Category Archives: Built heritage

Canals and popery

Between 1768 and 1774

… means were devised to provide secure investment facilities for Catholics in projects of national and public utility, which at the same time left the whole system of the popery laws intact.

The earliest example I have found of this opening of the back door to Catholic investment was an act of 1768 for improving navigation between Limerick and Killaloe. To encourage Catholics to invest in the enterprise all shares were to be regarded as ‘personal estate and not subject to any of the laws to prevent the growth of popery’. Thus the indirect ownership of land involved in such investment would not be at the mercy of Protestant discoverers.

A blanket concession on similar lines was given in 1772 to Catholic shareholders in all inland navigation companies and in insurance companies. The fact that these acts now made it possible for Catholics to become shareholders and sometimes directors in such companies as the Grand Canal Company, must have served to break down segregation barriers to some slight extent.

Maureen Wall “Catholics in Economic Life” in L M Cullen ed The Formation of the Irish Economy The Mercier Press, Cork 1969, rp 1976

 

Broharris and Ballykelly

I have revised and expanded my page on the Broharris Canal, distinguishing between it and the Ballykelly Canal. However, there are still mysteries, and I will welcome comments from anyone who can cast light on the two subjects.

ESB archives

On Friday 13 October 2017 at 3.00pm, Deirdre McParland will speak at the Royal Irish Academy, Dawson Street, Dublin 2, about the ESB archives, whereof she is senior archivist. Admission is free but I am told that places should be booked here. I have not tested that link and I do not vouch for it.

I have, however, visited the ESB Archives site and suscribed to its RSS feed. They have one of those Titter things too: I gather it’s a communication method for the remedial classes, folk who can’t manage more than a paragraph of continuous prose.

 

 

 

Canal restoration: Strabane and Broharris

Alas, the Derry Journal [h/t Industrial Heritage Ireland, the indispensable source of IH news] tells us that

STEVE BRADLEY believes Derry’s forgotten canal heritage could boost the region’s economic fortunes

No, it couldn’t.

Mr Bradley’s article is extremely interesting. He describes the history of the Strabane and the Broharris canals and, in the process, shows me that my page about the Broharris was entirely wrong. I am about to update that page but I am grateful to him for the information he provided. I hope he will forgive me, then, if I disagree with him about the economic potential of canal restoration.

He makes no exaggerated claims about the potential of the Broharris as anything other than a walking route; it could not be used by boats larger than canoes or kayaks and, even for them, there are no obvious launching or recovery sites.

But he wants more for the Strabane. He says that digging up the canal basin in the town, and restoring the navigable link to the Foyle, would provide a new Canal Quarter to attract investment even though it would, he concedes, be an expensive project.

But it is on the navigation aspects that he goes seriously astray:

Restoring the canal would hopefully also kick-start the use of the Foyle for leisure, recreation and tourism purposes. And restoring the 200 years old link between Strabane and the Foyle would be a great flagship project for a new council district with Derry and Strabane as its two main population centres.

Towns elsewhere have shown how restored canals can help bring new life and prosperity to the districts they flow through, yet locally we have neglected our water assets. It is time to give serious consideration to the role that our forgotten canal heritage could make towards improving the economic fortunes of our area.

I wrote about the Strabane Canal here and here. Sinn Féin, always keen on eighteenth century economics, tried to get Waterways Ireland to waste some of its money on the thing but, happily, failed.

The real problem with this is that there seem to be very few boats on the Foyle; I suspect that many of them are sailing boats that are not terribly suitable for use on canals, while others are fast seagoing vessels that would damage the banks. And boats will not come from Britain or Ireland or anywhere else to visit Strabane by canal: a boat suitable for the sea passage to the Foyle would be inherently unsuitable for the canal, even assuming that the delights of Strabane were sufficient to entice boaters to make the journey.

Irish waterways promoters have operated for years on the principle that, if the government gives them the money to build the canal, the traffic will come. Anyone who believes that should visit Tralee, where a similar canal, short and isolated, linking a town to the sea, is not used other than by walkers and the local rowing club. Seagoing boats go to Fenit instead.

