Category Archives: Engineering and construction

The sinking of the Longford 6

Here is the sixth and final page on the sinking of the passage boat Longford on the Royal Canal on 25 November 1845. This page is about who was steering the boat and why the steerer was unable to avoid the accident.

The price of fifteen lives was 1p.


The sinking of the Longford 4 and 5

Here are the fourth and fifth pages [I split one long page] in the sequence of articles about the sinking of the passage boat Longford on the Royal Canal in 1845. They discuss some of the evidence of corporate incompetence and farcical laxity that may have persuaded the inquest jury to award a deodand against the vessel (and thus against the Royal Canal Company).

Amongst other gems, the footnotes explain what a crapper is.

Remember, remember the twenty-fifth of November

25 November 2015 will be the 170th anniversary of the sinking of the Royal Canal passage-boat Longford and the deaths of fifteen people.

This was not (pace Ruth Delany in Ireland’s Royal Canal 1789–2009 Lilliput Press, Dublin 2010) “the worst accident ever to happen on the Irish waterways”: that melancholy distinction belongs to the drowning at Carrick-on-Suir of about 111 people in 1799 [see “The cries at the bridge” on this page], while the second-worst was the drowning of twenty people on Lough Corrib in 1828, the event commemorated by Antoine Ó Raifteiri in his poem Eanach Dhúin.

But the 1845 accident, between Porterstown and Clonsilla Bridges, was the worst to occur on an Irish canal. Evidence at the inquest and subsequent trial suggests great laxity in the management of the Royal Canal Company’s affairs, even if the immediate cause was an act of insane irresponsibility on the part of the boat’s temporary steerer.

I do not know whether any plaque or other artefact commemorates the event.

A bit of a barney

Photos of lower Lough Derg during Storm Barney on the afternoon of Tuesday 17 November 2015.


From the R494 driving north from Ballina


From the same position, looking around the other side of the house


From The Lookout 1


From The Lookout 2


From The Lookout 3


At Castletown 1


At Castletown 2


From the beach at Castlelough 1


From the beach at Castlelough 2


From the beach at Castlelough 3


From the beach at Castlelough 4


From the beach at Castlelough 5


From the beach at Castlelough 6


From the beach at Castlelough 7


Crows at Castlelough


From the woods at Castlelough 1


From the woods at Castlelough 2


Dromineer 1


Dromineer 2


Dromineer 3


Dromineer 4


Dromineer 5


Dromineer 6

Aw sheughs

On 6 November 2015 there was a meeting of the Inland Waterways flavour of the North South Ministerial Council, whereat the Minister for Fairytales (RoI) and the Minister for Marching Bands (NI), each with a sidekick, discussed waterways matters. The joint communiqué, artfully written to provide outsiders with as little information as possible, is available here [PDF], but here’s a summary:

  • WI’s “capital expenditure focused on infrastructure repairs”, presumably because it has no money for any improvements or extensions, except a bit of dredging in or near the constituency of the Minister for Fairytales
  • yes, that means the River Finn, Saunderson’s Sheugh, which we’re pretending is or was part of the Clones Sheugh or Ulster Canal
  • WI has managed to get “third party funding” of over €1 million for waterside developments, which is good: much better than transferring WI money to other bodies. WI is trying to nab euroloot but, as there were no announcements of success, we must assume that this is work in progress. Mind you, the ministers would probably claim the success (and the photoshoots) anyway
  • WI may sell some unspecified property
  • the important one:


The Council approved the determination made by Waterways Ireland regarding legacy scale linkages for northern based staff.

I knew you’d want to know about that. Whatever it means.

On 17 November 2015 the latest attempt to get the boys and girls of the Northern Ireland Assembly to be nice to other reached some sort of conclusion, which you can read about in the Irish Times (until it disappears behind a paywall) and the Manchester Guardian. But of course the important question is whether we southron loons have to buy sweeties (sheugher candies) for our northern brethren to persuade them to be polite. For that, gentle reader, you must turn to the inspiringly-titled A fresh start — the Stormont Agreement and implementation plan, available here [PDF].

You will not, of course, want to bother reading most of it, so we can skip straight to Section E Irish Government Financial Support on page 30. New readers may wish to know that, many NI disagreements ago, the Irish government, led at the time by a group of leprechauns who believed they possessed a pot of gold, resolved to impress the poor benighted northerners with a display of southern wealth and power. Accordingly, it promised to pay for all sorts of transport infrastructure, provided that it could be claimed to have some sort of cross-borderality and preferably looked iconic. Whether there was any point to any of the schemes was a matter omitted from consideration.

