The Hind

The River Hind Navigation is not well known, which may be attributable to its non-existence. There were several proposals to make the Hind navigable, to link the town of Roscommon to Lough Ree on the Shannon, but none of them were implemented. One of them almost made it, though, and such interest as the topic has is the result of the Hind’s inclusion (or semi-inclusion) on the list of navigations for which W T Mulvany, Commissioner for Drainage, was responsible in the late 1840s and early 1850s.

Mulvany was responsible for five drainage-cum-navigation projects (and many drainage projects), whereof the Hind was the least important. The other four were

  • the Lough Oughter navigation, upstream on Lough Erne from Belturbet, which was never completed: various (mostly Fianna Fáil) insane politicians in the area are still trying to have it completed
  • the Cong and Belturbet Canals, which were abandoned before they were finished
  • the Junction Canal in the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Drainage District, later known as the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Canal, which had a brief and notoriously unprofitable existence, but which was later transformed into the Shannon—Erne Waterway, which was a good investment for Ireland because the Germans [or someone] paid for it
  • the Lower Bann navigation, linking Lough Neagh (which already had two links to coastal ports) with the North Atlantic in the middle of a beach near Coleraine. This was the only one of Mulvany’s navigations that was completed and that remained open, despite its complete uselessness, as the railways got to the area before the navigation did.

In this catalogue of commercial nitwittedness, the Hind had the advantage that it was delayed: an even more insane proposal, to drain the Suck into the Hind, meant that the Hind navigation scheme was deferred long enough to be abandoned altogether, which was just as well as the railway soon made any navigation unnecessary.

However, the proposal was there and, if you are very bored, you might like to read about it. But this is for anoraks: the subject is unimportant, the detail [163 endnotes] outweighing what little interest the scheme possesses. There are no photos of boats or of locks, because there weren’t any; there aren’t even any cat videos.


4 responses to “The Hind

  1. No cat videos? Well I am bitterly disappointed. Fianna fail politicians in the vicinity of Belturbet said you could be relied on for cattiness ☺
    Hope all is well, T.

  2. Pretty well all politicians around Belturbet should feel the same: they want ludicrous navigations in all directions.


    PS I have deleted your contact details from the comment to save you from spam.

  3. Sorry to see the memory of Mulvany treated in the way it was in your article.
    Your fair minded readers may wish to consult the many available biographies to learn of his vision of developing infrastructure with joined up thinking so as to improve the condition of the common man.
    After being effectively constructively dismissed from the Board of Works by the machinations of the third Earl of Ross he went to Germany and transformed the German coal and steel industry unfortunately facilitating Prussian militarism.
    He also sketched out the design for what has become the modern port of Antwerp.
    His famine relief schemes employed 17000 people at their peak and were deemed good value for money.

  4. Thank you for commenting. I have read a biography of Mulvany, as well as (as you’ll have seen) large numbers of Board of [Public] Works and related reports. I thought the biography erred on the other side, treating Mulvany as the put-upon hero. I know of nothing to Mulvany’s discredit in his German adventures and I have cited them as evidence of his competence.

    However, during the famine he made serious errors. I have some sympathy for him (and his fellow Commissioners), given the volume of work, the scale of the administrative task and the competing pressures from the Treasury on the one hand (micromanaging ain’t in it) and the desire to save the starving on the other. Even the House of Lords report, as Griffiths points out, acknowledged some of the difficulties. But he was clearly wrong in riding roughshod over the Corrib company and in dispensing with the requirements for the drainage schemes. And his acolytes’ pre-construction evaluations [such of them as I’ve read] of the proposed navigations are delusionary, based on nonsensical assumptions (like most Irish canal and waterway projects before and since).

    There is, it seems to me, a mystery to be solved here: why did Mulvany do what he did? The biography I read doesn’t explain it; it may be that the answer lies in the OPW archives (which, as I said, I have not consulted). One possibility is that the notion that canals brought prosperity was so ingrained amongst engineers that Mulvany simply accepted it unquestioningly (as though he were a modern opposition TD), and that once work began on the navigations, and on all the non-navigation drainage schemes, he was simply too busy to revisit his assumptions.


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