Must be a good idea if it involves barges …
… or maybe not.
The Freeman’s Journal of 25 July 1832 included a report on the Dublin markets of the previous day. The report from the Dublin Corn Exchange said
We had a moderate supply in market, and prices may be quoted same as last.
Prime Feeding Oats, 14 st [stone] to the brl [barrel], 11s 6d to 12s 0d
Canal ditto, 9s 6d to 9s 9d
The term “canal oats” is used in a report from New York in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1843 and another in The Economist in 1847; the Central New-York Farmer has it in 1844 and Walt Whitman used the term in 1846. More from that side of the Atlantic anon.
The earliest occurrence I have found in the British Newspaper Archive is in the Dublin Evening Post of 11 March 1819:
Dublin Corn Exchange, March 10. — Our Market was but poorly supplied this day, particularly with Farmers’ Grains, owing to their being so much occupied at field work. — Canal Oats were more abundant than the demand warranted, and they were heavy sale from 16s to 17s 6d; prime, and for feeding, could not be got under 20s to 21s, and seed from 22s to 30s. — Wheat and Barley steady. — Malt, Flour and Oatmeal without variation, and in but indifferent demand.
There are other Irish instances in 1824, 1825 and 1826; in all cases the price of canal oats is below that of feeding oats.
The only British examples from this period, in Gore’s Liverpool General Advertiser on 23 February 1826 and in the Glasgow Herald on 21 April 1826, are from reports on the Dublin market.
I have not checked every occurrence, but my impression is that, to the end of 1840 (I looked no further), the term “canal oats” was used frequently in Irish newspapers from all parts of the island. However, the term was used only about the Dublin and Belfast corn markets; canals served both conurbations. British newspapers used the term only in reports from the Irish markets.
I have found no definition of the term. Here, though, are some comments on possible connotations.
First, I presume that “canal oats” were oats that travelled [part of the way] to market by canal. It is likely that most oats came by road, probably on Scotch carts; that would have required packaging, no doubt in barrels of one kind or another. Some oats did arrive by non-canal boats: on 17 December 1838 the Dublin Mercantile Advertiser, and Weekly Price Current said
Limerick, Dec 15. — […] Oats since Wednesday in good supply by land carriage, prices declined ¼d to ½d per stone, to-day 11¾d is the highest down to 11d; by boat, 10d to 11d; barley, 12d to 15d. The depression of the London market on Wednesday accounts for the fall here.
Second, “canal oats” seems to have referred to oats of an inferior quality, or at least to oats that commanded lower prices. The Belfast Commercial Chronicle of 23 March 1839 referred to canal oats as “generally arriving out of condition”, proving difficult to sell and “going to warehouse for want of buyers”. The Pilot of 11 December 1839 referred to canal oats as “soft”; it is not clear whether that applies to their market or to their physical condition. On 16 February 1839 the Belfast Commercial Chronicle referred to canal oats as “unkilndried”: did that apply only to that batch or to all canal oats?
Third, the Limerick market report, above, suggests that lower prices may have applied to all oats arriving by water rather than by land. It is possible that the prices reflected something about the nature of the transport method rather than the inherent quality of the oats; alternatively, it is possible that water transport (which, where it was available, was probably cheaper than land transport) was chosen for the oats that would sell for less.
The first possibility has, I think, two sub-possibilities: that oats travelling by water might have been more at risk of damage or that their packaging might have been inferior: specifically, that they might have been a bulk cargo, poured loose into the hold, rather than packed in barrels. The Belfast Commercial Chronicle of 16 February 1839 might be taken to suggest that: “cargoes”, not barrels, were being sold, and by the ton rather than any lesser quantity:
Oats maintain their value, and cargoes have been sold from £8 5s [presumably per ton] to £8 7s 6d for unkilndried Canal Oats.
However, that is the only such example that my quick survey found.
Fourth, it is possible that canal oats were not used for human or equine consumption. The Dublin Morning Register of 3 November 1838 reported that
The supply of oats from the neighbouring farmers was short, and brought at the opening 13s to 13s 6d per barrel. Canal oats, of which rather a good quantity appeared, was taken off at 12s 6d to 13s per 196lbs. The distillers, anxious to get into stock, gave these prices freely. The advance is fully 1s 6d a barrel since Friday.
Again, that is an isolated example; it may be that the distillers did not always use oats.
Fifth, a case heard in the New York Court of Appeals in 1851, and reported in Henry R Selden Reports of Cases argued and determined in the Court of Appeals of the State of New York; with notes, references, and an index Vol I Little & Company, Albany 1853, concerned a contract for the sale of canal oats. The appeal was against the verdict in a case in which Messrs Vail and Adams sued Mr Rice
[…] in the court of common pleas of the city of New York for the breach of a contract dated New York April 28th 1847 for the sale of “a lot of canal oats, say about four thousand bushels, more or less, at forty seven cents per bushel, deliverable in all the month of May next, from boats at or near the foot of Broad street in this city, cash on delivery”.
