Category Archives: Engineering and construction

The Ohio River

His tow, like most, was 105 feet wide. The lock chamber is 110 feet wide. To park his 1,130-foot, 19,200-ton craft, he had as much space as a car does in a crowded parking lot.

From a fascinating piece on the New York Times website about two ageing locks on the Ohio and the traffic that passes through them.

h/t Alex Tabarrok on Marginal Revolution

Foynes

The Shannon Commissioners built or improved seven piers and quays on the Shannon Estuary in the 1840s. In their eleventh and final report, the Commissioners gave the total income at six of them, for quayage, wharfage and cranage, for the year 1849. [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]

Kilteery                                   £0   4s 10d
Kildysart [Inishmurry]      £0  17s  8d
Querrin                                  £7  15s  4d
Saleen                                 £24    0s 10d
Clare [Clarecastle]          £67  14s   7d
Kilrush                             £105   5s  10d

The Shannon Commissioners quay at Querrin

The Shannon Commissioners quay at Querrin

 

The only two with any significant traffic were the existing ports of Kilrush [which was the only one to have a crane] and Clare. The other four were a waste of money [but are nowadays delightful places to visit].

Shannon Estuary (OSI ~1900)

Approximate positions of Commissioners’ quays on the Shannon Estuary (OSI ~1900)

The seventh quay, at Foynes, was not included because work had not been completed: the original plans were replaced by a more elaborate scheme, with a landing wharf, a pier, a slip and a harbour, towards which the proprietor, Lord Monteagle, had subscribed £4250, the largest amount paid by any landowner on the estuary. The Commissioners said:

Foynes Harbour, when complete, will consequently give secure quayage to sea-going vessels at all times of tides, and in fact will be the only port on the Shannon possessing that advantage; all the others, including the quays of Limerick, being dry, or nearly so, at low-water.

Foynes undeveloped (OSI ~1840)

Foynes undeveloped (OSI ~1840)

And so indeed it proved to be. Foynes, sheltered by its island to the north, grew as a result of the development of the quays.

Foynes (OSI ~1900)

Foynes (OSI ~1900)

But Foynes never became quite as important as some folk hoped, in the 1850s, that it would become.

The Irish packet station Commissioners

On 30 August 1850, C E Trevelyan, Assistant Secretary to HM Treasury [who is perhaps best known as the author, with Stafford H Northcote, of the Northcote-Trevelyan Report on the reform of Her Majesty’s Civil Service], wrote a Treasury Minute:

My Lords [of the Treasury] have before them a letter from the Secretary to the Admiralty, dated the 23rd instant, enclosing copies of a letter from the Board of Trade, dated the 8th instant, and an extract from a petition signed by a large number of landed proprietors in Ireland, praying for an inquiry with a view to the adoption as a Packet Station of one of the harbours in Ireland, and suggesting the appointment of a Commission for the above purpose.

Write to the Secretary to the Admiralty, and desire that he will state to the Lords Commissioners that my Lords are pleased to appoint a Commission as recommended by them, consisting of the following gentlemen:—

The Right Hon the Earl Granville, Chairman
The Hon William Cowper, MP and one of the Lords of the Admiralty
Sir James Alexander Gordon KCB, Rear Admiral of the Red, and Lieutenant-Governor of Greenwich Hospital
Sir John Fox Burgoyne KCB, Major-General, and Inspector-General of Fortifications
Captain Stephen Ellerby, one of the Elder Brethren of the Trinity House.

And my Lords desire that three of the said Commissioners form a quorum,

My Lords also concur with the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty that the above-mentioned petition should be referred to the Commissioners, and that they be instructed to make inquiry —

1st. As to the harbours in Ireland best suited for a Packet Station.
2nd. The advantages and disadvantages of adopting a harbour in Ireland for a Packet Station, so far as regards the trade and other interests of the empire, and to report the evidence to the Admiralty, with such observations as may enable Her Majesty’s Government to form a judgment on the premises.

My Lords request that the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty will give such further directions as may be required for the meeting of the Commissioners, and for the conduct of their proceedings.

