Category Archives: Safety

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

A gale at Limerick

Doubtless there must have been a pretty considerable storm at Limerick on Thursday week; though the following Hibernian account of it, in the Limerick Chronicle, goes somewhat beyond our sober and humble notions of the style proper for narrative.

That comment was made by the Spectator of 7 December 1833. Odd that a mag later edited by Boris Johnson should once have been devoted to “sober and humble” narratives. O tempora o mores.

Here is the Chronicle report as the Spectator quoted it:

A violent gale of wind set in at WNW, accompanied by occasional heavy showers of rain; and on the same evening, the gale assumed all the appalling characteristics of a most furious hurricane.

Throughout the night, the scene was terrific in the extreme, and the streets presented a most desolate aspect. Nearly all the public gas-lights were extinguished; and the howling of the storm, as it swept in pitiless squalls through every street, lane, and alley, struck terror to the hearts of every inmate of those mansions which suffered more or less from its destructive power.

A spring-tide, raised by the storm beyond its usual boundaries, dashed with desperate force against the quays, rolling a vast mass of water over the docks, etc and presenting one continuous sheet of liquid foam, at either side of the river for two miles. Several boats were thrown out of the docks upon the quay, where they were left high and dry at low tide. The vessels of the Shannon Yacht Club, laid up for the winter season at anchorage in the Abbey river, were driven against the salmon-weir bank, but received no material injury.

The strong banks enclosing the Abbey river (island and salmon-weir) were broken up, and the waters rushed in, deluging the fields on both sides to a wide extent. The cattle grazing there, cows and sheep, were saved with great difficulty. The long-pavement, or causeway, from Quinpool to the Thomond Gate Distillery, was inundated, and the fields around flooded.

The yards of the city gaol were full of water, and the tide came up to its very gates, as it did also to the verge of the flagging on Arthur’s Quay. The underground kitchens in houses adjacent to the river were from one to two feet deep in water. It is worthy of remark, that a few hours before this dreadful commotion, the quicksilver fell rapidly to a degree so low as we scarce ever remember.

The horses of the Ennis coach had to wade knee-deep several miles of the road, especially about Cratloe, without a vestige of the usual landmarks. The salmon weir received considerable damage, a great portion of the large timber-work having been torn up and sent adrift. Some of the strongest houses in the city literally rocked in the blast like a cradle. A house building off William Street, which wanted merely the roofing to complete it, was hurled to the ground, and became a pile of rubbish.

 

Kilteery

The current header photo shows Kilteery Pier on the Shannon Estuary. Here is a page about the building of the pier.

Barges

River problems in the Americas.

The rules of the road

Another subject which has engaged our attention has been the frequent accidents that have of late occurred from steam-vessels coming into collision with other vessels, and it appears that from the recent introduction of this mode of navigation no defined rules have been adopted to guard against such occurrences.

A Select Committee of the House of Commons was appointed in the year 1831 to consider the question of steam navigation, and the numerous accidents arising from the employment of steam-vessels. This branch of the subject came under their consideration, and in the Report which they laid before the House thet expressed their opinion of the necessity of establishing some regulations, which they briefly suggested; these, however, have never been adopted, and the evil continues to increase.

With sailing vessels the rule which has been laid down and admitted in courts of law, viz, that, when two vessels meet upon contrary tacks, the one on the larboard tack shall bear up, and that upon the starboard tack shall keep her wind, has been attended with the best effect.

We are aware that the same rule is not strictly applicable to steam-vessels, and that there exists great difficulty in treating a subject involving the varying nature of the circumstances in which steam-vessels are placed in a river as regards the state of the tide, the depth of water in the river, the draught of water of the steam-vessel, and particularly the more or less crowded state of the river, from the number of other vessels in motion, and their relative position.

But rules upon this subject have been laid down, and are enforced, in the Firth and River of Clyde; and we consider it of the highest importance that some “rule of the road” should be established, to be acted upon whenever circumstances will admit. We therefore annex to our Report a set of rules which have been laid before us, and which, we think, may be adopted with advantage.

[…]

Appendix C. Proposed Regulations for the Navigation of Steam Vessels

I. In the Thames, and in all the rivers and channels of the United Kingdom, and in all cases of wind, weather, and tide, steam vessels are to endeavour to keep on that side of the river or channel which lies on their starboard hand.

II. When two steam vessels are standing in contrary or nearly contrary directions, if their courses should lead them near each other, each vessel shall keep towards the starboard side of the river or channel, and thus leave each other on the larboard hand.

