THE ROYAL CANAL -
In 1871 the Midland Great Western Railway Company, which owned the Royal Canal at the time, decided to get into the freight haulage business on the canal and the River Shannon. At first they used horse-drawn boats but soon decided to commission steam tugs to pull dumb barges. Five of these were built between 1876 and 1878 by a yard belonging to a man called Hayes at a place called Stony Stratford in England. They were 'Rambler', 'Rattler', 'Conqueror', 'Pioneer' and 'Mermaid'. We don't know what Rambler cost new but it appears to have been less than £1,000.
There is evidence that she carried passengers and possibly some freight as well as towing dumb barges. But the operation was not a success, possibly because the tugs were too big for the canal, and it was abandoned in 1886. Rambler's hull is 70 feet long (with a couple of feet extra for the rudder), 11 feet wide and with a draught of about 3 foot 10 inches. This is approximately 22 metres, 3.35 metres and 1.2 metres.
There is now a gap in the known history of the boat but between 1920 and 1923 she was used by the Department of Agriculture as a floating inland fisheries laboratory on Lough Derg, along with another old steamer called Chang Sha. Both boats were bought by Dr V.S.Delany in 1923 and Rambler became the property of his brother T.W.Delany.
She was lying in Grand Canal Dock in Dublin at the time and was brought the full length of the Royal Canal to Richmond Harbour in Clondra. The crew encountered a lot of difficulties and she would not make this journey again until 2011. On arrival she was completely re-fitted as a cruiser or houseboat and the steam engine and boiler were replaced with a 60 horsepower, 6 cylinder Glanefer parafin engine.
After T.W.Delany's death in 1939 Rambler had a number of owners during the 20th century, some of whom tried to use her in largely unsuccessful business ventures. She had a series of different superstructure arrangements over the years. The current owner, John Connon, bought her in 2000 at which time she was berthed in Shannon Harbour. He brought her back to Grand Canal Dock by road and spent many years re-fitting her and waiting for the Royal Canal to be re-opened so that she could return to the Shannon by water and re-join her sister vessel, the Chang Sha.