Category Archives: Charles Wye Williams

Limerick Navigation

This week’s Clare Champion [7 February 2020] has an article about the Limerick Navigation on the front page  of the Living section. It’s not available online, unless (I suppose) you subscribe to the digital edition.

Makes a change from the election, I suppose.

Steam, Kilrush and trade

Appendix D

Letter from Mr O’Brien, Agent to the Inland Steam Navigation Company
Kilrush Steam Packet Office, December, 1837

Gentlemen — I beg to inclose the Return which you requested; I also send a Statement of our Exports and Imports for the last ten years.

It affords me much pleasure in being able to state, that the trade and conditions of the people in this district appear much improved since the introduction of Steamers on the Lower Shannon.

I recollect when first Mr Williams commenced on the Lower Shannon, Kilrush was a very insignificant little place, quite deserted, without trade or commerce; it is now a rising town, with a number of respectable inhabitants and merchants; and the corn market, which was formerly rated at 2d per stone under Limerick, is now fully equal, and, in some cases, better than the latter.

This improvement, so important to the farmer, was certainly caused by the cheap and expeditious conveyance between this port and Limerick; because the country farmer at once saw the absurdity of selling his corn in Kilrush, at 6d per stone, when he could get it conveyed to Limerick by steam, for one farthing per stone, where the price was 8d per stone. This soon created a competition in the price, and soon broke down the old monoply [sic], so injurious to the public.

The facility of conveyance between Kilrush and Limerick had also a tendency to bring competitors into the field; and now, instead of one corn merchant, as was the case formerly, we have eleven; and instead of two grocers, we have fifteen; and instead of two woollen drapers, we have twelve, and so on.

Kilkee and Miltown, on the Clare side, and Ballybunion, on the Kerry side, have been equally benefited. Previous to the introduction of Steamers on the Lower Shannon, these places were scarcely known; they are now rising towns, and will, I trust, after a little time, compete with some of your English favourite watering places.

At Kilkee there are 305 very fine lodges, some of which brought £30 per month, last season; at Miltown there are 204, and at Ballybunion there are 96, with excellent hotels and boarding houses.

Persons leaving Limerick in the morning, are now enabled to breakfast at Kilkee — thus performing a journey of 60 miles in the short space of five hours.

This Company has rendered invaluable services to this part of the country, which are not generally known, but for which the people seem much indebted. A great deal still remains to be done to perfect our trade in this quarter; our pier is quite unequal to the trade, which is every day increasing.

At present there are nine vessels at the pier, and so crowded are we, that the steamer is put completely out of berth, and is obliged to anchor in the stream, and land her cargoes and passengers in open boats — a very dangerous process at this season of the year.

I am, Gentlemen, with great respect, your obedient Servant, P B O’Brien

To the Commissioners for the Improvement of the River Shannon

Statement of the Number of Vessels frequenting the Kilrush Pier for the last Three Years

Vessels at Kilrush [y/e 1 November]

This Statement does not comprise the Steamers which ply daily, but which, I fear, will be obliged to stop for want of a berth for discharging or taking in.

Abstract of the Imports and Exports of Kilrush, for the last Ten Years

Imports

Sundries (1835 only)

5 tons of Fish, 1 bale of Coffee, 1 bag of Rice, 1 cask of Indigo, Paints, Oil, Pitch, Tar, and Cordage.

Observations

This market does not embrace the foreign trade, which is blended in the Limerick accounts, and consists of timber from the British colonies, with a variety of wrecked goods in the winter season. Nor does it give more than a few of the principal articles imported from Great Britain, several being exempt from coast regulation; and owing to the facility of steam navigation, the greater part of the goods are imported to Limerick, and by canal from Dublin.

Exports. This account does not include the shipments made by small traders to Limerick, Cork, &c.