(Signed) C E Trevelyan

[Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire as to the proposal for an Irish Packet Station. Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty. HMSO, London 1851]

The background to this was the transatlantic mail service, for which the UK contract was won by Samuel Cunard in 1839. Steamers left Liverpool every Saturday in summer (April to November) and every second Saturday in winter “alternately via Halifax to Boston and direct to New York”, with return services on Wednesdays: a packet ship was one providing a regular scheduled service, often but not necessarily carring mails. Cunard’s was not the only north Atlantic packet service: the US government had contracts with

  • Collins and Brown of New York, for a Liverpool–New York service, fortnightly in summer and monthly in winter
  • a line serving Bremen and New York, calling at Southampton
  • a third line serving Havre and New York, also calling at Southampton.

The Irish petition, which was concerned only with the UK mails contract, claimed that the total time required, from Liverpool to Halifax or New York, would be shorter if the mails went

  • by train from Liverpool to Holyhead [which the Commissioners reckoned would take 4 hours]
  • by steamer from Holyhead to Kingstown [6 hours]
  • from Dublin by rail to one of several Irish ports
  • thence by steamer across the Atlantic.

The Commissioners allowed for time on transits between steamers and railways; they assumed that the railways could operate at 30 miles per hour, which was 5 mph faster than the average at the time. They considered nine possible Irish ports: Cork, Long Island Sound, Berehaven, Crookhaven, Dunmanus Bay, Valentia, Galway and, in the Shannon Estuary, Foynes and Tarbert. Most of those had no rail connection to Dublin, but the Commissioners gave them the benefit of the doubt, assuming that a line would be built to wherever the packet station might be located.

The Commissioners took their job seriously. They circulated queries and received responses from 83 individuals and institutions including shipping firms, naval and coastguard officers, government departments, chambers of commerce, local politicians and officials. They interviewed 32 individuals and deputations, some of them more than once. They considered 36 items of “further documentary evidence” and 53 “further papers, reports &c” and wrote up the whole lot, including two plans (maps).

The Commissioners were not keen on using any port in the west of Ireland:

It appears, from the evidence of the majority of the naval officers to whom we have referred, that the navigation of the west coast of Ireland is dangerous, particularly in the winter. The coast from Mizen Head round to Galway Bay is, in nautical language, “steep-to”; there being 100 fathoms water at 18 to 29 miles off its outlying dangers. It is also subject to fogs and hazy weather, and to frequent heavy gales of wind blowing towards a lee-shore, with high Atlantic seas and very uncertain soundings.

Balancing the time to be saved on the transatlantic crossing and the “nautical qualifications” and resources of each port, the Commissioners said that the two best options were Foynes and Galway. However, the Commissioners did not think any Irish packet station would be a good idea:

We find no reason to conclude that the local and particular advantages resulting from the proposed measure would be so great, or the saving of time so important, as to counterbalance the large additional expense which would be entailed upon the Imperial Revenue, and the evils and inconvenience which would be inflicted on the great body of the mercantile and travelling portion of the community by removing the packets from the place where they were originally established, as being the focus of the commercial transactions of the United Kingdom with the North American continent.

None of the suggested locations for an Irish packet station would save more than 12 hours in a voyage of about 11 days, so the benefit to be gained for the mail service was small. But the principal problem was the effect on the passenger service (and the small amounts of high-value, low-bulk freight which could be sent by steamer). The steamer owners needed the income from both passengers and mails to make their operations pay, and the Irish proposal would have imposed great inconvenience on passengers. Instead of loading themselves and their luggage on the steamer in Liverpool, and unloading in Halifax or New York, passengers would have had to change

  • from steamer to railway at Kingstown
  • from railway to carriage in Dublin
  • from carriage to railway at Kingsbridge or Broadstone
  • from railway to carriage at or near the Irish packet station
  • possibly from carriage to a small steamer acting as tender
  • from tender to transatlantic steamer.

Apart from the inconvenience, the process would have introduced several opportunities for delays.

The Galway and Shannon ports Committee

The Commissioners, then, rejected both Foynes and Galway. But several people in Ireland rejected the Commissioners’ findings, mostly on grounds that were entirely irrelevant. There was a particularly colourful diatribe in the Galway Mercury, and Weekly Connaught Advertiser of 8 May 1852, which lauded Galway’s “glorious expanse of water, deep, and capacious and sheltered as it is, and pronounced by the most competent naval authorities to be one of the finest ports in the whole world”. The decision not to base the packet station there was “a fair specimen of Saxon justice to Ireland”: basing the packet station in Galway would “have the effect, in the course of a few years, of destroying in a great measure the commercial pre-eminence of that country [England, rather than Great Britain or the United Kingdom, it seems], and transferring much of its wealth and its greatness to this island which it hates so cordially, and which for six centuries it has ceased not to plunder and oppress”.

