with crawler crane 

J.K.17
1968 Sold to J.N.Emerson & Sons, Ardmore, Lugan.
Dumb barge

O.N. 300026 53grt. 65.2 x 14.6 x 6.2 ft. 1957 Built by Harland & Wolff Ltd, Belfast for John Kelly Ltd, Belfast 

J.K.18
1968 Sold to J.N.Emerson & Sons, Ardmore, Lurgan.
Dumb barge.
O.N. 300027. 53grt 65.2 x 14.6 x 6.2 ft. Built by Harland & Wolff Ltd, Belfast for John Kelly Ltd, Belfast.

SCOTT / NORTHSTONE

Prior to WWII, it is suggested that it was the Catherwood family’s significant share to the shore sand market encouraged the Scott family to develop the extraction of sand from the waters of the Lough. With this aim they first acquired the 1892 built 57gt ex Guinness Liffey barge Slaney and the 1902 built 75gt ex Guinness river barge Vartry.

The Slaney was fitted with a single derrick and grab to load dumb barges which were discharged at Toome quay. 


                                                  Sand barge at Toombridge



In [1946 or 11th November 1958??] the Scott brothers of Toombridge formed Scott (Toomebridge) Ltd to extract and market sand from Lough Neagh. In 1969, with about one hundred employees already on their payroll, they developed the sand quay at Sandy Bay followed by the quay at Ballyginnf in 1969 and the site at Hutchinson’s Quay in 1971. These in addition to, amongst others, their established sand sites at Tobermore, Limavady and Traad.  

In [ 19??? after 1945] Scotts acquired six Guinness Liffey barges, sailed them up the east coast to the north east of Antrim and then towed them up the River Bann to Lough Neagh where their holds were altered to accommodate their new role in the sand trade. Several engines were installed over the following years with six cylinder Gardner diesel engines being the final engine of choice. 

Six of the barges were acquired by Scotts of Toomebridge for addition to their fleet of sand barges. They were Foyle, Lagan, Killiney, Chapelizod, Castleknock and the Clonsilla which were all sailed up the east coast to the north coast of Antrim, and then towed up the River Bann to Lough Neagh. Here their holds were altered to accommodate their new role as sand barges. Over the years they had new engines installed several times, eventually finishing up with six cylinder Gardner diesel power units that could deliver up to seven knots under load. The Foyle was later sold to Hutchinson Limited on Lough Neagh and saw out her days there. Sadly none of the lovely old craft survive. Two of them the Killiney and the Lagan, at the end of their working lives in the 1970s, were stripped of all useful equipment and sunk as foundations for new quays.



Castlenock & Chapelizod

A portion of the Killiney can still be seen above water at Ballyginniff Point on the eastern shore of the Lough, 14 miles from Toomebridge. The Lagan’s last resting place is in Sandy Bay near Lurgan. John Joe says you might still see the side of her.

At the height of the Troubles in early 1970 both the Chapelizod and the Castleknock were blown up and totally destroyed.

Skippered by Jimmy Bradley, the Clonsilla was heading back to Toomebridge full of sand at the end of the 70s when she sprang a leak and sank - in 104 feet of water. All that remains of her is the bell, now in the possession of Mrs. Trish Boucher Street, wife of the noted American yachtsman and author, Donald MacQueen Street Jnr. of Glandore, Co. Cork. Mrs. Street’s father was Mr Denis W. Boucher who, as a senior manager in Guinness Brewery presided over the sale of the final elements of the barge fleet, the Clonsilla being the last to go.


The Foyle went down on rocks near Lurgan in foggy weather in the early 50s.

Scott (Toombridge) Ltd was formed in 1946 to extract and market sand from Lough Neagh. Production of concrete roofing tiles began in 1965. The company was acquired in 1973 by Farrans Ltd. TBF Thompson (Garvagh) Ltd acquired Scott of Toomebridge in 1977. TBF stands for Thomas Bacon French Thompson was born above his parent’s grocery shop in 1915, the ‘French’ being his mother’s tribute to the terrible loss of life in the trenches of the Western Front in WW1.

