Category Archives: Sea

Guards by boat

The first battalion Grenadier Guards, upwards of 700 strong, commanded by Lieut-Col Barclay, arrived here on Thursday last, from Dublin, and have since proceeded by canal, in Messrs Pickford’s fly-boats, to London.

Gore’s Liverpool General Advertiser
14 August 1823

New header pic 16 May 2020

Early steamer in Dublin 1820s

Quakers, privateers and Post Office packets

During the French Revolutionary/Napoleonic wars, several of the British Post Office’s packet boats were seized by French privateers. As a result, the Post Office decided that the packet boats should be armed. The packet boats were privately owned and contracted to the Post Office,

Arthur Hamilton Norway takes up the story as it applies to the packet boats between Britain and Ireland.

The Waterford packets

It had not been customary in former wars to arm the Holyhead and Dublin boats, but a few light guns were now allowed to them, as well as to those from Port Patrick to Donaghadee. The Packets running between Milford Haven and Waterford were somewhat more exposed to the attacks of Privateers, which might be expected to hang about the entrance to St George’s Channel in the hope of intercepting the shipping out of Bristol, but here a curious difficulty was raised by the proprietors, a body of merchants, nineteen in number.

All but six of these gentlemen were members of the Society of Friends, and, being sincerely convinced of the sinfulness of war, they put in a decided objection against the proposal to provide their vessels with implements of strife and destruction.

The Postmaster General proceeded to reason with these ardent theorists, and pointed out that as, by the existing rule, the Department was bound to pay the value of captured Packets it was but reasonable that it should be allowed, at its own cost, to protect them. The men of peace, touched by the financial argument, admitted this, but retorted that if only the Government would refrain from the wickedness of placing guns and cutlasses in the hands of their sailors, they, that is to say the thirteen Quaker proprietors, would waive all claim to compensation in the event of capture.

It was true, they admitted, that the six proprietors who were not Quakers were by no means ready to make this sacrifice, but the Government, they urged, might fairly be expected to risk the liability for six-nineteenths of the loss when a principle was at stake.

By this time, however, the Postmaster General had become tired of the discussion, and closed it with a brief intimation that if the Packets were not armed the contract would be withdrawn, and in view of this unsympathetic attitude the Quakers sold their shares and retired from the concern.

That the unwarlike attitude of the Quakers was by no means always accompanied by any want of natural courage was demonstrated not long after this period by a certain inhabitant of Falmouth, an old and greatly respected member of the Society of Friends. This gentleman held the appointment of surgeon to the Post-Office establishment, and was one day cruising on board a Packet when a French Privateer hove in sight. It was obvious that there was going to be a fight; and the commander, knowing his passenger’s principles, suggested that he had better go below. The doctor, a fine tall man, declined to budge from the deck; and the captain thereupon offered him a cutlass and pistol, observing that as he intended to remain in the way of danger, he might at least use weapons in self-defence.

But this suggestion also the doctor refused to entertain; and, standing quite unarmed on the quarter-deck, he remained an interested and placid spectator of the action. After a sharp cannonade, the French vessel hurled her boarders into the Packet. The doctor showed no sign of excitement as he saw the fierce St Malo men swarming up the sides, cutlass in hand; but when, a moment later, a swarthy giant came clambering up unperceived, at a point where there was no one to resist him, the doctor calmly stepped forward, threw his arms round the astonished Frenchman with a grip few men could have resisted, and saying, gently, “Friend, thee makes a mistake, this is not thy ship”, tossed him into the sea.

More information

For background, see here on PO packet boats, but note that the article gives undue attention to the Falmouth-based packets. The Dover-based service is covered here. One of the packet service scandals is covered here.

Source

Arthur H Norway History of the Post-Office Packet Service between the years 1793–1815 compiled from records, chiefly official Macmillan and Co, London 1895. Mr Norway, father of the novelist Nevil Shute, was in the GPO in Dublin in 1916

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.

 

Dublin’s foreign trade 1837

Here’s an interesting extract from Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of 1837. It’s about the foreign trade of the port of Dublin.

