Around the world with Irish waterways

Yesterday was one of those days: I managed to track down sources for several pieces of information I’ve been hunting for some time, but in the process I came across a few interesting links, from Gordon of Khartoum to the War between the States.

The starting point was William Watson, manager of the Inland Department and later Chairman of the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company. He worked with Robert Mallet on the design of an innovative boat for use on Irish inland waterways. Robert Mallet married a Cordelia Watson in 1831. (I thought that might be a daughter of William of the CoDSPCo but it’s pretty clear from the excellent Mallett Family History site that that was not so.)

One of Mallet’s inventions was a large mortar designed for use in the Crimean War. And one of Mallet’s sons, John William Mallet, went to the USA and became professor of chemistry at the University of Alabama. He joined the Confederate forces, rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the artillery and superintendent of the Confederate ordnance laboratories.

Meanwhile Watson’s son Charles Moore went east rather than west. Colonel Sir Charles Moore Watson KCMG, CB, MA, of the Royal Engineers, Watson Pasha, was a general in the Egyptian Army and Governor-General of the Red Sea Littoral. Watson’s base was at Suakin on the Red Sea. The Dubliner was succeeded in that post by a Kerryman, Horatio Herbert Kitchener, from Ballylongford near Saleen on the Shannon Estuary, on which the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company operated.

Watson was “Gordon’s principal friend in Egypt”:

It is certain that Watson was, above all others, the one man in Cairo whom Gordon cared about most, and that he was the last to see Gordon off when he started [for Khartoum].

Gordon died at Khartoum; the relief expedition, led by another Irishman, Sir Garnet Wolseley, arrived two days too late.

A younger brother of Sir Garnet, Frederick Wolseley, went to Australia. His Sheep Shearing Machine Company made a brief expedition into the manufacture of motor-cars, under one Herbert Austin, who later founded his own company. Austin and Wolseley both ended up in British Leyland Motor Corporation, which made diesel engines, some of which were marinised and used in boats on the Irish inland waterways … which brings us back to where we started.

7 responses to “Around the world with Irish waterways

  1. A very interesting article as I am related to Robert Mallet.

    I have Cordelia Watson living from 1802-1854 and her father from 1799 -1805, but she also had a brother William who was born in 1804 which agrees with the data on the brass plaque.

  2. Mike: thanks for that. I actually left a message on your site as I’ve been getting error messages: I had hoped to be able to check the identity of Robert Mallet’s wife with you. If she was indeed the daughter of William (b 1804), she might have been named for her aunt.

    Incidentally, I have been trying to learn more about boats that Robert might have built for the City of Dublin SPCo. I’ve found the experimental one, but I haven’t found anything like a complete list of the Dublin foundry’s output so I don’t know whether there might have been others. If you could point me to any sources, I’d be grateful.


  3. There was a server error on the site but this is has now been cleared and you can read about Cordelia at

    There was also a typo in my last comment as William was born in 1766 and not 1799.

    I do have information on Robert Mallet from many sources but so far very little appears on the website.

  4. Thanks, Mike. It’s pretty clear that the William Watson who was the father of Cordelia was not the William Watson of the CoDSPCo, and I’ve amended my page accordingly. bjg

  5. As an aside Robert is a distant relation to Hugh Malet, author of “Voyage in a Bowler Hat” and “In the wake of gods”

  6. That’s good to know; thanks. There are some aspects of Irish waterways on which Hugh Malet is the only source. He ended the first voyage at Waterford Castle. bjg

  7. Pingback: Horace Kitchener and the peat briquette | Irish waterways history

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