Category Archives: Built heritage

The origins of the Royal Canal

The Royal Canal’s origins have never been satisfactorily explained: a later legend even seeks to explain its origins in an obscure dispute between a retired shoemaker and other members of the Grand Canal Company. But in fact its origins were political. As the Grand Canal Company was taken over by the conservative La Touche clique, the opposition launched a new venture: its patron was the duke of Leinster; businessmen and opposition politicians rallied to it; and Gleadowes, rivals of the La Touches, were bankers to the company. In other words, there was to be a left-wing as well as a right-wing way to reach the Shannon. Almost symbolically on its more northerly route to the Shannon, it passed through the duke of Leinster’s land.

L M Cullen “Politics and Institutions, 1731–1835” in Economy, Trade and Irish Merchants at home and abroad, 1600–1988 Four Courts Press, Dublin 2012

Float Bridge

I have added some information to the post The Avarice of the Ferryman about Float Bridge. The Comments too contain useful points.

Up the Inny

The navigation of the River Inny from Ballynacarrow upriver to Lough Sheelin.

The opening of the Royal Canal

On 27 May 2017 the Royal Canal Amenity Group and Waterways Ireland are to commemorate the fact that

In May 1817 the Royal Canal was officially opened from Dublin to the Shannon ….

[Unfortunately I am unable to find anything about the commemorative event on WI’s website, although they did send me some information about it.]

I wondered how the opening might have been celebrated in 1817, but I haven’t been able to find out anything about it. I am hoping that some more knowledgeable person might be able to provide information: please leave a Comment below if you can help.

Ruth Delany gives 26 May 1817 as the date on which the contractors said that the western end of the canal (to the Shannon at Richmond Harbour) would be ready to hand over to the Directors General of Inland Navigation, who were running the show after the Royal Canal Company collapsed under the weight of its debts.

However, as far as I can see, the British Newspaper Archive contains no mention of any opening ceremony at any time in 1817. The Lanesborough Trader, the first boat to travel from the Shannon to Dublin did so in January 1818 [Saunders’s News-Letter 2 February 1818] and in May Mr Peel moved that a further £15000 be granted for completion of the navigation, where “shoals were
found to interfere” [Dublin Evening Post 23 May 1818].

Traffic increased later in 1818: in October the directors of the New Royal Canal Company went by boat

… from Dublin to Tarmonbury, and thence to the termination of the Canal, near the river Shannon, to inspect the works and give every necessary direction for the entire completion of that great and important undertaking ….
[Dublin Evening Post 20 October 1818]

The same newspaper reported that several boats of coal, found on the banks of the canal near Tarmonbury, had arrived in Dublin. It seems, therefore, that the canal was usable even if not entirely finished.

Later that month Christopher Dillon of Athlone, who had been trading on the Grand Canal and the Shannon, announced that he was moving his boats to the Royal Canal — but the western terminus for his boats was at Ballymahon, from which (although he did not say so) goods could be carried by road to Athlone: just the situation the Grand Canal Company had feared. [Dublin Evening Post 27 October 1818]

I have found no evidence of an opening ceremony in 1817; nor have I found evidence that the canal was actually open from the Shannon to the Liffey (or the Broadstone) in 1817, in that no boat seems to have travelled between the Shannon and the Liffey. At least one boat did so in 1818, but again I have no evidence of any opening ceremony.

There is one further mystery. The Royal Canal harbour at the junction with the Shannon is called Richmond Harbour. I presume that that is a compliment to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, His Grace Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond, 4th Duke of Lennox, 4th Duke of Aubigny, KG, PC. But he had ceased to be Lord Lieutenant in 1813 and was presumably unable to dispense favours after that, so why was the harbour named after him? I don’t know when the construction of the harbour was begun or finished.

I have not visited the National Archives in Dublin to look at the papers of the Directors General of Inland Navigation, which may have something on the events of 1817 and 1818. Perhaps WI’s archive has something relevant too. I would therefore be glad to hear from anyone who has searched those archives or found other evidence about the period.

Newspapers cited here were accessed through the British Newspaper Archive.

 

Redirecting the Grand Canal

According to Waterways Ireland’s website, there is to be a half Marathon [a marathon is an old chocolate bar, my advisors tell me] in Clontarf on 1 June 2017. No doubt some politician will be on hand to emulate the miracle of the loaves and the fishes; otherwise most of those attending are likely to go hungry.

But what interests me is Waterways Ireland’s assertion that the location of this chocolate bar is the Grand Canal.

Now, when ah wur a lad, it was generally understood that Clontarf was on the north side of the Liffey, where the natives ate their babies, whereas the Grand Canal was on the south side, where the better element of the population resided. We don’t, of course, talk about that sort of thing nowadays, but I am still surprised to find that the Grand Canal, or any part of it, has been relocated to the north side of the Liffey. Where, I ask myself, is the aqueduct on which it crosses the Liffey?

 

 

A new sporting opportunity for the Suir?

This could work, from Carrick-on-Suir up to Clonmel, as there is already a towing-path.

The Lanesborough Trader

Inland Navigation

The numerous individuals interested in the prosperity of the Royal Canal, as well as the Public at large, must be highly gratified to learn, that the trade on the extended line of that navigation has commenced with all the spirit and activity that could have been anticipated by the most sanguine. The first boat from the Shannon (the Lanesborough Trader, Patrick Connor, owner) arrived at the Broadstone harbour on Saturday [31 January 1818], amid the cheers of numerous spectators, with a fiddler playing merrily upon her deck.

