Tag Archives: Dublin

The (re)invention of heritage

From Google’s Ngram viewer (more here):

ngram[Sorry, Google: couldn't get the embedding to work properly. WordPress's whitelist omits Google, though maps seem to work OK. Here's the original.]

The growth in the use of “Heritage” with an initial capital is particularly interesting. I can think of three possible reasons:

  • that more organisations, eg The Heritage Council, use the word in their titles
  • that the word is increasingly used as an abstract noun at the start of sentences like “Heritage is important”
  • that the word is increasingly used as an attributive adjective at the start of sentences like “Heritage apples should be preserved”.

Traditional, personal uses (like “My heritage from my ancestors …”) are, I think, less likely to require initial capital letters. That in turn might suggest that Google’s Ngram viewer is reflecting a new(ish) set of meanings for the word and might lead us to ask what that new(ish) usage is (or was) intended to achieve.

It might also lead us to ask whether an even newer concept might now be more useful: one that would dissuade well-meaning folk from preserving and displaying context-free old tat and persuade them to find and record information instead.

G boats, Biffs, armoured cars and the Lagan

On the Grand Canal, M boats (boats with the letter M added to their numbers) were motor barges owned by the Grand Canal Company itself; E boats were engineering boats, used for canal maintenance and B boats (whether motor or horse-drawn) were bye-traders’ or hack boats, boats owned by traders other than the Grand Canal Company itself.

G boats were wooden horse-drawn boats, built to carry turf (peat) during The Emergency, which to the rest of the world was the second world war. Some of them [PDF] were built by Thompsons of Carlow, whose archives are now in the National Archives of Ireland; you can read about them in the Summer 2012 newsletter [PDF] of the Archives & Records Assocation.

The same organisation’s Autumn 2013 newsletter had an interesting article about Lagan Navigation archives in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. Unfortunately something has gone wrong with the links on its newsletter web page so the relevant PDF is not available at the moment.

h/t CO’M

Heritage nonsense and the Naomh Éanna

There was a Dáil debate last week about the scrapping of the Naomh Éanna; nobody gave any good reason for keeping the vessel. Preservation proponents decided not to ask for money: instead they wanted the thing left hanging around while they worked out an “investment plan“, something that they could have done at any time over the last twenty-five years.

The funniest part was the final paragraph of the third contribution by Éamon Ó Cuív [FF, Galway West], who said:

Agus muid ag caint faoi stair, is fiú a lua gur úsáid RTÉ an bád seo le haghaidh scannán an-mhaith a rinne siad, “The Treaty”. Nuair a bhí Collins ag dul go Sasana sa scannán, is ar an mbád seo, seachas bád amuigh i nDún Laoghaire, a bhí sé. Tá ceangal stairiúil le hócáidí thar a bheith stairiúil ag an mbád sin. Níl ag teastáil ach cúpla mí ionas go mbeadh deis ag daoine rud éigin a eagrú. Beidh beagáinín slándáil i gceist. B’fhéidir go mbeidh costas beag ar Uiscebhealaí Éireann. Ní dóigh liom go mbeidh sé suntasach i gcomhthéacs an maitheas a d’fhéadfadh sé seo a dhéanamh dá gcoinneofaí an bád. Má táimid ag lord eiseamláir don rud a bhféadfadh a bheith i gcest, níl le déanamh againn ach cuairt a thabhairt ar Faing agus dul isteach ar an flying boat ansin.

Learned readers will recognise that Google Translate’s version needs improvement:

And we are talking about history, it is worth mentioning that RTÉ use the boat for a very good film they made, “The Treaty “. When Collins was going to England in the film, most of the boats, except boat out in Dun Laoghaire, it was. There are historical connections with historical events particularly at this boat. All you need is a few months so that people have the opportunity to organize something. The security bit concerned. There may be a small cost of Waterways Ireland. I do not think it will be significant in the context of the good it could do this if the boat is kept. If we lord model for what could be gcest, we do not just visit Foynes and go flying into the boat then.

So the Naomh Éanna is valuable because it was used as a film set. And Foynes flying-boat museum shows what could be done.

Foynes flying-boat

Foynes flying-boat

Up to a point, Lord Copper. You see — and I know this may come as a shock — the flying-boat on display at Foynes is not actually a real flying-boat. It’s not even a portion of a real flying-boat. It’s a reproduction of a portion of a flying-boat and it was built by a film-set designer.

If anyone really needs to be able to see around a small mid-twentieth-century ship, I suspect that the Foynes folk could provide a replica that would cost less to keep than the real thing.

Alternatively, if Dublin needs another example of a locally built vessel, and one different in form from the Cill Áirne, it could take over the Curraghgour II or the Coill an Eo, both also built in Dublin. Maybe the preservationists should start now on their investment planning.

Coill an Eo

Coill an Eo

Limerick Port old dredger Curraghgour II 6_resize

Curraghgour II

An investment plan for the Naomh Éanna?

