Category Archives: Roads

Big it up for Banagher

Banagher: the old canal (OSI 6″ map ~1830s)

I was in Banagher yesterday, visiting the site of the old (pre-Shannon Commissioners) canal on the north (virtual west) bank. The area is a park operated by a community group [I would welcome details and a link] and includes a pitch-and-putt course, an outdoor swimming pool in the river and storage for canoes (a group of young people was about to get afloat as I left).

It is also, as the map above shows, rich in waterways and military artefacts. Much of the waterways material can still be seen and a series of signs shows old drawings and provides useful information (though the lock, surprisingly, has no sign). I think I am right in deducing that the signs reflect the work of historian James Scully, one of those who gave an extremely enlightening and entertaining talk about Banagher Bridge a few years ago.

The park is well used by local people but it should also attract many tourists to take the short walk from their boats on the far side of the bridge. It is an excellent example of local initiative drawing on local expertise to illuminate local history and create a sense of place and it could be emulated at many other waterways sites along the Shannon.

Furthermore, added to Banagher’s other historic and literary associations, it shows the wealth of interesting material offered in this town. It is not, unfortunately, on the main tourist routes by road, but it should be possible to attract the interest (and the spending) of water-borne visitors.

I hope that will work for the community; in the meantime, I applaud their initiative.

 

Float Bridge

I have added some information to the post The Avarice of the Ferryman about Float Bridge. The Comments too contain useful points.

The opening of the Royal Canal

On 27 May 2017 the Royal Canal Amenity Group and Waterways Ireland are to commemorate the fact that

In May 1817 the Royal Canal was officially opened from Dublin to the Shannon ….

[Unfortunately I am unable to find anything about the commemorative event on WI’s website, although they did send me some information about it.]

I wondered how the opening might have been celebrated in 1817, but I haven’t been able to find out anything about it. I am hoping that some more knowledgeable person might be able to provide information: please leave a Comment below if you can help.

Ruth Delany gives 26 May 1817 as the date on which the contractors said that the western end of the canal (to the Shannon at Richmond Harbour) would be ready to hand over to the Directors General of Inland Navigation, who were running the show after the Royal Canal Company collapsed under the weight of its debts.

However, as far as I can see, the British Newspaper Archive contains no mention of any opening ceremony at any time in 1817. The Lanesborough Trader, the first boat to travel from the Shannon to Dublin did so in January 1818 [Saunders’s News-Letter 2 February 1818] and in May Mr Peel moved that a further £15000 be granted for completion of the navigation, where “shoals were
found to interfere” [Dublin Evening Post 23 May 1818].

Traffic increased later in 1818: in October the directors of the New Royal Canal Company went by boat

… from Dublin to Tarmonbury, and thence to the termination of the Canal, near the river Shannon, to inspect the works and give every necessary direction for the entire completion of that great and important undertaking ….
[Dublin Evening Post 20 October 1818]

The same newspaper reported that several boats of coal, found on the banks of the canal near Tarmonbury, had arrived in Dublin. It seems, therefore, that the canal was usable even if not entirely finished.

Later that month Christopher Dillon of Athlone, who had been trading on the Grand Canal and the Shannon, announced that he was moving his boats to the Royal Canal — but the western terminus for his boats was at Ballymahon, from which (although he did not say so) goods could be carried by road to Athlone: just the situation the Grand Canal Company had feared. [Dublin Evening Post 27 October 1818]

I have found no evidence of an opening ceremony in 1817; nor have I found evidence that the canal was actually open from the Shannon to the Liffey (or the Broadstone) in 1817, in that no boat seems to have travelled between the Shannon and the Liffey. At least one boat did so in 1818, but again I have no evidence of any opening ceremony.

There is one further mystery. The Royal Canal harbour at the junction with the Shannon is called Richmond Harbour. I presume that that is a compliment to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, His Grace Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond, 4th Duke of Lennox, 4th Duke of Aubigny, KG, PC. But he had ceased to be Lord Lieutenant in 1813 and was presumably unable to dispense favours after that, so why was the harbour named after him? I don’t know when the construction of the harbour was begun or finished.