III. Whenever  a steam vessel may have to meet or to cross the course of a sailing vessel, or of a rowing boat, the steamer shall in all cases yield to the sailing or rowing vessel, whatever may be the state of the wind, weather, or tide.

IV. In passing any small rowing or sailing boat every steamer shall, if necessary, slacken or stop her paddles, so as not only to prevent the danger of too near an approach, but even so as to avoid giving them any just cause of alarm.

V. Although a vessel propelled by steam in any of the four above cases, may also have had recourse to the assistance of her sails, this circumstance shall in no wise alter the foregoing restrictions; for otherwise she would only have to hoist some small sail to evade them.

VI. All these regulations shall be equally in force at night as well as by day. And for their more effective execution at night every steam vessel, when in Pilotage water, shall carry between sun-set and sun-rise three sufficiently strong lights, in lanterns, so as to be seen in all directions, and attached to a yard which must be kept square, and raised at least six feet above the tops of the paddle-boxes; this yard may be attached to the mast, or otherwise raised to the requisite height above the vessel’s bow for that purpose.

VII. These three lights shall be arranged in the following manner:— One light on each yard arm at the distance of six feet from the mast, that is, twelve feet apart; and on the larboard yard arm one additional light, which shall be placed horizontally with respect to the other light, or vertically under it, according to the following conditions:

(1) All steam vessels which may be coming up any river or channel shall show the additional light three feet directly under the light at the larboard yard arm, viz:—

(2) All steam vessels which may be going down any river or channel shall show the additional light at the same height as the two other lights, and at the distance of three feet inside the larboard light, or half-way between it and the mast, viz:—

VIII. For any infraction of the foregoing regulations a fine, varying according to the culpability of the offender, but not exceeding five pounds, should be summarily levied upon the party and, as the only means of making those regulations effectual, one-half of the fine should be payable to the common informer.

Report from the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the Laws and Regulations relating to Pilotage in the United Kingdom Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of His Majesty. HMSO, London 1836

The cows of death

On Wednesday, a melancholy accident, attended with the loss of nine lives, occurred on Lough Derg, on the Upper [ie non-tidal] Shannon, by the upsetting of a boat in its passage across the lake from Williamstown to Dromineer. The nine men were jobbers, six of them belonging to Nenagh, and three to Cork, and were returning from a fair in the county Galway.

The accident is said to have been owing to their having carried two cows with them yoked to the boat, one of which, having burst the ties that confined it, became unmanageable, and in a few minutes the boat being upset, all on board were engulphed in the deep.

The Warder and Dublin Weekly Mail 3 March 1849, quoting Limerick Reporter

The power of the wind

The fly-boat from Ballinasloe was much retarded in its progress on Monday by the storm. The horses which pulled it were twice driven into the canal by the force of the wind between that town and Shannon Harbour.

Limerick Chronicle 21 November 1840

Horse under water

The horse’s journey (OSI 6″ ~1840)

A horse and car fell in at the lower lock of the Canal this day — passed rapidly down by the flood-gates, under Baal’s Bridge, between the Malls, under the new Bridge, by the Custom-house, where a row boat came to the rescue, and the poor struggling animal was secured by the boatmen, who cut the harness, and brought him safe to shore to Arthur’s-quay, where hundreds were assembled to behold the horse again on terra firma.

Limerick Chronicle 13 December 1845

Gabbett and Frawley

Sunday last, as a small boat, in which were four boys, was passing between Baal’s Bridge and the New Bridge, it suddenly upset, and the boys were in imminent danger, struggling in the water; two of them clung to the wooden pillars of the temporary bridge, and held on until a boat, belonging to Poole Gabbett Esq, came to their assistance, and picked them up. The others would have been carried off by the tide but for a man named Frawley, who rushed into the riber with his clothes on, and at the risk of his life, succeeded in bringing them safe on shore.

Limerick Chronicle 18 June 1845

Saving Miss Gibson

On Friday, as “the Archer”, Grand Canal passage [passenger] boat, was proceeding from Dublin, Miss Gibson, of Parsonstown, one of the passengers, fell from the landing place, leading to the state cabin, into the canal, between the 11th and 12th locks. The boat was going rapidly at the time, and the lady was whirled under the water, and would inevitably have been drowned, but for the heroic decision of a young gentleman, son of Captain Brennan, of Strangford, county of Down, who instantly jumped from on board, and with the assistance of the master of the boat, and a countryman, rescued her from her impending fate.

Limerick Chronicle 28 May 1834

The Archer, built in 1805, was sold in 1834, according to the list of passage boats in Ruth Delany The Grand Canal of Ireland David & Charles, Newton Abbot 1973.