Category Archives: Politics

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.

Kilglass

The Marquis of Westmeath presented a Petition, from certain landholders of the county of Tipperary and another from the inhabitants of Navan, in the county of Meath, against the Grand Jury Laws of Ireland, and praying for their repeal. He trusted, their Lordships would permit him to make a few observations on the matter of these petitions, and the subject to which they related. […]

He had to call their Lordships’ particular attention to some anecdotes, which he could relate respecting the manner in which this system worked, odious as it was, and deservedly so to the people of Ireland. He would begin with one occurring in the county of Roscommon — with which he was connected. In the year 1817, a presentment was made with his knowledge from the parish of Kilglass, for a road to connect it with the river Shannon, which washes its shores.

The population of that parish was immense, and it contained upwards of 5,000 Irish acres. It had no road whereupon any farmer could convey a loaded cart; and the case then was, as it now remains, that, though in a county groaning under crops of oats, the produce was brought out piecemeal, to be consigned to the river Shannon as it might; and, although within twelve miles of the great market of Longford, no loaded conveyance could travel into or out of it, nor could then, or can now, any farmer transport manure, or any other load, in that county, except upon horses’ backs.

Their Lordships would learn, with astonishment, that this county was all heavily taxed by the Grand Jury, to the amount of from 2s[hillings] to 3s annually per acre; concurrently, indeed, with those parts of the county where the Gentlemen who compose the Grand Jury disport themselves and reside; but, while one part of the county had not a single passable carriage road, its wealth was extracted to form easy communications and gravel-walks in another part of the county with which it had neither sympathy nor interest. Was it to be supposed that such a system could be endured? He himself, in 1817, had been examined before that Grand Jury, as to the oppressed and neglected state of this part of the county; and from that hour to this, it had remained precisely in the same state. […]

Irish Grand Jury Presentments in
House of Lords Debate 5 July 1831

Was it with the clout of a loy?

He had attended at the assizes as a grand juror, and an indictment was preferred against a man for murder, who was placed in the dock charged with that offence, and a witness was called to prove the case for the prosecution. On his examination, however, it was discovered that he was no other than the murdered man himself. There was the man indicted for murder, and arraigned on the indictment, and the first witness called was the man whom he was accused of having murdered.

On finding that this indictment could not be sustained in consequence of this somewhat remarkable mistake, one of the jury applied to know whether it was a case in which they could find a bill for manslaughter. In fact it turned out, that a severe assault only, had been committed, and yet this was a case, in which a return might have been made, both of the charge of murder and manslaughter, although the man supposed to be murdered was actually living.

Thomas Spring Rice MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, House of Commons, 15 April 1839

Sir George Hill

I am a great admirer and frequent user of Wikipedia, and make a small financial contribution to it each year (I’ll give more once I win the lottery). But some of its biographical articles about long-dead folk are less than fully accurate, perhaps because they’re based on older sources, more inclined to be polite about their subjects.

Here, for example, is the Wikipedia piece about Sir George Hill, an ornament of the Orange Order who was an MP and Vice-Treasurer of Ireland. Not a hint there that Hill was at the very least careless and utterly incompetent as Vice-Treasurer. Here is what Thomas Spring Rice said about Hill in the House of Commons on 31 August 1831, after Hill had escaped to become Governor of Saint Vincent:

[…] between five and six years ago, a balance of several hundred pounds had been due from the Vice-Treasurer of Ireland to the public. At that period the Treasury arranged that £10000 should be issued annually, on account, to the Vice-Treasurer, and that he should every year deliver in his attested account, duly vouched, of the expenditure of the money, in the same way as all other public officers.

Urgent and repeated calls had been made upon the Vice-Treasurer to render his accounts; but this he had neglected to do, alleging, as his reason, that the difficulty arose from a part of the papers being in Ireland and a part in England, and making various other excuses.

At length the Vice-Treasurer, Sir George Hill, was appointed Governor of St. Vincent’s, in the West Indies, and he left this country without rendering any account whatever of the public money intrusted to his care. In consequence of further applications, Sir George Hill had at last rendered in his accounts, but they were unsupported by vouchers, and were altogether in a condition which made it impossible that they could be audited, examined, or passed.

Assuming, however, that the accounts were correct, it appeared by Sir George Hill’s own showing, that he was in debt to the public the sum of £2180. He had been called upon to pay this balance, and to put his accounts in a state, so that it might be ascertained whether he was not indebted to a larger amount.

Neither of these requisitions had he complied with, but he had written to the Treasury Board to say, that his nephew, Mr Hill, who was in Ireland, would pay the balance for him. Application had consequently been made to this Mr Hill, and the only result was, that that gentleman had declared his willingness to pay the money when Sir George Hill directed him to do so. This he supposed Sir George had not done, for the money had not yet been paid.

You can read the full debate here; Daniel O’Connell put his finger on it:

Mr. O’Connell thought he was now justified in calling this matter a neat bit of peculation.