1965 saw Scotts take delivery from her builders, Harland & Wolff Heavy Industries of Belfast, of their first new building being the 150gt motorised barge Ellen May. The Ship-shaped hull of the Ellen May gave her more speed but, reportedly, stability problems in heavy weather. Said problems resulted in James W. Cook & Co of Wivenhoe, who were experienced builders of barges, being given the contract to build the company’s next barge, the William James in 1968. The William James was the name of the Scott brother’s father. The William James dimensions of 55mtrs x 5.85mtrs x 2.43mtrs made her a “Bannamax” vessel, being the maximum sized vessel that could transit the Lower Bann. She was powered by a six cylinder Gardner engine. 

The successful Northstone brand was established in 2005 to bring together the former Ready Use Concrete Company Limited, R J Maxwell and Son Limited and Scott (Toomebridge) Limited companies which at that time were part of the Farrans Limited Group.  Scotts became Northstone in 1950 with the merging of Scott, RJ Maxell & Readyuse. Northstone is owed in turn by CRH Plc which itself was formed in 1970 through the merger of Cement Limited (established in 1936) and Roadstone Limited (established in 1949)                        

During the 1960’s Toome Canal was lined with Ex Guinness barges as Scotts then had their sand quay/berth at the Quay Wall in Toomebridge 

By the end of the 1950’s only the Castelknock & Killiney were still operational Guinness barges. They joined the Scotts fleet, operating out of Quay Wall, Toomebridge in 1961 having arrived in Lough Neagh via the Toome Canal 


It was the Scott brothers Oswald, Rennie and particularly Walter who built up the Northstone sand dredger fleet which included, in the 1960’s and 70’s ordering six identical purpose built dredgers from James W Cook Ltd of Wivenhoe, Essex:- to wit the William James, Ram’s Island ,Coney Island, Sandy Bay, Ballyronan and Toomebridge. Each was 36.7mtr LOA with a 5.88mtr beam and a gross tonnage of 200. 

No longer in service, the Scott Brother’s Royal Daylight and  Kathleen  were motorised pump boat barges which would sail each day, moor offshore and pump sand into the motorised barges which came alongside, before returning to port at the end of the working day.  

The Kathleen was the last to be used as a pump boat in Toombe Bay, being one of the many barges which were built locally in Portadown Foundry and first used by John Kelly’s coal business. She can still be seen at the head of the Benburb Gorge on the Ulster Canal. At least six of the ex John Kelly dumb barges, which were used hauling imported coal from the Kelly colliers, were used in the Lough Neagh Sand trade.  

The six suction dredgers currently owned and operated by Scotts of Toomebridge are identical purpose built bannamax vessels from the Wivenhoe yard of James W Cook Ltd. Their dimensions were such that they could fit the locks of the Lower Bann. “Bannamax” :- The maximum size vessel that can transit the Lower Bann. 

Two new dredgers the Lough Neagh & Royal Daylight were blown up in 1972 during the troubles neither dredger survived the attacks and nor, in one instance, did two of the bombers who tragically died when their bomb exploded prematurely 
    

                               NORTHSTONE– Hutchenson’s Quay site, Ballyginniff and Sandy Bay

When a loaded barge arrives for processing Lough water is added to the system to prime the pump & slurry the mix for processing.

The sand is pumped over a screen to remove any oversize material before being classified into two grades (course& fine). It is then pumped to the dewatering towers where excess water is removed and returned to the barge to continue the process until the end of the load.

The volume of water that is left in the barge at the end of processing is removed for safety reasons and is pumped to a settlement tank where the finer particles settle out prior to discharge and the remaining material stockpiled on site.

The discharge time is approximately 40 – 45 minutes in duration with a surge time at the end of the load of 8-10 minutes.

William James (nicknamed Liam Seamus)
Acquired in the early 1970’s
Motor barge
Built in 1968 by James W Cook of Wivenhoe  of Essex. 

Rams Island  
Acquired in the early 1970’s
Suction dredger
Built by James W Cook of Wivenhoe  of Essex. 
                                                              
Coney Island 
Acquired in the early 1970’s

Suction dredger
250hp Dredge pump 14inch diam dredge pipe. Capacity 200tons. Loading time 35 minutes. Built by James W Cook of Wivenhoe  of Essex. 

Call-out 373
Kinnego and Ardboe Lifeboats where both tasked to the aid of a Sand-Dredger with an engine fire, the Kinnego Lifeboat attended the casualty while the Ardboe Lifeboat ferried Firemen from Ballyronan. The Sand - Dredger was eventually pronounced sound by the Fire crew and escorted to Toome
                                      
Sandy Bay                 
Acquired in the early 1970’s
Suction dredger
Built by James W Cook of Wivenhoe  of Essex. 