And, on “how restored canals can help bring new life and prosperity to the districts they flow through”, I recommend a visit to the Royal Canal, which is very nice but has very little traffic. As, indeed, does the Grand Canal. English experience with a large connected network of canals is not relevant to Irish conditions, whether on geographic or on economic grounds.

 

They haven’t gone away, you know ….

There we were, about to breathe a sigh of relief that the Clones Sheugh had been buried at the crossroads, with a stake through its heart and numerous rows of garlic planted around it, when a crack appeared in the earth and the shriek of the undead made the night hideous.

Yes, it seemed that the Minister for Fairytales had successfully diverted everyone’s attention away from Clones by (a) designating the River Finn as the Ulster Canal, which would lead to a scout camp at the spiritual home of Ulster Unionism rather than to Clones, and (b) supporting a greenway walking route to take care of the handsacrosstheborder bit (although ministers from up there seemed to be scarce at the launch. I suppose they’re scarce anyway).

The greenway seems like a better idea to me, given that it’s significantly cheaper than canal restoration and likely to attract far more users, although I wasn’t impressed by the economic assessment in Waterways Ireland’s Ulster Canal Greenway draft strategy document from April 2017 [PDF]. Here is the assessment in full:

6.2 Economic Assessment
Ultimately, the cost of developing a route will play a part in the decision-making process. It may be technically possible to overcome an obstacle, but the cost might make it unfeasible and a longer route chosen. All factors in the Greenway Strategy will be assessed and the most sustainable routes chosen.

That seems to suggest that the costs and benefits of the plan have been thought through with as much care and attention as Her Majesty’s Government over the way has given to Brexit. Which, I imagine, will put paid to much handsacrosstheborderism anyway; I hope it doesn’t put paid to Waterways Ireland as well, although it’s bound to increase the difficulties under which that body labours.

But revenons à nos moutons. Just when we thought it was safe to go out, the dead arose. Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy said

Clones needs the Ulster Canal if it’s to have a viable tourism future.

Also from the report of the meeting:

A presentation at the meeting revealed that over 50 percent of buildings in Fermanagh Street in Clones are derelict.

Frustration at the lack of progress with the Ulster Canal was voiced, with representatives stating that it was on the agenda in 1999 and is still on it now.

Perhaps Clones has not got the message: the Ulster Canal is off the agenda. But there is a more fundamental problem: [some] small rural towns are dying because there is no longer any economic need for them. The scale of things has changed since the late nineteenth century; consumers can travel to Aldi and Lidl in larger towns; local markets and fairs are no longer how business is done.

Tourism is unlikely to rescue Clones: if it could do so, why isn’t the town already a tourist destination? Why aren’t its attractions well known throughout Germany and wherever else tourists come from? Enabling tourists to visit by water is not going to attract significant numbers from abroad: there are more scenic and interesting waterways elsewhere, in Ireland and on the continent. There would be a very poor return on the millions that a canal to Clones would cost — not helped by proposals for significant overpayment for land.

I still don’t understand why Sinn Féin is so keen on canals generally and the Clones Sheugh in particular. But Clones might find a new economic role as a post-Brexit smuggling centre.

 

The vast utility of internal navigation

As a manifest proof of the vast utility and advantage of internal navigation, the present price of land carriage to Banagher, which is that particular part which the Canal is to extend to in its Westerly progress, is 2s 4d per hundred weight, or 2l 6s 8d the ton, but the freightage and tonnage by the Canal cannot exceed thirteen shillings, which in some articles, either sent to or from the capital, must reduce the price upwards of forty per cent.

From this calculation we suppose the tonnage to be three halfpence a mile and the freightage a penny, but there will be many loadings that will not be rated or charged at so high a price; as for instance, lime, stones, flag and slate, which are to pay but a halfpenny, fuel a farthing, and dung, marl, and gravel for manure, entirely exempt from any charge.