In a debate about the Naomh Éanna in the Dáil on 13 February 2014, Joan Collins TD [People Before Profit Alliance, Dublin South Central] said:

I understand the National Asset Management Agency and the Irish Ship & Barge Fabrication Company have expressed an interest in stepping in with an investment plan to restore her to her former beauty.

I see nothing about the ship on NAMA’s website, so I cannot provide any information about its views.

According to the most recent modified accounts for the Irish Ship and Barge Fabrication Company Ltd, on file at the Companies Registration Office, its total assets at 28 February 2013 were €286 in cash.

The company had no fixed assets.

Its called-up share capital was shown as €100000 and the balance on its profit & loss account was -€99714.

According to its Annual Return (B1), made up to 30 November 2013, its authorised share capital was €200000, made up of 100000 €1.00 ordinary shares and 100000 €1.00 Non Cum Red Pref shares. Only 100 of the ordinary shares were issued: 1 was owned by Saul Casey and 99 were owned by Sam Field-Corbett. All 100000 Non Cum Red Pref shares were issued and were held by Printation Limited.



Lowering Lough Derg

Boat-owners concerned about high water levels on Lough Derg will be glad to know that relief is in sight, although it may take a little while to arrive. Irish Water has taken over the project to send Shannon water to Dublin and is procuring something, although it is not at all clear what that is. The, er, news item is so far leading in the competition for least informative press release of the year.

M’Gauley’s mysterious mechanism

In 1851 Alex Thom, Printer and Publisher of Dublin, produced the third edition of Lectures on Natural Philosophy by the Rev James William M’Gauley, Canon &c, Professor of Natural Philosophy and one of the Heads of the Training Department to the National Board of Education in Ireland. [The Morning Post of 9 October 1840 suggests that the first edition seems to have been in 1840: Longman, Orme & Co in London, W Curry, jun & Co in Dublin and Fraser and Crawford in Edinburgh.]

You can read the third edition of the Lectures here, paying special attention to any electro-magnetic apparatus, given that the Rev James read papers on the subject to the meetings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Dublin in 1835 and in Liverpool in 1837.

But I can find nothing, there or elsewhere, about his contributions to steam propulsion on canals. Several British newspapers copied this story from the Dublin Pilot in 1837:

We understand that the Rev Mr M’Gauley, of Marlborough-street, in this city, has completed a series of experiments upon a subject which for some time has occupied his attention — the application of steam to canal boats, with perfect success.

Our readers are aware that the great obstacle to the application of steam to packet boats on canals is caused by the great injury which would arise to the banks from the wave created by the paddles. He has, it seems, adopted a paddle on an altogether new principle; one of great simplicity and of such a nature that the injury to the banks shall not be greater than what is produced by the ordinary boat.

He gets rid entirely of backwater, his paddles work without noise, and require for their application a steam engine of the simplest construction.

It is said that Mr M’Gauley contemplates a velocity which to seem possible would require his working model to be understood. We hope and indeed believe, that Mr M’Gauley will not have to contend with apathy and want of enterprise in the introduction of so important an application of steam in Ireland, one which would render our canals incalculably more profitable and more useful than at present, and to give us an opportunity of consuming to advantage the turf with which so large a portion of the country is covered.

And in its issue of 29 December 1838 [No 803] the Mechanics’ Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, & Gazette carried this story from the Dublin Post:

Steam-boats on Canals. — The Rev J W M’Gauley, Professor of Natural Philosophy to the Board of Education, we understand, has at length succeeded in fabricating a machine for propelling boats on canals without raising a surge, which has been very detrimental to the banks, causing a considerable annual outlay to keep them in repair.

The power will be derived from a steam-engine; but instead of the usual paddle-wheels, there will be a machine immerged in the water underneath the centre of the boat, the working of which will not cause the least ripple on the surface of the water. There will be a public test of the invention on the Grand Canal about a fortnight hence, with a boat fitted up under the immediate inspection of the Rev gentleman.

But I have found nothing after that: no report of the success or otherwise of the machine. I would be grateful for information from anyone who knows anything about it.

By 1840 the Rev M’Gauley’s attention had returned to electro-magnetic apparatus with a practical application. In November and December of that year several British newspapers reproduced this report from the Dublin Monitor [I take this from the Leicester Chronicle, which was so excited that it reported the news twice, on 21 November and 12 December 1840]:

Important improvement. — The Rev Professor M’Gauley, whose scientific experiments in electro-magnetism excited so much interest in the philosophic world some time ago, has communicated to some of the principal Railway Companies in England a valuable invention, which will be attended with most important results in the preservation of life and property from almost all the casualties to which they are at present subjected in railway travelling.

