Category Archives: Sources

Jamestown and the Longford

Jamestown [Co Leitrim] Heritage Festival starts on Friday 25 May and runs until Sunday 3 June 2018. The programme is here.

Apart from the presence of numerous barges and other vessels, the festival will feature these events of historical interest:

  • Saturday 26 May: talk by Alf Monaghan on Doon to Diesel, a review of the importance of Drumsna and Jamestown in Transport History
  • Sunday 27 May: talk on the sinking of the Royal Canal passage-boat Longford [in which fifteen people died] in 1845
  • Monday 28 May: bus trip to Arigna Mining Experience
  • Tuesday 29 May: talk by Alf Monaghan on Monastic Ireland — a gift from the Nile and display by Carrick-on-Shannon Historical Society
  • Wednesday 30 May: walking tour of Jamestown led by historian Mary Butler
  • Saturday 2 June: talk by Donal Boland on The Shannon’s hidden locations and gems and, in the afternoon, “traditional method demonstrations”.

 

Canal oats

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.

The grains traded included wheat (prime red and prime white), grinding barley, malting barley, bere, new oats, new bere, oatmeal, M’Cann’s and First Flour, as well as

Prime Feeding Oats, 14 st [stone] to the brl [barrel], 11s 6d to 12s 0d

Canal ditto, 9s 6d to 9s 9d

Usage

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.

Meaning

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.

Envoi

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.

 

Lough Derg Regatta 1834 (b)

Yesterday I posted a notice from the Limerick Chronicle of 20 August 1834, outlining the schedule of events for the regatta to be held on Lough Derg later that month.

In a comment, Vincent Delany M.A. (Hist.) said

Lough Derg YC was founded c. 1836 but regattas to approx the same format existed on Lough Derg before the formalising of the yacht club.

My thesis ‘yachting and yachtsmen on the Shannon 1830s to 1930s’ discussed the issues extensively.

I have not seen the thesis, alas, but I thought I’d see what else the invaluable British Newspaper Archive had on the subject. The first result was that there was no mention, in any newspaper, of a Lough Derg regatta before 1834. I have not attempted to search for all possible terms involving sailing boats, races, yachts and so on; I think I can say that the 1834 event was the first on Lough Derg to be designated a regatta.

There had been similar events on the estuary before then: the Limerick Chronicle of 30 July 1834 reported the early events of the Royal Western Yacht Club’s regatta at Kilrush. Just below that it said

The Committee of the Lough Derg Regatta met at Killaloe on Friday, when a Commodore, Stewards, Secretary, and Treasurer, were appointed.

The 1834 regatta was covered by The Pilot on 29 August 1834. At the time, the term “upper Shannon” distinguished the freshwater from the tidewater: “lower Shannon” meant the estuary.

LOUGH DERGH REGATTA

Lough Dergh Regatta, Upper Shannon, commenced on Tuesday under most favourable auspices. The beautiful scenery of that romantic region will now be seen to great advantage, and many visiters [sic] have left to enjoy the treat. On Wednesday the boat races were to take place at Killaloe, and the Messrs Paterson, from Kilrush, 70 miles distant, on the Lower Shannon, have entered to contest the prize in that department. The band of the 91st Regiment, from Limerick, attended the regatta.

There were not less than ten thousand people assembled on the shores at Williamstown and Drumineer [sic] to witness the scene on Tuesday, and the Lake was literally covered with row boats, filled with ladies and gentlemen. There were five yachts started for the challenge cup, from Drumineer to Holy Island and back. The Corsair, Mr White, came in first; Ida, Mr Bailey, second; and Thomas, Lieut Tully RN, third.

There were only three minutes between those three boats — the others were not placed. Wednesday’s race was to be run by the same boats, for the Salver; and on Thursday the rowing matches take place at Killaloe. The Lady Lansdown [sic] steamer attended, and was crowded to excess, so much so that they were obliged to refuse taking more company on board.

A somewhat confused reporter there, but never mind. Interesting to note that Tom Bailey was navigating Ida around the Shannon way back then: he must be older than he looks.

The Northern Whig of 4 September 1834 added a little colour:

This Regatta commenced on Tuesday sen, as we announced, and the numerous gentry who attended from the adjoining counties, fully realized the anticipations we had formed of its attractions. The delightful scenery of the Upper Lakes, enlivened by the gay yachts, crowded with beauty and fashion, floating on their bosoms, had a most pleasing effect.

So many visiters [sic] arrived at Killaloe, to enjoy the diverting sport, that it became almost impossible to procure even ordinary entertainment. […]

In the following year, the Roscommon and Leitrim Gazette (18 July 1835) reported that

The Lough Derg Yacht Club have adopted the rules and regulations of the Royal Western Yacht Club, and the Regatta commences at Killaloe, the 23d inst; Dromineer, the 24th, and at Williamstown, the 25th instant.

Whose idea was it?

My interest in this topic is in the involvement of Lieut John Tully RN. He visited Limerick in 1829 to make arrangements for the arrival of the first City of Dublin Steam Packet Company [CoDSPCo] steamer to operate on the Shannon, the Mona. It was replaced later that year by the Kingstown, which Tully captained for some time. In 1831 he was the company’s Limerick agent (John Grantham was its acting manager) and from then on, for the rest of his working life, he seems to have been an agent or otherwise working for or with the Company; he spent much time as Agent at Killaloe and later at Athlone. The yacht he sailed in 1834, the Thomas, may have belonged to the company’s founder, Charles Wye Williams, who in 1829 had a 10-ton schooner of that name at Liverpool.