The editor did not, alas, have space to consider such mundane matters as the inconvenience to British passengers of being forced to travel to America via Galway. But the focus of the promoters of an Irish packet station, and especially of the vociferous Galway gang, turned to communication between Ireland and the USA. There were unsuccessful attempts to set up steamship companies; Packet Station Committees were set up [eg Tipperary Free Press 28 January 1852 on Mr Wagstaff and on the Dublin Packet Station Committee;  Galway Mercury, and Connaught Weekly Advertiser 31 January 1852 on the Irish and American Steamship Company]; the merchants of Belfast were persuaded that, with a packet station in Galway, American merchants and buyers would visit Ireland and (once a railway link was provided) especially Belfast before visiting England and Scotland [Northern Whig 12 February 1852; Morning Post 16 February 1852; Belfast News-Letter 23 February 1852]. Also in February, the Limerick Packet Station Committee was forced to publish a pained refutation of the recommendations of one James Whiteside, a member of the Dublin committee who was a strong advocate of the Galway proposal [Report of the Dublin Committee Considered, and Mr Whiteside’s Statement Reviewed, with remarks on the relative advantages of the Shannon and Galway Bay published by direction of the Limerick Packet Station Cmmittee, Browne & Nolan, Dublin 1852].

Unfortunately, in the same month, Lord John Russell’s Whig government collapsed and the Earl of Derby set up a minority Conservative government — in which the same James Whiteside, MP for Enniskillen, became Solicitor-General for Ireland. The Tribes of Galway soon descended on the unfortunate Prime Minister, with a “numerous and influential deputation” led by that turbulent priest, the Very Rev Peter Daly, a spiritual father of Monsignor James Horan, determined to wring every penny he could from the temporal power.

The Rt Hon Earl said that improving Galway’s harbour would make sense, in an imperial context, only as a packet station. And because the Irish Packet Station Commissioners had recommended two Irish ports, Foynes and Galway, the first step was to decide between the two of them. Accordingly, the government had decided to appoint three naval officers to visit the two ports, inquire into their relative advantages and report back. He could not commit himself to anything more until he had the report and he was sure that the deputation understood that [Dublin Evening Mail 10 May 1852].

That got Derby through the general election in June, after which he formed another minority government, which lasted only until December. In the meantime, though, the three naval officers — Captains F W Beechey, Henry Smith and James Crawford Caffin — visited Galway and inteviewed witnesses recommended by the Harbour Commissioners and other authorities; they also inspected the port and considered what works might be necessary. They then embarked on HM steam sloop Geyser and sailed to Limerick: they were thus able to see the approaches to both ports. They visited both Foynes and Tarbert on a small steamer and, again, interviewed witnesses. They returned to Dublin by railway.

Their focus was on whether Galway and the Shannon would be accessible at all states of the tide, at all times day or night, and in all weathers. Only with such access could the “greatest regularity and dispatch” be maintained for “steamers of the largest class”. That access was needed whether the ports were to be packet stations or harbours of refuge or both. It was appreciated that both ports would probably need engineering works to be carried out, as well as links to the railways.

On 15 September 1852 the Limerick and Clare Examiner reported Lord Monteagle [former Chancellor of the Exchequer; landlord at Foynes] as saying that the naval officers’ report had been submitted to the Admiralty and that they had preferred Foynes to Galway. However, in its issue of 25 September 1852 the Examiner carried extracts from the report itself, in which the three captains said:

  • the Shannon was better than Galway for the “safety and expedition with which a vessel when arriving can be got within the limits of her port” or clear the land on departure
  • neither location could provide the required “security and accommodation of the packets, and the convenience for landing and embarking passengers and dispatching the mails”. Facilities could be developed at Galway or at Foynes or Tarbert in the Shannon Estuary; Galway would be much more expensive
  • either Galway or the Shannon could act as a harbour of refuge for vessels that had good anchors and cables, but for those without the Shannon provided more safe options
  • the west coast of Ireland was “subject to higher seas and worse weather than other parts of the British Islands not so situated, and that weather in which no vessel would be justified in running for a port, does appear to prevail to a greater extent off the western ports of Ireland than at other ports”, which would mean that the “greatest regularity and dispatch” could not be assured
  • accordingly, neither Galway nor the Shannon was suitable as a packet station.

