We congratulate the North of Ireland on the commencement of this great national undertaking, second in importance only to the Caledonian canal: the one connecting the Eastern and Western shores of Scotland, and the other, in a few years hence, will open the communication between the Eastern and Western shores of Ireland, by connecting Lough Neagh with Lough Erne; from the former of which the already formed navigation of the Lagan and the Newry Canal will give the agricultural interest of this large and fertile district of country a cheap and speedy means of conveyance for their produce to the English shores, whilst, at the same time, it will enable the people of the West and North-west of Ireland to find a ready vent for their agricultural produce down Lough Erne and from thence, by the GREAT ULSTER CANAL, and its branches (if we may be allowed so to call the Lagan and Newry navigations), to the English market.
Yesterday, our correspondent informs us, this great undertaking was commenced. At an early hour in the forenoon, a large assemblage of the labouring classes were collected at Carrickaness (where Mr Cross had given the Company possession of that part of his ground through which the Canal will pass, without waiting for the decision of a valuation jury), to ascertain if their long cherished hopes of employment were to be realised; they were not disappointed.
At an early hour the Ulster Canal Company’s flag was hoisted on a promontory that commanded a view of the battery from which the salute was to be fired, the ancient castle, the waterfalls and romantic scenery around. Sir James Strong, and others of the gentry of the surrounding country, displayed flags from their residences, and on many of the neighbouring hills preparations were making for bonfires in the evening, and at the appointed hour (twelve o’clock), the royal standard was hoisted on the old castle of Benburb, once the residence of the O’Neils, Kings of Ulster.
Mr M’Cleery, on the part of the Directors of the Company; Mr Caseborne, the resident engineer; and Mr Magee, on the part of Mr Dargan, the contractor, were on the ground, and a number of blasts having been prepared in the mass of rock on this spot, a royal salute of 21 shots was fired, which was simultaneously echoed by the shouts of hundreds of people assembled on the hills around, and answered from the castle by a discharge of cannon and small arms. After the blasting was finished, a number of men were instantly set to work to mark out the boundaries of the line, and to commence the off-bearing of the quarry.
During the intervals of the blasting, the country people were liberally supplied with ale, and every thing passed off with the utmost eclat. On the ground we observed a great number of the gentry of the surrounding country. In the evening it was the intention of a number of the friends of the undertaking to dine together at the Caledon Arms. We have only again to congratulate our friends in the province of Ulster upont he commencement of this really national work, and to wish success to the “Inland Navigation of Ireland” and, more particularly, prosperity to the Ulster Canal.
Dublin Evening Post 24 May 1834
On the evening of Friday, the 23d ult, the gentlemen connected with the Ulster Canal and also a good many others, comprising a number of the inhabitants of Caledon, dined together at the Caledon Hotel, in commemoration of the opening of the works. No pains were spared by Mr Taylor in furnishing the entertainment, and affording every accommodation to the company. Among the toasts were —
“The King” — “The Queen, and the rest of the Royal Family” — “The Army and Navy” — “Prosperity to the Ulster Canal, and Lord and Lady Caledon” — “Sir A Chichester, one of the earliest friends to the undertaking” &c &c.
The evening passed off in the greatest harmony, all present being highly delighted with the prospect of the blessings likely to result from the completion of the Ulster Canal. — Derry Sentinel
Dublin Mercantile Advertiser, and Weekly Price Current 16 June 1834