[Note: the quantity exported in 1836 was given as 87 firkins. Peter M Solar (“The Irish Butter Trade in the Nineteenth Century: New Estimates and Their Implications” in Studia Hibernica No 25 1990) suggests an average weight of 67.6 lb per firkin at Limerick in the early 1820s. Applying that figure gives a weight of 5881.2 lb or 52.5 long UK hundredweight, rounded to 53 cwt. There is nothing to say whether any of the amounts for Kilrush exports are gross or net weight; Solar says that “Earlier in the nineteenth century the weight of the cask was generally taken to be a fifth of the weight of butter it contained.”]

Sundries

1826: —
1827: —
1828: 2 boxes [contents unspecified]
1829: 29 bales [nature unspecified]
1830: 4 sacks of Sea Moss
1831: 94 Marble blocks
1832: —
1833: 19 cwt 3 qrs 9 lb of Staves
1834: 40 packages of Bacon
1835: 140 tons of Hides
1836: 20 bags of dried Leaves; 14 puncheons

Source

Second Report of the Commissioners appointed pursuant to the Act 5 & 6 William IV cap 67 for the improvement of the navigation of the River Shannon; with maps, plans, and estimates HMSO, Dublin 1837

Limerick Navigation

Last week’s talk at the Killaloe Ballina Local History Society, on the subject of the Limerick Navigation, was recorded by Scariff Bay Community Radio; a podcast (1 hr 13 min 11 sec) is available here.

Kerrygold

It is, no doubt, well known that the first transatlantic steam shipping company was founded by a Kerryman and was to be based in his home county: indeed on his own estate at Valentia Island. The transatlantic steamers would run thence to Halifax, Nova Scotia: that was amongst the shortest possible ocean crossing, which was important in the early days of steam navigation, when inefficient engines required prodigious quantities of coal. There were to be feeder services at both ends of the route, thus linking London with New York, and a second line from Valentia to the West Indies.

The Kerryman was Sir Maurice Fitzgerald MP, the 18th Knight of Kerry.  A meeting of supporters was held in London in June 1824 and, a year later, an Act of Parliament permitted the formation of a joint stock company with limited liability for its shareholders. However, the American and Colonial Steam Navigation Company did not last long: it softly and suddenly vanished away in 1828, its single steamer, the Calpé, sold to the Dutch government before completing a single voyage (although, under her new ownership, she ran a successful transatlantic mail service to Surinam and Curacao).

The prospectus, published before the meeting in June 1824, said of Valentia:

Ballast cargoes may be obtained there in slates, butter, and coarse linen, for the American markets.

However, Alexander Nimmo, writing to Fitzgerald, said

Remember, your whole peninsula only affords 100 tons of butter per annum, and all Kerry would not provide for a constant trade.

The gallant knight would therefore, I am sure, be delighted with the news from the Americas that “Irish Butter Kerrygold Has Conquered America’s Kitchens“. I hope he would have known enough to realise that “[…] Ireland’s landscape and economy, which both remain dominated by agriculture” may be true of the landscape but is not true of the economy.

Sources

John Armstong and David M Williams “The Perception and Understanding of New Technology: A Failed Attempt to Establish Transatlantic Steamship Liner Services 1824-1828” in The Northern Mariner/le marin du nord XVII no 4 [October 2007]

Letters and papers of Maurice FitzGerald in Public Record Office for Northern Ireland ref MIC639/6

Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser 28 June 1824

Staffing the Shannon

According to the eleventh and final report of the Shannon Commissioners, published in 1850 but covering the year 1849, each of the quays built by the commissioners on the Shannon Estuary had an officer stationed at it to collect tolls and other charges. Five of the six — Querrin, Saleen, Kilteery, Kildysart [aka Cahircon] and Clare [now Clarecastle] — had Second Class Collectors; Kilrush, being busier, had a First Class Collector.

Cappa [Kilrush] pier

Moving upriver, Limerick was one of only two places on the Shannon to have an Inspector; it also had a First Class Collector and a Lock-keeper. Park, the next lock up on the Limerick Navigation, also had a keeper, as did five of the six locks on the Plassey–Errina Canal — Plassey [aka Annaghbeg], Gillogue, Newtown, Cloonlara [so spelt] and Errina. Presumably the Cloonlara keeper also locked after the nearby Monaskeha Lock. Preusmably, too, the keepers collected any tolls or charges due at the locks: there were no separate collectors, yet from other evidence we know that tolls and wharfage were collected at Plassey [Annaghbeg] and Errina.

