Kilbeggan

Grand Canal Passage Boats

The Court of Directors will receive Proposals for drawing Two Small Light Passage Boats daily on the stages between

Ballycommon and Kilbeggan

for the terms, and at the Rates of Travelling which, with all other particulars, will be fully explained on reference to A Bagot Esq, Inspector of Passage Boats, Portobello.

Sealed Proposals, according to forms to be furnished by the Inspector, to be delivered at the Secretary’s Office, on or before the 30th instant.

By Order, John M’Mullen, Sec, Grand Canal House, William-street,
9th January 1841

Dublin Evening Post 12 January 1841

Hotel boats

The Shannon Princess wants a general assistant.

Railway archaeology

Ewan Duffy’s chapter “Royal Canal bridges in Dublin”, in The Royal under the Railway: Ireland’s Royal Canal 1830–1899 [Railway & Canal Historical Society, Derby 2014], drew attention to the hitherto neglected effects of the Midland Great Western Railway’s ownership on the physical structures along the Royal Canal in Dublin.

Ewan’s latest venture is a Railway Archaeology of Ireland, which he is publishing online, at the rate of one chapter per week. The introduction and Chapter 1 are now available. The focus is on “railway-related architectural and engineering structures”, not on trains or rolling stock.

It is possible to sign up to an RSS feed and thus get notified automatically when new chapters appear.

 

More houseboats

From the Indo

h/t Redmond O’Brien

Houseboats

The number of people who lived on boats in the Tang is unknown, but tenth-century Quanzhou was home to “floating boat people” who made their living as fishermen and traders, while in other inland areas as much as half the population was waterbound. The practice of living on houseboats has never died out, and while there are far fewer today, an estimated forty million Chinese lived on the water “in some shape or form” in the mid-twentieth century.

Lincoln Paine The Sea and Civilization: a maritime history of the world Atlantic Books, London pb 2015

Canal oats

The Freeman’s Journal of 25 July 1832 included a report on the Dublin markets of the previous day. The report from the Dublin Corn Exchange said

We had a moderate supply in market, and prices may be quoted same as last.

The grains traded included wheat (prime red and prime white), grinding barley, malting barley, bere, new oats, new bere, oatmeal, M’Cann’s and First Flour, as well as

Prime Feeding Oats, 14 st [stone] to the brl [barrel], 11s 6d to 12s 0d

Canal ditto, 9s 6d to 9s 9d

Usage

The term “canal oats” is used in a report from New York in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1843 and another in  The Economist in 1847; the Central New-York Farmer has it in 1844 and Walt Whitman used the term in 1846. More from that side of the Atlantic anon.

The earliest occurrence I have found in the British Newspaper Archive is in the Dublin Evening Post of 11 March 1819:

Dublin Corn Exchange, March 10. — Our Market was but poorly supplied this day, particularly with Farmers’ Grains, owing to their being so much occupied at field work. — Canal Oats were more abundant than the demand warranted, and they were heavy sale from 16s to 17s 6d; prime, and for feeding, could not be got under 20s to 21s, and seed from 22s to 30s. — Wheat and Barley steady. — Malt, Flour and Oatmeal without variation, and in but indifferent demand.

There are other Irish instances in 1824, 1825 and 1826; in all cases the price of canal oats is below that of feeding oats.

The only British examples from this period, in Gore’s Liverpool General Advertiser on 23 February 1826 and in the Glasgow Herald on 21 April 1826, are from reports on the Dublin market.

I have not checked every occurrence, but my impression is that, to the end of 1840 (I looked no further), the term “canal oats” was used frequently in Irish newspapers from all parts of the island. However, the term was used only about the Dublin and Belfast corn markets; canals served both conurbations. British newspapers used the term only in reports from the Irish markets.

Meaning

I have found no definition of the term. Here, though, are some comments on possible connotations.

First, I presume that “canal oats” were oats that travelled [part of the way] to market by canal. It is likely that most oats came by road, probably on Scotch carts; that would have required packaging, no doubt in barrels of one kind or another. Some oats did arrive by non-canal boats: on 17 December 1838 the Dublin Mercantile Advertiser, and Weekly Price Current said

Limerick, Dec 15. — […] Oats since Wednesday in good supply by land carriage, prices declined ¼d to ½d per stone, to-day 11¾d is the highest down to 11d; by boat, 10d to 11d; barley, 12d to 15d. The depression of the London market on Wednesday accounts for the fall here.

