Category Archives: Historical matters

Killaloe eels

A new export from Ireland

The banks of the Shannon, says the Limerick Chronicle, are inexhaustible in providing sustenance, not only for the natives, but our constant customer, John Bull. Salmon has for some time been an article of profitable export to the English market; but what will the public think of that cheaper and more abundant dainty — eels?

There are 10 tons of this prolific fish now in tanks at Killaloe, awaiting a conveyance to London; and a vessel adapted for the trade will take on board from this port in the ensuing week 40 tons of eels for the London Market.

Ipswich Journal 26 October 1844

Walking on water

Marine Pedestrianism

Mr Kent, whose surprising exploits have attracted so much attention in Liverpool and other places where he has appeared before the public, arrived here on Sunday evening by the Steam Packet Waterloo.

On the packet reaching Ringsend, he launched and mounted his marine velocipede, and proceeded before the packet up to Sir John Rogerson’s-quay, where he was loudly cheered by the spectators on shore.

We understand it is his intention to exhibit his apparatus here, should he meet with public encouragement previously to his departure for London.

Saunders’s News-Letter 24 July 1821

Walking on water

On Friday a prodigious crowd, upwards of 30000 people, assembled on the banks of the Clyde, to witness the performance of Mt Keat [sic], who had announced his intention of riding on his aquatic velocipede, from Rutherglen-bridge to the Wooden-bridge. He started precisely at a quarter before three o’clock, and reached the Wooden-bridge at a quarter past three. He amused himself with loading and discharging a fowling-piece as he sailed along. Several porters were stationed at the different entrances of the Green with subscription-boxes. The machine consists of three oval tin cases united by iron rods to support a sort of saddle, upon which the artist sits, at such a height as is suitable for using his feet to give the requisite impulse. The weight of the whole does not exceed 14 lbs.

Salisbury and Winchester Journal 21 May 1821

Here’s a later version.

Dublin’s foreign trade 1837

Here’s an interesting extract from Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of 1837. It’s about the foreign trade of the port of Dublin.

At the time, trade was classified as either coasting or foreign: since the conclusion of the free trade area between Ireland and Britain in 1825, trade between Ireland and Britain was classed as coasting. As a result, no records were kept of that trade except for corn (from Ireland to Britain) and coals (the other way). To quote Tables of the Revenue [Tables of the Revenue, Population, Commerce, &c of The United Kingdom and its dependencies Part III from 1820 to 1833, both inclusive. Compiled from official returns; presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of His Majesty HMSO, London 1834 ]:

No general Account of the Trade between Ireland and Great Britain can be rendered for the period subsequent to 1825, the commercial intercourse between the two Countries having, from the termination of that year, been assimilated by law to a coasting traffic.

In this extract, Lewis is therefore talking about Dublin’s trade with places outside the United Kingdom. He starts with northern Europe, then moves on to the West Indies and North America, then China and South America, finishing in the Mediterranean. The indented italicised paragraphs are Lewis; the others are comments.

Northern Europe

There is very little foreign export from Dublin. The trade with the Baltic in timber, staves, &c, is greatly diminished by the high rate of duty imposed and the low rate at which Canada timber is admitted. From St. Petersburgh, Riga, Archangel, &c, there is a considerable import of tallow, hemp, and tar, with some linseed, bristles, &c.;

The Baltic had been Britain’s main source of timber and other supplies for shipping (including hemp and tar) but, during the Napoleonic Wars, timber from North America had taken over.

from Spain and Portugal the chief import is wine, with some corkwood, raisins, barilla, and bark; from France the imports are wine in wood and bottle, claret, champagne, &c, also cork-wood, prunes, dried fruits, and some brandy;

Wine, brandy and gin:

from the Netherlands the imports are bark and flax ; from Holland, tobacco pipes, bark, cloves, and flax-seed, and small quantities of gin, Burgundy pitch, Rhenish wines, madder, &c.

So far many of the imports seem to be either inputs to industrial processes (eg barilla, madder) and exotic food and drink for the more affluent consumers.

West Indies

With the West Indies the trade is chiefly in sugar from Jamaica, Demerara, and Trinidad, estates in the last-named island being owned in Dublin.

For more on Irish slave-owners, insert “Ireland” in the “Country” field of the “Address Details” section here.

Encouraging people to drink whiskey:

Coffee is imported in small quantities and also rum, but very little foreign spirits are consumed in Ireland, in consequence of the low price and encouragement given to the use of whiskey.

The Irish provision trade, which supplied (inter alia) the British navy and slave plantations, had been in decline for many years, with the livestock trade increasing to compensate.

Beef and pork in casks, and soap and candles in boxes, were formerly exported to the West Indies in large quantities, but the trade is now nearly lost in consequence of permission being given to the colonists to import these articles from Hamburgh, Bremen, &c, where they can be purchased at lower prices than in Ireland.

The West Indies could also buy from America (see below) and could buy preserved cod as an alternative to beef.

