Category Archives: Sources

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

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.

The Limerick Navigation: a talk

Killaloe–Ballina Local History Society, 15 January 2020, Lakeside Hotel, 7.30pm (more info).

Romance on the Shannon

Elopement

We are informed that Maurice O’Connell Esq, MP for Clare, has proceeded to Scotland on a matrimonial excursion. Our correspondent states that on Saturday morning the Member for Clare induced Miss Scott to leave her father’s residence at Cahircon and proceed with him to Gretna Green. The Lady is young, handsome, and an heiress.

Wexford Conservative 3 October 1832

A letter has just arrived in town from a friend of the member for Clare, which states that, on Saturday morning, a Miss Scott eloped from Cahir Con (between Knock and Kildysart), with Maurice O’Connell, MP. They crossed the Shannon in a pleasure-boat, and landed at Shanagolden, county of Limerick. From thence they proceeded in a chaise through Limerick. Their route will probably be through Waterford to Bristol, and thence northward to Gretna Green. Miss Scott has, or will have, it is said, £20,000.

Spectator 6 October 1832 citing “Dublin Paper”

It’s not safe to believe conservative papers.

Marriages

At Tralee, by special licence, by the Very Rev Dr McEnery, and afterwards at Kenmare, by the Rev William Godfrey, Rector of that parish, Maurice O’Connell, MP for the County of Clare, to Mary Frances, only daughter of Bindon Scott Esq of Caheracon in that County.

Limerick Chronicle 3 October 1832

Who said Cahircon was boring?

Mind you, Mary Frances may have inherited less than she expected. Perhaps if her father had spent less on the house of the dead, he might not have ended up as the only Shannon Estuary landlord unable to pay his debt to the Shannon Commissioners. His estate was offered for sale in the Encumbered Estates court in 1854.

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

Kerrygold

It is, no doubt, well known that the first transatlantic steam shipping company was founded by a Kerryman and was to be based in his home county: indeed on his own estate at Valentia Island. The transatlantic steamers would run thence to Halifax, Nova Scotia: that was amongst the shortest possible ocean crossing, which was important in the early days of steam navigation, when inefficient engines required prodigious quantities of coal. There were to be feeder services at both ends of the route, thus linking London with New York, and a second line from Valentia to the West Indies.

The Kerryman was Sir Maurice Fitzgerald MP, the 18th Knight of Kerry.  A meeting of supporters was held in London in June 1824 and, a year later, an Act of Parliament permitted the formation of a joint stock company with limited liability for its shareholders. However, the American and Colonial Steam Navigation Company did not last long: it softly and suddenly vanished away in 1828, its single steamer, the Calpé, sold to the Dutch government before completing a single voyage (although, under her new ownership, she ran a successful transatlantic mail service to Surinam and Curacao).

The prospectus, published before the meeting in June 1824, said of Valentia:

Ballast cargoes may be obtained there in slates, butter, and coarse linen, for the American markets.

However, Alexander Nimmo, writing to Fitzgerald, said

Remember, your whole peninsula only affords 100 tons of butter per annum, and all Kerry would not provide for a constant trade.

The gallant knight would therefore, I am sure, be delighted with the news from the Americas that “Irish Butter Kerrygold Has Conquered America’s Kitchens“. I hope he would have known enough to realise that “[…] Ireland’s landscape and economy, which both remain dominated by agriculture” may be true of the landscape but is not true of the economy.

Sources

John Armstong and David M Williams “The Perception and Understanding of New Technology: A Failed Attempt to Establish Transatlantic Steamship Liner Services 1824-1828” in The Northern Mariner/le marin du nord XVII no 4 [October 2007]

Letters and papers of Maurice FitzGerald in Public Record Office for Northern Ireland ref MIC639/6

Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser 28 June 1824

Expected benefits of the Ulster Canal (aka the Clones Sheugh)

The members for Donegal, Cavan, Fermanagh, Monaghan, and Tyrone, assisted by the leading gentry of each county, have joined in the grand object of improving the navigation of Lough Erne, and are at present in communication with sseveral experienced civil engineers, the Board of Works, and Colonel Burgoyne. Mr Saunderson, of Castle Saunderson, is indefatigable in improving the Upper Lough, and it is probably his exertions will be met and well seconded by John Creighton Esq, Crom Castle.

Already have several gentlemen been summoned from Enniskillen to value the land at Newtownbutler through which the Ulster Canal is to pass; and when its junction with Lough Erne is effected, and a stream of Commercial communication is opened between Ballyshannon and Belfast, the central point of which must be Enniskillen, enterprising individuals will not be wanted to establish steamboats and vessels of large tonnage upon the lake, which will render such encouragement to manufacturers and commerce by the quick and cheap transmission of goods and mails, as will in a few years render this a most flourishing town.

