Shipping Guinness from Ireland across the world | Season 1 – Episode 62
Floats Feb 14, 2022
In the 1870’s the Guinness site expanded northwards to bound the River Liffey and in 1873, the Company built their own jetty on Victoria Quay on the River Liffey.
This enabled barges to load and unload wooden casks of Guinness directly at the gates of the Guinness Brewery for the first time. The first Liffey barges used by Guinness, which were steam operated, were built at this time. These early barges were all named after rivers around Ireland e.g. Lagan, Shannon, Slaney, Foyle, Moy.
The first barge, the Lagan, was built by Harland and Wolfe at their Belfast shipyard. The Dublin engineering foundry, Ross and Walpole, based in North Wall built all the other barges.
In 1919 Guinness introduced a new type of barge known as the ‘Farmleigh’ barge. These second evolution of barges were named after place names around Dublin e.g. Farmleigh, Castleknock, Killiney. Ten barges were built by Vickers (Ireland) Ltd a subsidiary of Vickers & Armstrong in the Liffey Dockyard, with design input from the Guinness engineers. These new type barges could carry 87 tons of cargo, roughly three hundred hogsheads of Guinness.
The one mile journey from the Brewery’s Victoria Quay jetty to Dublin Port took approx. 15 – 20 minutes travelling underneath 8 Liffey bridges. One major feature of the new barges was the ability to lower the funnel of the barge in order to pass under the bridges at high tide.
The last barge sailed down the Liffey on 23 June 1961 and the fleet of barges were all sold off.
Between 1913 and 1977 Guinness owned and crewed by their own ‘Cross Channel Gangs’ operated nine vessels tasked with the transport of Guinness in bulk across the Irish Sea to the English cities of Liverpool, Manchester and London for bottling for the British market and for export across the world.
While lots of Dubliners thought the Guinness ships that set sail were bound for exotic destinations across the world, in fact they sailed twice weekly across to England. S.S. W.M. Barkley (1913 – 1917) following on from a dockers strike in 1913 Guinness decided to no longer use third parties to ship their products as had been the case up to that point when they purchased the W.M. Barkley.
On 12th October 1917 she set sail from Dublin to Liverpool with a full cargo and a crew of 13 men. At 7:00 pm when she was seven miles east of the Kish Lightship she was torpedoed without warning by the German submarine UC-75 and sank within minutes claiming the lives of the Captain and four crewmen.
Following the W.M. Barkley, Guinness went on to purchase The S.S. Carrowdore. In July 1941 when fifteen miles from Dublin she survived being hit by a German bomb, suffering relatively minor damage.
Other ships in the fleet included the S.S. Clareisland (1915 – 1931) and S.S. Clarecastle (1915 – 1953), S.S. Guinness (1931 – 1963). The most famous ships in the fleet were the motorised vessels (M.V.’s) known as the ‘Guinness Ladies’ which were named after members of the Guinness family. M.V. Lady Grania (1952 – 1974), M.V. The Lady Gwendolen (1953 – 1976), M.V. The Lady Patricia (1962 – 1993).
In May 1973, The Lady Patricia was converted into a bulk liquid tanker ship, probably the world’s first. The M.V. Miranda Guinness went into service twice weekly on routes between Dublin and Liverpool’s Merseyside. She was built in Bristol, had twin diesel engines, and a speed of 16 knots. She had fifteen stainless steel tanks carrying a total volume of 6,500 barrels, almost 2 million pints of Guinness.
In April 1993, M.V.’s The Miranda and Patricia sailed out of Dublin for the last time as they had been replaced by transportable tanks and that was the end of the ships era for Guinness.
In 1997, it was decided to convert the Guinness Storehouse, replacing the Guinness Hop Store as the Brewery’s visitor centre. Built in 1902 the brewery Storehouse was constructed in the Chicago School of Architecture style and was the first multi-storey steel-framed building to be constructed in in the British Isles.
Spread across seven floors, the Guinness Storehouse interactive displays explain the history of beer including ingredients, brewing, cooperage, advertising, sponsorship and includes the history of transporting Guinness across the world.
Photos & video: Ireland Made® Credit: Images courtesy of Guinness Archive, Diageo Ireland
Thanks to: Eibhlin Colgan, Archive Manager at Guinness Storehouse, Diageo Ireland
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