North America

The linen trade had become concentrated on Belfast; Dublin had lost its role in handling the product when Belfast opened its own Linen Hall in 1783.

To the United States of America formerly there was a very large export of linen, principally to New York, and flax-seed, staves, turpentine, clover-seed, &c, were brought back; but the bounty on the export of linen having been withdrawn, the trade between the United States and Dublin has greatly diminished. The export of linen and import of flax-seed is now chiefly confined to Belfast and other northern ports.

The growing of tobacco in Ireland had been banned in 1832.

The American tobacco which is either sold or consumed in Dublin is brought from Liverpool.

The import of American tobacco via Liverpool was part of a much wider trend. Liverpool was simply so much busier a port than any of its Irish counterparts; it dominated the Atlantic trade (to the chagrin of Bristol). It made sense to send cargoes in large vessels from the Americas to Liverpool; from there they could be distributed quickly, especially to Dublin, to which there were daily steam services. This changed the way Dublin merchants worked: instead of getting a few shiploads from the Americas per year, they could now import small quantities as required, once a week if they liked. That reduced the amount of capital tied up in stock and may have made it available for other investments.

UK port traffic 1833–1836 (derived from Tables of the Revenue 1838)

The timber trade was, in effect, the emigrant trade: emigrants provided a useful back cargo for ships that would otherwise return almost empty to the Americas.

With British America the trade is very great in timber, as a return cargo of vessels sailing thither from Dublin with emigrants.

An inland waterway connection:

With Newfoundland there is no direct trade; the cod and seal oil consumed are imported from Liverpool or brought by canal from Waterford, which has a direct trade with Newfoundland; dried codfish and ling being much used in the southern counties, but not in the northern or midland.

China

More exotica:

With China there are three vessels owned in Dublin, besides others engaged in the tea trade; the number of chests directly imported is, therefore, considerable.

South America

As well as timber, one of the things that industrialising countries were running out of was hides for leather. Argentina and Uruguay both had extensive exports; they were also able to export salted beef to the Americas and the Caribbean.

With South America there is no direct trade, the Dublin tanners being abundantly supplied with native hides, and any foreign hides required being brought from Liverpool, whence also is imported the cotton wool consumed in the Dublin factories.

Mediterranean

And finally …

With Turkey the trade is confined to the importation from Smyrna of valonia, figs, raisins, and small quantities of other articles: madder-roots and emery-stone being always transhipped for Liverpool.

With Leghorn there is a considerable trade for cork-tree bark, and small quantities of hemp in bales, oil, marble, &c, are also imported, but very little communication is kept up with Trieste or other Italian ports.

With Sicily the trade is in shumac and brimstone ; the latter article in considerable quantities for the consumption of vitriol and other chymical works.


Source: Samuel Lewis A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, comprising the several counties, cities, boroughs, corporate, market, and post towns, parishes, and villages, with historical and statistical descriptions; embellished with engravings of the arms of the cities, bishopricks, corporate towns, and boroughs; and of the seals of the several municipal corporations: with an Appendix, describing the electoral boundaries of the several boroughs, as defined by the Act of the 2d and 3d of William IV S Lewis & Co, London 1837

Limerick Navigation

This week’s Clare Champion [7 February 2020] has an article about the Limerick Navigation on the front page  of the Living section. It’s not available online, unless (I suppose) you subscribe to the digital edition.

Makes a change from the election, I suppose.

New header pic February 2020

The Liffey in 1846, cropped from a panorama published in the Illustrated London News on 6 June 1846.

Steam, Kilrush and trade

Appendix D

Letter from Mr O’Brien, Agent to the Inland Steam Navigation Company
Kilrush Steam Packet Office, December, 1837

Gentlemen — I beg to inclose the Return which you requested; I also send a Statement of our Exports and Imports for the last ten years.

It affords me much pleasure in being able to state, that the trade and conditions of the people in this district appear much improved since the introduction of Steamers on the Lower Shannon.

I recollect when first Mr Williams commenced on the Lower Shannon, Kilrush was a very insignificant little place, quite deserted, without trade or commerce; it is now a rising town, with a number of respectable inhabitants and merchants; and the corn market, which was formerly rated at 2d per stone under Limerick, is now fully equal, and, in some cases, better than the latter.

This improvement, so important to the farmer, was certainly caused by the cheap and expeditious conveyance between this port and Limerick; because the country farmer at once saw the absurdity of selling his corn in Kilrush, at 6d per stone, when he could get it conveyed to Limerick by steam, for one farthing per stone, where the price was 8d per stone. This soon created a competition in the price, and soon broke down the old monoply [sic], so injurious to the public.

The facility of conveyance between Kilrush and Limerick had also a tendency to bring competitors into the field; and now, instead of one corn merchant, as was the case formerly, we have eleven; and instead of two grocers, we have fifteen; and instead of two woollen drapers, we have twelve, and so on.

