Category Archives: Historical matters

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

 

Boris the Shinner

I have suspected for some time that Britain’s Brexiteers are actually Sinn Féiners.

After 1916 the Irish Shinners decided to leave a larger economic and political entity and to do so without any business plan or any realistic idea of how their proposed state would make a living.

After 2016 the British Shinners decided to leave a larger economic and political entity and to do so without any business plan or any realistic idea of how their proposed state would make a living.

One lot of Irish Shinners, led by the lunatic Éamon de Valera, wanted a hard Irexit and started shooting the soft Irexiteers who, happily, managed to keep control; it is to be hoped that matters don’t go that far in Britain.

It may be objected that the evidence for this contention, that Brexiteers are Shinners, is a little light, but I have now found confirmation: Boris Johnson is an enthusiast for insane canal construction projects.

The mark of the Shinner is upon him.

How to civilise Co Galway

An article from the Dublin Penny Journal of 13 September 1834 [Vol III No 115], conducted by P Dixon Hardy MRIA, solves that and other longstanding problems.

Public works in Ireland

The tunnel or archway through Lord Cloncurry’s grounds

Having in our last described the line of railway from the entrance station in Westland-row to the Pier at Kingstown, we now take the opportunity, while presenting our readers with two other views of the road, of inserting an article which, since our last publication went to press, has appeared in The Sun newspaper, relative to the carrying on of public works in Ireland. Our readers will perceive that its general bearing is in perfect accordance with the opinions we have more than once before expressed, when speaking on the subject of railways. We have already stated our reasons for giving a preference to railways over other modes of conveyance; but we fully agree in opinion with the writer of the article to which we refer, that no greater benefit could be conferred upon Ireland than the introduction of a cheap and expeditious means of conveying her agricultural produce from the heart of the country to the extremities — whether this be by canals or railways is a matter to be decided by the locality of those districts through which the lines of road may pass.

“We do not often derive so much pleasure from the perusal of a public document as we have from a careful inspection of the plans, and consideration of the suggestions, contained in the Second Report of the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, just printed by order of the House of Commons. Notwithstanding the low ebb at which the tide of Ireland’s prosperity stands at present, we predict, from the great improvements that are now being carried on, in clearing harbours, opening canals, and making roads along the eastern, southern, and northern coast, that the day is not very long distant when Ireland will, from being a bye-word among the nations of Europe, become equal to some of its proudest states in industry, wealth, intelligence, and love of order.

The worst crimes of Ireland are the results of the poverty and despair, rather than the evil disposition of her population. Public works, besides giving employment to thousands of her labouring poor, whom want has rendered almost desperate, will be the means of inducing capitalists to establish factories where facilities are afforded for carrying on an extensive trade; and will enable agriculturists to raise produce wherever a line of good road, a cheap water carriage, or convenient shipping, supplies them with a sure market for the fruits of their industry.

During the last eighteen months the sum of one hundred and twenty-nine thousand, six hundred and thirty-three pounds were expended in the improvement of Kingstown and Dunmore harbours, the making of roads on the Antrim coast, and the building of bridges, and other improvements in different parts of Ireland. The consequences of these works are already beginning to be manifested in the improved condition of the inhabitants in their vicinity, and the altered aspect of the immediately adjoining face of the country.

The commissioners themselves say that ‘Wherever a new road is constructed, flourishing farms at once spring up, and the carts of the countrymen press on the heels of the road-makers as the work advances’. And in a preceding paragraph the following most important information is given: — ‘In traversing a country covered with farms, and in a high state of cultivation, showing every sign of a good soil and of amply remunerating produce, it becomes difficult to credit the fact that, ten or twelve years since, the whole was a barren waste, the asylum of a miserable and lawless peasantry, who were calculated to be a burden rather than a benefit to the nation; and that this improvement may entirely be attributed to the expenditure of a few thousands of pounds, in carrying a good road of communication through the district’.

What Ireland stands most in need of at the present moment is, a cheap and expeditious means of having her agricultural produce conveyed from the heart of the country to the extremities. Now, in our judgment, the best way of effecting this would be by canals, of which she stands in the greatest need.

The first of these should be a canal from Dublin to Galway, which would cut the whole island across, from east to west, uniting St George’s channel with the Atlantic ocean. This line of communication between the capital of Ireland and a great commercial town on the extreme coast, would be of immense importance to the inhabitants of both, but of still more so to the whole population of Connaught, among whom it would be the direct means of introducing manufacturing industry, and a taste for the arts, enjoyments, and elegancies of civilized life. The distance between Dublin and Galway is about one hundred and four miles, through which a direct line of canal has already been carried for forty-two miles — namely, from Dublin to Philipstown; so that in point of fact the work is already begun, and only wants the aid of government, and the assistance of the landed proprietors in King’s County, Roscommon, and Galway, the value of whose estates would be trebled by it, to effect its entire completion.

