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Friday, 24 April 2015

Does it beat Banagher?

On 10 April 1964, a Lensmen staff member, Steve Treacy, took this photograph of Clonony Castle in County Offaly. It was only taken 50 years ago, but it looks like another world with its donkeys and carts, the castle ruin in the background, and not a machine to be seen anywhere – unless you count the water pump.

Clonony Castle
10 April 1964
However, Steve was on an assignment to photograph scenes along the River Shannon, and just happened to pass by Clonony Castle between sites. As with many of our most popular photographs, and indeed many of the best photographs in general, the image was the result of an unplanned opportunity rather than a scheduled shoot.

 Clonony Castle is close to Shannon Harbour, where Lensmen photographed K Line Boats at work building a new craft. The founder of K Line Boats, Mr. George O'Brien Kennedy, was also photographed during this series. Mr O’Brien Kennedy was very influential in reviving the boating industry along the Shannon, and in turn providing an income for the population in the area.

K Line Boats, Shannon Harbour
Despite the ruin of the castle, there were also signs of progress in the area, as testified by the new primary school building, and the floating Shell station on the river at Shannon Harbour. The nearby Clonmacnoise was another homage to the past, but the beautiful bridge at Shannonbridge showed that a well-built structure can remain a living thing for a community.

The bridge at Shannonbridge
Offaly was not the only county visited by Lensmen on this trip, as the route of the Shannon was followed through Athlone harbour in Westmeath, Carrick-on-Shannon in Leitrim and Arigna near Lough Allen in Roscommon. The variety of activities directly connected to the Shannon was evident from the photographs taken on this trip. In Athlone, ‘floatels’ or floating hotels were waiting for holiday-makers to come and join them, in Ferbane in Offaly, the ESB energy station released warm waste water back into the river, in Carrick-on-Shannon, the locals depending on the river for their income also turned to it to relax during their leisure time.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a job that sends you on a jaunt along the banks of the Shannon, photographing crumbling castles and pleasure boats? I wonder how the scenes have changed over the past half century…

All images available @ Irish Photo Archive

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