Kilkee and Miltown, on the Clare side, and Ballybunion, on the Kerry side, have been equally benefited. Previous to the introduction of Steamers on the Lower Shannon, these places were scarcely known; they are now rising towns, and will, I trust, after a little time, compete with some of your English favourite watering places.

At Kilkee there are 305 very fine lodges, some of which brought £30 per month, last season; at Miltown there are 204, and at Ballybunion there are 96, with excellent hotels and boarding houses.

Persons leaving Limerick in the morning, are now enabled to breakfast at Kilkee — thus performing a journey of 60 miles in the short space of five hours.

This Company has rendered invaluable services to this part of the country, which are not generally known, but for which the people seem much indebted. A great deal still remains to be done to perfect our trade in this quarter; our pier is quite unequal to the trade, which is every day increasing.

At present there are nine vessels at the pier, and so crowded are we, that the steamer is put completely out of berth, and is obliged to anchor in the stream, and land her cargoes and passengers in open boats — a very dangerous process at this season of the year.

I am, Gentlemen, with great respect, your obedient Servant, P B O’Brien

To the Commissioners for the Improvement of the River Shannon

Statement of the Number of Vessels frequenting the Kilrush Pier for the last Three Years

Vessels at Kilrush [y/e 1 November]

This Statement does not comprise the Steamers which ply daily, but which, I fear, will be obliged to stop for want of a berth for discharging or taking in.

Abstract of the Imports and Exports of Kilrush, for the last Ten Years

Imports

Sundries (1835 only)

5 tons of Fish, 1 bale of Coffee, 1 bag of Rice, 1 cask of Indigo, Paints, Oil, Pitch, Tar, and Cordage.

Observations

This market does not embrace the foreign trade, which is blended in the Limerick accounts, and consists of timber from the British colonies, with a variety of wrecked goods in the winter season. Nor does it give more than a few of the principal articles imported from Great Britain, several being exempt from coast regulation; and owing to the facility of steam navigation, the greater part of the goods are imported to Limerick, and by canal from Dublin.

Exports. This account does not include the shipments made by small traders to Limerick, Cork, &c.

[Note: the quantity exported in 1836 was given as 87 firkins. Peter M Solar (“The Irish Butter Trade in the Nineteenth Century: New Estimates and Their Implications” in Studia Hibernica No 25 1990) suggests an average weight of 67.6 lb per firkin at Limerick in the early 1820s. Applying that figure gives a weight of 5881.2 lb or 52.5 long UK hundredweight, rounded to 53 cwt. There is nothing to say whether any of the amounts for Kilrush exports are gross or net weight; Solar says that “Earlier in the nineteenth century the weight of the cask was generally taken to be a fifth of the weight of butter it contained.”]

Sundries

1826: —
1827: —
1828: 2 boxes [contents unspecified]
1829: 29 bales [nature unspecified]
1830: 4 sacks of Sea Moss
1831: 94 Marble blocks
1832: —
1833: 19 cwt 3 qrs 9 lb of Staves
1834: 40 packages of Bacon
1835: 140 tons of Hides
1836: 20 bags of dried Leaves; 14 puncheons

Source

Second Report of the Commissioners appointed pursuant to the Act 5 & 6 William IV cap 67 for the improvement of the navigation of the River Shannon; with maps, plans, and estimates HMSO, Dublin 1837

Limerick Navigation

Last week’s talk at the Killaloe Ballina Local History Society, on the subject of the Limerick Navigation, was recorded by Scariff Bay Community Radio; a podcast (1 hr 13 min 11 sec) is available here.

The Limerick Navigation: a talk

Killaloe–Ballina Local History Society, 15 January 2020, Lakeside Hotel, 7.30pm (more info).

Cotts on the Broad Lough

There is very little traffic on this fine lake [Lower Lough Erne]; the only boats upon it, called cotts, are, like our coal-barges on the Thames, square at each end, flat-bottomed, drawing little water, and rigged with one large gaff-sail; and seldom exceed the burden of ten or twelve tons.

The natives who manage them are miserable sailors, who, with the least breeze that blows, may be seen skulking under the lee of one of the islands. Their chief employment is carrying turf from one of the bogs near the shores of the lake to Enniskillen, stones and sand for building, and slates and coal from Beleek, which have been imported at Ballyshannon.

John Barrow A Tour round Ireland, through the sea-coast counties, in the autumn of 1835 John Murray, London 1836

 

What Dublin newspapers wrote about during the Famine

As recorded in newspapers that were published in Dublin [Freeman’s Journal, Dublin Evening Mail] between 1 January 1845 and 31 December 1850 and that are available through the British Newspaper Archive.

Count including ads and family notices

Count excluding ads and family notices

Those charts are a few years old; I must redo them. I suspect that the two terms I’ve used, “famine” and “potato”, don’t capture the full extent of famine reporting: I should perhaps add other terms (eg “distress”).