Category Archives: Canals

Woodman, don’t spare that tree

I have updated my recent post about the overgrowth of trees on the Shannon–Erne Waterway to welcome today’s news that “tree trimming and hedge cutting will be carried out at various locations on the Shannon-Erne Waterway” between September 2018 and February 2019.

I hope that “trimming” is a polite understatement and that the trees will be cut right back to, or beyond, the edge of the waterway.

 

Imperial measure

Rule for ascertaining the weight of hay stacks

Measure the length and breadth of the stack; then take its height from the ground to the eaves, and add to this last one-third of the height from the eaves to the top. Multiply the length by the breadth, and the product by the height, all expressed in feet; divide the amount by 27, to find the cubic yards, which multiply by the number of stones supposed to be in a cubic yard (viz in a stack of new hay, six stones; if the stack has stood a considerable time, eight stones; and if old hay, nine stones), and you have the weight in stones.

For example, suppose a stack to be 60 feet in length, 30 in breadth, 12 in height from the ground to the eaves, and 9 (the third of which is 3) from the eaves to the top; then 60 X 30 X 15 = 27000; 27000 ÷ 27 = 1000; and 1000 X 9 = 9000 stones of old hay.

Samuel Salt Statistics and Calculations essentially necessary to Persons connected with Railways or Canals; containing a variety of information not to be found elsewhere 2nd ed Effingham Wilson, London 1846

You too can possess a copy of this invaluable book, which has much useful information about railways and canals

Esquires

Thom’s Directory for 1850 [Thom’s Irish Almanac and Official Directory, with the Post Office Dublin City and County Directory, for the year 1850 Alexander Thom, Dublin 1850] lists the more important employees of the Grand Canal Company:

Secretary John M’Mullen esq
Bankers D La Touche & Co esqrs
Superintendent of Trade and Passage Boats Samuel Healy esq
Land Agent and Paymaster Thos J Thornhill esq
Book-keeper Francis Bray esq
Collectors: at James’s-street Richard Davis esq, at First Lock Mr Thomas M’Ghee
Accountant Mr Thomas Brady
Storekeeper Mr William Talbot
Broker Mr William Warham.

So the Collector at James’s Street, like all those listed before him, was an esquire but his colleague at First Lock, like all those listed after him, was a mere mister.

Wikipedia’s nineteenth-century definitions of “esquire” are of interest. The Grand Canal Company might have sung with the Gorbals Die-Hards …

Class-conscious are we, and class-conscious wull be

… but perhaps not the next line

Till our fit’s on the neck of the Boorjoyzee.

 

 

The mysterious capitalist

In 1847 George Lewis Smyth wrote [in Ireland: Historical and Statistical Vol II Whittaker and Co, London 1847 Chapter 14]

Another favourite object of praise and assistance is the Dublin and Kingstown Railway. The large sums lent to this railway and to the Ulster Canal are represented in certain circles in Dublin to have been matters of personal obligation. A capitalist holding a considerable interest in both undertakings is familiarly described as always carrying a commissioner in his breeches pocket.

Who was the capitalist in question? One possibility is Peirce [or Pierce] Mahony, solicitor to both the Dublin and Kingstown Railway and the Ulster Canal Company, but perhaps “capitalist” in not quite the mot juste for him. Another is James Perry, quondam director of the railway and Managing Director of the Ulster Canal Steam Carrying Company, which was owned (from 1843) by William Dargan, the contractor who built the Dublin and Kingstown Railway.

Perry had fingers in many other pies, including the Ringsend Iron Works which, in 1842, built an iron steamer for the use of the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company on the Shannon. The steamer was named the Lady Burgoyne.

 

The Shannon–Erne Waterway

The Shannon–Erne Waterway, a mix of canal, river and small lake, links the Shannon (at Leitrim) to the Erne (near Belturbet). Formerly the Ballinamore & Ballyconnell Canal, and originally the Junction Canal in the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Drainage District (or some such combination of elements), it was rebuilt in the early 1990s with automated (boater-operated) locks, service blocks, a logo, marketing and other such new-fangled extras that had not engaged the attention of the Office of Public Works.

I have not been able to find a proper cost-benefit analysis, but my impression is that Irish taxpayers paid relatively little of the cost, so that it was a good investment for them. It has been used as an example of the regenerative power of restored waterways, although (unlike, say, the River Suck or the proposed Clones Sheugh) it was a link between two busy boating areas, rather than a dead-end canal. Even so, several of the businesses that were started in the early years have since vanished, although there are some new ones like Ballinamore Marina.

On a recent visit (from Leitrim to Haughton’s Shore and return), though, I felt that the waterway had an air of neglect. This view may have been formed by two nights (one on the outward, one on the return journey) at Keshcarrigan in the rain. Some improvement work was started at the harbour some time ago, but it seems to have been suspended or abandoned: fencing, equipment and materials were left on site. Given that Keshcarrigan was one of the areas afflicted by post-Celtic-Tiger ghost estates, the state of the harbour does not encourage visitors, despite the pleasure of staring at what appear to be the resident boats (one of which, sporting a “For sale” notice, was occupying one of the few long spaces and monopolising one of the few shore-power sockets).

Ballinamore, however, was much more cheerful, especially with a festival going on (the rain drowned the nighttime noise of the funfair), and Haughton’s Shore was peaceful, with not even one dancing van.

