14th November 2017 – Draining Skerries

by Bill Kee & Derek McGonagle

Bill Kee

Draining Skerries by  Bill Kee and Derek McGonagle
(Skerries Historical Society Meeting – November 2017)
Winter is truly upon us with dark nights and chill winds. But, despite this, and the lure of the Ireland vs Denmark match, a fair crowd made their way to Keane’s The Bus Bar on Tuesday 14th November to listen to Bill Kee and Derek McGonagle’s presentation, Draining Skerries. The audience were well entertained with tales of sewerage incidents – there’s a right way and a wrong way to put a pump in and Derek McGonagle can attest to the fact that it’s best not to get it wrong when you are dealing with sewerage! Considering the disaster that was the football match, the Skerries Historical Society members definitely had a better evening than the football fans!

The production of sewage is a fact of life and it was pointed out that developing a means to deal with it is one of the main indicators of a civilisation on the rise. Civilised people don’t want to wallow in their own ordure! Despite this, it was comforting to learn that the vast majority of the drains that are to be found on the beaches never contained sewerage: they were for carrying the rainwater away from the streets. The one sewerage pipe that does exist is the one to be found near the rugby club. It was built in the 1920s from six foot cast iron sections bolted together to carry sewerage away from the town to Shennick Island. But it was decommissioned in the 1950s and 60s, so, for the last fifty or sixty years there has been no raw sewage pumped out to sea from Skerries – although it might have occasionally arrived on our shores from elsewhere!

Back to the rainwater: the Skerries system of rainwater drains is not a common by any means. Neither Rush nor Lusk boast such a system. Over the years there were at least fourteen pipes constructed to carry excess rain water away from the streets and estates in the town. Some are truly old and are to be seen on the Ordnance Survey maps not only from 1913 but even as far back as 1897. We have two Victorian drains in our town and they are actually things of beauty, with finely cut stone casings around cast iron bores, originally fitted with cast iron covers to prevent the sea from washing back up the tubes as the tide came in. Most of the covers have disappeared over the years (cast iron got a good scrap price) but the Victorian drain on the North Strand is still intact and is the only drain to boast a double bore. We should be very proud of our industrial heritage.

Skerries drains are not merely beautiful however, they’re fun! It seems that children couldn’t resist the attractions of a dark damp pipe and if it was possible to get inside it, they would. Children just loved the idea of crawling up the pipes. Why on earth did they want to do it? Perhaps as a dare. But the danger of losing a child inside the pipes was too great and so the two larger bored (18inch) drains were fitted with grills. They are 1920s drains but luckily 21st century children are generally more interested in tv and computer games. The drains are safe!

Report by Oona Roycroft