Category Archives: Canals

Lacy and the canal

I have a short page about Lacy’s Canal, which runs from the south of the town of Mullingar to Lough Ennell (or vice versa).

Some folk say that the canal was named after Hugh de Lacy, a twelfth-century Lord of Meath, even though it was built in the eighteenth century. I have to say that that sounds improbable to me: I see no reason why the builders (or excavators) should thus summon the ghost of a long-dead lord, and I know of no evidence for the assertion. I accept, of course, that it may exist and, if so, I would be glad to hear about it.

However, it seems to me to be more likely that the canal was named after the eighteenth-century person who built it, who owned the land or who ran a business selling turf. I was therefore interested to read this advertisement in Saunders’s News-Letter of 29 April 1829:

COUNTY WESTMEATH

To be sold, the interest in a lease for three young lives or 26 years unexpired, of about 50 acres of the lands of Grange, adjoining the Royal Canal, and the Great Barrack now building, and within half a mile of Mullingar: the lands are of prime quality, and one of the best situations in Westmeath for a lodge, dwelling, farm house, or dairy, there being the materials of a mansion upon the premises which would build it upon a site commanding an extensive prospect of the beautiful lake and improvements of Belvedere and Rochfort.

The crops of oats and potatoes can be had at a valuation. A purchaser of this interest will acquire many other advantages; immediate possession can be given when the value is offered. Apply to Edward Lacy, Mullingar, or Mr Charles Crampton, No 45, Clarendon-street, Dublin.

Grange and Mullingar (OSI ~1840)

Thus it seems that there were folk (or was at least one person) called Lacy living near Mullingar in the early nineteenth century. Unfortunately the Landed Estates Database does not cover Leinster, so I have no more information about them (or him).

P J G Ransom

P J G Ransom died on 27 March 2019.

I don’t know anything about his work on railways, but he gave generous coverage to Irish history in his waterways books. His Holiday Cruising in Ireland (David & Charles 1971) was carefully researched; if memory serves, his is still one of the few accounts of cruising on the Corrib. Finally, it was he who found the drawing of William Watson’s 120-foot canal passenger boat, developed for the Limerick Navigation; the drawing is now in the Canal & River Trust Museum & Archive at Ellesmere Port.

Meelick

Sinn Féin has a TD called Martin Kenny who, in the Dáil on 29 May 2019, asked about repairs to a walkway across Meelick Weir. He said that

The weir is a crossing point on the Shannon on an important walkway, the Beara-Breifne Way, which runs from Breifne in Leitrim to the Beara Peninsula, straight through Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.

I’m not sure that he’s got the direction of travel right, but let that pass. He also said

The problem is that people using the walkway have not been informed it is closed. Many businesses, particularly tourism businesses, are directing people up the walkway as far as the bridge but they cannot cross it. Over the past several days, some tourists could not cross the river at the point.

One Seán Kyne, a mini-minister, said in reply that

In 2009, during an extreme weather event, the weir and its walkway from which the weir boards are placed and removed were extensively damaged. In the 2015-16 severe weather event, the last remnants of the walkway were destroyed.

If the “many businesses, particularly tourism businesses” have not noticed that the walkway has been out of action for almost ten years, it suggests that the Beara-Breifne Way is used by very few people and that its reinstatement is not important, or at least not urgent. On the other hand, it might suggest that the operators of the tourism businesses in question have not paid as much attention to the route as they might have.

The minister, by the way, said

Meelick weir was originally built in the 1790s as part of the Shannon navigation.

I thought it was built by the Shannon Commissioners in the 1840s.

Derivatives

Financial innovation, Irish navvies, suicides and a canal.

h/y Barry Ritholtz

Floating canvassers seek floating voters

A 1953 photo of a Tory election candidate electioneering by canal boat. It didn’t work.

h/t Jonathan Calder

Egypt and Ireland

We embarked [on the Mahmoudié Canal at Alexandria] in a boat not unlike those that ply in Ireland upon the Grand Canal and, to say the truth, among the dreary wastes of swamp that surrounded us, we might also have fancied ourselves in the midst of the Bog of Allen.

The boat was towed by four wild, scraggy-looking horses, ridden by four wilder, scraggier-looking men; their naked feet were stuck in shovel stirrups, with the sharp sides of which they scored their horses flanks, after the fashion of crimped cod.

It is true, these jockeys wore tattered turbans instead of tattered hats, and loose blue gowns instead of grey frieze. Yet still there was nothing very new or imposing in the equipage, and the mud cabins that here and there encrusted the banks did not tend to obliterate Tipperary associations.