But the infrastructure seems to need attention. The paint on many of the navigation markers had faded, although admittedly that rarely caused a navigation problem.

The waterway seemed to me to have become shallower in places (we were told that we would meet even shallower bits if we went on to Ballyconnell), even making allowances for a dry summer. It felt as though there were bars of sand or clay underneath when coming out of locks (going down), but even on some of the stretches between locks the water felt shallower than it should be. This is of course only a series of impressions, but I would be interested to know whether the waterway’s profile has changed since it was rebuilt. It would not be surprising to find that it had: the passage of boats, and especially of those travelling fast, may have undermined the banks. I do not know what programme of dredging Waterways Ireland carries out.

The worst feature is the trees, which don’t seem to have been cut back for some time. They need a large amount of serious industrial-scale equipment to be applied to them for weeks or months.

In some places, large branches had fallen in and not been removed. In others, there was less than the width of the boat between the trees stretching from the two sides. They seriously impeded the ability to see the lines of bends, to judge the approaches to bridges or even to spot oncoming boats: for most of those we met, we had very little time to react (so it was just as well that, except for the lake sections, we didn’t get above tickover speed for the entire journey). Had there been kayaks or other small craft using the waterway, I suspect we wouldn’t have seen them until the last moment.

In some places the trees stretched out so far that it was hard to stay in the (presumably) deep water in the centre of the channel. But the really challenging part was when trees impeded the approach to a bridge, making it impossible to line up properly. Several of the bridges are on sharp bends and, with a large boat, the trees caused severe problems.

The extent of the overgrowth is such that it requires a major commitment to tree-cutting. I can imagine that that would be hard to organise: the bird-fanciers have limited the cutting season to the more unpleasant months of the year, when days are short; getting to and from the cutting site takes several hours out of the limited working day; removal of cuttings would be a major undertaking. But something will have to be done: it’s already bad enough that I won’t return unless I know that the trees have been cut, and if they’re left for another year or two even smaller vessels will have problems.

Update 26 September 2018

Waterways Ireland’s Marine Notice 99 of 2018 says that “tree trimming and hedge cutting will be carried out at various locations on the Shannon-Erne Waterway” between September 2018 and February 2019.

This is good news; I hope that the shrubbery will be given a thorough cutting.

Fans of recreated recreational waterways might consider that they need serious amounts spent on maintenance. It is not clear that all proposed recreations could generate the traffic to justify the expenditure.

 

The Grand Canal Company and the Bellman

Mr Bruce:

The expenses, in his mind, were grossly exorbitant […] and he thought this an enormous charge, and he hoped this was quite sufficient observation on that head.

Chairman:

What do you allude to?

Mr Bruce:

To salaries paid to agents, inspectors, parcel clerks, bell-ringers and the like, and I don’t know what oyu want with all these people; you get a person to ring a bell twice a day, and this, with others, I think a regular system of patronage.

An exchange at the half-yearly meeting of the Grand Canal Company on 2 November 1844, reported in the Freeman’s Journal of 4 November 1844.

Hooks

Statutory Instrument No 198 of 1964

GRAND CANAL BYE-LAW (CONFIRMATION) ORDER, 1964

I, ERSKINE H CHILDERS, Minister for Transport and Power, in exercise of the powers conferred on me by section 22 of the Transport Act, 1950 (No 12 of 1950), and the Transport, Fuel and Power (Transfer of Departmental Administration and Ministerial Functions) Order, 1959 (SI No 125 of 1959), hereby order as follows:

  1. This Order may be cited as the Grand Canal Bye-law (Confirmation) Order, 1964.
  2. The bye-law (set out in the Schedule to this Order) made by Córas Iompair Éireann on the 7th day of November, 1963, in lieu of Bye-law No 37 (confirmed by the Grand Canal Bye-law (Confirmation) Order, 1953 (SI No 162 of 1953)) is hereby confirmed and shall come into operation on the 5th day of August, 1964.

SCHEDULE

No person navigating any vessel on the canal shall have on board the same—

(1) passengers or persons exceeding twelve in number in addition to her duly appointed crew; or

(2) any scythe, hook, or other instrument for cutting grass or corn unless the same bona fide forms part of the cargo carried for hire; nor shall any such person use the same on the canal or towing-path, or on any land adjoining the canal or towing-path.

GIVEN under my Official Seal, this 5th day of August, 1964.

ERSKINE H CHILDERS, Minister for Transport and Power

EXPLANATORY NOTE

The effect of this Order is to remove the restrictions imposed by the former Bye-law No 37 of the Grand Canal Bye-laws on the carrying of firearms and fishing tackle on vessels traversing the Grand Canal.

Stolen from www.irishstatutebook.ie

Paint

Shannon–Erne Waterway marker August 2018

One side of the marker is intended to be white, the other red. But which is which?

 

Tom Nolan, Grand Canal Company boatman

At its August meeting, the Killaloe–Ballina Local History Society presented “a selection of oral history recordings taken over 25 years ago of some of Killaloe’s and Ballina’s most elderly residents”; you can read about the event here.

Most of the recordings were made in 1992. One was an interview with Tom Nolan, formerly of the Grand Canal Company, and you can read a transcription of the interview here.

Swiss army knife

Ten years ago this site used the term “Swiss army knife” to describe Waterways Ireland’s Watermaster “amphibious multipurpose dredger“. Carlow Live says that Waterways Ireland now use the term themselves.