                                           Dredger Sandy Bay. Loaded at sea.

                                         


                                             Fully loaded Lough Neagh dredger.

NOTE: Walking on the cargo of a English / Welsh based aggregate dredger would be very dangerous as, unlike the Lough Neagh dredgers which need to discharge saturated cargoes, they strip the water from the cargo so as to discharge it dry leaving large unseen voids under the surface of the cargo which could give way if walked on.


                                                  Discharging at Newagh

NOTE: To ensure the sand cargo is saturated / fluid additional water is being added via the horizontal pipe whilst the saturated sand is pumped out through the vertical pipe.

Bayllyronan           
Acquired in the early 1970’s

'Suction dredger' ?
Built by James W Cook of Wivenhoe  of Essex.

Toomebridge 
Acquired in the early 1970’s
Suction dredger
Built by James W Cook of Wivenhoe  of Essex. 



                                                 Dredger Toomebridge

Killiney                      
Acquired 1961
Motorised Barge used as a digger boar with a rope operated digger mounted on her driven by a 19RB machine and a ¾ m3 bucket which could dredge down to about 30feet.
Guinness Farmleigh Class barge built by Vickers (Ireland) Ltd (the Dublin Dockyard Company). L 24.38 B 5.18. Speed 7kts capacity. Six Cylinder Gardner diesel engine. 105tons Joined Scotts fleet in 1961. L 24.38 B 5.18 Now lying off Ballyginnif as part of the breakwater where she was filled with rocks and scuttled in the 1970’s. 



Killiney as a Guinness barge.


Clonsilla                      
Acquired Circa 1950   
Motorised Barge
Ex Guinness Farmleigh Class barge built by Vickers (Ireland) Ltd (the Dublin Dockyard Company). L 24.38 B 5.18 . Speed 7kts capacity.  Six Cylinder Gardner diesel engine. 105tons Foundered in a storm in Toome Bay (skipper rescue by fishing boat) now lies in 70ft of water off Doss 



Chapelizod                
Acquired Circa 1950
Motorised Barge
Ex Guinness Farmleigh Class barge built by Vickers (Ireland) Ltd (the Dublin Dockyard Company). L 24.38 B 5.18.  Speed 7kts capacity. Six Cylinder Gardner diesel engine. 105tons Lost by explosion during the troubles parts can be seen at Scott’s Hutchinson’s site 



                                                                         Castleknock





                                                          Castleknock as a barge

Castleknock   
Acquired 1961
Motorised Barge

Ex Guinness Farmleigh Class barge built by Vickers (Ireland) Ltd (the Dublin Dockyard Company).  L 24.38 B 5.18. Speed 7kts capacity Six Cylinder Gardner diesel engine 105tons Lost by explosion during the troubles parts can be seen at Scott’s Hutchinson’s site .Joined Scotts fleet in 1961

Lough Neagh
Sand Dredger
Built by James W Cook of Wivenhoe of Essex. Blown up during the 1970s. 

Ballyginniff               
Sand Dredger
Built by James W Cook of Wivenhoe of Essex.
Blown up during the 1970s 

Foyle              
Acquired circa 1947
Motorised Barge
River Class ex Guinness River class barge built by Ross & Walpole of Dublin in 1892. Circa 1947 first purchased by Jim Bruce & Sam Adams, trading as the Lough Neagh Sand & Brick Company, for the sand trade then Bob Scott took over (when he acquired Lough Neagh sand & Brick in 1957). Next sold to Walter & Herbert Scott, her last owners were (Scott?) Hutchinson Ltd, with whom she finished her days. Powered by a six cylinder Gardner diesel engine she now lies half buried in the sand at the mouth of the Crumlin River in Lennymore Bay 


Lagan
Pump platform
River Class ex Guinness barge No10 built by Harland & Wolfe in Belfast in 1877. The first of three steam driven barges the Lagan was powered by a marine tube type boiler with a delivered pressure of 100lbs. The boiler, measuring 1.82mtrs diameter by 1.82mtrs long drove a two cylinder reciprocating engine that drove two propellers. Another smaller engine of the same type was fitted amidships to drive the crane which could lift 635kg. First purchased for the sand trade by Jim Bruce & Sam Adams, when acquired by H & W Scott Sand Merchants she was fitted with a 14” Blackstone pump with a floating pipe to a sod dam ashore. Noel Quinn notes that the pump “…had originally been used during the blitz of Belfastdue to its high capacity it was largely unsuccessful as a shallow water sand pump….the 14” was soon replaced by a 6” Moore’s pump which was found to be more efficient” The Lagan ended her working life in the 1970’s and now forms part of the Quay at Scott’s Sand Bay site.  