Second, “canal oats” seems to have referred to oats of an inferior quality, or at least to oats that commanded lower prices. The Belfast Commercial Chronicle of 23 March 1839 referred to canal oats as “generally arriving out of condition”, proving difficult to sell and “going to warehouse for want of buyers”. The Pilot of 11 December 1839 referred to canal oats as “soft”; it is not clear whether that applies to their market or to their physical condition. On 16 February 1839 the Belfast Commercial Chronicle referred to canal oats as “unkilndried”: did that apply only to that batch or to all canal oats?

Third, the Limerick market report, above, suggests that lower prices may have applied to all oats arriving by water rather than by land. It is possible that the prices reflected something about the nature of the transport method rather than the inherent quality of the oats; alternatively, it is possible that water transport (which, where it was available, was probably cheaper than land transport) was chosen for the oats that would sell for less.

The first possibility has, I think, two sub-possibilities: that oats travelling by water might have been more at risk of damage or that their packaging might have been inferior: specifically, that they might have been a bulk cargo, poured loose into the hold, rather than packed in barrels. The Belfast Commercial Chronicle of 16 February 1839 might be taken to suggest that: “cargoes”, not barrels, were being sold, and by the ton rather than any lesser quantity:

Oats maintain their value, and cargoes have been sold from £8 5s [presumably per ton] to £8 7s 6d for unkilndried Canal Oats.

However, that is the only such example that my quick survey found.

Fourth, it is possible that canal oats were not used for human or equine consumption. The Dublin Morning Register of 3 November 1838 reported that

The supply of oats from the neighbouring farmers was short, and brought at the opening 13s to 13s 6d per barrel. Canal oats, of which rather a good quantity appeared, was taken off at 12s 6d to 13s per 196lbs. The distillers, anxious to get into stock, gave these prices freely. The advance is fully 1s 6d a barrel since Friday.

Again, that is an isolated example; it may be that the distillers did not always use oats.

Fifth, a case heard in the New York Court of Appeals in 1851, and reported in Henry R Selden Reports of Cases argued and determined in the Court of Appeals of the State of New York; with notes, references, and an index Vol I Little & Company, Albany 1853, concerned a contract for the sale of canal oats. The appeal was against the verdict in a case in which Messrs Vail and Adams sued Mr Rice

[…] in the court of common pleas of the city of New York for the breach of a contract dated New York April 28th 1847 for the sale of “a lot of canal oats, say about four thousand bushels, more or less, at forty seven cents per bushel, deliverable in all the month of May next, from boats at or near the foot of Broad street in this city, cash on delivery”.

The ultimate decision turned on other issues, but the relevant part is that Vail and Adams had called a witness who was in the grain trade and who said

[…] that oats sent by the canal vary about five per cent when they arrive from what they were when shipped. They generally overrun or fall short about five per cent. This is always expressed by the words ‘more or less’. We always make our contracts in that way and we mean by ‘more or less’ to provide for an excess or a diminution not over or under five per cent. We use the word ‘about’ to express the same thing. It is generally customary among us that the purchaser takes whatever it is, and gets the benefit or suffers the loss, not exceeding five per cent. On his cross examination the witness stated ‘The custom is a general custom. I have never known any particular instance. All the grain dealers do. SS & Co have such a custom. I can’t mention a particular instance. I can’t give any other instance. I have sold grain to M & D this way.’

If Irish usage was the same as American, this might strengthen the suggestion that canal oats were a bulk cargo, not measured before shipment, and thus with some uncertainty about the exact amount being shipped, bought or sold. That uncertainty might account for a lower price.

Envoi

None of that amounts to conclusive evidence, and I would be glad to hear from anyone [please leave a Comment below] who knows more than I do about canal oats.

 

Coarse sailing

Inland sailors may be interested to know that Michael Green, author of The Art of Coarse Sailing (and many other books) has died aged 91.

Peril at Parker’s Point

Great storm on Lough Derg

40 tons of porter lost

All over the course of the Shannon the snowstorm was of the utmost severity. The Grand Canal Company had practically to suspend traffic, and steamers arriving at Portumna from Killaloe and Limerick report the roughest weather yet experienced on Lough Derg.