O’Briensbridge modern [ie 1830s] navigation arch

Back on the river, O’Briensbridge had a Second Class Collector. On the Killaloe Canal, each of the three locks — Cussane, Moyse [sic] and Killaloe — had a keeper; the Cussane keeper must have collected tolls and wharfage. Killaloe had a First Class Collector.

On Lough Derg, Scarriff and Portumna each had a Second Class Collector. Portumna, like several places upstream, had an opening bridge, but the Shannon Commissioners did not employ a bridge-keeper: the bridge was not built, owned or operated by the Shannon Commissioners.

Back on the river, on what used to be called the Middle Shannon, the commissioners employed both a Second Class Collector and a lock-keeper at Victoria Lock (Meelick). There was another Second Class Collector, and a bridge-keeper, at Banagher. At Wooden Bridge, the crossing of the Shannon from the Grand Canal’s main line to its Ballinasloe line, the commissioners employed two ferry boatmen: by that stage the bridge no longer existed and the commissioners had installed a ferry to carry horses and tow boats between the canals.

Shannon Bridge had a Second Class Collector and a bridge-keeper; Athlone had a bridge-keeper but earned itself a First Class Collector. On Lough Ree, Lecarrow and Lanesborough each had a Second Class Collector but Tarmonbarry had nobody: a First Class Collector was assigned to Cloondragh [so spelt] but presumably had to look after Clondra and Tarmonbarry locks, the weir, Tarmonbarry bridge and the collection of tolls. Mighty men they had back then.

The second Inspector was based at Rooskey, along with a lock-keeper who presumably also operated the bridge and did anything that needed doing on the weir. Albert Lock on the Jamestown Canal had a lock-keeper but Kilbride, the quay at the upper end of the canal, had a wharfinger, the only one on the Shannon.

Fermate at Kilbride Quay

The collection of tolls (presumably by the wharfinger) did not begin at Kilbride until March 1849 but in that year it took in £6 in tolls and £1 in wharfage, compared with £1 + £2 at Drumsna and £0 + £0 at Jamestown. Perhaps the road beside the quay made it a suitable place for cargoes from Roscommon to transfer from road to water transport.

Carrick-on-Shannon, not an important station on the Shannon, had just a Second Class Collector; there was a lock-keeper at Knockvicar for the Boyle Water and another at Battle Bridge who presumably looked after all the locks on the Lough Allen Canal.

Cranes were provided at several places but there is no mention of designated crane-operators.

Source: Eleventh and Final Report of the Commissioners under the Act 2 & 3 Vict c61 for the improvement of the Navigation of the River Shannon, Ireland; with an appendix Ordered, by The House of Commons, to be Printed, 3 June 1850 [407]

 

I’ve often wondered …

… what this ramp is, or at least what it was originally intended as.

Curious object [2006]

And now I know. There will be a special prize, of a blank sheet of A4 paper, for the first person to describe its origins correctly.

The new header photo

Kilteery pier, on the Shannon estuary, August 2015

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”.

Not asking for more

At the Police-office on this day, 64 boys, inmates of Mountkennett workhouse, were brought up for effecting an entrance into the stores of the Dublin Steam Packet Company, which are underneath the workhouse, and converting to their own use 432 bottles of porter [6¾ bottles each], the property of Mr Hurley.

Tralee Chronicle 3 August 1850 citing Limerick Chronicle 31 July 1850

Header photo?

I’ve been asked what it is. Its principal claim to fame is that it is not Holyhead.

Which is just as well. You can’t drive there, unless you’re a resident: you have to walk, which will give you an appetite for a pint or two in Ty Coch.

But the inability to drive there would have made it difficult to operate car ferries.