Royal Daylight          
Pump boat
53gt  Length 21.94mtrs  Beam 4.57mtrs. A tank barge previously owned by the Anglo American Oil Company of London. Built by Gordon Alison on the Mersey. She’d sail each day, load motorised barges and then return at the end of the working day. 


                                                                       Unknown ??




                                                           Varty at rest

Vartry
Motorised Barge?
Built Dublin in 1902 by Ross & Walpole at a cost of £2780. L 24.2mt B 5.0mt GT 75. Ex Guinness River class barge first used in Lough Neagh ‘s diatomite (clay) trade. Now lies  sunk west of the breakwater at the entrance to the floodgates at Toomebridge 

Slaney            
Motorised Barge?
Specification / history : Built Dublin 1892 by Ross & Walpole at a cost of £2620 gt57 Ex Guinness Liffey first used in Lough Neagh‘s diatomite (clay) trade. Now lies in the Queens Gap on the Lower Bann north of Toome Canal. The Slaney saw out her days also on Lough Neagh with the company Hutchinson Ltd 

Kathleen                    
Pump boat?
Specification / history : Ex John Kelly coal barge. . She can still be seen at the head of the Benburb Gorge on the Ulster Canal.  

Schiestroom 
Date acquired December 1973
Suction Dredger
Built in 1949 by Worst & Dutmer , Scheepsbouwer of Meppel, Holland she was fitted out as a trawler M202 in 1962 for Rederij Koppe N.V. of Amsterdam. She changed hands again in 1962 when a Roy Thomas Eynon acquired her. Bernard Williams & Co of Swansea purchased her in 1965. Load Line Shipping of Bangor acquired her in June 1969 selling her to Scotts in December 1973. The Schiestroom [O.N.303255 118grt 77net 103 x 18 x 6.7ft] was towed by the trawler Ros Mor (B89) from Bangor to Coleraine then to Lough Neagh where she was converted to a sand dredger. Later, in 1977, she was fitted with a new wheelhouse and a Gardner diesel engine. Reportedly, in July 1970, the last coaster to visit Portpatrick, she was broken up on Lough Neagh in 1986.


Rosedale. 

Olive Pitwood. 

Schestrom ..Dutch barge whose name means ‘snow storm’ 

Writon 

Knockagh
Motorised barge used as a digger boat fitted with a rope operated digger, with a ¾ m3 bucket which could dredge to some 30feet, mounted on her driven by an NCK 304 machine. She had a ‘smoothing iron’ shaped barge possibly brought in during the last Lough drainage scheme. She was too large to berth fully loaded at the quay at Toome so lightened into one of the smaller barges when she came in, having loaded herself at the end of the day. 

Janet
Clyde steam tug fitted with a 500hp Paxman diesel engine


                                                CEMEX/ RMC / READYMIX

Noel Quinn records:- Patsy and Sean McCann operated as a family business up until the late 1990’s. In the early days, they had a floating tank arrangement which acted as a pump platform. A delivery pipe was supported on floating barrels for perhaps up to a quarter of a mile carrying fluidized sand ashore. Two of Sean’s sons, Peter & Michael, operated with one hopper barge up until the mid 1990’s. The company was sold to Readymix (Ulster) Limited who now trade as Cemex, the Mexican cement giant 

The Jetty at Sandy Bay was once part of a WWII seaplane base used by the Royal Air Force and USAAF. There were 12 seaplane moorings offshore and “runway” navigation buoys were laid to the north and south of Rams Island which were first used for bombing and gunnery practice in the Lough. From May 1944 a regular daily service from Sandy Bay to New York via Port Lyautey, Morocco.  

On 1st March, 2005 the Mexican company CEMEX acquired the RMC Group PLC which included Readymix (Eire) Ltd which had been founded in Dublin in 1965. By the mid 1990’s Readymix had acquired the Catherwood Group of companies in Northern Ireland and in 1999 the Finlay concrete products group.  