The report is Galway and Shannon Ports: Return to an Order of the Honourable The House of Commons dated 31 March 1859 for a copy of the instructions of the 11th day of June 1852 from the Admiralty to the Committee appointed to inquire into the suitableness and capabilities of the Ports of Galway and of the Shannon for a Transatlantic Packet Station, in connexion with a harbour of refuge … Ordered, by The House of Commons, to be Printed 19 April 1859 257.

Only the Cork [Cork Examiner 27 September 1852] and Belfast papers [Belfast Mercantile Register and Weekly Advertiser 28 September 1852] were pleased, seeing an opportunity … as did the Earl of Mayo, who wanted the packet station set up in Blacksod Bay.

The packet station schemes

It seems that the packet station enthusiasts wanted

  • the government to pay for whatever harbour and other works were needed
  • the government to designate the chosen port as a packet station for the mails
  • one or other of the private-sector contractors to be forced to use that station
  • the Post Office to cope with the many links in the chain from the Atlantic through Galway and Dublin to Britain, each link providing an opportunity for things to go wrong — and all of them on the critical path.

There do not seem to have been any serious attempts to quantify the likely passenger traffic: at that time, as in the early days of air travel, only small numbers of passengers could be carried and high fares were required. Furthermore, only for small, high-value or perishable freight was the extra cost of steam travel worth paying: for anything else, sail was cheaper. But the enthusiasts do not seem to have been willing or able (at least at that time) to come up with the money required to set up their own steam shipping company: the Dublin committee had decided that it would be too risky an investment given the competition from established operators at British ports.

The whole thing sounds like the mad attempt to get a canal to Clones.

The Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment

But the politicians have not yet finished with Foynes. According to the Limerick Leader of 10 November 2016,

Foynes in line to be US transit hub, says minister

Hundreds of jobs could be created at port

I can’t find any mention of this on the website of the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment, so I am unable to check the newspaper report. It begins:

FOYNES Port is poised to become a major European link with the US in the wake of Brexit, in a new Government proposal that could create hundreds of local jobs.

Now, we must immediately eliminate the exaggeration that might be the fault of the minister or the journalist: “in line to be” and “poised to become” might suggest that there is some plan or perhaps even some agreement between the USA and some undefined European body, whereas all we have, it seems, is a bright idea, the first phase of the underpants gnomes’ business plan.

It seems that there might be a demand for the use of facilities at Foynes for one or more of these reasons:

  • Brexit (which, of course, means Brexit)
  • “US pre-clearance for ships crossing the Atlantic”
  • congestion at Rotterdam
  • Foynes as a transit point for freight to and from North America.

This mishmash of unconnected ideas may or may not be the minister’s fault. Let’s see if we can make sense of it.

Brexit

According to the article

“Our second biggest export destination is the USA. From a Brexit point of view this is an opportunity to attract industries from right across Europe that are exporting into the US,” said Minister Naughten.

“The reality is that post-Brexit exports into the UK are going to be put under pressure, so this is an opportunity to make a new market and make it far more efficient for the export of goods.”

A ‘hard Brexit’ could result in EU borders, which would increase costs for freight companies shipping out of Britain into Europe. This proposal means that Foynes could become a more attractive destination for these companies to ship from.

The first paragraph is nonsense. Existing trade with the US is irrelevant to the proposal. As for the “opportunity to attract industries from right across Europe”, their ability to export to the USA is entirely unaffected by Brexit, unless that nice Mr Trump arranges something really insane with Ambassador at Large Farage. If you’re exporting widgets from Dusseldorf to the USA, why would Brexit cause you to route them through Foynes?

The second paragraph is no better.

The reality is that post-Brexit exports into the UK are going to be put under pressure, so this is an opportunity to make a new market and make it far more efficient for the export of goods.

Whose exports are we talking about? What new market? Far more efficient than what?

The third paragraph is confusing.

A ‘hard Brexit’ could result in EU borders, which would increase costs for freight companies shipping out of Britain into Europe. This proposal means that Foynes could become a more attractive destination for these companies to ship from.