At the time, trade was classified as either coasting or foreign: since the conclusion of the free trade area between Ireland and Britain in 1825, trade between Ireland and Britain was classed as coasting. As a result, no records were kept of that trade except for corn (from Ireland to Britain) and coals (the other way). To quote Tables of the Revenue [Tables of the Revenue, Population, Commerce, &c of The United Kingdom and its dependencies Part III from 1820 to 1833, both inclusive. Compiled from official returns; presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of His Majesty HMSO, London 1834 ]:

No general Account of the Trade between Ireland and Great Britain can be rendered for the period subsequent to 1825, the commercial intercourse between the two Countries having, from the termination of that year, been assimilated by law to a coasting traffic.

In this extract, Lewis is therefore talking about Dublin’s trade with places outside the United Kingdom. He starts with northern Europe, then moves on to the West Indies and North America, then China and South America, finishing in the Mediterranean. The indented italicised paragraphs are Lewis; the others are comments.

Northern Europe

There is very little foreign export from Dublin. The trade with the Baltic in timber, staves, &c, is greatly diminished by the high rate of duty imposed and the low rate at which Canada timber is admitted. From St. Petersburgh, Riga, Archangel, &c, there is a considerable import of tallow, hemp, and tar, with some linseed, bristles, &c.;

The Baltic had been Britain’s main source of timber and other supplies for shipping (including hemp and tar) but, during the Napoleonic Wars, timber from North America had taken over.

from Spain and Portugal the chief import is wine, with some corkwood, raisins, barilla, and bark; from France the imports are wine in wood and bottle, claret, champagne, &c, also cork-wood, prunes, dried fruits, and some brandy;

Wine, brandy and gin:

from the Netherlands the imports are bark and flax ; from Holland, tobacco pipes, bark, cloves, and flax-seed, and small quantities of gin, Burgundy pitch, Rhenish wines, madder, &c.

So far many of the imports seem to be either inputs to industrial processes (eg barilla, madder) and exotic food and drink for the more affluent consumers.

West Indies

With the West Indies the trade is chiefly in sugar from Jamaica, Demerara, and Trinidad, estates in the last-named island being owned in Dublin.

For more on Irish slave-owners, insert “Ireland” in the “Country” field of the “Address Details” section here.

Encouraging people to drink whiskey:

Coffee is imported in small quantities and also rum, but very little foreign spirits are consumed in Ireland, in consequence of the low price and encouragement given to the use of whiskey.

The Irish provision trade, which supplied (inter alia) the British navy and slave plantations, had been in decline for many years, with the livestock trade increasing to compensate.

Beef and pork in casks, and soap and candles in boxes, were formerly exported to the West Indies in large quantities, but the trade is now nearly lost in consequence of permission being given to the colonists to import these articles from Hamburgh, Bremen, &c, where they can be purchased at lower prices than in Ireland.

The West Indies could also buy from America (see below) and could buy preserved cod as an alternative to beef.

North America

The linen trade had become concentrated on Belfast; Dublin had lost its role in handling the product when Belfast opened its own Linen Hall in 1783.

To the United States of America formerly there was a very large export of linen, principally to New York, and flax-seed, staves, turpentine, clover-seed, &c, were brought back; but the bounty on the export of linen having been withdrawn, the trade between the United States and Dublin has greatly diminished. The export of linen and import of flax-seed is now chiefly confined to Belfast and other northern ports.

The growing of tobacco in Ireland had been banned in 1832.

The American tobacco which is either sold or consumed in Dublin is brought from Liverpool.

The import of American tobacco via Liverpool was part of a much wider trend. Liverpool was simply so much busier a port than any of its Irish counterparts; it dominated the Atlantic trade (to the chagrin of Bristol). It made sense to send cargoes in large vessels from the Americas to Liverpool; from there they could be distributed quickly, especially to Dublin, to which there were daily steam services. This changed the way Dublin merchants worked: instead of getting a few shiploads from the Americas per year, they could now import small quantities as required, once a week if they liked. That reduced the amount of capital tied up in stock and may have made it available for other investments.

