Category Archives: Forgotten navigations

Spencer Harbour

Excellent article about the Lough Allen Clay Company on the Dromahair Heritage website, though the schoolboy speculation on the naming of the harbour is not, I think, to be relied upon: the fifth Earl Spencer, twice Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, is I think the source of the name.

h/t COM for the link

Kilbeggan

Grand Canal Passage Boats

The Court of Directors will receive Proposals for drawing Two Small Light Passage Boats daily on the stages between

Ballycommon and Kilbeggan

for the terms, and at the Rates of Travelling which, with all other particulars, will be fully explained on reference to A Bagot Esq, Inspector of Passage Boats, Portobello.

Sealed Proposals, according to forms to be furnished by the Inspector, to be delivered at the Secretary’s Office, on or before the 30th instant.

By Order, John M’Mullen, Sec, Grand Canal House, William-street,
9th January 1841

Dublin Evening Post 12 January 1841

State of trade on the River Suir [1842]

People who read this will hardly believe that such a state of things, as it details, can exist in any portion of the British dominions; and yet, in the year 1842, undoubtedly in Ireland, and in Ireland only, can we find such facts — positive facts.

It is still more surprising to find that this extraordinary state of things should exist on a river on which a very considerable export and import trade passes — and yet so it is.

A fair challenge to the Chambers of Commerce of Clonmel and Waterford is now given. Let them deny the following data, if they can, seriatim, honestly and plainly:—

  1. That the boat trade between Clonmel and Waterford is in the hands of so few persons that it is, in truth and fact, a monopoly to all intents and purposes.
  2. That those corn factors, who export their produce by these boats, are allowed to import coal, iron, timber, groceries, or other goods, at a lower rate of freight than merchants or shopkeepers, who only import those articles, and do not export.
  3. That combination exists amongst the boatmen to such an extent, that they are, in point of fact and truth, the masters of the river, and have in reality succeeded in their “strikes”.
  4. That only a certain fixed number of boats are allowed to ply on the river, and that when a new boat is built, part of an old boat must be worked up into the new one.
  5. That although great improvements have been effected at Carrick in deepening the river, and thus bringing up vessels to the new quay there, the boatmen of Clonmel and Carrick will not navigate any boats from Clonmel which are to ship their cargoes at Carrick, but they insist and do take such boats on to Waterford.
  6. That when the bill for the Limerick and Waterford railway passed, and £100000 was granted in aid — which railway was to pass through Carrick, Clonmel, Caher, and Tipperary — not one merchant in Clonmel took a share.
  7. That the exports of Waterford amount to above two millions annually, a considerable proportion of which is the produce of the vally [sic] of the Suir, and descends that river.
  8. That the state of the river Suir, as a navigation, between Clonmel and Carrick, is the worst in Ireland; that the import trade in these boats is dragged up the river by horses; that great delays take place, to such an extent, that the import trade suffers most considerably, to the detriment of every person in the community.
  9. That the expenses of the towing path &c fall upon the county at large.

Can it then be matter of surprise that, under such circumstances, Ireland is so much behind hand as she is?

Dublin Evening Mail 28 March 1842

Thanks to Ewan Duffy for the link to this story about an early steamer on Lough Erne. The Clones Sheugh comes into it too.

Here is a piece about the later steam yacht Firefly at Crom.

Ulster Canal increased emigration

The Ulster Canal (recently renamed the Clones Sheugh but now known as Saunderson’s Sheugh) seems to have led to an increase in emigration. Working on its construction reclaimed many from “those habits of reckless indifference and that passion for ardent spirits which are so fatal to the happiness of the working classes in Ireland”:

With the power of saving out of their wages, the habit [of saving] has arisen. The whiskey-shop has been abandoned, and several among those who were first employed, have laid by sufficient money to enable them to emigrate to the United States and to Canada, where they have constituted themselves proprietors, and have before them the certainty of future comfort and independence.

G R Porter The Progress of the Nation in its various social and economical relations, from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the present time Sections III and IV Interchange, and Revenue and Expenditure: Charles Knight and Co, London 1838

Those who suggested more recently that restoration would provide employment in local pubs and eateries obviously hadn’t learned from experience. I presume that, to this day, the inhabitants of Monaghan and Fermanagh still won’t touch a drop of whiskey.

 

Lock lox

Fishing extraordinary

Banagher: the old canal (OSI 6″ map ~1830s)

Banagher, June 13. On Friday evening last a scene of a truly interesting nature to all lovers [of] angling took place near the old bridge which crosses the Shannon at Banagher, in the King’s County. An old and experienced fishermen, well known in that part of the country by the appellation of Tugg, between the hours of seven and eight o’clock in the evening, hooked a salmon of enormous weight and strength, a little above the bridge; the fish, after making a few violent efforts to extricate himself —

Flew through the glassy waves with finny wings,
Whilst Tugg still kept behind.

From eight until past eleven the contest was carried on with doubtful success, in nearly the centre of the river, which is here about half a mile wide — during which time the salmon was played (as anglers term it) up the stream, as far as Bird’s Island, a distance of more than an English mile from the place where the fish was first hooked; still the salmon was unwearied, and struggled as hard as when first hooked, notwithstanding the utmost skill of Tugg to weaken and bring him within reach of the gaff.