The ultimate decision turned on other issues, but the relevant part is that Vail and Adams had called a witness who was in the grain trade and who said
[…] that oats sent by the canal vary about five per cent when they arrive from what they were when shipped. They generally overrun or fall short about five per cent. This is always expressed by the words ‘more or less’. We always make our contracts in that way and we mean by ‘more or less’ to provide for an excess or a diminution not over or under five per cent. We use the word ‘about’ to express the same thing. It is generally customary among us that the purchaser takes whatever it is, and gets the benefit or suffers the loss, not exceeding five per cent. On his cross examination the witness stated ‘The custom is a general custom. I have never known any particular instance. All the grain dealers do. SS & Co have such a custom. I can’t mention a particular instance. I can’t give any other instance. I have sold grain to M & D this way.’
If Irish usage was the same as American, this might strengthen the suggestion that canal oats were a bulk cargo, not measured before shipment, and thus with some uncertainty about the exact amount being shipped, bought or sold. That uncertainty might account for a lower price.
None of that amounts to conclusive evidence, and I would be glad to hear from anyone [please leave a Comment below] who knows more than I do about canal oats.
On Saturday last, as the Commerce steam packet, belonging to the City of Dublin Company, was starting from George’s Pier Head, Batchelor, the police constable on duty, called out to the commander of the vessel to hold on for a few minutes, and instantly went on board with two of his assistants, and after a few minutes’ search they returned on shore with one of the passengers in custody, who was dressed in sailor’s clothes, and passed by the name of Wm Brown.
The case of this person’s apprehension was a report which had been communicated to the Constable that a female in a disguise, the description of which corresponded with this person’s attire, had taken a passage for Dublin by the Commerce, which awakened in his mind, not unnaturally, a suspicion that it was some woman who had either escaped from prison, or had been engaged in some robbery, and was flying to evade detection, whom it was therefore his duty to detain for examination before a Magistrate. The dress had been so minutely described, that it was impossible to mistake the person, notwithstanding the addition of a still deeper disguise of intoxication, in which the party was found at the time of making the capture.
When safely lodged in Bridewell and about to undergo a personal examination by Mrs Clayton, the wife of the keeper, finding detection inevitable, the prisoner confessed the fact of her sex and disguise.
In the evening, when perfectly sobered, she stated her name to be Selina Augusta Hamilton. Inquiries which had been made in the interim led to the discovery of the house in which she had been lodging by the Old Dock, and one of the constables was engaged, in the course of the evening, in conversation with the landlady for the purpose of tracing her history, when a respectably dressed man entered the room, to whom the landlady pointed and said “here’s the very gentleman as can tell you all about her”. The gentleman in question proved to be the master of the brig Laura, of New York, lying in Prince’s Dock, whose name we have been told is Duffey.
From the account given by this person, who, we believe, was the cause of her detention, as well as from her own statement, the following particulars of this extraordinary being have been collected.
Her father is said to be a merchant in London, and owner, wholly or in part, of several vessels, one of which was stated to be now lying in George’s Dock. He was said, as we understood it, to have a counting-house at Topham’s (query Topping’s?) Wharf, and a dwelling-house at Shadwell. From his house, it appears that she absconded about three years ago, to follow a young man with whom she had fallen in love. He was the mate of a vessel in the North American trade; and hearing that he had sailed for St John’s, New Brunswick, she came down to Liverpool, and took her passage in a vessel bound to that place. This part of her story is confirmed by several persons in this town, who recollect having seen her at that period, when they describe her to have been a young lady of fashionable appearance, elegantly dressed, and ladylike in her deportment.
On her arrival at St John’s, she found that the vessel to which her lover belonged had gone to Quebec; thither she therefore followed him, and there she learned that he had been drowned in the passage up the river St Lawrence.
Her determination was immediately taken to become a sailor for his sake, and, doffing her woman’s gear, of which she found means to dispose, and submitting the luxuriant tresses of her flaxen hair to the sheers, in the attire befitting a youth of the station which she assumed, she engaged herself as cook and steward to the master of a vessel bound for London, with whom she remained upwards of twelve months. While the vessel lay in the Thames, she met her father one day in the street, and touched her hat to him as she passed, but so completely was she altered as to defy recognition. In that vessel she served upwards of twelve months, and would still have continued in her, but that the Master, suspecting her secret, at length succeeded in extorting from her an acknowledgement of the truth, and afterwards wished her to remain with him, upon terms to which she would not submit.
Her assumption of the habits of a sailor, it seems, has by no means been limited to the “jacket and trowsers blue”, but the grog and the “backee”, and “the pretty girls to boot”, have all contributed their share towards the completion of the matamorphosis [sic]. Of the grog there was abundant evidence in her condition at the time of her being apprehended; of the tobacco, a token appeared in a well-filled box in her jacket pocket; and for the girls, she has unquestionably been humming them with a few adventures a la Paddingtoni. To one young woman she performed the honours of a regular courtship, underwent the threefold publication of the banns of marriage, and was only prevented from undergoing the ceremony itself, by a timely discovery of the parish officers, that the bride elect was in a condition very shortly to become a mother, when the creature was upon the point of declaring our heroine to be the father of her expected offspring; and then, says the latter, “you know I could not go any further”, and therefore the connection ended.
