An Irish Sea Coaster Fleet
Newry has long been a frontier town, guarding the land pass between Slieve Gullion and Carlingford Lough. Its name derives from a yew tree, planted supposedly by St. Patrick. The Newry Ship Canal was opened in April 1850 to connect the town to the head of Carlingford Lough. Coasters up to 205 feet in length could enter the Victoria Lock at the seaward end and then move into the Albert Basin adjacent to the centre of town. An eighteen mile canal linked Newry to Portadown and on to Lough Neagh, with coal distributed throughout the province by barge along this waterway and the Ulster Canal.
In 1852, Joseph Fisher and his two sons established a coal importing business on the opposite side of the Albert Basin from the main quay, which handled exports of livestock. He purchased his first sailing vessel in March 1867 in the brigantine Brothers, and then expanded his collier fleet in March 1883 with his first steamer Celtic soon renamed as Kilkeel, a village on the coast. A second steam coaster was added in 1884 as Clanrye, and he then increased his fleet from a few small schooners, brigs and brigantines into a fleet of eleven steam coasters, each of around 400 dwt, by the turn of the century.
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