Why hurry? The inclined planes on Dukart’s Canal

Davis Dukart (there are many spellings of his name) was the engineer employed in 1767 to build a canal to link the Drumglass coalfield to the town of Coalisland, whence the Coalisland Canal could carry the coal to Lough Neagh and, via the Newry Canal, to the Irish Sea and to Dublin.

Dukart's Custom House (now the hunt Museum) in LimerickDukart’s Custom House (now the hunt Museum) in Limerick

Dukart (who designed the Custom House in Limerick)  decided that his canal would have no locks. Instead, he built it with three inclined planes (which didn’t work very well), known locally as dry hurries. The full story is told in Thomas McIlvenna’s The Wonder-Working Canal: a history of the Tyrone Navigation (Coalisland Canal Branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland 2005).

A dry hurry on Dukart's CanalA dry hurry on Dukart’s Canal

Tommy McIlvenna speculates on the origin of the term dry hurries. Richard Griffin may be able to cast some light on the subject. In 1814 he produced, for the Dublin Society (now the Royal Dublin Society or RDS) a Geological and Mining Report on the Leinster Coal District. He reports on the method of working:

When a pit is sunk and ready for work, the agent generally lets it to a master collier, who is a species of middle man, between the collier and the agent. The master collier agrees to deliver the coal on the surface for a certain stipulated price, which varies from 6 to 8 shillings a ton, according to the difficulty of the work. This man engages a number of collier’s [sic] or a crew, as they are generally called, to work with him; each man has a particular kind of work allotted to him, and a certain portion is considered as a day’s work; a crew frequently consists of 50 or 51 persons, who are divided into

20 Clearers, whose wages per day is 2s 2d each: £2/3/4

20 Cutters, ditto: £2/3/4

6 Breakers, ditto: 13/0

2 Hurriers, ditto: 4/4

3 Thrusters, 1s 8d each: 5/0

Total cost of labour under ground for one day: £5/9/0

Griffin describes each type of work, concluding thus:

When broken down, the coal is put into a wooden box, which holds 3.5 hundred weight, placed on a small sledge, and is drawn by the hurrier to the pit bottom by means of an iron bar hooked into a ring on the front of the sledge. The thruster pushes the box behind.

3 responses to “Why hurry? The inclined planes on Dukart’s Canal

  1. The mineral waters that were used in 1800’s- are they still in use and what would the establishments names be please?
    Also are there mines other than coal locally and where are they located, how large, what is the daily production.
    I am curious to know if there are any records left in castle connnell pre-1850 for looking up family history.
    thank you

  2. I’m afraid I don’t know anything about mineral waters. You could try reading Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary (available free online) and then googling to see if any of the sources are still in use. I can’t think of any other than Lisdoonvarna, but there could be many more. As for local records, I don’t think there are any in Castleconnell. You could look at the Limerick City Library website to see if there’s anything relevant there. bjg

  3. Pingback: Hunt the lock | Irish waterways history

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