Category Archives: Historical matters

Imperial measure

Rule for ascertaining the weight of hay stacks

Measure the length and breadth of the stack; then take its height from the ground to the eaves, and add to this last one-third of the height from the eaves to the top. Multiply the length by the breadth, and the product by the height, all expressed in feet; divide the amount by 27, to find the cubic yards, which multiply by the number of stones supposed to be in a cubic yard (viz in a stack of new hay, six stones; if the stack has stood a considerable time, eight stones; and if old hay, nine stones), and you have the weight in stones.

For example, suppose a stack to be 60 feet in length, 30 in breadth, 12 in height from the ground to the eaves, and 9 (the third of which is 3) from the eaves to the top; then 60 X 30 X 15 = 27000; 27000 ÷ 27 = 1000; and 1000 X 9 = 9000 stones of old hay.

Samuel Salt Statistics and Calculations essentially necessary to Persons connected with Railways or Canals; containing a variety of information not to be found elsewhere 2nd ed Effingham Wilson, London 1846

You too can possess a copy of this invaluable book, which has much useful information about railways and canals

The Lough Gill Steam Company

Annual report of the Lough Gill Steam Company

Rev Thomas M’Keon, in the Chair

According to the Deed of Settlement, the Accounts are now laid before the Shareholders, and your Committee have the pleasure of recommending a dividend of 7 per Cent, still leaving a balance on hands as a surplus fund. This being her maiden year, during the first six months very few people travelled by the Steam Boat, the people being deterred by superstitious stories; but your Committee are enabled to state, that for the last six months, the passenger traffic has increased 350 per cent, with a prospect of a still further increase.

Lough Gill (OSI 25″)

Most of the passengers come from Drumkeerin, Doury, Dabally, and the country beyond the River Shannon, who are enabled by this conveyance to go to the Sligo Market, and return home the same day, thus travelling upwards of 50 Irish miles. From Manorhamilton and Glenfarn few passengers have as yet come, but it is hoped they will find this the best, cheapest, and quickest route, the fares for nine Irish miles being only 6d in cabin, and 3d on deck. If the contemplated road to Glenfarn by Gurtermore was opened, a passenger trade from Enniskillen (in 4½ hours from Sligo), Blacklion, Glenfarn, almost equal to her present trade, might be fairly expected. The Committee recommend all means to be used to get this road, about 3½ miles long, to be opened.

The number of passengers for six months ending October were:

Cabin 3240        Deck 12932

Your Committee would advise a system of Tickets for Passengers. The improvements of the Shannon are rapidly progressing, and when finished (in about 2 years) will, in conjunction with the Athlone Railway, open an immense passenger traffic on this line, the City of Dublin Company having offered to run powerful Steamers in conjunction with this Company to the Railway, bringing all the passengers between Sligo and Dublin.

The thanks of the Company are due are hereby to given [sic] C W Williams Esq of the City of Dublin Steam Company for his promptitude in attending to the wishes of the Company, and to James Heartley [recte Hartley] Esq for running a Car in conjunction with the Steamer and Dublin Day Coach, and his reduction of Fares on the Line, Passengers getting from Sligo to Dublin for 13s.

Your committee have to thank the Public generally for the support they have received, and they trust by the attention of their officers to serve the Public, that the Public in return will serve them, and hope at the next Annual Meeting to be able to declare a dividend of 14 per cent.

The Lady of the Lake leaves Sligo at 4 Evening, and Dromahair at ½ past 9, Morning

For Carrick and Dublin Per Steamer, Car, and Day-Coach, 13s.

The Lady of the Lake has ceased to ply on Sundays.

Company’s Office, Dromahair, 10th Oct 1844

The Champion, Sligo 12 October 1844

Esquires

Thom’s Directory for 1850 [Thom’s Irish Almanac and Official Directory, with the Post Office Dublin City and County Directory, for the year 1850 Alexander Thom, Dublin 1850] lists the more important employees of the Grand Canal Company:

Secretary John M’Mullen esq
Bankers D La Touche & Co esqrs
Superintendent of Trade and Passage Boats Samuel Healy esq
Land Agent and Paymaster Thos J Thornhill esq
Book-keeper Francis Bray esq
Collectors: at James’s-street Richard Davis esq, at First Lock Mr Thomas M’Ghee
Accountant Mr Thomas Brady
Storekeeper Mr William Talbot
Broker Mr William Warham.

So the Collector at James’s Street, like all those listed before him, was an esquire but his colleague at First Lock, like all those listed after him, was a mere mister.

Wikipedia’s nineteenth-century definitions of “esquire” are of interest. The Grand Canal Company might have sung with the Gorbals Die-Hards …

Class-conscious are we, and class-conscious wull be

… but perhaps not the next line

Till our fit’s on the neck of the Boorjoyzee.