Of what infinite use it will be to the manufactures of this kingdom in the article of fuel only, may be evinced by the price of Kilkenny coal being reduced more than one-half, and corn, flour, with an infinite variety of other matters, being sent much cheaper to this city. The profits resulting will enable this useful design to be still extended, by forming collateral branches, with all the navigable rivers in the central counties, and perhaps making communication with the remotest part of this kingdom.

Saunders’s News-Letter 24 October 1785

Ballycuirke Canal photos

Declan Maher has very kindly sent me five photos of the Ballycuirke Canal. I have put one of them on the canal’s main page and the others on the page of notes on navigating from Lough Corrib to Ross Lake.

Big it up for Banagher

Banagher: the old canal (OSI 6″ map ~1830s)

I was in Banagher yesterday, visiting the site of the old (pre-Shannon Commissioners) canal on the north (virtual west) bank. The area is a park operated by a community group [I would welcome details and a link] and includes a pitch-and-putt course, an outdoor swimming pool in the river and storage for canoes (a group of young people was about to get afloat as I left).

It is also, as the map above shows, rich in waterways and military artefacts. Much of the waterways material can still be seen and a series of signs shows old drawings and provides useful information (though the lock, surprisingly, has no sign). I think I am right in deducing that the signs reflect the work of historian James Scully, one of those who gave an extremely enlightening and entertaining talk about Banagher Bridge a few years ago.

The park is well used by local people but it should also attract many tourists to take the short walk from their boats on the far side of the bridge. It is an excellent example of local initiative drawing on local expertise to illuminate local history and create a sense of place and it could be emulated at many other waterways sites along the Shannon.

Furthermore, added to Banagher’s other historic and literary associations, it shows the wealth of interesting material offered in this town. It is not, unfortunately, on the main tourist routes by road, but it should be possible to attract the interest (and the spending) of water-borne visitors.

I hope that will work for the community; in the meantime, I applaud their initiative.

 

Royal Canal water supply

Midland great western railway of ireland
notice to contractors
tenders for water tanks &c

The Directors of this Company will receive Tenders for providing and erecting (exclusive of masonry) two Wrought Iron Water Tanks, each to contain, when full, 6000 gallons of water, and each to be connected with two swing water cranes, with proper valves, &c. Also, for two Water Cranes, connected by pipes, 6 diameter [sic], with the water in the Royal Canal. Tenders to quote price per 100 feet, length of pipes, and to be sent in with a drawing and short specification, addressed to the Chairman at 23 College-green, Dublin, and endorsed, “Tender for Water Tanks and Cranes”, on or before Noon of 9th November, 1846. The whole to be completed on or before the 20th January, 1847, under a penalty of £2 per day. If further information is required apply to G W Hemans Esq, Engineer to the Company, at 53 Upper Sackville-street, Dublin; and the Directors do not bind themselves to take the lowest tender.

By order, Henry Beausire, Sec, Dublin, 23 College-green, 26th Oct, 1846

Saunders’s News-Letter 3 November 1846

Waterways Ireland archive open day

Waterways Ireland Archive Open Day – for EHOD 2017

Waterways Ireland Headquarters will be open for guided tours of the Archive and the building. Housing a collection of original engineering drawings, maps and toll books from the 1800’s the Archive offers a unique insight into Ireland’s industrial past. Visit http://www.waterwaysireland.org closer to the event for more detailed information. [Note: I can’t find anything on the WI website, but perhaps I’m looking in the wrong place.]

Opening times: Sat 9 September 2017 13:00 – 17:00; Sun 10 September 2017 13:00 – 17:00. Tours both days at 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00

Lower Lough Erne Boat Tour – for EHOD 2017 [Sunday only]

A guided tour of some of the major early Christian sites on Lower Lough Erne. The tour will be delivered by Fiona Crudden. Sites to be visited include White Island and Devenish Island. Warm & waterproof clothing and walking boots essential. Lunch not included.

Opening times: Sun 10 September 2017 09:00 – 16:00. Free

Other events at www.discovernorthernireland.com/ehod

h/t Antoin Daltún