Boat hire on the Blackwater – 17th century vs. 21st century

Known as the Irish Rhine, the Blackwater was well advertised to tourists and day trippers alike throughout the nineteenth century. As we draw to an end of another successful season of trying to keep life on the Blackwater a float we look back on what we added to our dock this year and how it resembles historic uses along the Blackwater.


Before the age of steam people usually hired out one of the trading lighters to enjoy the delights of the river. This type of boat hire dates back to 1638 with a trip from Lismore to Ballinatray and continues into the early 1800s. The nineteenth century saw great success for the passenger services along the Blackwater right up until the war in 1914.


Roadways and railways dominated transport after the war offering views of the river. With the reopening of Greenways across the country that follow the lines of the abandoned railways we have towed the line this season with availability of our self drive boats. Available for hire as once was the case of the river back in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Believe us the views from the river are twice as good on the river as they are of the river.

Wouldn’t it be great to use the Blackwater like they did in the past? To have it used more frequently & easily. Why not take out our self drive boats… Our self drives can fit 5 adults (but 4 adults, 2 children would also work) including the driver on each boat – we have 2. Why not bring a picnic, stop somewhere along the river to enjoy the views. You will be guided along by the ‘lead’ boat but you are in control of where you would like to go and where you might want to stop. The price – it costs €50 per hour per boat.



‘Blackwater and Bride. Navigation and Trade, 7000BC to 2007.’ By Niall O’Brien

De Wadden on the Blackwater

On the 8th May 1958 the famous schooner De Wadden made her final trip on the River Blackwater. This week is the 60th Anniversary of this voyage. The De Wadden made 43 passages on the Blackwater between 1936 and 1958. No more schooners came up the river after the De Wadden’s final trip, as the new Youghal bridge heralded the end of an era as the height between the bridge & river was made too short thereby preventing vessels sailing under the bridge.

The De Wadden was built in 1917 by Gebt Van Diepan of Waterhuizan and The Netherlands Steamship Company. It is a steel auxiliary twin screw three mast schooner, almost 120 feet in length and one of the largest vessels that traversed Blackwater River. She began her life carrying cargo for both the Germans and Allies during the First World War. Capitalizing on their neutral position, the Dutch shipping companies made huge profits as coal and oil were in short supply. In March 1918 she sailed between Rotterdam and Bergen. Many Dutch ships were lost through torpedoing, mines, gunning and bombarding, and also by confiscation by both Allied and German forces. De Wadden is a rare survivor of these vessels. Along with others of her kind, she also played a part in the Second World War transporting essential supplies to Ireland.

In 1922 she was sold to Richard Hall of Arklow and in this phase of her life, she symbolized the long history of trade between Liverpool and Ireland. She also has great significance within the maritime history of Ireland, as one of three surviving Irish Sea schooners and the only steel auxiliary schooner. From 1922 to 1961, DE WADDEN carried bulk cargoes such as grain, pit-props, china clay, mineral ores, and especially coal from the River Mersey to various Irish ports. Victor Hall, her longest serving Captain, commanded her from 1933 to 1954. She traded on the Blackwater bringing coal from Garston, Liverpool and taking pit props from Killahalla Quay, south of Cappoquin. Her crew consisted of only five men and a boy, and since she could sail, a qualified marine engineer was not required. She carried a motor winch in the forward deckhouse to allow the cargo to be handled without extensive shoreside facilities.

She is the last in a long line of Arklow owned and manned sail trading vessels that acted as a training ground in seamanship for local boys and men over several centuries. See this article in the Independent Newspaper. Her significance also relates to European maritime history. She is one of the last surviving Dutch motor schooners and one of the earliest surviving of this distinctive Dutch type. She is an important example of international shipping history, representing the transitional phase between sail and diesel motor coasters developed in the 1920s.

In later life, De Wadden developed a more popular appeal, featuring in a number of films, including playing the part of a paddle steamer in the BBC production ‘The Onedin Line’. After a collision in 1978 she was beached and left to rot. Arklow council wanted her for a museum, the Dutch and the Scottish Highlands & Islands Development Board had an interest in her as well. But it was the Merseyside maritime museum in Liverpool who bought De Wadden in 1984 for £20,000, she is still there today and has undergone extensive restoration.

Thanks to Patricia Clarke for her research. For more information about the De Wadden see the following links:

Molana Abbey

One of the many fascinating historical sites on the River Blackwater, Molana Abbey was an important site of learning and pilgrimage dating back to the 6th century. A fantastic blog post by Louise Nugent of Pilgrimage in Medieval Ireland on the Abbey can be found here:


Strancally Castle, Old and New.

The original Strancally Castle, located on the western bank of the river between Ballinaclash and Coolbagh piers, was built by Raymond le Gros, a cousin of Norman Invader Strongbow, in the 12th century. By the 16th century it was occupied by Spaniards who were said to have lured local landowners to a banquet in the castle and then dropped them through a secret trapdoor into a flooded cave. Eventually the Spanish were routed & the castle was destroyed.

New Strancally Castle, is located a few miles downstream from the towns of #Lismore and #Cappoquin. The current building was designed and built around 1830 by James & George Pain for John Kiely MP for Clonmel & High Sheriff of Co. Waterford. Not to be outdone, John Kiely’s brother Arthur Kiely-Ussher set about building his own castle in Lismore, only to run out of money and leave behind The Ballysaggartmore Towers as a monument to his folly. New Strancally was built as a dwelling house and has no serious defensive structures. On the estate are the ruins of a previous Norman castle. In 1856, it was an estate of 5000 acres and was acquired by George Whitelocke Lloyd of a wealthy Anglo-Irish manufacturing family.

In 2007 the castle was renovated and given a contemporary extension, you can see some images of the stunning architecture here  ➡️

Images include those taken by photographer Robert French (principle photographer of the Lawrence Collection, a collection of 40,000 glass plate negatives taken by from 1870-1914). Check out the collection at National Library of Ireland

Dromana House