The next line of canal should be from Ballyshannon Harbour to Dundalk, by Enniskillen, by which the greatest facilities would be given to agriculture and manufacturing improvements in the counties of Donegal, Fermanagh, and Leitrim; and more especially to the trade of Ballyshannon and Dundalk, which, though capable of being made emporiums of provincial industry and wealth, are now little better than marts for the fish caught along their coasts. However, great praise is due to Colonel Conolly, the member for Donegal, who has advanced a thousand pounds, and given security for four thousand more, for repairing the harbour of Ballyshannon, which, when finished, will be of great benefit to the people of the town, and the inhabitants along the western coast, from Sligo to Killybegs.

The last line of communication which we would suggest to the government, besides the navigation of the Shannon, which is sufficiently dwelt upon in the reports of the select committee on that subject, is a canal from Waterford to Sligo, intersecting the canal from Dublin to Galway, somewhere about Philipstown.

This, with such a line of communication from Dublin to Belfast, would unite all Ireland; and in a very few years would render the country as prosperous, as rich, and as contented as any in Europe. The intercourse which those canals would give rise to between the people in every part of the provinces, would extinguish that spirit of religious animosity which now divides and destroys them. Bring men only together, and they will soon remove the prejudices of each other.

The people of Ireland are at present as much removed from each other at the distance of fifty miles apart, as if the whole Indian ocean rolled between them. Hence, the jealousies, and hatreds, and cherished recollections of feudal wrongs, so common in almost every district of Munster and Connaught. But let once manufacturing industry prevail in these districts — let the voice of the mechanic be heard in the villages — and we will pledge ourselves that the people of Ireland, with all their alleged love of mischief, will find other employment than that of parading nightly in a Captain Rock uniform, or recording vows of vengeance against Sassenachs and collectors of king’s taxes.”

 

Mr Moran’s delusions

Kevin Moran is an independent TD for Longford-Westmeath and is now Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief. On 12 October 2017 he said in the Dáil:

I thank the Acting Chairman for giving me time to speak on the very important issue of budget 2018. Flooding is a huge issue that falls under the remit of my Department. Not one Deputy spoke about flooding during the budget debate. Nobody has come to my door to talk about flooding. Deputy Canney has not spoken yet. I assure the House that I have a sum of €432 million, which is a huge investment in flooding measures by the Cabinet. The funding for flooding schemes will increase from €45 million to €70 million next year. There will be a roll out of more schemes to protect people in their homes. There will be €5 million for the minor works scheme which is very important to protect people. Everyone has talked about putting diggers on the Shannon. I am the first Minister in the House to put a machine on the Shannon since Queen Victoria. I have heard every political party in here talk about it but they could not do it.

If Mr Moran would care to glance at this page on this site, he could look at photos of workboats and dredgers employed by Waterways Ireland (and some of them before that by his own department) on the Shannon and elsewhere — and considerably later than the time of Her late Majesty Victoria.

I am not sure, though, that “diggers on the Shannon” would be very useful: they would probably sink.

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.

Éamon Ó Cuív …

… is a loon.

Perhaps he’s basing his economic views on those of his grandfather George, who did his best to drag Ireland back from the nineteenth to the eighteenth century (although he was living — for certain values of “living” — in the twentieth).

What is it about Irish republicans and canals?

Down the Suir

Cheekpoint

Andrew Doherty runs the Waterford Harbour tides’n’tales blog which, starting with a focus on the traditional fishing community of Cheekpoint, has broadened out to take in the whole of the Suir estuary and a few other things besides. As he says

My unending passion is researching and writing about our way of life and more fully understanding the history and heritage that surrounds us here.

Before the tide went out

Andrew has now written a book, Before the tide went out, and it will be launched at Jack Meade’s on Friday 20 October 2017 at 7.30pm.

From the blurb:

Andrew Doherty vividly brings you into the heart of a now practically vanished fishing community, deep into the domestic lives of the people making a hard and precarious living from the river, only 6 miles from Waterford city centre. You share his affectionate memories of the local people and the fun that was to be had as a child playing in and around the fishing boats and nets on a busy quayside.

He also takes you out on the river, on bright and beautiful days, and on wild and dangerous nights, which he describes with a naturally story telling turn of phrase. You feel the cold, the misery of sea-soaked clothing and the pain of raw hands hauling on fish-scaled nets.

But what keeps you going is what kept him going for 15 years, the camaraderie and pride of spending time with brave, skilled and wise fishermen who could be grumpy, hilarious, sometimes eccentric, but never
boring.

