EXCITING plans are being put in place to open up a maritime museum in Limerick, in a move which will also see the Salmon Weir opened up for the first time.
Corbally-based social entrepreneur Ray O’Halloran has secured an agreement to take over the former ESB building, empty for 20 years, at Brown’s Quay in Thomondgate.
And he plans to open a working museum to celebrate the city’s connection to the River Shannon.
On top of this, two columns of the Salmon Weir will be opened to allow boat traffic travelling from Killaloe straight into the city.
Ray said the museum will contain old sailing boats, as well as paraphernalia belonging to the former Abbey Fisherman, including handmade fishing rods, eel nets and canoes dating back to the 1920s.
“On top of this, we have sketches and old carvings from some of the Abbey fisherman. We also have the last recording of a meeting held back in the 1920s by the Abbey Fishermen committee. We are getting it digitised in conjunction with the University of Limerick. It was held in a pub over in John Street. It belongs to Andrew Duhig, and he has said he will give it to us,” Ray said.
There are also plans to bring in an aquarium to put on display all the different species of fish which swim in the Shannon.
“It will be educational. We want to bring the emphasis back to the river,” he stressed.
Ray has won permission to refurbish the 12,000 square foot former building following negotiations between the ESB, Limerick City and County Council, and his own firm Limerick City Build, which was set up to provide training to disadvantaged youngsters at the former Cahill May Roberts Building on Charlotte’s Quay.
As a result of this, the museum is expected to also incorporate an activity centre, making it a truly working, living museum.
“There will be people making nets, and helping to build sailing boats,” he said.
Youngsters from across the city are expected to be involved, Ray added.
The move to partly open the Shannon Weir follows months of intensive negotiations.
Boatmen from far and wide have long complained that the weir is a blot on the landscape, and prevents access to the city centre.
“At the moment, what happens is, when boatmen come from Ardnacrusha, they have to go down the Abbey River. It takes them around the backside of Limerick. It is such a hazardous way to go that when a tourist gets to Baal’s Bridge, they were wishing they were never in Limerick,” Ray explained.
Instead, he said if a tourist can come straight into the city centre, tourists “will see Limerick for what it is, and will want to hang around.”
“Now coming in from Killaloe, you will be able to see down into the city centre. You will see the churches, King John’s Castle, the Hunt Museum, St John’s Cathedral, City Hall. You will see this most magnificent vista. You do not see any of that if you take the direction around the Abbey River,” he said.
Ray, who owns Speedline Engineering, said he hopes to open the museum as early as January.
“There is very little refurbishment to be done, because it is a solid concrete building, and we can do most of the work ourselves,” he said.
“We have been working for a long time on this. It will be a massive tourist attraction,” he added, saying the jetty outside the building will provide an ideal stopping point for city-bound boats.