There are, we are told, freight companies shipping out of Britain into Europe. I don’t know why we’re discussing freight companies rather than manufacturers or distributors [the ultimate emptors, who will pay the freight companies for the cost or inconvenience]. But anyway, these companies are shipping “out of Britain into Europe”, so we can assume that the goods start in Britain. If they are to get to Foynes, they still have to be shipped out of Britain into an EU member state, ie Ireland. So instead of going straight to Calais, say, they get shipped to the far side of Ireland and then back to the continent. How does this make the freight companies’ lives easier? Why would the UK/Ireland border be any less hard, or less bureaucratic, than the UK/France?

US pre-clearance

This seems to deal with a separate set of exporters: presumably those remaining in the EU and exporting to the USA. The idea seems to be that they will send their stuff to Foynes, where

“Freight would come into Foynes, get scanned there, get certified, and land in New York and would be the same as an internal shipment.”

According to the Department, Mr Naughten met with the US Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley and asked him to support the proposal, which would involve US custom official staff being based in Foynes to give full pre-clearance.

I can see that this might create a job or two in Foynes for US customs officials, and perhaps some local admin support. But I see two possible problems. The first is that this might count as an international trade agreement, and Ireland may not be entitled to make its own agreements outside the EU system. I do not, however, know whether that it so. But the second problem seems to me to be more serious: it is that the idea cannot be copyrighted or protected. There would be nothing to stop any other port applying to set up a similar arrangement, getting the benefits of US pre-clearance without the cost and loss of time in sending ships via Foynes.

Congestion at Rotterdam

I do not know whether there is congestion at Rotterdam, but if the volume of world trade is falling that problem might solve itself. Nonetheless, it is useful to keep things in proportion. Here is a map showing the whole of the Shannon Estuary. I’ve circled Foynes.

foynes-resize

Shannon Estuary (Imagery copyright 2016 DigitalGlobe, map data copyright 2016 Google)

And here, on the same scale, is Rotterdam. All those bits that look artificial, too straight to be natural, are docks. You can fly over it yourself here [short URL].

rotterdam-resize

Rotterdam (Imagery copyright 2016 DigitalGlobe, map data copyright 2016 Google)

 

Here’s Foynes in close-up.

Shannon Estuary (Imagery copyright 2016 DigitalGlobe, map data copyright 2016 Google)

Foynes (Imagery copyright 2016 DigitalGlobe, map data copyright 2016 Google)

I don’t think much of the overflow from Rotterdam will fit at Foynes. Of course there is lots of space elsewhere in the estuary, but it can’t be used: it’s reserved for the tweetie-birds.

That may be a bit of an exaggeration, as you can read here, but the Shannon Estuary isn’t going to get to even 1% of Rotterdam’s capacity.

Foynes as a transit point

I don’t know what that means. Maybe it’s just attaching another buzzword to the pre-clearance idea. If, though, it involves any sort of transhipment, forget it.

Solutions in search of problems

The Shannon Estuary may contain more wasted public-sector investment than any other estuary in Ireland, from the Wellesley [sorry: Sarsfield] Bridge through the Shannon Commissioners’ piers to the minor railways. [As if three loss-making railway lines — to Galway, Ballybrophy and Waterford — weren’t enough, there is a campaign to restore a fourth, to Foynes.]

Both the Shannon Commissioners’ piers and the packet station campaign sought public money to build facilities in the hope that they would attract private investment. In those cases, and with this present campaign, it might be better to wait for a private-sector investor to put money on the table first.

My OSI logo and permit number for website

GCC inspection launch again

The other day I posted an account of the Grand Canal Company’s inspection launch, built at its own docks in James’s Street Harbour in 1909. I said

I had not been aware of the existence of a GCC inspection launch later than the gondola of 1795. I would be glad of information from anyone who knows more about it: please leave a Comment below if you can help.

Then I remembered that, back in January, Alan Lindley had kindly permitted me to post this photograph, taken at Lowtown in 1911 or 1912.

Unidentified boat at Lowtown (courtesy Alan Lindley)

Unidentified boat at Lowtown (courtesy Alan Lindley)

 
Alan identified the man on the left of the group — with cap, waistcoat and watch-chain, and with a dog standing in front of him — as the lock keeper, Murtagh Murphy, the great-grandfather of the present incumbent, James (Jimmy) Conroy.