Bird’s Island, Banagher Bridge and the head of the canal (OSI 6″ map ~1830)

The town clock struck twelve at night, and yet victory had not declared for the indefatigable Tugg. Three hours more rolled by, when Tugg, nearly as exhausted as his adversary (after nine hours’ display of the utmost skill and perseverance in the Piscal art), had recourse to a strategem by which he made himself master of his finny prey.

Connecting the navigable parts of the Shannon above and below the bridge at Banagher, is a canal of about half a mile in length; into this canal, Tugg, with his wonted skill, coaxed the fish, and then letting him down to the lock, at the farther extremity, the upper gate of which had been opened to receive him, he was allowed to pass in, and the gate being immediately closed, the water was let off by the lower one, and thus the finny monster became an easy prey.

The salmon weighed 43½ lbs, and was presented by honest Tugg to our worthy and highly esteemed Magistrate, Thomas George Armstrong Esq of Gavey Castle. The sporting gentry of Banagher and its vicinity intend raising a sum by subscription to reward poor Tugg, in testimony of their approbation of his unwearied assiduity, skill, and, above all, for the strategem by which he became at length master of this noble fish.

Dublin Mercantile Advertiser, and Weekly Price Current 28 June 1830

Hamilton Lockhouse …

… is for sale.

h/t Ewan Duffy

Canals and popery

Between 1768 and 1774

… means were devised to provide secure investment facilities for Catholics in projects of national and public utility, which at the same time left the whole system of the popery laws intact.

The earliest example I have found of this opening of the back door to Catholic investment was an act of 1768 for improving navigation between Limerick and Killaloe. To encourage Catholics to invest in the enterprise all shares were to be regarded as ‘personal estate and not subject to any of the laws to prevent the growth of popery’. Thus the indirect ownership of land involved in such investment would not be at the mercy of Protestant discoverers.

A blanket concession on similar lines was given in 1772 to Catholic shareholders in all inland navigation companies and in insurance companies. The fact that these acts now made it possible for Catholics to become shareholders and sometimes directors in such companies as the Grand Canal Company, must have served to break down segregation barriers to some slight extent.

Maureen Wall “Catholics in Economic Life” in L M Cullen ed The Formation of the Irish Economy The Mercier Press, Cork 1969, rp 1976

 

Broharris and Ballykelly

I have revised and expanded my page on the Broharris Canal, distinguishing between it and the Ballykelly Canal. However, there are still mysteries, and I will welcome comments from anyone who can cast light on the two subjects.

Canal restoration: Strabane and Broharris

Alas, the Derry Journal [h/t Industrial Heritage Ireland, the indispensable source of IH news] tells us that

STEVE BRADLEY believes Derry’s forgotten canal heritage could boost the region’s economic fortunes

No, it couldn’t.

Mr Bradley’s article is extremely interesting. He describes the history of the Strabane and the Broharris canals and, in the process, shows me that my page about the Broharris was entirely wrong. I am about to update that page but I am grateful to him for the information he provided. I hope he will forgive me, then, if I disagree with him about the economic potential of canal restoration.

He makes no exaggerated claims about the potential of the Broharris as anything other than a walking route; it could not be used by boats larger than canoes or kayaks and, even for them, there are no obvious launching or recovery sites.

But he wants more for the Strabane. He says that digging up the canal basin in the town, and restoring the navigable link to the Foyle, would provide a new Canal Quarter to attract investment even though it would, he concedes, be an expensive project.

But it is on the navigation aspects that he goes seriously astray:

Restoring the canal would hopefully also kick-start the use of the Foyle for leisure, recreation and tourism purposes. And restoring the 200 years old link between Strabane and the Foyle would be a great flagship project for a new council district with Derry and Strabane as its two main population centres.

Towns elsewhere have shown how restored canals can help bring new life and prosperity to the districts they flow through, yet locally we have neglected our water assets. It is time to give serious consideration to the role that our forgotten canal heritage could make towards improving the economic fortunes of our area.

I wrote about the Strabane Canal here and here. Sinn Féin, always keen on eighteenth century economics, tried to get Waterways Ireland to waste some of its money on the thing but, happily, failed.

The real problem with this is that there seem to be very few boats on the Foyle; I suspect that many of them are sailing boats that are not terribly suitable for use on canals, while others are fast seagoing vessels that would damage the banks. And boats will not come from Britain or Ireland or anywhere else to visit Strabane by canal: a boat suitable for the sea passage to the Foyle would be inherently unsuitable for the canal, even assuming that the delights of Strabane were sufficient to entice boaters to make the journey.

Irish waterways promoters have operated for years on the principle that, if the government gives them the money to build the canal, the traffic will come. Anyone who believes that should visit Tralee, where a similar canal, short and isolated, linking a town to the sea, is not used other than by walkers and the local rowing club. Seagoing boats go to Fenit instead.

And, on “how restored canals can help bring new life and prosperity to the districts they flow through”, I recommend a visit to the Royal Canal, which is very nice but has very little traffic. As, indeed, does the Grand Canal. English experience with a large connected network of canals is not relevant to Irish conditions, whether on geographic or on economic grounds.