I have not visited the National Archives in Dublin to look at the papers of the Directors General of Inland Navigation, which may have something on the events of 1817 and 1818. Perhaps WI’s archive has something relevant too. I would therefore be glad to hear from anyone who has searched those archives or found other evidence about the period.

Newspapers cited here were accessed through the British Newspaper Archive.

 

Quadrupling Kerry’s canals

I thought there was only one canal in Co Kerry, but there were three more at Lixnaw. They’re still to be seen and they have interesting associations.

Thanks to Ewan Duffy of Industrial Heritage Ireland for the tip-off.

William Dargan on the Dublin–Blessington–Carlow road

1580 Is there an engineer employed to oversee the works on the Blessington Road? — There has been a surveyor, a Mr Dargan.

1581 From the commencement of the Trust? — From the commencement of the Trust.

1582 At what salary is Mr Dargan employed? — About £100 a year.

1583 Is he still in the employment of the Trust? — He is nominally so.

1584 Does he receive a salary at present? — He does not.

1585 But he is still in the employment of the Trust? — He is.

1586 What was the reason, if the Trust continue to employ him, that they should take away his salary? — At that meeting in Baltinglass, in November, there were very general complaints as to the quality of the materials then lying on the road, and also of the quality of materials that had been expended on the road during the year; this induced me to ask the question, whether the surveyor, to whom we paid so high a salary, had attended; and upon further inquiry, I could not ascertain that he had done any duty, or taken any active part whatever in the management of the road, for the twelve months previous; upon which I entered on the books of the Trust a notice, that at the ensuing meeting I would move for the dismissal of Mr Dargan from that situation altogether. At the subsequent meeting I brought forward this motion, when there was a proposal sent in from Mr Dargan, in which he offered to do the duty for £50 a year. Upon further pressing the matter, his friends at the Board stated that he would withdraw all claim whatever for salary, would not ask what he might do for the last half year, and that he would be obliged to us if we would allow him to remain nominally as our surveyor, and pay him as we would any other surveyor when we had occasion to employ one. This was a proposition that I thought only reasonable, and I consented to it, and it was so entered upon the books, and I did not further interfere or further press the proposition that I had originally brought forward.

1587 In any further accounts that were laid before the Board, did any charge appear on the part of the treasurer for a sum of £50 to be paid to Mr Dargan after he had refused to receive any salary? — There was; the very first item in the treasurer’s account was a claim for a credit of £50 for salary to Mr Dargan, which he himself had conscientiously refused to take; so that we were, in fact, putting £50 into Mr Dargan’s pocket, whether he would take it himself or not.

1588 What was the proceeding of the Board upon that item appearing on the accounts of the treasurer? — It was, I presume, a mistake.

1589 Was it actually paid? — I never heard; but the moment I heard that it was a mistake, not to go to the credit of the treasurer, I said no more about it. It is not the loss of £50 to the funds. I only mention it to show the willingness to dispose of the money of that Trust.

[…]

1656 Can good materials be obtained? — As good as possible; there are as good materials on that road as on any in Ireland.

1657 Then you conceive that the putting on of bad materials was the cause of the bad state of the road ever since? — I do; repairs are eternally going on; it is not permanent. They do not screen it properly, so that it is literally drawing on mud and drawing off mud; for this gravel is not properly screened; the consequence is, that what they draw on to-day they draw off to-morrow.

1658 Do they ever employ an engineer? — Mr Dargan is professedly an engineer.

1659 Did not that engineer give directions as to the materials to be employed? — He may have done; but his directions were not attended to, if he gave them.

1660 Still he received his salary? — Still he received his salary.

Evidence of Peter Purcell in Report from Select Committee on Turnpike Roads in Ireland: with the minutes of evidence and appendix Ordered, by The House of Commons, to be Printed, 26 July 1832 645

 

 

Dublin to Limerick or Kilkenny

FRANCIS JENKINSON,
At the DROGHEDA’s ARMS, Monasterevan,
PROPRIETOR of the LIMERICK and KILKENNY
STAGE COACHES

Most respectfully informs his friends and the public, that he has removed from the Old Town of Monasterevan, to a spacious and elegant house adjoining the Canal, which he has fitted up in a stile superior to any on the road:— His coach-houses, stabling, &c are on a very extensive scale; he has gone to a great expence in fitting up stall stables, which he flatters himself will give general satisfaction; — returns his sincere thanks for the numerous favours received since his commencement in business.