I said at the time that, although the boat had been described as a passenger flyboat, that seemed unlikely, and that the boat looked much more like a pleasure vessel than a working boat. I added:

If the Grand Canal Company had an inspection launch, this might be it, but I have found nothing to indicate that it did. The boat does, though, seem to have been designed for canal travel: it seems (from the twenty feet or so we can see) to have straight sides and to be well equipped with fenders. It might therefore have been designed to travel on the canals (as well as on other waters).

Well, now we know that the Grand Canal Company did have an inspection launch, built in 1909, not long before this photo was taken. Could this be it?

 

GCC inspection launch

Under the heading

GRAND CANAL COMPANY’S ENTERPRISE

the Irish Times reported, on 21 December 1909, on the trials of a launch newly built by the Grand Canal Company in their own docks at James’s Street Harbour.

The launch was 40′ long and 6½’ wide, screw propelled and driven by a Daimler 12-15 hp petrol engine. This engine was placed in the forward part of the launch

… and is worked in the manner which is usual with road motor cars: the driver or steersman sitting at the wheel having a clear view ahead.

That part of the launch was open; in the centre was a “deck-house or saloon, constructed principally of teak wood”. Aft of that was another open area. The launch could carry 20 people.

The saloon had “a sliding weatherproof door at the fore end, and two removable swing doors in the aft end”. It was lit by electric lamps and had cushioned seats at each side, with storage lockers underneath. A “table of novel design” was lowered from the ceiling when required, then pushed back up to leave a clear passage through the saloon. The launch, which was fitted up very tastefully, and

… the creditable manner in which the work of turning out the launch as a whole has been accomplished reflects great credit on the company’s workmen, and promises well for the future of local industries.

The trials were attended by the GCC General Manager George Tough and its Engineer Harry Wayte. The launch left James’s Street at 10.30am for Ringsend, travelled up the Liffey to Kingsbridge and back down again, before going out into Dublin Bay two miles beyond the Poolbeg lighthouse. On a measured mile in the Liffey, between the Pigeon House and the lighthouse, she managed 12 mph against the tide. She returned to James’s Street Harbour after arousing “considerable interest amongst spectators along the route”.

The launch was intended as “an officers’ inspection boat, to travel all over the company’s extensive system” of waterways routes.

The boat in every respect worked very satisfactorily, and reflected great credit on its designers. […] The success which has attended this experiment may lead to the establishment of fast or express goods boats all over the system.

I had not been aware of the existence of a GCC inspection launch later than the gondola of 1795. I would be glad of information from anyone who knows more about it: please leave a Comment below if you can help.

From the BNA

Railway progress

It is proposed that six cwt should travel on the Rail-road between this City and Waterford, ten miles an hour, urged by the propelling and locomotive engines. Thus, on the sixth day, the heaviest goods will reach London from Limerick; the fourth, Liverpool; and the third, Bristol.

In case the navigation of the Suir should be found inapplicable, an extension of the Railway to Dunmore is intended.

The undermentioned are expected to form the Committee, some of whom have already signified their intention to that effect:—

The Duke of Devonshire, the Marquis of Lansdowne, Earls Darnley, Glengall, Kenmare, Charleville, Kingston, and Ennismore; Lords Oxmantown and Lismore; Messrs T S Rice MP, J Smith MP, R Wellesley MP, Captain Maberly MP, Sir C Flower, Alderman Heygate &c.

Dublin Evening Post 3 February 1825

From the BNA

Some later information here.

Nowadays, the average duration of the eight daily trains between Limerick and Waterford is four hours and five minutes, for say eighty miles, so speeds have doubled since the 1825 proposals were made.

 

Mr Monks’s plan for inland navigation

According to Mr Monks‘s plan for the intended northern line of navigation, great accommodation and advantages would be afforded to the inhabitants of that part of the kingdom that lies north of the city of Dublin, particularly to those of the province of Ulster, who are so numerous — for all the sea ports, all the considerable towns and villages would have a cheap and secure interchangeable communication with each other, and the metropolis, in peace or war, safe from enemies and storms, most desirable objects to that extensive manufacturing country.