NAME? 23rd May 2003. RMC’s 1950 built hopper barge refurbished and re-launched at Toome Bay. Fitted with a 500hp Cummins diesel engine and a 399hp Deutz cargo pump able to load her 450 tonnes of cargo in forty minutes

At CEMEX’s Toome wharf when a loaded barge arrives for processing the load is dumped by barge into manmade embayment to allow barge to return to Lough on next run. Deposited load of sand is suctioned from bed of embayment and pumped to classifiers and then dewatering towers where excess water is removed and pumped to settlement tank prior to discharge to Lough.


Antrim     
Barge (motorised?)
Loaded offshore by grab and towed to shore by tug? 

Tredagh                     
Suction dredger 

Gylfie     [See McCann as the Ely]     
Suction dredger 

Sandpiper                  
Suction dredger
Built in 1950 as a hopper barge. Previously worked on continent, England and elsewhere in Ireland. Launched in Toome Bay 23rd May 2003. Capacity 450tons. 500hp Cummins main engine. 300hp pump engine. Loading time 40 minutes       



                                       
                                                  Dredger Sandpiper at sea





                                               Dredger Sandpiper prior to launch
                                             
                                                     
                                              P & J McCann (Toomebridge )Ltd

Ely                             
Suction dredger
Built as SL65 by Orenstein & Koppel A.G. of Lubeck. 1985 Renamed Golfbraekker. 1988 Renamed Gylfie R. 1991 Renamed Gylfe. 1998 Renamed Ely by P & J McCann Ltd. 

Sandmartin
Grab Dredger    
Date Acquired 11th July 1986
Specification / history : Registered 11th November 1954 as Kelly barge JK 16, renamed Sandmartin built by W J Yarwood & Sons of Northwich O.N 182815. 121.58gt L 30mtr B 6.7mtr for “The Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses of the County Borough of Preston”. Who fitted her with a single grab. She cost £29,053 to build with a further £3,200 being spent on the two 42hp outboard units fitted in 1960. Next owned by Pounds Marine Shipping Ltd of Havant who paid £8,200 for and where she may well have been broken up if not purchased by the Merseyside company Carment Tug Co. Ltd and then the Northern Ireland Fishery Harbour Authority of Downpatrick from whom P & J McCann (Toombridge) Ltd acquired her on 11thy July 1986 and converted her to a suction dredger. Official number 182815. Fitted with 2 x 42hp outboard motors. Bottom dump discharge facility. The Sandmartin has been refurbished by the Rams Island Heritage Group and is now stationed on the island as an interpretative facility.



                                                      OR????

J.K.16
1968 Sold to J.N.Emerson & Sons, Ardmore, Lurgan.
Dumb barge. Specification/ history: O.N. 185561 53grt . 65.2 x 14.6 x 6.2ft. 1955 Built by Harland & Wolff ltd, Belfast for John Kelly, Belfast. 

      BROWN

A Benjamin Brown of  Kinnego was registered as a “sand merchant” in 1939. Belfast Gazette 30th June 1941: Partnership between Benjamin Brown, Robert John Brown, Edward Brown & Mary Brown of Ben Brown & Sons of Kinnego, Lurgan dissolved by mutual consent. The four named partners continued the business under the name Ben Brown & Sons. Ben Brown and a Mr Slater were early pioneers of the sand business in the Lady Bay & Martin’s Bay area of Lough Neagh. Noel Quinn’s account suggests “…Danny McVeigh, who worked for Mr Slater, introduced the concept of pumping sand ashore from the shallow at the edge of the Lough.”  But is uncertain as to whether it was before or after Fred Faloon’s pumping device.                         


                                    
                                                                IRWIN

W.D. Irwin & Sons was established in 1912 by William David Irwin. MD Brian Irwin was inspired to develop the aggregate business when travelling to collect flour from mills he delivered sand to customers en route. WD Irwin & Sons are the largest indigenous baker in NI. No record found of Irwin being directly involved in the Lough Neagh sand dredging trade.

JK 7  / Joan
Dumb barge?
1964 Sold to J.N.Emerson & Sons, Ardmore, Lugan
1968 Sold to W.D.Irwin & Sons Ltd. Portadown & James McCormick, Annaloiste, Lugan.

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