Portumna is a small town in County Galway, located at the junction of the River Shannon and Lough Derg. It is well known for its natural beauty, heritage sites and outdoor activities. But did you know that Portumna also has a rare and remarkable piece of industrial heritage that dates back to the 19th century?

The Portumna Water Crane is a cast iron crane that stands on the quay near the bridge over the Shannon. It was erected in 1850 and was used for loading and unloading goods from vessels that travelled along the waterways. The crane is of modest scale, but it is of great technical and historical significance as it attests to Portumna’s importance as a goods depot in times gone by.

The water crane consisted of a vertical pipe with a swivelling arm that could be extended over the water. The pipe was connected to a water tank on the shore, which was filled by a pump powered by a water wheel or a steam engine. The water tank had a valve that could be opened or closed by pulling a chain attached to the arm of the crane. When the valve was opened, water flowed through the pipe and out of a nozzle at the end of the arm, creating a jet of water that could lift or lower a bucket or a sling attached to a rope. The bucket or sling could then be used to transfer goods such as coal, grain, timber or livestock from or to the vessels.

The water crane was an ingenious and efficient device that used water pressure as a source of power. It was also relatively cheap and easy to maintain, as it did not require complex machinery or fuel. The water crane was widely used in Britain and Ireland in the 19th century, especially along canals and rivers where there was abundant water supply and demand for goods transport.

The water crane is important because it reflects the economic and social history of Portumna and Galway in the 19th century. Portumna was a strategic location for trade and commerce, as it was situated on the main route between Limerick and Athlone, two major towns in Ireland at the time. Portumna also had access to Lough Derg, which was part of the Grand Canal system that connected Dublin with the Shannon. The water crane enabled Portumna to handle large volumes of goods that were transported by barges, steamboats and sailing vessels along these waterways.

The water crane also reveals the impact of industrialisation and modernisation on Portumna and Galway in the 19th century. The water crane was a product of the Industrial Revolution, which brought about new technologies, innovations and inventions that transformed various aspects of life, such as production, transportation, communication and consumption. The water crane was one of these technologies that improved efficiency, productivity and profitability in goods transport. The water crane also symbolises the transition from traditional to modern modes of power generation, as it used water pressure instead of human or animal labour.

The Portumna Water Crane is one of the few surviving examples of its kind in Ireland. It is listed as a protected structure by Galway County Council and is recognised as an important element of Portumna’s industrial heritage. The water crane is in good condition, although it is no longer functional. The water crane is accessible to visitors.

The Portumna Water Crane is a historic relic that tells us about Portumna’s past as a bustling port town and Galway’s role in Ireland’s industrial development. It is also a testament to human ingenuity and creativity in harnessing natural resources for practical purposes.


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Portumna Water Crane



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