His Larder is constantly well assorted, and his wines are of the first quality.

NB said Jenkinson informs the public, that his Stage from Kilkenny sets off precisely at half after four in the morning, arrives in time for the three o’clock packet which leaves Monasterevan, and on passengers coming from Dublin will arrive in Ballyroan, so as to be in Kilkenny early next day. Said coach passes through Castle Durrow coming and going.

Stage passengers for Limerick or Kilkenny not charged with beds.

Seats taken in Dublin at Mr John Goffen’s, No 7, Bolton-street, and in Kilkenny at Mr Francis Reynold’s, Wheat Sheaf.

Dublin Evening Post 17 June 1790

 

 

I would be glad to hear from anyone who can tell me where Mr Jenkinson’s Drogheda’s Arms was. Please leave a Comment below.

Transport books

Here is a site with links to many old books, mostly late nineteenth and early twentieth century, on several forms of transport[ation]. Not all the links are to free online copies, but it’s a useful list nonetheless.

Royal towpath Clonsilla

Visiting the Royal Canal at Clonsilla recently, I noted some interesting features of the canal’s stonework. I do not know how old they are or what they were for; I would welcome information from readers.

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Clonsilla (Callaghan) canal bridge in the foreground; a railway signal box behind it

The towpath crossed from the south to the north bank at Porterstown (Kennan) Bridge, just east of this one. The passage boat Longford sank in 1845 between these two bridges; fifteen people died.

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Looking west from the bridge

Clonsilla (Callaghan) Bridge (OSI ~1900)

Clonsilla (Callaghan) Bridge (OSI ~1900)

The Ordnance Survey of Ireland 25″ map of around 1900 shows what looks like a ramp leading up from the towpath, on the east side, to the level of the bridge and the road; the earlier 6″ map (late 1820s to 1840s) is less clear and I cannot tell whether the ramp existed then. However, the recent photograph, taken from the bridge, does suggest that the wing wall of the ramp has been built up, with newer stone, and that much of the area of the ramp has been taken in to the gardens above. This, of course, is speculation on my part and I would welcome clarification (leave a Comment below).

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Built-up wall

Note what looks like a very tall gate pillar half way along. I don’t know much about architecture or construction, but the fact that the canal side is vertical makes it look to me more like a gate pillar than a supporting buttress for the wall of the ramp.

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The eastern pillar from the towpath

Here’s a close-up. You can also see what looks like the dividing line between the older stone of the ramp, which slopes away from the towpath, and what I assume to be newer stone, built vertically, integrating part of the ramp (presumably with infill) with the garden above.

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The eastern pillar from the towpath (close-up)

Here it is looking eastward (away from the bridge).

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Looking eastward

There is a similar structure on the west side of the bridge.

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The west side of the bridge with a pedestrian bridge beside it; the railway station is on the right

Here is what looks like the remains of a similar gate pillar.

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Western pillar (looking west)

Note the vertical face of the pillar against the slope of stones on the embankment,

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Vertical face (with missing stones)

These pillars may have some engineering significance in holding up the embankment, but I wonder whether they might have been used to hang gates closing off access to the towpath for some reason. I don’t know whether other bridges have similar arrangements.

Waterways Ireland commissioned a Heritage Survey of the Royal Canal, which is available here [PDF], but that document does not contain any of the details and, judging by WI’s Heritage Surveys page, it does not seem that the “detailed database report” on the Royal will be made available on the WI website. Accordingly, I do not know what the survey says about these pillars.

All information welcome.

Addendum December 2016

Peter Clarke, in The Royal Canal: the complete story Elo Publications, Dublin 1992, points out that, in 1807, there was a passenger service from Dublin to Clonsilla: the six miles cost 1/7½ in first and 1/1 in second class.