The three main proposals, IIRC, were

  • the A5, a road in Northern Ireland
  • the Narrow Water Bridge, which would cross the Newry River in the middle of nowhere (whereas a south-eastern bypass of Newry might actually be useful). And it would have an opening span for the many vessels that visit Newry by the Ship Canal
  • the Clones Sheugh, a short section of the Ulster Canal.

Unfortunately the hardheaded northerners have long memories and they keep looking for their three sweeties long after the Free State realised that it couldn’t afford them. So has this latest throwing of their toys out of the pram forced the Free Staters to give in and buy them the A5, the iconic bridge and the Clones Sheugh?

Up to a point, Lord Copper.

The Irish government says it’s all in favour of, er, “investing” in infrastructure “to support North-South co-operation to help unlock the full potential of the island economy”, where no doubt eighteenth century transport methods will prove to as important as they were in the time of Grattan’s Parliament. But with that, and all the other waffle and irrelevancies shoved in at the start of the section, it is clear that the Irish government is trying to big up a small contribution. It drags in the European Union, the Dublin to Belfast railway, flood relief, energy, communications and health, which have nothing to do with the case, but which between them fill almost the whole of the first page.

From there, though, it has to get specific, or at least look as if it’s doing so. Accordingly, each of the three white elephants gets a subsection to itself, with numbered paragraphs, from which we learn that:

  • the Free State government “remains supportive of the commitment under the St Andrews Agreement” to co-fund the A5. It’s going to pay more (I think): £25 million a year in the years 2017–2019, up from a total of £50 million
  • the Free State government “remains committed to the concept of the Narrow Water Bridge”, which has “potential to provide jobs” [how?]; it will review the plans with the NI Executive and think about it by June 2016. It says nothing about the disappearance of funding
  • the Free State government does not say that it “remains supportive of the commitment under the St Andrews Agreement” to fund the Clones Sheugh. Nor does it say that it “remains committed to the concept”. What it does say about the sheugh is that it is funding Saunderson’s Sheugh (see above), it will think about more cross-border greenways and blueways including the Ulster Canal and it and the NI Exec will identify “options for jointly developing future phases of the Ulster Canal restoration project”, which I take to mean that the southron taxpayer won’t be stuck with the entire bill. Oh, and it’s going to think about funding a bleeding sail training vessel, another exercise in pointlessness and nitwittery.

That’s almost it: there is something about a north-west thingie, senior officials will meet and there will be progress reports.

These documents are not necessarily constructed to provide information to outsiders, but my sense is that the Clones Sheugh danger to the southron taxpayer has receded for the moment, although the Narrow Water Bridge and the sail-training nitwittwery need to be blown out of the water (or into it). The A5 road is to go ahead: I don’t know much about it but it might be the least objectionable of the lot.


They haven’t gone away, you know

Yes: it’s the DUP which, according to an Irish Times article which will probably disappear behind a paywall at some stage, has actually agreed with Sinn Féin on something: it wants the Free State to waste €550 million on useless projects:

  • the A5 road
  • an eastern bypass of Newry in the wrong place, ie at Narrow Water instead of near Newry and
  • the dreaded Clones Sheugh.

I can quite see why the DUP might want to bankrupt the Free State [although its assistance may not be necessary], but why do the Shinners share that desire? Do they perhaps wish to discredit the notion of public investment by demonstrating that it does not provide worthwhile returns? Or do they want to show that they are willing to implement Fianna Fáil projects, in preparation for a future Free State coalition overnment?

The Groody turnpike

The River Groody flows into the Shannon downstream of Plassey, where the University of Limerick is located.

Groody 04_resize

Groody and Plassey (OSI ~1840)

The river itself may be hard to see, but the green wriggly line follows the course of the Groody except just north of Groody Bridge, where the river takes a more direct course towards the Shannon.

The road crossing Groody Bridge was the main road from Dublin to Limerick and the route followed by the mail-coaches. And, just to the west of the bridge, the 6″ Ordnance Survey map (of about 1840) shows a Turnpike, presumably controlling access to the road to Dublin. The road between Naas and Limerick, in other words most of the way to Dublin, was controlled by the Bourne family, who also ran the Dublin to Limerick mail coaches (which were amongst the few in Ireland to achieve an average of eight miles an hour).