The steamer Dublin, bound from Shannon Harbour to Limerick with three barges in tow, loaded with 40 tons each of porter for Messrs A Guinness and Co’s stores, Limerick, was almost wrecked on Wednesday, but for the promptitude and presence of mind of the steamer’s crew.

She was nearing Parker’s Point, on the Clare [sic] side of the lake, when the storm was raging fiercest, and this being one of the most unsheltered spots in the course of the Shannon, heavy waves came rolling over the tug and barges and tossed them about. The strain broke the ropes which kept them in tow, and two boats with their crews broke away and went adrift, and were at the mercy of the waves.

The captain of the steamer Dublin (Patrick Moran), seeing the perilous position of the boats and crews, steered with the one boat which he had then in tow to the Tipperary side, and anchored her there in shelter, and again set out to the rescue of the two drifting barges, and after a severe struggle succeeded in getting to their rescue just as they were drifting on to the rocks at the point mentioned.

There were twenty tons each of porter stowed on the decks, and this was promptly secured by covers and lashed by ropes to rings, but notwithstanding this the barrels of porter, from the tossing about of the boats, broke through the covers and lash lines, and were lost on Lough Derg. The steamer’s master again got the barges in tow, and succeeded in bringing them on to Killaloe.

 

 

The Irish Times 31 December 1906

The Limerick steam ferry

Wanton outrage

The steam ferry barge, the property of Messrs J R Russell and Sons, which plies across the Shannon from Russell’s-quay to Lansdowne spinning mills, and which was got up for the convenience and conveyance of the factory operatives in the employ of the firm, was boarded during last night (Sunday) as she lay at the north side of the river, by some person or persons unknown, and maliciously injured to a considerable extent. She was not only scuttled, but the machinery was broken and some of the gear removed and taken away, so that the barge has become temporarily disabled. Portions of the machinery are said to have been found in the river, where they were thrown by the miscreants. This is the second attempt that has been made to damage this ferry since she was put on the river.

Cork Examiner 27 April 1869

State of trade on the River Suir [1842]

People who read this will hardly believe that such a state of things, as it details, can exist in any portion of the British dominions; and yet, in the year 1842, undoubtedly in Ireland, and in Ireland only, can we find such facts — positive facts.

It is still more surprising to find that this extraordinary state of things should exist on a river on which a very considerable export and import trade passes — and yet so it is.

A fair challenge to the Chambers of Commerce of Clonmel and Waterford is now given. Let them deny the following data, if they can, seriatim, honestly and plainly:—

  1. That the boat trade between Clonmel and Waterford is in the hands of so few persons that it is, in truth and fact, a monopoly to all intents and purposes.
  2. That those corn factors, who export their produce by these boats, are allowed to import coal, iron, timber, groceries, or other goods, at a lower rate of freight than merchants or shopkeepers, who only import those articles, and do not export.
  3. That combination exists amongst the boatmen to such an extent, that they are, in point of fact and truth, the masters of the river, and have in reality succeeded in their “strikes”.
  4. That only a certain fixed number of boats are allowed to ply on the river, and that when a new boat is built, part of an old boat must be worked up into the new one.
  5. That although great improvements have been effected at Carrick in deepening the river, and thus bringing up vessels to the new quay there, the boatmen of Clonmel and Carrick will not navigate any boats from Clonmel which are to ship their cargoes at Carrick, but they insist and do take such boats on to Waterford.
  6. That when the bill for the Limerick and Waterford railway passed, and £100000 was granted in aid — which railway was to pass through Carrick, Clonmel, Caher, and Tipperary — not one merchant in Clonmel took a share.
  7. That the exports of Waterford amount to above two millions annually, a considerable proportion of which is the produce of the vally [sic] of the Suir, and descends that river.
  8. That the state of the river Suir, as a navigation, between Clonmel and Carrick, is the worst in Ireland; that the import trade in these boats is dragged up the river by horses; that great delays take place, to such an extent, that the import trade suffers most considerably, to the detriment of every person in the community.
  9. That the expenses of the towing path &c fall upon the county at large.

Can it then be matter of surprise that, under such circumstances, Ireland is so much behind hand as she is?

Dublin Evening Mail 28 March 1842