UK port traffic 1833–1836 (derived from Tables of the Revenue 1838)

The timber trade was, in effect, the emigrant trade: emigrants provided a useful back cargo for ships that would otherwise return almost empty to the Americas.

With British America the trade is very great in timber, as a return cargo of vessels sailing thither from Dublin with emigrants.

An inland waterway connection:

With Newfoundland there is no direct trade; the cod and seal oil consumed are imported from Liverpool or brought by canal from Waterford, which has a direct trade with Newfoundland; dried codfish and ling being much used in the southern counties, but not in the northern or midland.

China

More exotica:

With China there are three vessels owned in Dublin, besides others engaged in the tea trade; the number of chests directly imported is, therefore, considerable.

South America

As well as timber, one of the things that industrialising countries were running out of was hides for leather. Argentina and Uruguay both had extensive exports; they were also able to export salted beef to the Americas and the Caribbean.

With South America there is no direct trade, the Dublin tanners being abundantly supplied with native hides, and any foreign hides required being brought from Liverpool, whence also is imported the cotton wool consumed in the Dublin factories.

Mediterranean

And finally …

With Turkey the trade is confined to the importation from Smyrna of valonia, figs, raisins, and small quantities of other articles: madder-roots and emery-stone being always transhipped for Liverpool.

With Leghorn there is a considerable trade for cork-tree bark, and small quantities of hemp in bales, oil, marble, &c, are also imported, but very little communication is kept up with Trieste or other Italian ports.

With Sicily the trade is in shumac and brimstone ; the latter article in considerable quantities for the consumption of vitriol and other chymical works.


Source: Samuel Lewis A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, comprising the several counties, cities, boroughs, corporate, market, and post towns, parishes, and villages, with historical and statistical descriptions; embellished with engravings of the arms of the cities, bishopricks, corporate towns, and boroughs; and of the seals of the several municipal corporations: with an Appendix, describing the electoral boundaries of the several boroughs, as defined by the Act of the 2d and 3d of William IV S Lewis & Co, London 1837

New header pic February 2020

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

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

Another estuary quay

Here is a page about Ringmoylan, a quay on the south side of the estuary.

 

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.

 

Kilrush fisheries

Letter from James Patterson, Kilrush, to the Commissioners of Fisheries, 31 May 1823

Sir

Encouraged by the erection of the fishery piers on this coast, two persons registered themselves as fish-curers, viz Francis Coffee, on the 10th of March, at Liscannor, and James Shannon, on the 26th of April, at Seafield.

On the 26th instant I had a request note from the former to attend at his curing-house on the 28th, to inspect seven hundred and sixty ling, and nine hundred and ninety-six cod; I accordingly attended, and have great pleasure in saying, that a finer parcel of fish I never beheld; I at the same time registered twenty-six row-boats.

Kilrush, Seafield and Liscannor, Co Clare (OSI 25″ ~1900)

From thence I proceeded to Seafield to see what was going on there, where, I am sorry to say, I found the fishermen very desponding; they had an immense quantity of fish, offering at 1½d per dozen; but few purchasers, Mr Shannon not having as yet begun to cure. At Liscannor, agreeable to a previous arrangement made with the fishermen, Mr Coffee pays 3½d per dozen.

It would tend greatly to promote this speculation if some little additions were made to the bounty in lieu of the drawback on the salt, which they find it very difficult to recover, principally owing to the great distance to any custom-house, and the difficulty of travelling bad roads.

I send herewith the production bounty debenture. As the curer has but a small capital, I hope the board will order payment with as little delay as possible; every little encouragement that can be given this speculation in its infancy will greatly tend to promote it; and I have no doubt, in a short time, it will become very general, and productive of great advantage to the country.

I am, Sir, &c, &c, (signed) James Patterson

Report from the Select Committee on the Employment of the Poor in Ireland Ordered, by The House of Commons, to be Printed, 16 July 1823 [561] with edits by me