Category Archives: Roads

Shinners to the right of them …

… Shinners to the left of them. The local resident Shinners, having done well in a recent election, may end up forming part of a government while, across the water, the British Shinners (formerly known as the Conservative Party) are well ensconced and about to start dispensing benefits to their supporters.

No, no, not those ex-Labour idiots who voted for them: how much did any of those voters contribute to party funds? Very little, I imagine, so they can’t expect to be rewarded with anything other than the drippings from the pan.

One of the things uniting Irish and British Shinners is a devotion to useless vanity projects, usually costing the public purse a fortune in return for little or no benefit. The Irish Shinners have been pushing the Clones Sheugh for years and they also support the Narrow Water Bridge, which would be built in the middle of nowhere and be far less useful than the Newry Bypass. The British Shinners, however, have an even more idiotic bridge in mind, to be built across a munitions dump.

Her Majesty’s Chief Nitwit, the appalling Johnson, has a string of idiotic proposals behind him, some of which even got built. And now he’s at it again, proposing both a railway line and a bridge to distract attention from his cluelessness, ignorance and stupidity. But there is probably more to it than that, as the admirable Richard Murphy points out today. The bridge (and, I suggest, the railway) will benefit the modern courtiers who finance such projects.

 

New header pic February 2020

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

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

The new header photo 20191102

Lanesborough bridge

Speedy communication

New Post Office Steam Packet

By the arrival of the Packet we received yesterday, at the early hour of three o’clock, pm, the London Mail of Tuesday. Had we stated a few years ago the probability of such an occurrence, we should have been reckoned wild and visionary enthusiasts.

But now the period has arrived, when, by the astonishing improvement of the roads from London to Holyhead, and the establishment of those noble vessels, the Post Office Steam Packets [inaccurate article here], the public may almost invariably calculate on the arrival in Dublin of the London Mail, within 44 hours after it is despatched from the British Capital. It is needless to point out the great advantage which the mercantile world must derive from the expeditious conveyance of the English Mail, and the consequent postponement of the departure of the Mail for London, from 10 o’clock pm to eight o’clock am.

While we bestow our warmest panegyric on the Post Masters General, for the strenuous exertions they have made to effectuate this desirable object, we must also pronounce, that Sir Henry Parnell amply merits the grateful thanks of every Irishman, for his unceasing and successful efforts to facilitate the communication, improve, and shorten the distance between the capital of the Sister Kingdom.

Considerable anxiety was evinced yesterday to witness the arrival of the Government Steam Packet; a number of the first characters, among whom were several Ladies, were on the Pier at Howth about one o’clock, at which hour the Meteor, commanded by Captain Davis, and also the Talbot [private sector] Steam vessel, were in view — both ploughed the ocean in grand style, the Meteor being first at the Quay by a quarter of an hour, and the Mail was landed from her at 10 minutes past two, 42 hours only having elapsed from its leaving London. The Lightning, which is to arrive to-day, is a larger vessel, being 80 horse power — the Meteor is only 60.

Saunders’s News-Letter 1 June 1821

A sign of the times

Driving through the village of Castleconnell [Co Limerick] recently, I found that it had acquired one — nay, two — of those stupid signs.

Road closed display 1

They’re stupid because, with the information spread over several displays, you can’t take it all in quickly. Unless, of course, you’re prepared to focus entirely on reading the sign, ignoring everything else on and around the road. Which in this case is passing a primary school.

I suppose you could stop and photograph it ….

Road closed display 2

The information on the first two displays could have been compressed and put on one:

8AM 13th – 6PM 14th

That still leaves two displays, but on the last one, the important one, compression has been taken too far:

Road closed display 3

 

 

Road closed at X, eh? Well, there’s a useful piece of information … or it might be, if we had Long John Silver’s map, with X marking the spot.

X is, of course, the unknown quantity, so this sign is telling us that the road will be closed at a specified time but at an unspecified place.

What dictionary are road-users to consult to find the meaning of X?

And why can’t the powers-that-be communicate clearly in English?