Ballyshannon Herald 20 April 1838

Cupid at Athlone

Aquatic Excursion (from a correspondent)

Athlone (2003)

September 17, 1846 — The Amateur Band of St Peter’s, who deserve so much from the inhabitants of Athlone for the many opportunities they seize upon, to amuse them, having provided — on a large scale — for themselves and guests a sumptuous and plentiful feast, with the necessary teetotal drinks, sailed up the lake on last Sunday in the Cupid Steamer. The day was beautiful and inviting and the placid stream of the noble Shannon — as if in harmony with the circumstance — opening wide its expansive bosom to receive them, displayed in gorgeous grandeur, the verdant beauties of its multitudinous islands and grove-covered promontories of its indented coasts.

I never saw the lake to such advantage as on that occasion. We had about eighty persons on board, amongst whom were the Rev Mr Philips CC and RW, Mr Keating and family, and other pic-nic parties, with viands and refreshments in abundance. As the steamer made the lake and swept through an Archipelago of islands — namely, Carbery, Kid, the Wren, and Crow Islands, &c, having the wood-embosomed Hare Island, the present insulated residence of my Lord Castlemaine, on the right and the grove-crested cape of the Yeu or, as some call it, the Loo Point on the left — then it was that she breasted the serene bosom of this inland ocean not as Byron says, “walking the waters like a thing of life”, but bounding over its mirrored surface like an impetuous courser she seemed to devour the distance, while she tossed a road of foaming surges from her heels.

On each side appeared emerging from wood and grove beautiful villas and noble ruins, towers and antiquated telegraphs, with their declivous lawns sweeping to the water’s edge. As we passed between Inchmore, Innisbofin, the Nun’s Island, the cultivated and rich callows of the Longford coasts, and Warren’s Point, St John’s and Mount Plunket on the Roscommon side, hill and dale land and water reverbrated with the dulcet tones of our excellent band under their inimitable instructor, Mr Keating, while at intervals the gay and cheerful dance on deck, to the music of the violin, enlivened the enjoyment of the exhilirating prospects that accumulated around us.

One or two objects which I observed, struck me very forcibly, and reminded me of the left-handed, nay, monopolising policy of former days, and the state of vassalage under which we yet groan and which “Ireland for the Irish” would never tolerate. In a beautiful valley, and modestly peeping from the clustering foliage of circumnambient trees and in accommodating contiguity to the “big house” stood the snug and aristocratic church of the minority, styled in legal parlance “the Established”, while at a distance on the bleak hill of Newtown, exposed to wind and weather, a chapel dedicated to the worship of the millions, displayed all the frigid isolation of a step-mother’s care.

We now arrived at Quaker’s Island, and having tacked about, we made for Warren’s Point, on our way home, and went on shore at St John’s Castle. With feelings of deep melancholy mingled with admiration, we viewed the venerable ruins of this once majestic pile (huge masses of which lay scattered here and there), its dismantled bastions, deep fosse, and the roofless walls of its antiquated chapel, while on a neighbouring hill stands the shell of its watch-tower to give timely warning of the approach of the feudal rival who would dare contest sovereignity with its lord. We then warmly and eagerly discussed the viands abundantly spread on the verdant sward at the base of

These ivy crowned turrets, the pride of past ages,
Tho’ mould’ring in ruins still grandeur impart.

After which the merry dance commenced, unconstrained laughter and encouraging shouts accompanying the performers, bringing the memory back to the times of rural felicity; when under the fostering tutelage of a domestic legislature, every family had its own quern to grind its own grain, every peasant could drink his own beer and the daily toil of virtuous industry being over, the children of simplicity, to the sounds of the oaten reed or the violin, or the more national bag-pipes, tripped it gaily on the “light fantastic toe”. And this was the happy and tranquil state of “Old Ireland” before the importation into it of such exotic materials as Sir Walter Raleigh and his rotten potatoes. To return to the ruins. I wish Lever, Carlton, or some one of those compilers of Irish legendary lore, had visited Lough Ree, he would find there more traditionary facts connected with the pristine magnificence of the different localities, than very many of those which have been already noticed in Magazines.

Having embarked once more we soon arrived home, and thus ended to the satisfaction of all parties, one of the most amusing days I, at least, ever spent in my life. To Bernard Mullins Esq, the young men composing the band return their sincere acknowledgements, for his kindness in accommodating them with the Cupid for this very pleasant excursion.

O’B

Athlone Sentinel 18 September 1846