Category Archives: Canals

Who stole the technology?

I was thinking of buying a (secondhand) copy of Juliana Adelman and Éadaoin Agnew eds Science and technology in nineteenth-century Ireland Four Courts Press, Dublin 2011. But, even though the secondhand copy was much, much cheaper even than the publishers’ reduced price, I thought I should check what I’d be getting for my money. I therefore had a look at the contents list, which I reproduce here having nicked it from the publishers’ web page:

The list of contents

 

Is it just me, or is there a big gap there? How can you discuss nineteenth-century technology without an extended discussion of steam power, whether in ships, on railways, for drainage or in mills and other manufactories?

 

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

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?

 

 

Waterways History Conference

The ninth Waterways History Conference will be held at the University of Birmingham, UK, on Saturday 24 June 2017. The programme and other details are available here. The theme is Waterways Research? and one of the topics is the Cong Canal.

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

The Dublin to Cork Canal

A Dublin paper has promulgated, at some length, a plan for the improvement of Ireland, which, we are confident, were it brought forward in Parliament, would be unanimously approved of, especially as it can be effectually done without any expense to the Nation. The plan is, a Canal, to be joined to the Grand Canal at Dublin, and to extend, in a Southern direction, to the County of Cork, a distance of 131 miles, which will, at once, penetrate into the centre of the great agricultural districts of Ireland. The expense, calculated at £400000 or £3000 per mile, to be raised by Lotteries, the tickets to be drawn in London, and conducted under the eye of Government Commissioners as our former National Lotteries.

Lancaster Gazette 24 February 1827

New locomotive power

Mr Mullins, MP for Kerry, has made a very important discovery in the scientific world, that of applying galvanism, instead of steam, for propelling vessels and carriages. He is now building a carriage upon this principle, and several of the first engineers, who have seen it, say there is every prospect of success, and that it will supersede steam. — Limerick Star. The Dublin Evening Post claims the merit of this invention for the Rev J W M’Gawley, one of the clergymen of the Roman Catholic Cathedral in that city, who, that Journal says, explained it at the meeting of the British Association of Science there last August. “The discovery,” proceeds our Dublin contemporary, “has excited considerable interest amongst the savans of Germany by Mr M’Gawley’s interesting and important invention, which is to form one of the most attractive features of the proceedings of the British Association at its approaching meeting in Bristol.”

Berkshire Chronicle 13 August 1836

How nice to know that a current MP TD for Kerry, noted for his scientific knowledge, is continuing a great tradition.

 

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.