Groody turnpike 03_resize

Groody bridge and turnpike (OSI ~1840)

I met a man who told me that his family owned this building, which is opposite the Aldi shop on the Dublin Road, Limerick.

Groody turnpike 01_resize

The building 1

It had been a shop at some stage and had had an extra window inserted, but he said it was originally a toll cottage. I don’t think it was for collecting the Limerick tolls [I don’t know where they were collected on the “Groody approach”, but I suspect it may have been near Pennywell]; I think it was for collecting the turnpike charges. Its position seems to match that of the turnpike building shown on the map.

However, I haven’t been able to find evidence on the matter one way or the other. I can’t find the building on the Griffith Valuation, perhaps because its value was too low to be recorded. And the Land Registry’s information doesn’t go back beyond 1982.

Groody turnpike 02_resize

The building 2

I would therefore be grateful to anyone who can provide evidence on whether this building was the turnpike cottage for the road to Naas.

My OSI logo and permit number for website


Pollboy Lock

I mentioned some time ago that, according to its Business Plan 2015, Waterways Ireland was considering automating Pollboy Lock, on the River Suck to Ballinasloe, in order to save costs. Like other offshoots from the main Shannon Navigation [Killaloe to Lough Key], the Suck is relatively little used.

According to the Connacht Tribune, the automation is to proceed and the lockkeeper is to be reassigned. It seems that some local councillors and “business interests” — who do not, as far as I know, contribute to Waterways Ireland’s income — regret the loss of an ambassador for the town. The keeper, Mr Coyne, was indeed extremely helpful to visiting boaters.

However, he could help only those who arrived at his lock: he could do nothing to attract more boating visitors to the town. That is not in the least a criticism of him, but rather a suggestion that councillors and business interests might perhaps have done, or yet do, more to attract visitors and increase the usage of the splendid harbour in Ballinasloe. Perhaps they might even appoint and pay a town ambassador?

A Sinn Féin councillor quoted in the article seems not to be entirely familliar with the duties of lockkeepers. Furthermore, he does not take account of the fact that the Shannon–Erne Waterway succeeds without lockkeepers — or that it was proposed that the Clones Sheugh [not-the-Ulster-Canal] operate in the same way. Surely a Sinn Féin councillor is not suggesting that, without keepers, the Sheugh might not be the enormous success that his party purports to believe it would be?

PS: the Tribune also has a piece about rubbish at Castle Harbour, Portumna.


Broadstone Luas works

Thanks to Niall Galway for these photos of work under way at the Broadstone for the new LUAS line.

Broadstone October 2015 (Niall Galway) 01_resize Broadstone October 2015 (Niall Galway) 02_resize Broadstone October 2015 (Niall Galway) 03_resize Broadstone October 2015 (Niall Galway) 04_resize Broadstone October 2015 (Niall Galway) 05_resize Broadstone October 2015 (Niall Galway) 06_resize Broadstone October 2015 (Niall Galway) 07_resize


Placing Percy

Back in May 2013, I wondered whether 53 Percy Place, Dublin 4, which Waterways Ireland was being forced to sell to dig the Clones Sheugh, would still be on its hands in a year or two. And so it was, but in August 2015, I noted that the property was for sale to fund Saunderson’s Sheugh, which we’re all pretending is the Clones Sheugh (aka the Ulster Canal).

The interesting point was that Messrs CBRE wanted over €1.6 million for the site, which was the valuation put upon it in 2008. The 2012 valuation was €650,000 and the 2013 €800,000. I wrote:

On the basis of its asking price for Percy Place, WI seems to believe that the property collapse is over; perhaps it is even now in negotiation to develop Plot 8 and build a sheugh all the way to Clones. In the meantime, if it gets €1.6 million for Percy Place, that will help to alleviate the damage caused by the smash-and-grab raid carried out by the Department of Fairytales to pay for Saunderson’s Sheugh.

Well, it seems that the boom is back. According to the respectable people’s Sunday newspaper, the Sunday Business Post, of 18 October 2015, WI got over €2 million for the site. The SBP is paywalled and I can’t find online confirmation elsewhere, but it’s a high price.

I did note on the CBRE site that the Twelfth Lock Hotel, that haunt of Stakhanovite homoeroticism on the Royal Canal in Blanchardstown, is for sale again. I haven’t been there for some years, so I don’t know whether the mural is still extant.