According to tradition when the Mayor of Limerick throws a dart into the Shannon it infers his authority over the river estuary.

Limerick's Mayor Vincent Feeney keeps up the convention and in launching a dart also asserts himself as Admiral of the Shannon, in a custom dating back to 1834.

Back then, the Mayor was the King’s representative in Limerick, but also held the responsibilities of judge, coroner, Justice of the Peace, and Chairman of the Common Council. In addition, Limerick City authorities were in charge of the 60 miles of the estuary. That was before Harbour Commissioners were created in Limerick, Foynes, Kilrush and Fenit.

When the laws were changed in 1921, the limits of the estuary ports were defined, but Limerick’s own authority was never clearly stated in black and white. So, occasionally, a Mayor of Limerick casts a 3-foot dart into the Shannon, a reminder of his traditional jurisdiction.

This year’s ceremony, the first held in ten years, was part of Limerick city’s Shannonside Festival. The Mayor, accompanied by the Festival Queen and members of Limerick Corporation, were piped aboard the steamer ‘Galway Bay’ and sailed down the river.

It recalled a time when the Mayor was entitled to coal, salt, salmon and oysters. Even today he gets a quarter ton of coal from each ship using the port, and last year 17 tonnes were distributed at Christmas to the city’s poor.

This episode of ‘Newsbeat’ was first broadcast on 15 May 1967. The reporter is Bill O’Herlihy.

‘Newsbeat’ was a half-hour feature programme presented by Frank Hall and ran for 7 years from September 1964 to June 1971. ‘Newsbeat’ went out from Monday to Friday on RTE television and reported on current affairs and issues of local interest from around Ireland. The final programme was broadcast on the 11 June, 1971.