 

 

 

Ennis to Dublin 1838

The public car from Ennis to Williamstown was quite a treat in the way of public travelling; a leather strap, and afterwards a branch of a tree, sufficed for a whip, until an innocent country lad was coaxed into an exchange pro tempore — that is to say, he very good-naturedly lent our driver his whip on a simple promise to return it, and took the branch instead. Although half an hour too late at starting, our loquacious conductor assured us that we would arrive in due time at Williamstown to meet the packet, ‘barring accidents’ — which was well put in, for the wheels were once or twice so hot and the horses so lazy that a stoppage at one time seemed inevitable.

A voyage in a large steamboat of one hundred horse power was quite a novelty to be enjoyed in an inland piece of water, and I greatly enjoyed both this and the voyage up the Shannon, in a less steamboat of twenty four horse power. I had never in my life travelled in a canal passage-boat, and the voyage therein from Shannon Harbour to Dublin was described by a Limerick attorney as a nuisance, horrible beyond endurance. I have never, however, been disposed to rely so much on the opinion of others as on my own experience, and therefore I resolved to try the voyage.

Never was I more agreeably surprised that to find, after sailing in it eighteen hours, I arrived at Dublin too soon, so far as the pleasantness of the journey was concerned. I heard the best Irish songs and recitations, and had a most interesting account of Irish scenery and superstitions from Mr Dennis Leonard, of Kilrush; besides this, I had a very comfortable night’s rest and was altogether much interested and pleased with my first journey on a canal.

From Chapter XV Ireland and the Irish 1838 of Benjamin Ward Richardson Thomas Sopwith MA CE FRS, with excerpts from his diary of fifty-seven years Longmans, Green & Co, London 1891

 

 

The Newry bypass

I hesitate to criticise the Newry & Portadown Branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland, admirable folk who conduct regular work parties improving the Newry Canal. So perhaps I should say that I disagree with them instead — at least on the proposal for a Southern Relief Road, aka bypass, around Newry, linking “the Warrenpoint Dual Carriageway to the A1 Dublin/ Belfast Road“.

Such a bypass is a very good idea and, of course, far better than the insane Narrow Water handsacrosstheborder project. But the new road must cross  the Newry River and the Newry Ship Canal, and I would be vastly surprised if there were any economic justification for the cost of an opening section or for the disruption that each opening would cause to traffic. Certainly six or twelve sailing vessels would no longer be able to reach the Albert Basin in Newry, but the greatest good of the greatest number should surely prevail.

I can’t see that the absence of sailing pleasure craft from Newry would in any  way diminish the heritage or historic value of the ship canal or the basin, and they are of course entirely irrelevant to the stillwater canal.

A spokesman from the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland” says that

The IWAI was formed in 1954 to stop the building of low bridges on the River Shannon. Fortunately this campaign was successful otherwise there would be no hire boats on the Shannon today. Think of the loss of revenue. This should be a lesson to the bridge builders in Newry.

This is rubbish, for two reasons. First, sailing vessels on Carlingford Lough are never going to be available for hire on the Newry Canal, so their inability to reach Albert Basin would have little effect.

Second, the IWAI campaign on the Shannon was notably unsuccessful. Instead of swivelling bridges that would allow masted vessels through, the Shannon now has fixed bridges (Banagher, Shannonbridge, Athlone) and lifting bridges (Roosky, Tarmonbarry) that lift enough to allow motor cruisers through, but not enough for sailing vessels.

Ruth Delany [in Ireland’s Inland Waterways: celebrating 300 years Appletree Press, Belfast 2004] says that the IWAI Shannon campaign resulted in there being a minimum clearance of 4.3m on the Shannon, which is a long way from the 35m that the Newry & Portadown folk are seeking. The only Shannon bridge providing that clearance is Portumna, a swivel bridge, which (unlike the others mentioned above) was not — or its ancestor was not — built by the Shannon Commissioners.

By using the Shannon as a model, the N&P folk have actually weakened their case: the 9m clearance suggested for the Newry bypass is more than twice what the Shannon provides.