 

 

The mysterious capitalist

In 1847 George Lewis Smyth wrote [in Ireland: Historical and Statistical Vol II Whittaker and Co, London 1847 Chapter 14]

Another favourite object of praise and assistance is the Dublin and Kingstown Railway. The large sums lent to this railway and to the Ulster Canal are represented in certain circles in Dublin to have been matters of personal obligation. A capitalist holding a considerable interest in both undertakings is familiarly described as always carrying a commissioner in his breeches pocket.

Who was the capitalist in question? One possibility is Peirce [or Pierce] Mahony, solicitor to both the Dublin and Kingstown Railway and the Ulster Canal Company, but perhaps “capitalist” in not quite the mot juste for him. Another is James Perry, quondam director of the railway and Managing Director of the Ulster Canal Steam Carrying Company, which was owned (from 1843) by William Dargan, the contractor who built the Dublin and Kingstown Railway.

Perry had fingers in many other pies, including the Ringsend Iron Works which, in 1842, built an iron steamer for the use of the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company on the Shannon. The steamer was named the Lady Burgoyne.

 

Useless information about a railway

The Irish Times has a piece about the numbers of people travelling on some or all of a railway line from Limerick to Galway. But the article is entirely useless in enabling assessment of whether the line should be kept open. It tells us nothing about the costs of running the line, the cost of the £110 million of capital spent on it or the income generated by the passengers. Furthermore, it does not discuss the alternatives (buses) and their costs, whether to the user or to the taxpayer.

I can’t find information about individual lines either in the CIE annual report for 2017 [PDF] or in the most recent annual report for Iarnród Éireann (which runs the railways), which is for 2015.

I suspect, therefore (but am of course open to correction), that this is fake news, marketing or PR: a partial account of the line’s operations, intended to give the impression that it is a Good Thing. And because the important information is omitted, I suspect that it is not favourable to those arguing for ever-larger train sets whereon they may play with the choo-choos.

Incidentally, the number of passengers is about one quarter of that achieved by the Dublin & Kingstown Railway in its first year of operation in the 1830s.

 

The Grand Canal Company and the Bellman

Mr Bruce:

The expenses, in his mind, were grossly exorbitant […] and he thought this an enormous charge, and he hoped this was quite sufficient observation on that head.

Chairman:

What do you allude to?

Mr Bruce:

To salaries paid to agents, inspectors, parcel clerks, bell-ringers and the like, and I don’t know what oyu want with all these people; you get a person to ring a bell twice a day, and this, with others, I think a regular system of patronage.

An exchange at the half-yearly meeting of the Grand Canal Company on 2 November 1844, reported in the Freeman’s Journal of 4 November 1844.

Tom Nolan, Grand Canal Company boatman

At its August meeting, the Killaloe–Ballina Local History Society presented “a selection of oral history recordings taken over 25 years ago of some of Killaloe’s and Ballina’s most elderly residents”; you can read about the event here.

Most of the recordings were made in 1992. One was an interview with Tom Nolan, formerly of the Grand Canal Company, and you can read a transcription of the interview here.

Exciting news for Clones

Goodbye Clones Sheugh, hello Clones Duckpond.

The port of Limerick

Limerick was formerly an important place for exporting grain and provisions. At that time a fine fleet of schooners, principally employed in the trade to London, was owned there; and some large brigs, barques, and ships, engaged in the passenger and timber trade with North America, hailed from the port. But the maritime trade has declined greatly of late years, and the number of vessels has become proportionably reduced. At present the shipping consists of a few colliers and timber vessels, and a fleet of five screw steamers. The latter monopolize so much of the trade between the city and the English ports as the railways do not absorb. A number of foreign vessels, principally with grain from the Mediterranean, arrive at the port, and the seamen that are met with here are for the most part Italians, French, and Austrians. There is now a large floating dock at Limerick with gates 75 feet wide. A Sailors’ Home was recently erected here, but it has never been opened, as there are at present hardly any sailors to be found at the port, except a few such foreigners as have been just described.

“Visits to the Sea Coasts” in The Shipwrecked Mariner Vol VIII No XXIX January 1861

Canal Boats for sale

The Directors of the Grand Canal Company hereby give notice that they will SELL, to such parties as may require them, NINE SWIFT PASSAGE BOATS, and TWO HEAVY NIGHT PASSAGE BOATS, several of which are in perfect repair, and of the following dimensions, viz:—

FLY BOATS

Average length, from Stem to Stern, 60 feet, and average breadth of beam, 6 feet 6 inches.

NIGHT BOATS

Average length 60 feet, and breadth of beam, 7 feet 9 inches.

Applications from parties desirous of purchasing same to be addressed to the Secretary.

By Order, JOHN M’MULLEN, Sec, Grand Canal House, William-street,
11th February, 1848

Dublin Evening Mail 25 February 1848