The design is to run a canal from Dublin to Blackwater-town (about 68 miles); the river Blackwater is navigable from thence to Lough Neagh — and with very little expence afterwards the following great general navigable canal communication would be opened:

  • to the east coast of Ireland by the river Liffey to the bay of Dublin
  • by the Boyne Navigation (which the northern line would intersect near Navan) to the bay of Drogheda
  • from Lough Neagh, by the Newry Navigation to Carlingford bay
  • to the north east coast from Lough Neagh by the Belfast canal to Belfast lough, or Carrickfergus bay
  • to the north coast from Lough Neagh by the river Bann to Colerain
  • and by off-branching along the Ballyhays river about 10 miles, to the east end of Lough Erne, which is nearly navigable to the town of Ballyshannon, would open a communication with the bay of Donegall to the west
  • and by the Grand Canal and Barrow Navigation to the south to Waterford harbour
  • by the western branch of the Grand Canal, which will be shortly completed, to the Shannon, and the Limerick Navigation to the south west of Ireland.

And we understand (in order that the inland towns and villages should reap every advantage by this general plan) he proposes that canals of very small dimensions (which are made at very little expence) should be extended from the great lines to them for boats of only four tuns burden, where water cannot be obtained to answer canals of a larger scale; and wastage of locks, in place of which he would substitute machinery on a plain simple construction, to raise and lower them on inclined planes at the rate of 100 feet in four minutes, and which would also answer instead of aqueducts and embanking across wide valleys, one horse would be sufficient to draw, and one man to attend ten of these boats chained together, the whole carrying forty tons with great ease.

Thus not only the wealthy merchant and manufacturer, but the most inferior tradesman would have an opportunity of attending and disposing of his goods at the best market (let the quantity be ever so small) on equal terms, which would be a great means to defeat and put down forestalling — a most destructive species of dealing in a manufacturing country,

Dublin Evening Post 19 January 1797

From the BNA

 

Hibernia

I see that P&O Cruises [about which there is a not-very-accurate Wikipedia page here: not very accurate, I mean, about the history of the P&O Line] will seek public suggestions for a name for its latest vessel, which they call “the nation’s ship”:

P&O has also previously run a similar exercise, coming up with the stately Britannia for a ship that launched last year. The company hopes for something similarly dignified and patriotic this time round […].

I do hope there will be a concerted campaign to have it named Hibernia, to recognise that

  • the single most important person in the formation of the P&O Line, Richard Bourne, was Irish
  • four of the eight original directors were Irish (and one was Spanish)
  • 83% of the company’s original capital of £304,600 in ships, exchanged for paid-up shares, was Irish owned.

Of course, as this great Irish company expanded, it took on more British shareholders and directors, training them no doubt in how to run scheduled steam shipping services, but it is about time that the Irish role was acknowledged.

See Freda Harcourt “Charles Wye Williams and Irish steam shipping 1820–1850” in The Journal of Transport History Third Series Volume 13 Number 2 September 1992, Manchester University Press, and Freda Harcourt Flagships of Imperialism: the P&O Company and the politics of empire from its origins to 1867 Manchester University Press 2006 [ebook now also available].

The habits of the papists

On 15 February 1833 the Earl of Roden presented to the House of Lords petitions from various places “praying for the better observance of the Sabbath”. Some of the petitioners seemed to be shopkeepers who liked to take Sundays off and didn’t want anyone else taking their custom while they were closed.

Lord Cloncurry, however, pointed to the problems such observance might cause in Ireland, where there were different understandings of what should be done on Sundays. He felt that

[…] care should be taken, in enforcing the law, not to create discord, and do mischief to the people.

Not that creating discord would have bothered Roden, one of the nineteenth century’s prize nitwits.

Cloncurry, of Lyons House, Ardclough, Co Kildare, near where a brewer is buried, was a director of the Grand Canal Company — or rather

He was engaged in the Canal Navigation of Ireland, which afforded valuable commercial opportunities to private individuals, and to those of the middling classes the means of maintaining their families in decency and comfort.

He pointed out to his noble colleagues that canal boatmen treated Sunday like any other day: boats left Limerick and other places on Saturdays and kept going throughout the weekend, probably stopping for mass on Sunday morning:

Noble Lords, perhaps, were not aware, that in the Catholic Church, the rule was to attend mass in the forenoon, and it was then deemed allowable to spend the remainder of the day in amusement or business.