 

The good old English plan

Browsing the Dublin Morning Register of 1 August 1828, I came across this item, taken from the Waterford Mirror:

On Tuesday, John Purcell Fitzgerald, of London, Esq, entertained his numerous tenantry of this neighbourhood at dinner, at his ancient castle at the Little Island, in the river Suir, about two miles below Waterford, on the good old English plan, a plan which we would by no means be sorry to see in more general imitation in Ireland. About five hundred sat to table.

Here is Little Island in the Suir estuary below Waterford:

Waterford Castle (OSI 6″ ~1840)

 

 

It is now a hotel with activities (shooting, archery, croquet and the unmentionable (which involves mashie-niblicks, joggers and cleeks)).

Waterford Castle car ferry (some years ago: I think there may be a new one now)

John Purcell Fitzgerald was born John Purcell, son of a Dublin doctor; he became a Fitzgerald when his already-wealthy wife became even wealthier on inheriting her father’s estates. His main achievement was fathering Edward Fitzgerald, translator of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

Neither of them, though, was half as important as John’s brother Peter, the greatest mail-coach operator in Ireland, hotelier, coachbuilder, promoter of agricultural improvement, lobbyist for Catholic emancipation and against slavery, supporter of innumerable charities and first chairman of the Great Southern and Western Railway. He was one of a generation of supremely capable Irish transport entrepreneurs who managed the transition to steam power on land and water.

This is how the Dublin Weekly Nation of 30 May 1846 announced Purcell’s death:

DEATH OF PETER PURCELL ESQ

We regret to announce the death of this gentleman, which took place at his house, 3, Rutland-square, on Friday morning. He was a man of kind and generous nature; a good landlord, a liberal and considerate employer, and a practical philanthropist. His enterprise did nearly as much as that of Mr Bianconi in supplying facilities of intercourse on a great scale to this country.

He was the greatest coach proprietor, and one of the largest railway shareholders, in Ireland. The Agricultural Society, the Testimonial to Father Mathew, and other national projects in which he was engaged, and the liberal spirit in which he sustained similar movements, are evidences that he had a real and unselfish interest in the prosperity of Ireland.

He was an active member of the Precursor Society till his unhappy quarrel with O’Connell, to which this is not a moment to allude further. In the estimation of his fellow-citizens he occupied a creditable place, and the grief for his death is deep and general.

The Mail of last night, generously oblivious of the political differences between it and Mr Purcell, says:

“As a man of business, whether as a government contractor, or as a proprietor and cultivator of land, he bore the character of a man of energy, enterprise, and honesty; punctual in his engagements — liberal in his expenditure — judicious in his management — a great employer of labour — a charitable benefactor of poverty and distress.

“In the private relations of friendship and family affections, he won all hearts by the homeliness and sincerity of his manner — the unaffected simplicity of his tastes — the hospitality of his table — and the genuine kindliness of his domestic dispositions.

“Strong good sense and natural good humour were his distinguishing qualities in his intercourse with the world. Many a good joke we have run upon him as a public man, in this journal; and we must do him justice to say, they were taken by him, as meant by us, as effusions of a tolerant spirit, which, while it must condemn the exertions of opponent parties, is still willing to soften the acerbities of political strife by as much good humour as can be thrown into the political cauldron.

“We wish we had many such to deal with as Peter Purcell — was.

“We write the word with sorrow. He departed this life — we trust for a better — at an early hour this morning, at his residence in Rutland-square.”

And a few lines from the Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent of the same day:

From Mr Purcell we differed in political opinion, and we have frequently in this journal felt it our duty to comment with freedom on his public conduct, but we never did, and never could deny that he was a fair, straightforward, honorable, and manly opponent, to whose personal character no exception could be taken, and whose sincerity in whatever views he advocated was unquestionable.

Purcell — who worked for Catholic Emancipation but did not want the Act of Union to be repealed — was, for a few years, active in local politics in Dublin. His quarrel with Daniel O’Connell came when he found that the funds of the Precursor Society were lodged in O’Connell’s own bank account. O’Connell promised Purcell several times that he would put them under the control of the society’s trustees but did not honour his promise. Purcell eventually felt that he had no option but to resign and to make public his reasons for doing so.

There is a memorial to Peter Purcell (by John Hogan) in the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin.