from book cover from Pat Sweeneys book Liffey Ships

Irish Shipbuilding

Three tables accompany this article: Maps were extracted from the Rocque map of 1756 available from the Harvard Geospatial Library

Shipbuilders in Dublin

Street furniture commemorating viking shipbuilding

Street furniture commemorating viking shipbuilding

Miscellaneous Dublin yards While the main shipbuilding in Dublin Involved the Liffey yard, later Vickers, and Ross & Walpole several early yards have disappeared without trace.

Viking shipbuilding

During construction work a Viking shipbuilding area was discovered on Dublin quays near the civic offices at Wood Quay. The site is marked by a bronze representation of a Viking ship. There is speculation based on ring analysis and carbon dating that one of the Roskilde (Denmark) boats was built at Dublin.
shipbuilding in Dublin, 1870

(click to enlarge) site of shipbuilding

Yards in 1761

Lloyds register for 1761 lists ships built at Dublin from Murphy’s Cardiffs Kehoes, Kinchs. At the time there were two yards at Georges quay and another two at Sir J Rogersons Quay North StrandThe brigantine Thompson burthen 65 tons will be sold to the highest bidder on 19 February next. The inventory may be seen at the secretary’s office at the shipbuildings on the North Strand. Faulkners Dublin journal 24-1-1740. Ferry point A reference in Faulkners Dublin Journal describes a location on17-6-1740 as Flanagan’s public house at the ferryboat at the shipbuilding Archibold & Howard Moore - The 1753 Wilson’s directory Archibiold & Howard lists Moore Shipwrights at Georges Quay
Ringsend Graving Dock
Ringsend Graving Dock,
currently occupied by the Naomh Eanna


Slipway at Blackhall Place Before the Liffey was enclosed by walls about 1820 a considerable slipway is mapped at Blackhall place.
Ringsend foundry In 1829 the Ringsend Foundry built engines for the Marchioness of Welesley

A list of Maritime trades in Dublin 1761,

gleaned from the Almanack Registry Dublin, in the Gilbert Library, Pearse Street can be viewed here

Dublin Shipbuilding

Dublin Dockyards advert
Dublin Dockyards advert
By 1796, there were three Graving Docks were available on the south side in the Grand Canal Basin in Ringsend, the largest 180 by 60 feet. One was closed in 1851 and the space used as a coal yard. The Dublin Dockyard Company had a lease on the basins from 1851 until 1881 and managed the two smaller graving docks. Vickers (Ireland) was a subsidiary of Vickers-Armstrong Ltd, but according to Miramar they launched their ships under the Dublin Vickers name on the north side of the Liffey. Ringsend Dockyard (Dublin) Limited in the Grand Canal Basin was identified as McMullan’s by many and the boats built here were known as McMullan boats, after the company's main director and chief builder. This company built all kinds of floating craft in steel and wood and were also ship repairers and manufacturers of steel for constructions. In their advert they point out that they have two private dry docks, one 150 feet long the other 90 feet long. The Graving Dock on the North Wall, completed in 1860, measured 412 by 70 ft (21m), and could accommodate the Holyhead Paddle Steamer. This dock was in use almost continuously until 1989 when it was filled in but in the late 1990s was fitted with new lock gates and re-opened, but filled in again in 2008. Another Dock of 630 by 80 ft was built and became operational in 1957 and was filled in 2009.

Glimpses of activity

In 1753 Wilson’s directory records Archibiold & Howard Moore Shipwrights at Georges Quay. The brigantine, Thompson burthen 65 tons will be sold to the highest bidder on 19 February next. The inventory may be seen at the secretary’s office at the shipbuildings on the North Strand. Records Faulkners Dublin journal 24-1-1740 Some of the old Ringsend boat yards were still in operation after the WW2. Murphy's closed down when O'Rahilly House was built about 1950. It was from slipways on the Dodder that the legendary Ouzel Galley set sail in 1695 on its voyage to the Mediterranean and everlasting fame. Tracing facts about this event has proved elusive and the veracity of the tale may be a concoction of other stories.
shipbuilding in old Abbey Street

(click to enlarge, "Shipbuilding" is Old Abbey Street

The Ringsend Dockyard Company (known as McMillan’s) and Vickers (Ireland) Ltd. (which at a later stage was known as the Liffey Dockyard Company) built up to 48 steel motor canal boats for the Grand Canal Company in the 1920s. The first one 31M was built by the Ringsend Dockyard Company (1913-1963) Ross & Walpole built most of the second fleet of barges for Guinness, numbers 12 through 21. They also built boilers and engines, architectural frames and features for buildings, large metal tanks (as seen in Lockes of Kilbeggan in 1887), railway wagons and bridges, including the swivel predecessor to the McMahon Bridge in 1900, but some of this work was at a second site. For a list of  ships built in Dublin click here  


  •  Grand canal of Ireland Ruth Delaney
  • The Liffey in Dublin J.W. De Courcey
  • Liffey ships & shipbuilding, Pat Sweeney, Mercier 2010.
  • Anderson, E. B. Sailing Ships of Ireland (1951)
  • Anthony Marmion, The ancient and modern ports of Ireland pp 415, 534, 559, 572
  • The Irish Sea McLaughlin & Appleby
  • Ireland’s Inland waterways Ruth Delaney
  • "A History of the Port of Dublin", by H. A. Gilligan, published by Gill and Macmillan in 1988
  • Shipbuilding Smellie
  • "Dublin Waters: the Liffey, the canals and the port", on the National Archives of Ireland website

Naomh Eanna in Hanover Dock, now in the graving dock
Naomh Eanna in Hanover Dock, now in the graving dock. Click here for details of the campaign to rescue her
Naomh Eanna, unloading to a currach
Naomh Eanna, unloading to a currach at Aran
Port Larige at Saltmills
Port Larige decaying at Saltmills, Co Wexford