Could it be that the passenger station was under the bridge, with access controlled by gates at either end? Horses could have been changed too, with the ramp providing access for horses to the road. Passengers too could use the ramps, but horses could not use steps. And, as modern canal users will attest, it is always easier to embark and disembark passengers under bridges, where there is deep water at the edge and where the boat does not have to go off its course.

If that is so, there might be similar stonework at the other passenger stations that were located at bridges rather than at harbours. There would be traces of gate pillars at either side of a bridge. Ramps would be required only where the canal bank’s level was significantly above or below that of the road.

My OSI logo and permit number for website

A one-act history of a bridge

The Limerick Harbour (Bridge) Act 1963 No 1/1963 (Private), in its preamble, gives the history of the swivelling section of the Wellesley (now Sarsfield) Bridge in Limerick.

THE LIMERICK HARBOUR (BRIDGE) ACT, 1963

Skipping some of the formalities …

WHEREAS by a local and personal Act of 1823 entitled “An Act for the erection of a bridge across the River Shannon and of a floating dock to accommodate sharp vessels frequenting the port of Limerick” the Limerick Bridge Commissioners were incorporated for the purpose of erecting such bridge and floating dock;

A swivel bridge was required …

AND WHEREAS to the intent that the navigation of the River Shannon might receive no prejudice it was provided by the said Act of 1823 that the bridge so to be erected or built under the authority of the said Act should be so constructed and built as that there should remain a free and open passage for ships and vessels to pass up and down the said river on the south side or end of the said bridge through, at, or near the said bridge; and that for such purpose there should be on the said bridge so to be built or on the bank immediately adjoining the south end thereof one or more swivel bridge or drawbridge or bridges so as to admit of vessels passing up and down the said river near the south bank thereof from the parts thereof above the said bridge to the parts thereof below the said bridge and the contrary;

Wellesley Bridge (OSI ~1840)

Wellesley Bridge (OSI ~1840)

AND WHEREAS the said bridge (then known by the name of “the Wellesley Bridge” and now known as “Sarsfield Bridge”) and a swivel bridge in connection therewith were in pursuance of the said Act erected in or about the year 1825;

Control passed to the Harbour Commissioners in 1883

AND WHEREAS by virtue of an order of the Commissioners of Public Works bearing the date the 22nd day of March 1883 and made in pursuance of the provisions of the Wellesley Bridge (Limerick) Act, 1882 and of such provisions the said swivel bridge and the approaches thereto by water were vested in the Limerick Harbour Commissioners (in this Act called the Commissioners) for the use of the public and it was the duty of the Commissioners to maintain the same in good repair and condition and to work the same in such manner as to afford adequate accommodation to shipping and persons using the said bridge;

AND WHEREAS by an Act entitled “The Limerick Harbour (Bridge) Act, 1913” the Commissioners were authorised to make and maintain a new swivel bridge and approaches for vehicular and pedestrian traffic across the River Shannon in substitution for the said swivel bridge and the said Act provided that all powers rights duties and liabilities enjoyed by or imposed on the Commissioners at the date of the passing of the Act in connection with or in anywise concerning the swivel bridge or the approaches thereto by road or by water or the works in connection therewith and all byelaws in force at said date should be deemed to apply and should apply to the new swivel bridge and the approaches thereto and the works in connection therewith;

A new swivel section was built in 1923 …

AND WHEREAS the said new swivel bridge was in pursuance of the last recited Act erected in or about the year 1923 and has been since and still is in use;

The formerly swivelling section

The formerly swivelling section

AND WHEREAS up to and including the 8th day of February 1927 the said new swivel bridge was from time to time opened by the Commissioners for the purpose of enabling ships and vessels to pass up and down the River Shannon to and from two quays on the east side of the bridge known as Honan’s Quay and McGuire’s Quay;

… but never opened after 1927

AND WHEREAS the new swivel bridge has not been opened for the passage of a ship or vessel since the month of February 1927;

AND WHEREAS Sarsfield Bridge and the new swivel bridge carry the main stream of vehicular traffic across the River Shannon to and from Shannon Airport and to and from the West of Ireland and the traffic by road over the new swivel bridge has increased greatly;

AND WHEREAS the opening of the said swivel bridge would cause a serious disruption of such traffic by road and pedestrian traffic;

Opening it would be a nuisance

AND WHEREAS it is expedient in the interests of the public travelling by road that the Commissioners should be relieved of their duty to open the said new swivel bridge for the passage of ships and vessels;

AND WHEREAS the purposes of this Act cannot be effected without the authority of the Oireachtas.

