Canal Workers


The Lock-keeper
The Boatmen
The Greaser/Deckhand
The Groom
Skipper/Engineman/Engineer
Bulkers/Bye Traders/Dredgers
Shipwright/Area Manager


The Lock
-keeper
The lock-keeper had the job of seeing boats through the lock under his control. The position of lock-keeper stayed in the same family for generations. He was given a free house and a small garden beside the lock. The work was hard, the hours were long and the wages were small. Today the lock-keeper is in charge of many locks. He has to travel from lock to lock when a boat wants to pass through the locks.

 





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Click here for an Interactive Canal Locks Demonstration

Click here for demonstration of how canal locks operate



Boatmen

The boatmen, like the lockkeepers, came from the same families. They started work at a young age. They began work as "grazers", the greaser greased the engine and did odd jobs around the boat. The next step was to become a deckhand and from there he progressed to engine man and possibly skipper. The boatmen worked very hard. They were expected to travel night and day. Many of them lived along the canal and came from Kildare or Kilkenny.

 

 

 

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The Greaser
The greaser was often the son or nephew of the skipper. He greased the engine. He helped prepare the meals and keep the quarters tidy. He was learning the boatman's trade from members of his family.

 

 

 

 

The Deckhand
The deckhand was a helper and he did all kinds of work on the boat including loading and unloading cargo. He also did the cooking, the cleaning of the kitchens and the tidying of the cabins.


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The Skipper

The skipper is also called the master or the captain of the boat. He had overall responsibility for the crew, the boat and the cargo or passengers on the boat.

The Engineman
The engineman, as his name suggests, looked after the engine on the boats.

Engineers
The engineers were responsible for keeping all the equipment, engines, lock gates and canal banks in good working condition.


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The Groom

The Groom looked after the horses. These horses that worked by the canals had to be trained, well fed and shod so that they could do their jobs well. Horses pulled the boats along on a rope called a tow. A path for the horses was made by the side of the canal. This was called a tow path.

 

 



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Bulkers
The Bulkers were the same as railway porters. They loaded and
unloaded the boats. They worked in the goods' stores.

Bye-traders and their Agents
Bye-traders were people or companies who used to trade on the
canal system using their own boats. They paid for passage through
locks and on the goods they carried.

Dredgers and Dredger Drivers
The dredger was a boat used to clean the canal. It travelled with another boat. This boat would carry away the rubbish hauled up out of the canal by the dredger.

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The Shipwright
The job of the shipwright was to ensure that the boats were in good working order. He carried out repairs on boats.

Area Managers
The area manager kept records of all the boats passing through his station and records of all the boatmen that stopped as well as the lengths of the stops. This information was sent by telephone or telegram to James' Street Harbour every day. This helped headquarters to keep an eye on the movement of boats.


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To find the resources to go with this page click here.

To find a Wordsearch to go with this page click here.

 

Ms O'Neill's 5th class provided the information for this page.