His object is to render the stoppage of the train entirely independent of the engine conductors; so that, should they, as was lately the case, fall asleep, get drunk, or otherwise become incapacitated for the discharge of their responsible duties, the steam can be turned off, and the train stopped, totally independent of them. The simple announcement of the object of Mr M’Gauley’s invention is sufficient to render its vast importance obvious to every man who has bestowed one moment’s thought upon the subject. We have been favoured with an examination of the invention, and consider it at once simple, ingenious, and admirably adapted to effect the desired end; its cost is trifling.

This important improvement has been submitted to the directors of some of the first lines of railway in England, to the Dublin and Kingstown and Ulster Railway Companies who are giving it their best consideration, and, we presume, will test its utility by experiment.



Big it up for the OPW

I’ve just been reading some particularly nitwitted Dáil discussions and I need some time to calm down enough to report on them to the Learned Readers of this site. Let me just say that anyone who thinks that politicians cannot distinguish fact from fiction is absolutely right. But enough of that for the moment.

I reported earlier on an oddity in the results from the OPW’s Athlone waterlevel gauge. I emailed the OPW about it and a helpful chap got back on more or less immediately.

He explained that the data we see on the waterlevel.ie site is, as it were, live: raw unfiltered data with nothing added, nothing taken away. The same data goes in to the OPW and they spotted that the Athlone gauge was reading too high. They found the sensor was faulty; they have now adjusted it and the new, lower readings are correct.

The disappearance of the placenames is because of some work in progress on improving the website; they will be back.

He kindly pointed me to a list, in .xlsm format, downloadable from here; it shows all hydrometric stations in Ireland. It shows who operates them, whether they’re active and whether they use telemetry (which I take to mean that they can be monitored remotely). Unfortunately OPW itself doesn’t seem to have any gauges on Lough Derg and nor does Waterways Ireland. OPW does have a rather excitable gauge at Scarriff and gauges upstream of Meelick Weir and Meelick (Victoria) Lock. The ESB has gauges with telemetry at Ballyvalley (25073) and Killaloe (25074) but I can’t find any website giving the levels. If, Gentle Reader, you can find one, perhaps you would let us know.

The consoling part of dealing with the OPW is that you get the distinct impression that they know some useful stuff. Unlike, say, some folk working in Kildare Street ….

More Pathé

A train ferry, claimed to be in service on the Liffey

Fishing at Ringsend the hard way

Turf by canal

Launching the Irish Elm in Cork

A Boyne regatta

Making and using a Boyne currach in 1921 (you can learn the art yourself here)

A non-watery film: Irish Aviation Day 1936


Canal tourists or canal pensioners?

The Village at Lyons 265_resize

La Serre

Nibbling yesterday on a morsel of cured salmon, with fennel and apple salad, lemon crème fraiche and lavender jelly, at the excellent La Serre restaurant at the Village at Lyons, I looked forward to walking outside afterwards, on to the canal bank, to view the many boats that would undoubtedly be moored there, above the thirteenth lock, as their owners lunched at La Serre’s sister institution, the Canal Café.

The thirteenth lock (and its wonderful O)

The thirteenth lock (and its wonderful O)

Judge of my surprise, then, when I found not a single boat outside. I realised, though, that boaters probably walked from nearby Hazelhatch and even from Sallins. For we know, do we not, that boaters are vital to tourism? Even Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party tells us so, which means that they must be out and about along the canals, spending money (and where better to spend it than at the Canal Café?).

The Canal Café, mere feet from the canal bank

The Canal Café, mere feet from the canal bank

But a difficulty has struck me. Mr Higgins’s position is that boaters have money available for discretionary expenditure, but Senator John Kelly tells us that most boaters are “retired couples from England who are receiving small English pensions”. So one politician tells us that boaters have disposable incomes and that they should not pay money to Waterways Ireland because they spend money in pubs and restaurants along the canals; another politician tells us that boaters should not pay money to Waterways Ireland because they have none to spare.

I find it difficult to reconcile these two positions.


Scrap the damn thing

The Irish Times reports today, in an article that will probably disappear behind a paywall sooner or later, that some folk don’t want the Naomh Éanna, a decrepit former ferry cluttering up the Grand Canal Dock, to be scrapped.

There seems to be a reluctance to accept that things, like people, have a lifespan. Keeping them alive indefinitely costs a lot of money. And none of those quoted in the article has put forward any good reason for keeping the damn thing, never mind any reason that would justify the spending of very large amounts of money on it.

Yes, it had some interesting (if minor) historical associations, but the best way of recording them would be to write a book, or create a website, or even make a movie, about the ship’s history. Money spent that way would be a far better investment than money spent on keeping the Naomh Éanna afloat. Its heritage or historical value lies in the associated information, not in the steel.

As it is, the vessel has been hanging around for about twenty-five years, since it failed a survey in 1986 or 1988 (I have found different dates). I don’t know how much it has done since then to advance appreciation of industrial or cultural history, or whatever it is that the complainants think is being vandalised, but I would have thought that anyone who wanted to gaze on an elderly vessel has had plenty of opportunity to do so.

Addendum: it seems some folk want to draw up an investment plan.