 

 

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.

 

The Hind

The River Hind Navigation is not well known, which may be attributable to its non-existence. There were several proposals to make the Hind navigable, to link the town of Roscommon to Lough Ree on the Shannon, but none of them were implemented. One of them almost made it, though, and such interest as the topic has is the result of the Hind’s inclusion (or semi-inclusion) on the list of navigations for which W T Mulvany, Commissioner for Drainage, was responsible in the late 1840s and early 1850s.

Mulvany was responsible for five drainage-cum-navigation projects (and many drainage projects), whereof the Hind was the least important. The other four were

  • the Lough Oughter navigation, upstream on Lough Erne from Belturbet, which was never completed: various (mostly Fianna Fáil) insane politicians in the area are still trying to have it completed
  • the Cong and Belturbet Canals, which were abandoned before they were finished
  • the Junction Canal in the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Drainage District, later known as the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Canal, which had a brief and notoriously unprofitable existence, but which was later transformed into the Shannon—Erne Waterway, which was a good investment for Ireland because the Germans [or someone] paid for it
  • the Lower Bann navigation, linking Lough Neagh (which already had two links to coastal ports) with the North Atlantic in the middle of a beach near Coleraine. This was the only one of Mulvany’s navigations that was completed and that remained open, despite its complete uselessness, as the railways got to the area before the navigation did.

In this catalogue of commercial nitwittedness, the Hind had the advantage that it was delayed: an even more insane proposal, to drain the Suck into the Hind, meant that the Hind navigation scheme was deferred long enough to be abandoned altogether, which was just as well as the railway soon made any navigation unnecessary.

However, the proposal was there and, if you are very bored, you might like to read about it. But this is for anoraks: the subject is unimportant, the detail [163 endnotes] outweighing what little interest the scheme possesses. There are no photos of boats or of locks, because there weren’t any; there aren’t even any cat videos.

 

They haven’t gone away, you know ….

There we were, about to breathe a sigh of relief that the Clones Sheugh had been buried at the crossroads, with a stake through its heart and numerous rows of garlic planted around it, when a crack appeared in the earth and the shriek of the undead made the night hideous.

Yes, it seemed that the Minister for Fairytales had successfully diverted everyone’s attention away from Clones by (a) designating the River Finn as the Ulster Canal, which would lead to a scout camp at the spiritual home of Ulster Unionism rather than to Clones, and (b) supporting a greenway walking route to take care of the handsacrosstheborder bit (although ministers from up there seemed to be scarce at the launch. I suppose they’re scarce anyway).

The greenway seems like a better idea to me, given that it’s significantly cheaper than canal restoration and likely to attract far more users, although I wasn’t impressed by the economic assessment in Waterways Ireland’s Ulster Canal Greenway draft strategy document from April 2017 [PDF]. Here is the assessment in full:

6.2 Economic Assessment
Ultimately, the cost of developing a route will play a part in the decision-making process. It may be technically possible to overcome an obstacle, but the cost might make it unfeasible and a longer route chosen. All factors in the Greenway Strategy will be assessed and the most sustainable routes chosen.

That seems to suggest that the costs and benefits of the plan have been thought through with as much care and attention as Her Majesty’s Government over the way has given to Brexit. Which, I imagine, will put paid to much handsacrosstheborderism anyway; I hope it doesn’t put paid to Waterways Ireland as well, although it’s bound to increase the difficulties under which that body labours.

But revenons à nos moutons. Just when we thought it was safe to go out, the dead arose. Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy said

Clones needs the Ulster Canal if it’s to have a viable tourism future.

Also from the report of the meeting:

A presentation at the meeting revealed that over 50 percent of buildings in Fermanagh Street in Clones are derelict.

Frustration at the lack of progress with the Ulster Canal was voiced, with representatives stating that it was on the agenda in 1999 and is still on it now.

Perhaps Clones has not got the message: the Ulster Canal is off the agenda. But there is a more fundamental problem: [some] small rural towns are dying because there is no longer any economic need for them. The scale of things has changed since the late nineteenth century; consumers can travel to Aldi and Lidl in larger towns; local markets and fairs are no longer how business is done.

Tourism is unlikely to rescue Clones: if it could do so, why isn’t the town already a tourist destination? Why aren’t its attractions well known throughout Germany and wherever else tourists come from? Enabling tourists to visit by water is not going to attract significant numbers from abroad: there are more scenic and interesting waterways elsewhere, in Ireland and on the continent. There would be a very poor return on the millions that a canal to Clones would cost — not helped by proposals for significant overpayment for land.

I still don’t understand why Sinn Féin is so keen on canals generally and the Clones Sheugh in particular. But Clones might find a new economic role as a post-Brexit smuggling centre.