Category Archives: Operations

Shannon water levels

Just a reminder about the ESB’s useful page of hydrometric information here.

As of yesterday morning (23 February 2020), the discharge through Parteen Villa Weir was 659 cubic metres per second [cumec]. That’s the total discharge from the Shannon, covering both what goes through Ardnacrusha and what goes down the original course of the river [which in summer gets 10 cumec].

Of that 659, Ardnacrusha was getting 381 cumec, which means that 278 was going down the river’s original course.

The ESB’s Shannon forecast says

It is expected that a discharge ranging between 315 [cumec] and 370 [cumec] will be necessary at Parteen Weir over the next 5 days based on current weather forecast.

Those figures are well below the current combined discharge of 659 and more rain is expected, so I presume that the forecast refers to discharge down the original course of the river, which is to increase by between 13% and 33%. Water levels below Parteen Villa Weir are already high, though not at 2009 levels, so an investment in wellies might be advisable.

Shannon floods 2009 here.

Here’s an old page of mine about why the Shannon floods. I’ve removed some links that no longer work. The link to the ESB’s infographic does still work.

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.

Kilrush fisheries

Letter from James Patterson, Kilrush, to the Commissioners of Fisheries, 31 May 1823

Sir

Encouraged by the erection of the fishery piers on this coast, two persons registered themselves as fish-curers, viz Francis Coffee, on the 10th of March, at Liscannor, and James Shannon, on the 26th of April, at Seafield.

On the 26th instant I had a request note from the former to attend at his curing-house on the 28th, to inspect seven hundred and sixty ling, and nine hundred and ninety-six cod; I accordingly attended, and have great pleasure in saying, that a finer parcel of fish I never beheld; I at the same time registered twenty-six row-boats.

Kilrush, Seafield and Liscannor, Co Clare (OSI 25″ ~1900)

From thence I proceeded to Seafield to see what was going on there, where, I am sorry to say, I found the fishermen very desponding; they had an immense quantity of fish, offering at 1½d per dozen; but few purchasers, Mr Shannon not having as yet begun to cure. At Liscannor, agreeable to a previous arrangement made with the fishermen, Mr Coffee pays 3½d per dozen.

It would tend greatly to promote this speculation if some little additions were made to the bounty in lieu of the drawback on the salt, which they find it very difficult to recover, principally owing to the great distance to any custom-house, and the difficulty of travelling bad roads.

I send herewith the production bounty debenture. As the curer has but a small capital, I hope the board will order payment with as little delay as possible; every little encouragement that can be given this speculation in its infancy will greatly tend to promote it; and I have no doubt, in a short time, it will become very general, and productive of great advantage to the country.

I am, Sir, &c, &c, (signed) James Patterson

Report from the Select Committee on the Employment of the Poor in Ireland Ordered, by The House of Commons, to be Printed, 16 July 1823 [561] with edits by me

Navigating Ardnacrusha

The Western Mail & South Wales News of 19 April 1929 had an article by M Franklin Thomas about “Ireland’s Big Engineering Scheme”. The article was illustrated with a map and three photographs were reproduced on the newspaper’s “picture page”. It had a couple of interesting points about the headrace and tailrace considered as navigations; I can’t recall seeing these points made elsewhere.

Current

This [headrace] canal is level, but a flow of about 3½ miles per hour will be maintained owing to the water released through the turbines and navigation locks.

I don’t recall seeing a figure for the current. I presume that that is with three turbines running flat out.

There is an interesting account of the laying of the concrete apron that protects the banks against the “wave action set up by navigation, and the flow of the stream, wind, &c”. And the lock was to have an “ingenious arrangement by which the entering streams of water neutralise each other’s effect”.

Tailrace

Mr Thomas says

The tail race is one mile and a half long, cut from the solid blue limestone, and one of the most interesting points was the method adopted to permit barges to ascend the tail race against the enormous scour from the turbine discharges.

A special navigation channel is cut from the locks to a point some 200 yards below the outfall, and the bed of the tail race rises 20ft in the mile and a half, so that the depth of water will be 35ft at the outfall from the turbines and 15ft at the junction with the Shannon.

This will give a cushioning effect, and the rate of flow will be thus reduced to enable barges to navigate upstream. A bend is also provided where the special navigation channel joins the tail race and the rate of flow is estimated to be the same as that of the head race — 1.5 metres per second, or about 3½ miles per hour.

I would be glad to hear from anyone who can cast further light on this, and especially on whether the rising bed does have the intended effect.

Fuel for Athlone

The Messrs Robinson of Athlone, having supported Captain Mathew, the Conservative Member for the town, last election, threats have been offered and violence used to the boatmen conveying turf to their distillery, and in consequence the establishment will henceforth burn coal in the concern, a great loss to the country people.

Clare Journal, and Ennis Advertiser 23 February 1835

The level of the Shannon

I want to see these 16 pinch points dealt with because in removing them we will drop the levels of the Shannon downstream of Athlone right down to where Deputy Harty lives. We are talking about dropping the level of the Shannon a foot and a half. The number of people who would benefit from this – the local farmer, the local business, BirdWatch Ireland – is enormous. The Government is committed to putting huge money into this.

Kevin Moran TD (Ind, Longford-Westmeath), minister for draining the Shannon,  in a Dáil Topical Issue Debate on Flood Risk Management on 16 October 2019.

I wonder which level he’s talking about.