Funny how things link up ….
There is an interesting photo of what looks like a square-sterned wooden barge, employed in the timber trade.
In the book itself, we read:
In 1914, Bob and George Russell opened Russell Brothers sawmills on a 25-acre site in Portarlington. Like Odlums Mill, Russell Brothers was adjacent to both the canal and the railway. Timber harvested from large estates was shipped via the canal to the mill, where it was processed. From there, it was transported to Dublin and on through Liverpool and throughout the U.K. Wood from the Russell Brothers’ mill became bobbins in the cotton mills of Lancashire. Much of the timber was also sent to Wales, where it was used as pit props in the coal mines.
From the description in that book, and from that in Mills of Co Laois: an industrial heritage survey: Part 2: site inventory (also by Fred Hamond for Laois County Council, 2005; PDF here). I think the sawmills were roughly where I’ve put the red X on the OSI below (which predates the sawmills): south of the canal (which itself is south of the town) and with “the remains of an old railway line in Russell ’s Yard” (Peg Moran quoted in the canal book). I’m not familiar with the area, so if I’ve got that wrong please leave a Comment below.
Now for the link. On this page, about the Lloyd family and the Rockville Navigation, I wrote:
In 1917 the young Mr Lloyd was appointed a magistrate for County Roscommon (Irish Times 15 December 1917) but the following year he sold Rockville. The Irish Times of 23 March 1918 announced that 1000 acres, the mansion house and demesne and farming lands of Rockville, Drumsna, would be auctioned on 3 April 1918. The house had been occupied by the owner until recently and his family had held it for over two centuries. It included 73 acres of lake and water, with a boat-house. Some marked timber had been sold and was in the process of being removed; on 16 November 1922 the Irish Times reported that the new owner, Mr George Frayne (not Freyne), a farmer, was suing the timber merchant.
The last of those Irish Times articles identifies the timber merchant as Messrs Russell Brothers of Portarlington.
I was contacted by Eleanor Russell, whose husband is a member of the sawmilling family. She said that she had a photo of Rockville House taken in 1913 and she very kindly sent it to me, along with several other photos of Messrs Russells operations, and gave me permission to put them on this site. I have added the Rockville photos to the Rockville page; here are the others. I am very grateful to Eleanor Russell for permitting me to use these photos; the copyright belongs to the Russell family.
My guess is that the goods store shown in the photo is the goods shed just above the lock, as shown on the OSI map above, and that the railing in the foreground is protecting the footboard crossing the lock’s upper gates. That would position the store a little away from where I think the sawmills were:
Again, I would welcome correction.
This photo shows the same shed in the background. Eleanor Russell says:
[This] one is the unloading of the timber from the boats at the mill in Portarlington in 1914. A lot of the timber was taken from the estates and brought directly to the mill on the canal. They also had their own siding to the railway station.
The canal boat is wooden, with two planks above the waterline on each side. There seems to be a wooden bollard at each corner, as it were. The steerer has his hand on the curved tiller at the stern. At the bow, there seems to be a chimney, probably for a stove, and a long rope, which may be the trackline (towing line).
On the shore, more fencing seems to have been added since the first photo was taken, and so has the crane.
The third photo shows the same (or a similar) vessel, again with two planks above the water level. I’m not sure where this was taken: the buildings in the background look as if they might be associated with the flour mills, but there seems to be a tree trunk being either loaded or unloaded on the right-hand side of the photo.
The building on the left seems to be that now occupied by Toddy’s, a florists. beside the arch with red doors in this photo on A J Vosse’s website. I thought I’d be able to see the roof of the next building along, but it seems to have been rebuilt after the time this photo (from Seamus Cullen’s North Kildare history site) was taken. Furthermore, the bank of the canal harbour seems to have been built up somewhat.
There seem to be two boats alongside, the outer one already loaded and the inner awaiting loading with the timber on the bank. The tiller on the inner boat is less curved than that on the photo above. The rudder seems to be rather crudely constructed. There seems to be a tall vertical object in line with the rudder; it may be a stove chimney on the bow.
The boat is pointing eastward, towards Dublin; that suggests that the boats travelled into Dublin on the Royal Canal, crossed the Liffey under tow from a tug, left on the Grand, then turned left at Lowtown and went down the Barrow Line as far as Monasterevan, where the Mountmellick Line (on which Portarlington stood) branched off. Quite a long journey.
There is more to be learned about the Russells traffic.