So the Commissioners don’t have to do it any more

Interpretation.

1.—In this Act unless the subject or context otherwise requires:—

the expression “the Commissioners” means the Limerick Harbour Commissioners;

the expression “the new swivel bridge” means the swivel bridge authorised by the Limerick Harbour (Bridge) Act, 1913.

Restriction of Commissioners’ liability in respect of swivel bridge.

2.—From and after the passing of this Act and notwithstanding anything contained in any other Act the Commissioners shall not be under any liability to open the new swivel bridge for the passage of ships or vessels or to maintain or repair the said swivel bridge in such a manner as to render the same capable of being opened.

Compensation.

3.—(1) Where this Act has the effect of curtailing or terminating a legal right of any person (including, in particular, a right of navigation, whether or not conferred by statute), such person may, within twelve months after the passing of this Act, make to the Commissioners a claim for compensation in respect of such curtailment or termination and he shall be entitled to be paid compensation therefor by the Commissioners and, in default of being paid such compensation when the amount thereof has been agreed upon or has been determined under this section, to recover it from the Commissioners in any court of competent jurisdiction.

(2) In default of agreement, the amount of any compensation payable by the Commissioners under this section shall be determined by arbitration under the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919 (as amended by subsequent enactments) as if the compensation were the price of land compulsorily acquired and the arbitrator shall have jurisdiction to determine whether compensation is, in the circumstances, payable at all.

(3) Such compensation shall be paid by the Commissioners out of any moneys for the time being in their hands.

Expenses.

4.—All costs, charges and expenses preliminary to and of and incidental to the preparing, applying for and passing of this Act or otherwise in relation thereto shall be paid by the Commissioners out of any monies for the time being in their hands.

Short title and collective citation.

5.—(1) This Act may be cited as the Limerick Harbour (Bridge) Act, 1963.

(2) This Act, the Wellesley Bridge (Limerick) Act, 1882, the Limerick Harbour (Bridge) Act, 1913 and the Act 4 George IV Cap XCIV may be cited together as the Limerick Harbour (Bridge) Acts, 1823-1963.

I wonder whether anyone got compensation.

My OSI logo and permit number for website

 

Transport history

Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution quotes an interesting extract today from a new book on the history of India:

…the most important technological change for the transportation of heavy goods in nineteenth-century India was not the arrival of the quick, expensive railway: it was the move from pack animals to carts pulled by two or four beasts in the first half of the century.  This was the process historian Amalendu Guha calls ‘the bullock cart revolution’.  Throughout the 1860s and 1870s railways found it impossible to compete not only with bullock carts, but also with human-powered river transport.  Rowing boats along the Ganges and Jamuna won a price war with the railways over the cost of transporting heavy goods.  Vessels powered by human beings were able to undercut steam vessels elsewhere.

There is a description of the book (which I have now ordered) here.

How did transport in Ireland compare? In the first half of the century, road transport using Scotch carts dominated carrying. Within about 55 miles of Dublin, eastward of Mullingar on the Royal and Tullamore on the Grand, canal carriers did little business except in the heaviest goods: the Scotch carts, each drawn by one horse and carrying about one ton, dominated the trade. But the Scotch carts relied on there being good roads, which in many cases required government intervention of one sort or another.

But rowing boats do not seem to have been serious contenders on Irish inland waterways. They might have been used on the Shannon, to tow canal boats, and the idea was mooted, but nothing seems to have come of it. The problem, I suspect, was that there was little or no trade: when it did arrive, it did so because the steamers created it. And the capital cost of a large pulling boat might have been beyond the means of a small-scale entrepreneur who might have been able to afford a cart.

On the other hand, vessels powered by sail retained certain markets, including traffic across the Irish Sea, until the middle of the twentieth century.

Much about Irish transport history remains unclear to me.