Saunders’s News-Letter 2 February 1818

Quadrupling Kerry’s canals

I thought there was only one canal in Co Kerry, but there were three more at Lixnaw. They’re still to be seen and they have interesting associations.

Thanks to Ewan Duffy of Industrial Heritage Ireland for the tip-off.

William Dargan on the Dublin–Blessington–Carlow road

1580 Is there an engineer employed to oversee the works on the Blessington Road? — There has been a surveyor, a Mr Dargan.

1581 From the commencement of the Trust? — From the commencement of the Trust.

1582 At what salary is Mr Dargan employed? — About £100 a year.

1583 Is he still in the employment of the Trust? — He is nominally so.

1584 Does he receive a salary at present? — He does not.

1585 But he is still in the employment of the Trust? — He is.

1586 What was the reason, if the Trust continue to employ him, that they should take away his salary? — At that meeting in Baltinglass, in November, there were very general complaints as to the quality of the materials then lying on the road, and also of the quality of materials that had been expended on the road during the year; this induced me to ask the question, whether the surveyor, to whom we paid so high a salary, had attended; and upon further inquiry, I could not ascertain that he had done any duty, or taken any active part whatever in the management of the road, for the twelve months previous; upon which I entered on the books of the Trust a notice, that at the ensuing meeting I would move for the dismissal of Mr Dargan from that situation altogether. At the subsequent meeting I brought forward this motion, when there was a proposal sent in from Mr Dargan, in which he offered to do the duty for £50 a year. Upon further pressing the matter, his friends at the Board stated that he would withdraw all claim whatever for salary, would not ask what he might do for the last half year, and that he would be obliged to us if we would allow him to remain nominally as our surveyor, and pay him as we would any other surveyor when we had occasion to employ one. This was a proposition that I thought only reasonable, and I consented to it, and it was so entered upon the books, and I did not further interfere or further press the proposition that I had originally brought forward.

1587 In any further accounts that were laid before the Board, did any charge appear on the part of the treasurer for a sum of £50 to be paid to Mr Dargan after he had refused to receive any salary? — There was; the very first item in the treasurer’s account was a claim for a credit of £50 for salary to Mr Dargan, which he himself had conscientiously refused to take; so that we were, in fact, putting £50 into Mr Dargan’s pocket, whether he would take it himself or not.

1588 What was the proceeding of the Board upon that item appearing on the accounts of the treasurer? — It was, I presume, a mistake.

1589 Was it actually paid? — I never heard; but the moment I heard that it was a mistake, not to go to the credit of the treasurer, I said no more about it. It is not the loss of £50 to the funds. I only mention it to show the willingness to dispose of the money of that Trust.

[…]

1656 Can good materials be obtained? — As good as possible; there are as good materials on that road as on any in Ireland.

1657 Then you conceive that the putting on of bad materials was the cause of the bad state of the road ever since? — I do; repairs are eternally going on; it is not permanent. They do not screen it properly, so that it is literally drawing on mud and drawing off mud; for this gravel is not properly screened; the consequence is, that what they draw on to-day they draw off to-morrow.

1658 Do they ever employ an engineer? — Mr Dargan is professedly an engineer.

1659 Did not that engineer give directions as to the materials to be employed? — He may have done; but his directions were not attended to, if he gave them.

1660 Still he received his salary? — Still he received his salary.

Evidence of Peter Purcell in Report from Select Committee on Turnpike Roads in Ireland: with the minutes of evidence and appendix Ordered, by The House of Commons, to be Printed, 26 July 1832 645

 

 

A Bourne mystery

Here is an ad, from 1785, offering to let flour-mills at Portlaw, Co Waterford, and a bake-house in John Street, Waterford, to a “tenant possessed of abilities”.

The ad is interesting in several respects. First, although the location of the flour-mills is not clear, they may have preceded the iron-works, the famous Malcolmson cotton-mill and the later tannery on the site; they certainly seem to have used the water power of the Clodiagh.

Second, the ad suggests that flour could be carried from the mills by three rivers to Waterford: the Clodiagh, the Suir and St John’s Pill, which is another navigation featured on this site.

Third, the ad invites applications to be sent to either John Thomas Medlycott in Dublin or John Edwards Bourne in Mayfield, Waterford. The Post-Chaise Companion [4th ed] says

Within half a mile of Portlaw, on the L is Glen-house the seat of Mr Bourne.

At Portlaw are the extensive mills built by Edward May Esq, and about a quarter of mile beyond Portlaw on the L is a large house built by the same gentleman.

About a mile from Portlaw, on the R situated on the banks of the Suir, is Mayfield, the noble and delightful seat, with very extensive and beautiful demesnes and plantations, of William Watson Esq and on the L is Coolfin, the seat of the Rev Thomas Monck.

That puts a Mr Bourne in Portlaw, though in Glenhouse rather than Mayfield. The Glenhouse address is confirmed by Matthew Sleater in 1806.

But what interests me is whether the John Edwards Bourne mentioned in the ad is related to John Edwards Bourne of Dunkerrin, Co Offaly, formerly of Nenagh, Co Tipperary, who died in 1799 or so. The Offaly Bourne seems to have had four brothers and three sisters.

I would be glad to hear from anyone who knows anything about the Portlaw Bourne (or indeed any of the other Bournes). If you can help, please leave a Comment below.