Eliot Warburton The Crescent and the Cross; or, romance and realities of eastern travel new ed, George P Putnam, New York 1848

There will be more on links between the Shannon and the Nile, Ireland and Egypt, at the Mountshannon Arts Festival on Saturday 1 June 2019 at 3.00pm, aboard one of the boats that used to “ply in Ireland upon the Grand Canal”.

Big it up for West Yorkshire

It’s all go in West Yorkshire. I think of Yorkshire as the British equivalent of County Cork: it knows it’s the biggest county and the real capital and is quietly confident of its own superiority. So Yorkshire folk won’t have been in the least surprised to find that HM the Q has appointed a West Yorkshire man, Simon Armitage, as her Poet Laureate: only right and proper, they’ll think to themselves.

But he’s not just from Yorkshire, not just from West Yorkshire: he’s from Marsden, on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. And the HNC between Marsden and Huddersfield has inspired a garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, which will use two pairs of gates from the HNC.

Huddersfield has many claims to fame: the railway station, the statue of Harold Wilson and, of course, the Magic Rock brewery, to name but three. I do hope the poor benighted folk of Chelsea will appreciate what they’re getting.

[h/t The Gaffer]

Another Kerry canal

A short piece about the canal at Ross on one of the lakes of Killarney. I have little information about its origins and current use and would welcome more.

A Tale of a Tug

Improvement in Steam Vessels

(from a correspondent)

One of the greatest applications of Steam Vessels, has lately been made in Scotland, and, we learn, with the most complete success. It appears that since the opening of the Forth and Clyde Canal (upwards of 30 years ago) a navigable communication has existed between Glasgow and Leith, the port of Edinburgh, notwithstanding which, by far the greatest portion of the trade between these places, has been carried on by land carriage, an an expense more than double what it might have been done by water.

This navigable communication consists of a Canal, for 29 miles, and a broad River or Firth for 26 miles; and it appears, that the obstacle which has prevented the benefit being taken of such apparent advantages, is the extreme difficulty of constructing vessels, which from draught of water and mode of rigging, would answer for the navigation of the Canal, and at the same time be able to contend against strong and contrary winds in the Firth of Forth.

To obviate this difficulty, a Company in Leith, have equipped a powerful steam vessel, or tracker, possessing extraordinary strength, and completely adapted for encountering stormy weather. This vessel, which is most appropriately named the Tug, is meant to track ten other vessels alternately, which have been peculiarly constructed by the same Company for carrying goods along the Canal.

The Tug, which may thus be compared to a team of horses in the water, tracks these vessele between Leith and Grangemouth, the entrance of the Canal, along which they are tracked by horses. But the utility of the Tug is not confined to tracking; she has also two commodious cabins, and combining the two purposes of tracking and conveyance of passengers, she is able to convey the latter with a degree of cheapness, which resembles more the track schuyt of Holland, than any conveyance we have in this country; the passage in the best cabin, being for a distance of 26 miles, two shillings, and in the second, one shilling.

For this most ingenious application of steam to this conveyance, we understand the public are indebted to Lieut George Crichton RN, Edinburgh, an officer who has long been distinguished for scientific knowledge in his profession.

It has long been known that a steam vessel will tow a ship out of harbour, in calm weather, or with light contrary winds, but her velocity was generally considered so much obstructed by the operation, that no idea appears to have been formed that an expeditious conveyance could be so established; but Lieut Crichton, it seems, had calculated on the peculiar manner in which a steam vessel is impelled, and by which any increased resistance to her motion through the water enables her wheels or paddles to act with more effect in proportion, and had estimated that in drawing a vessel of half her own size, she would not lose more than a fifth of her velocity. The Tug draws a loaded vessel of 50 tons, against a moderate breeze of wind, at the rate of nearly seven miles an hour.

The improvements which this invention may lead to in the river navigation of this country are incalculable; for by thus uniting the conveyance of passengers and goods, steam vessels will probably be established between points, which, [illegible] only one of these objects, would not have found sufficient employment.

We understand that Colonel [illegible] of Edinburgh, Kirkman Finley Esq MP for Glasgow, and several other Gentlemen of high respectability, are at the head of a Company, which have with much promptitude and [illegible] carried into effect the plan proposed by Lieut Crichton.

Perthshire Courier 23 October 1817

Canal views and house prices

A view of a canal is worth money.

h/t the ever-reliable Jonathan Calder