Category Archives: Charles Wye Williams

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.

Ennis to Dublin 1838

The public car from Ennis to Williamstown was quite a treat in the way of public travelling; a leather strap, and afterwards a branch of a tree, sufficed for a whip, until an innocent country lad was coaxed into an exchange pro tempore — that is to say, he very good-naturedly lent our driver his whip on a simple promise to return it, and took the branch instead. Although half an hour too late at starting, our loquacious conductor assured us that we would arrive in due time at Williamstown to meet the packet, ‘barring accidents’ — which was well put in, for the wheels were once or twice so hot and the horses so lazy that a stoppage at one time seemed inevitable.

A voyage in a large steamboat of one hundred horse power was quite a novelty to be enjoyed in an inland piece of water, and I greatly enjoyed both this and the voyage up the Shannon, in a less steamboat of twenty four horse power. I had never in my life travelled in a canal passage-boat, and the voyage therein from Shannon Harbour to Dublin was described by a Limerick attorney as a nuisance, horrible beyond endurance. I have never, however, been disposed to rely so much on the opinion of others as on my own experience, and therefore I resolved to try the voyage.

Never was I more agreeably surprised that to find, after sailing in it eighteen hours, I arrived at Dublin too soon, so far as the pleasantness of the journey was concerned. I heard the best Irish songs and recitations, and had a most interesting account of Irish scenery and superstitions from Mr Dennis Leonard, of Kilrush; besides this, I had a very comfortable night’s rest and was altogether much interested and pleased with my first journey on a canal.

From Chapter XV Ireland and the Irish 1838 of Benjamin Ward Richardson Thomas Sopwith MA CE FRS, with excerpts from his diary of fifty-seven years Longmans, Green & Co, London 1891

 

 

The Lough Derg Pinnace Club

Lough Derg Pinnace Club

Regatta

To take place off Williamstown Hotel
On MONDAY, the 20th of SEPTEMBER, 1841.
Viscount AVONMORE, Commodore

Sailing Committee: John Burke Esq, Tintrim; Chas Walnutt Esq, Limerick;
W A Minnett Esq, Annabeg

A SILVER Challenge Cup, value 12 Guineas, with the Entrances, to be sailed for by Pinnaces — to start at 12 o’clock. Three to start or no Race. Entrance — Half a Guinea.

A Cot Race, to start at One, pm. Three to start, or no Race.

Three sovereigns added to an Entrance of Five Shillings, to be pulled for in four-oared Gigs. Three to start, or no Race.

A Cot Race, to start at 3 pm. Three to start or no Race.

A Donkey Race, to take place at 4 pm for a Bridle presented by John Burke of Tintrim Esq.

All persons entering Boats for the above Prizes must send their names to the Treasurer previous to the day of Sailing, and the regulated Entrance at the same time.

W H MINNETT, Treasurer

Annabeg, Nenagh, Sept 11

A Dejeune will be prepared at Mr MILLS’ Hotel, Williamstown, at Four o’clock, OM. Tickets, including wine — Gentlemen, 5s; Ladies, 2s 6d to be had of the Committee and the following Gentlemen — Walter Blake Esq, Meelick; Philip Reade Esq, Woodpark; Edmond Burke Esq, Tintrim, and Francis Drew Esq.

September 11

Limerick Chronicle 11 September 1841

Carrying on the Grand Canal around 1800

Some new items about early carrying on the Grand Canal or by the Grand Canal Company.