Since her arrival in Liverpool she has bamboozled more than one of the frail portion of its female inhabitants by affecting a serious attachment; and one night partaking too deeply of the potations to which she invited one of the beauties of Bridge-street, whom she had treated “to the play”, she was robbed by her of the greater part of her earnings by her last voyage.
The discovery of her sex on that occasion secured impunity to the plunderer, who afterwards buzzed it about; and to escape from the disagreeable consequences which the adventure had entailed upon her, she determined to go to Ireland in hopes of being able there to embark in one of the first vessels for British America, that being the trade to which she has attached herself in memory of her lover, William Brown, whose name she had assumed. She has stated since she has been in custody that she will have a fortune of £4000 at her own disposal when she comes of age — she is now not quite nineteen — and that she intends to lay it out in the purchase and equipment of a vessel, of which she expects by that time to have qualified herself to take the command.
She is in person of the ordinary stature of women, but rather stoutly made, and inclining to embonpoint; of fair complexion, with light hair and grey eyes, round face, features by no means handsome, though not unpleasing for a boy.
Yesterday, she was brought up for examination at the Town-hall, before Mr Alderman Peter Bourne, to whom a brief outline of her history had been sketched, the Mr Duffey, of the brig Laura, before named, appearing to state the grounds of her detention, in which, we must say, that for some reason or other, he cut as foolish a figure as any man could desire to do.
Before the lady made her appearance, Mr Duffey stated to the Magistrate that he had become acquainted with the prisoner from seeing her several times in her walk, near her father’s residence, but that he had no acquaintance with her father, whom, however, he knew to be a man of considerable property, as described above.
The prisoner, on being questioned by the Magistrate, said she knew that gentleman (Mr Duffey) very well, having often seen him at her father’s house.
The Magistrate then asked Mr Duffey if he had any thing to say against her; to which he replied, that he wished her to be given into his charge, that he might restore her to her father.
A look of something like surprise was the only comment of the girl upon this application; and the answer was, that he had no authority to give her into his charge. He, however, advised the girl to give up her present mode of life and return to her father.
She said she had made her own choice of her present mode of life, and she did not know why any one should wish to make her leave it. The Magistrate said he had no authority to prevent her from following her inclination, nor to detain her. She was therefore discharged.
Southern Reporter and Cork Commercial Courier 22 February 1827
Curricukum: archery, fencing, pistol (or rifle) and sailing. But
The MIT Pirate certificate is for entertainment purposes only and does not give the recipient license to engage in piracy or any pirate activities.
h/t Tyler Cowen
Wednesday 28 February 2018, Wood & Bell café, Killaloe, 7.00pm; details here.
In looking at the map of Ireland, it has appeared to me that it may be found of advantage to prevent the waters of Lough Allen from flowing into the Shannon, and to cut a channel in a north-westerly direction, along which they may run into Sligo Bay. By this disposition of the waters of Lough Allen, not only will the channel of the Shannon be relieved from the superabundant water which now flows along during the rainy season, but they will act very beneficially in scouring out the harbour of Sligo. The Shannon might likewise be made available to the supply of power to several valuable mills to be erected on its course.
The Report of Mr George Stephenson, Civil Engineer, London, 9th July, 1831, to the Committee appointed to inquire into the practicability of improving the navigation of the Shannon, and for draining the lands in the vicinage
Older readers may, at some stage, have been forced encouraged to read some part of In Memoriam A H H, an extraordinarily long poem [make sandwiches (preferably anchovy) and a flask of coffee before you start reading it] written by Alfred Tennyson about the early death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam. The poem was finished sixteen years after Hallam’s death in 1833.
In 1830 Tennyson and Hallam visited France and returned from Bordeaux by steamer. The steamer was the SS Leeds, owned by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, which had been operating on the route from Belfast to Dublin and Bordeaux, in the summer months, since 1827. Passengers from England were given free transport from Liverpool to Dublin [Saunders’s News-Letter 11 June 1827 via the British Newspaper Archive].
On their homeward journey, Tennyson and Hallam met the Tipperary-born landowner John Harden and his family. Harden lived in the English Lake District; he and his wife were “talented amateur artists”. The shipboard meeting is described in this extract from Leonee Ormond’s Alfred Tennyson: a literary life [Macmillan Press, Basingstoke 1993]. Harden sketched the group on deck`; here it is.
I cannot remember where I got that image. I presume that Harden’s copyright is long expired but it may be that a publisher or someone owns rights to the image. If I am in breach of copyright, leave a message below and I’ll remove the image.
Great quantities of salmon have been recently exported from Limerick to England, and the abundant supply of eels in the Shannon is furnishing a new and productive traffic in the English market. There are ten tons of this prolific fish now in tanks at Killaloe, awaiting a conveyance to London, and a vessel adapted for the trade will take on board from Limerick in the ensuing week forty tons of eels for the London market.
The Dublin Monitor 23 October 1844