Category Archives: Engineering and construction

New guide to Shannon and Erne

In German. Bit of a coup for Sven and Anita, I think. Hawthorn‘s bow appears in one photo.

Some of Ireland’s competitors on this and the next two pages.

Where do correct ideas come from?

Where do correct ideas come from? Do they drop from the skies? No. Are they innate in the mind? No. They come from social practice, and from it alone; they come from three kinds of social practice, the struggle for production, the class struggle and scientific experiment.

Readers will not, I am sure, need to be reminded that those are the words of the late Comrade Mao Tse-tung [or Mao Zedong, as the younger comrades say] in the Draft Decision of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party on Certain Problems in Our Present Rural Work of May 1963.

Maurice Semple, in By the Corribside [self-published, 1981], lists writers who, from 1868 onwards, agreed with the view of the Cong Canal expressed by Sir William Wilde:

[...] for it was discovered, that like many other undertakings, the great canal at Cong “would not hold water.”

Those writers’ view is echoed by local people, and even by engineers, to the present day. Their case is, in effect, that the Board of Works engineers did not know what they were doing or did not properly survey the ground and were therefore surprised to find, on admitting water to the bed of the canal, that it vanished into sinkholes or swallow-holes in the karst.

One oddity about that belief is that the Cong Canal does actually hold water: it is full in winter, as the photos on this page, taken in February 2013, clearly show. It is empty in summer, but that is because water is unable to get in at the upper end, not (I suggest) because it flows out through the bottom.

What interests me at the moment is that I can find no evidence to support Wilde’s contention. Samuel Roberts, the engineer in charge of the work, knew that the work would be difficult but there is no hint in any of his annual reports that he feared that the difficulties might be insuperable. Furthermore, it is clear from his own reports and from other evidence that he was ordered to cease work on the navigation aspects of the canal before it was finished: there was never a moment when water was admitted to a completed navigation canal.

I have not been able to find any report from the 1850s in the Freeman’s Journal, the Cork Examiner, the Dublin Evening Mail or the Belfast News-Letter, or in any British newspaper, that supports William Wilde’s account of events. What, then, is its basis?

Of course my inability to find evidence does not mean that it doesn’t exist, but I would be grateful if anyone could point me towards it. I should say that I do not regard later accounts, like Wilde’s, as valid unless they include some evidence from 1854, the year of which Roberts wrote

The masonry in the Cong lock was commenced in March, and was progressing rapidly when I received instructions from the Board, in April, to suspend the execution of all navigation works in this division of the district, and complete only such as were necessary for the regulation of the waters of Lough Mask, for drainage purposes.

What I am looking for is an eyewitness, an official or some other reliable account, from 1854, that says “the canal was completed; water was let in; it vanished, to the surprise of the engineers”. If no such account exists, I may be forced to conclude that Wilde’s style of work is opposed to the fundamental spirit of Marxism-Leninism. As the Great Helmsman put it in the Little Red Book:

To behave like “a blindfolded man catching sparrows”, or “a blind man groping for fish”, to be crude and careless, to indulge in verbiage, to rest content with a smattering of knowledge — such is the extremely bad style of work that still exists among many comrades in our Party, a style utterly opposed to the fundamental spirit of Marxism-Leninism. Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin have taught us that it is necessary to study conditions conscientiously and to proceed from objective reality and not from subjective wishes; but many of our comrades act in direct violation of this truth.

 

Archives workshop: a reminder

I mentioned, back in April, that an interesting-looking workshop is scheduled for Belfast on 8 September 2014. It’s being held in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland [PRONI] in the Titanic Quarter and there’s an optional extra tour and reception on the SS Nomadic afterwards. This post is a reminder.

The programme covers waterways, roads, railways and flight. For this site, the opening session is of great interest: Dawn Livingstone, CEO of Waterways Ireland, is to talk about an interactive archive for Waterways Ireland.

By air, sea and land

By air, sea and land

The workshop is being organised for PRONI by A²SN, the Archives and Artefacts Study Network, supported by the Historical Model Railway Society, the Business Archives Council and the Postal History Society.

The [two-page PDF] brochure is downloadable here PRONI transport archives workshop. The workshop fee is £20/€25 with an extra £3/€3.50 for the SS Nomadic visit. Sterling cheques are accepted; there is provision for paying in euro by online banking.

 

The abandonment of the Cong Canal

I am speaking tomorrow, 23 August 2014, at Lough Mask School House’s Heritage Day about the history of the Cong Canal.

Apart from an overview of the initial proposal, the construction and the current state of the canal, I intend to present what I think is an entirely new explanation for its abandonment before completion. At least, it’s an explanation that I have not seen published elsewhere.

Mayo’s canal system

No, not the Belmullet Canal, nor the Cong Canal. James McParlan MD, in his Statistical Survey of the County of Mayo, with observations on the means of improvement; drawn up in the year 1801, for the consideration, and under the direction of The Dublin Society [printed by Graisberry and Campbell, Dublin in 1802 and available here courtesy of Messrs Google], after mentioning some lakes and navigable rivers, said:

Those are the only navigations or navigable rivers in this county, except the Marquis of Sligo‘s canal, which winds for several miles through his demesne; it serves for conveying sea and other manures to different parts of the demesne, for conveying among the fields turnips and green feeding, and for several purposes.

I have looked on the OSI 6″ maps [~1840] at the Browne estates listed on the Landed Estates Database, but I have found no sign of the canals. I didn’t know where to look, and the good marquis owned a lot of land, so I may have missed something; furthermore almost forty years elapsed between McParlan’s work and the publication of the OSI maps and the canals may have fallen out of use in that period. If anyone knows where they were, and whether any trace remains, I would be grateful for information.

 

 

Did you know …

… that Pollboy Lock, on the River Suck, can be filled in one minute and fifty-eight seconds?

Pollboy

Pollboy

Ballinasloe footbridge

Here is a new page with a brief account of the Ballinasloe Line of the Grand Canal and some photos of a footbridge that seems to have been built across it in the twentieth century.

Salmon

In my youth, I tried angling once or twice, but with no success: the only time I ever caught fish was with mackerel feathers. So, despite having read Isaak Walton (several times), angling doesn’t really interest me. But it’s hard to read this without accepting that Something Must Be Done, whatever it is. Note, in particular, Dudley Mallett’s comment.

Loos change as TippCoCo hopes to swipe the loot

Er … sorry about the outbreak of headlineitis: it’s corresponding with journalists that does it.

The Tipperary Star reports (on paper, not on its website) that Tipperary County Council intends to issue “swipe cards for boating facilities along Lough Derg”. Michael Hayes, the engineer for Nenagh Municipal District Council, said that the cards were sold along the Shannon but that the revenue went to Waterways Ireland whereas the council bore all the costs. He is quoted as saying that “We are pursuing it to have them pay some of the costs”: another threat to WI’s budget.

Councillor Phyll Bugler said that it was “not acceptable” that shower and toilet blocks closed early, although she is not reported to have commented on the cost of having staff to clean the blocks late at night.

I suspect that Waterways Ireland’s income from the smart cards is minimal.

 

Saving canals

Barrow Line 20140721 03_resize

Barrow Line 1

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Barrow Line 2

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Barrow Line 3

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Barrow Line 4

When I get a moment, I must find out how many boats have been down that way in this warm, sunny July, the peak of the holiday season. The warmth will have encouraged the vegetation, but I suspect relatively few boats have been through. And only two boats entered the Royal through Dublin in July, even though two openings were offered.

Apart from giving artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative about the value of the canal tourist industry and the abiding love of boaters for the canal, using canals helps to keep the weed down.