The origins of the Royal Canal

The Royal Canal’s origins have never been satisfactorily explained: a later legend even seeks to explain its origins in an obscure dispute between a retired shoemaker and other members of the Grand Canal Company. But in fact its origins were political. As the Grand Canal Company was taken over by the conservative La Touche clique, the opposition launched a new venture: its patron was the duke of Leinster; businessmen and opposition politicians rallied to it; and Gleadowes, rivals of the La Touches, were bankers to the company. In other words, there was to be a left-wing as well as a right-wing way to reach the Shannon. Almost symbolically on its more northerly route to the Shannon, it passed through the duke of Leinster’s land.

L M Cullen “Politics and Institutions, 1731–1835” in Economy, Trade and Irish Merchants at home and abroad, 1600–1988 Four Courts Press, Dublin 2012

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