The History of Parliament has more on Hill here.

On 18 July 1832 Thomas Spring Rice reported to the House of Commons that

… the sum which had been due from Sir George Hill, the late Vice-Treasurer of Ireland, to the Government, had all been paid up.

He did not say who paid it.

A tithe in the affairs of men

In England, tithes were, for the most part, drawn from a higher description of individuals — from farmers, who, in general, employed considerable capital in agricultural operations, and who had therefore more ready means of meeting the demands of the incumbent, than any which the Irish cottager possessed.

In Ireland, the case was very different and the clergyman was frequently reduced to this distressing dilemma, either to exact his pittance of tithes from the poorest individuals, or to abandon his lawful right, and consequently his income together.

In England, the clergyman might be liberal to the poorer tenant, end might forego his demand — the bulk of his income was drawn from a more wealthy class; but, in Ireland, it would be impossible for the clergyman to forego the exaction of tithes from the poor, without giving up the whole of his income.

Henry Goulburn, slave-owner and Chief Secretary for Ireland, seeking leave to bring in a bill to improve the system of tithes by making it easier for clergyfolk of the established church to get their money from poor folk in Ireland

Irish Tithes Leasing Bill, Hansard 13 June 1822

Romance on the Shannon

Elopement

We are informed that Maurice O’Connell Esq, MP for Clare, has proceeded to Scotland on a matrimonial excursion. Our correspondent states that on Saturday morning the Member for Clare induced Miss Scott to leave her father’s residence at Cahircon and proceed with him to Gretna Green. The Lady is young, handsome, and an heiress.

Wexford Conservative 3 October 1832

A letter has just arrived in town from a friend of the member for Clare, which states that, on Saturday morning, a Miss Scott eloped from Cahir Con (between Knock and Kildysart), with Maurice O’Connell, MP. They crossed the Shannon in a pleasure-boat, and landed at Shanagolden, county of Limerick. From thence they proceeded in a chaise through Limerick. Their route will probably be through Waterford to Bristol, and thence northward to Gretna Green. Miss Scott has, or will have, it is said, £20,000.

Spectator 6 October 1832 citing “Dublin Paper”

It’s not safe to believe conservative papers.

Marriages

At Tralee, by special licence, by the Very Rev Dr McEnery, and afterwards at Kenmare, by the Rev William Godfrey, Rector of that parish, Maurice O’Connell, MP for the County of Clare, to Mary Frances, only daughter of Bindon Scott Esq of Caheracon in that County.

Limerick Chronicle 3 October 1832

Who said Cahircon was boring?

Mind you, Mary Frances may have inherited less than she expected. Perhaps if her father had spent less on the house of the dead, he might not have ended up as the only Shannon Estuary landlord unable to pay his debt to the Shannon Commissioners. His estate was offered for sale in the Encumbered Estates court in 1854.

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.

Kerrygold

It is, no doubt, well known that the first transatlantic steam shipping company was founded by a Kerryman and was to be based in his home county: indeed on his own estate at Valentia Island. The transatlantic steamers would run thence to Halifax, Nova Scotia: that was amongst the shortest possible ocean crossing, which was important in the early days of steam navigation, when inefficient engines required prodigious quantities of coal. There were to be feeder services at both ends of the route, thus linking London with New York, and a second line from Valentia to the West Indies.

The Kerryman was Sir Maurice Fitzgerald MP, the 18th Knight of Kerry.  A meeting of supporters was held in London in June 1824 and, a year later, an Act of Parliament permitted the formation of a joint stock company with limited liability for its shareholders. However, the American and Colonial Steam Navigation Company did not last long: it softly and suddenly vanished away in 1828, its single steamer, the Calpé, sold to the Dutch government before completing a single voyage (although, under her new ownership, she ran a successful transatlantic mail service to Surinam and Curacao).

The prospectus, published before the meeting in June 1824, said of Valentia:

Ballast cargoes may be obtained there in slates, butter, and coarse linen, for the American markets.

However, Alexander Nimmo, writing to Fitzgerald, said

Remember, your whole peninsula only affords 100 tons of butter per annum, and all Kerry would not provide for a constant trade.

The gallant knight would therefore, I am sure, be delighted with the news from the Americas that “Irish Butter Kerrygold Has Conquered America’s Kitchens“. I hope he would have known enough to realise that “[…] Ireland’s landscape and economy, which both remain dominated by agriculture” may be true of the landscape but is not true of the economy.

Sources

John Armstong and David M Williams “The Perception and Understanding of New Technology: A Failed Attempt to Establish Transatlantic Steamship Liner Services 1824-1828” in The Northern Mariner/le marin du nord XVII no 4 [October 2007]

Letters and papers of Maurice FitzGerald in Public Record Office for Northern Ireland ref MIC639/6

Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser 28 June 1824

Beeb Brexit border boating

Here