However, two magistrates had “at no distant period” ordered the police to stop boats from travelling on Sundays. These were probably the magistrates in Athy and Monasterevan, as described by Nicholas Fanning of the Grand Canal Company in 1830. The result of the magistrates’ action was that the boatmen went to the pub and their cargoes were plundered. The same magistrates had stopped cargoes of cattle from Clare and Galway en route to Dublin port [although it is difficult to see why they would have gone through Athy or Monasterevan].

The act of the Magistrates already alluded to was in violation of law; for the proper course was to have summoned the boatmen for the offence, instead of stopping the boat. It was not, therefore, surprising that law should be held cheap in Ireland, when it was broken by those who ought to uphold it.

Roden said that Cloncurry should name the magistrates so that there could be an inquiry — Cloncurry refused as he didn’t want to bring odium on them — but he reckoned that they were probably only enforcing the law. Roden said

As to the opinions of Roman Catholics relative to the Sabbath, he would say, without meaning them any offence, that Parliament ought to legislate according to its own religious feelings.

He didn’t foresee the rise of the shopping centre.

 

Marble from Killaloe

KILLALOE MARBLE WORKS

The marble mill in Killaloe

The marble mill in Killaloe

W & W Manderson

Beg respectfully to inform the Nobility, Gentry, and the Public in general, that they have (from their Practical experience) made considerable and most important improvements in the working and Polishing of Marble at the above Establishment, so that every variety of work is executed in a superior style hitherto unprecedented, and which has enabled them to offer at such Reduced Prices, as greatly to facilitate its general use both in public and private Buildings.

The marble mill at Killaloe (OSI 6" map ~1840)

The marble mill at Killaloe (OSI 6″ map ~1840)

They have for Inspection an Extensive Stock of Irish and Foreign MARBLE CHIMNEY PIECES (of various designs, suited for every description of rooms).

In STATUARY, ELABORATELY, SCULPTURED and CARVED, of exquisite designs and good material.

In VEIN, DOVE, BLACK AND GOLD, ST ANN, BURDILLA, SHANNON SIENNA, IRISH PORPHYRY, FOSSILS, GREY AND BLACK.

MONUMENTS, TABLETS, COLUMNS, BUST PILLARS, WASH AND DRESSING TABLES, TABLE TOPS, BATHS, PAVEMENTS, SLABS FOR DAIRIES, and various other Ornaments.

Also an Extensive Stock of MILL RUBBED, AND SQUARED FLAGS, WINDOW SILLS, BARGE AND EAVE COURSES, TOMB, HEADSTONES, &c &c.

The safe conveyance and fixing of work guaranteed if required.

July 28, 1842

Nenagh Guardian 6 August 1842

My OSI logo and permit number for website

 

Transport history

Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution quotes an interesting extract today from a new book on the history of India:

…the most important technological change for the transportation of heavy goods in nineteenth-century India was not the arrival of the quick, expensive railway: it was the move from pack animals to carts pulled by two or four beasts in the first half of the century.  This was the process historian Amalendu Guha calls ‘the bullock cart revolution’.  Throughout the 1860s and 1870s railways found it impossible to compete not only with bullock carts, but also with human-powered river transport.  Rowing boats along the Ganges and Jamuna won a price war with the railways over the cost of transporting heavy goods.  Vessels powered by human beings were able to undercut steam vessels elsewhere.

There is a description of the book (which I have now ordered) here.

How did transport in Ireland compare? In the first half of the century, road transport using Scotch carts dominated carrying. Within about 55 miles of Dublin, eastward of Mullingar on the Royal and Tullamore on the Grand, canal carriers did little business except in the heaviest goods: the Scotch carts, each drawn by one horse and carrying about one ton, dominated the trade. But the Scotch carts relied on there being good roads, which in many cases required government intervention of one sort or another.

But rowing boats do not seem to have been serious contenders on Irish inland waterways. They might have been used on the Shannon, to tow canal boats, and the idea was mooted, but nothing seems to have come of it. The problem, I suspect, was that there was little or no trade: when it did arrive, it did so because the steamers created it. And the capital cost of a large pulling boat might have been beyond the means of a small-scale entrepreneur who might have been able to afford a cart.

On the other hand, vessels powered by sail retained certain markets, including traffic across the Irish Sea, until the middle of the twentieth century.

Much about Irish transport history remains unclear to me.