Tully was Secretary and Treasurer of the first Lough Derg Regatta. It involved the provision of special packet boat services on the Limerick Navigation (controlled by a company strongly associated with the CoDSPCo. The regatta spent one day at Killaloe, where the company owned a hotel, and another at Williamstown, its private harbour, where it likewise owned a hotel. It also used either one or two of the company’s Lough Derg steamers.

Most importantly, though, it attracted visitors to Lough Derg, and thus supported the CoDSPCo’s marketing efforts. They included sponsorship of publications, special attention to visiting writers and large-scale advertising.

None of this is evidence that the CoDSPCo invented the Lough Derg Regatta, but I would not be surprised to find that it was at least an early and enthusiastic supporter of the concept.

For an account of a later Lough Derg Regatta, that of 1849, see here.

 

Dublin to Shannon Harbour 1831

[This account of a journey by Grand Canal passage-boat appeared over three issues of the Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent: 23 July,
2 August and 9 August 1831. The three sections have been merged here and some headings have been inserted. Question marks in square brackets denote words that were difficult to read]

The Grand Canal passage boat

On to the first lock

“We shall be late for the boat, I fear, Mr Coachman,” said I, as I put my foot on the step of one of those vehicles ‘yclept a jarvie — “we shall be late for the boat, unless you promise to drive tolerably fast.” “Yer honor, I’ll drive you faster than ne’er a coachman in Dublin, not even exceptin’ the Markis himself, long life to him; so get in, and you’ll see how I’ll rowl you along.”

We left the steps of the hotel, and for a little time proceeded with great celerity; but the horses soon slackened their pace, and got into a jog-trot at the rate of about five miles in four hours. “Come, coachman,” said I bawling at him out of the window, “this will never do; you promised to drive in a more expeditious manner.” — “Arrah, what way would you want a man to dhrive? — pay-dish-us indeed! You would dish us, sure enough, and want me to kill the poor bastes all out: may-be it is the devil’s own pace you’d like to be dhriving at, but no matter, all in good time,” muttered the fellow to himself, “you’ll be going that road before long.”

“Why, man, we shall certainly not reach Portobello harbour before the boat leaves, unless you get on quicker; I have been told she sails at two o’clock, and now it wants but eight minutes of the time.” “Sails! Och, thin, it’s fine sailing you’d have on boord that same packet, and grate canvass there is in thim same sails; for they are all made of horse skin, agra[?], and put on eight legs, and there you’ll see them walking on, one after the other, like two little grogeens of turf [?].” “Surely,” said I, in something like despair, “the boat will be gone.” “Gone! Never mind that, yer honor; I was never late for the boat but once, and then she went down to the bottom; so that even if I’m late itself, may-be you’d be saved the throuble of being dhrowned. But, hit or miss, I can drive you on to the first lock, and then you’ll be easy, for I can overtake thim spalpeens of horses they have under the boat at any time.”

Portobello to first lock (OSI 6″ ~1830s)

Accordingly, at the first lock, which is about a mile and a half from Portobello, did my facetious jehu deposit myself and portmanteau, safe and sound, on board the Passage Boat, wherein I was to be stowed for the night, coachy charging, of course, five shillings more for the additional drive.

The delights of west Dublin

The scenery along this part of the canal is particularly interesting. A row of very fine beech trees, now attained to their full growth, is planted on each bank, and the overhanging branches present a delightful retreat from the summer’s sun to the pedestrian rambler, while the winter’s blast loses much of its force as it spends its fury against these formidable barriers.

The country, on the left hand, is richly cultivated; the fields, beautifully green, are interspersed with groves waving with thick luxuriant foliage. Neat villas, the summer residences of our Dublin citizens, are numerously spread over the landscape; two or three spires of churches, the tops of which are seen rising above the other buildings, present a variation of character to the surrounding prospect; while that splendid and gorgeous line of mountain which separates the counties of Dublin and Wicklow, glowing now in all the loveliness and true nobility of mountain scenery — a ray of light breaking forth from beneath a cloud, and exhibiting to view a deep and rugged or some cottage before observed, now lying in thick shadow awful amidst its grandeur — gives a finish to the back-ground of the picture, but seldom seen throughout nature’s kingdom.

The [presumably first-class] passengers

Our company was variously composed. We had Lord R—s, who told us he had been “thravelling in that boat, man and boy, these forty years, and never met with an accident except one” — and this he related, for the purpose of quieting the fears of a nervous lady, a passenger in the boat for the first time, and who was accompanied by a sick child.

“I’d tell you how it was, ma’am,” said he, “the boat came into a lock, and by some mismanagement or other she turned upon one side, and down she went just like a stone to the bottom; and myself would have been drowned as sure as gob[?], for I was thravelling in the boat that same time, only I was on the bank. Oh, it was well I wasn’t in her, or there would have been mille murther.” “And were any persons drowned?” asked the lady with a terrified countenance, as the boat just then came whack against the side of a lock. “Indeed there was about six and twenty,” rejoined the Peer; “but don’t make yourself uneasy, for the same thing won’t occur again.”

I am unable to identify Lord R— (the final s is not used in later mentions and may be a mistake): I cannot find anyone called Lord R— resident in the west of Ireland at the right time. Michael Dillon, 12th Earl of Roscommon, might be possible, but I have no information about where he lived.

Besides the Lady and the Lord, we had two Roman Catholic Priests, red hot from the College; a publican, and small sugar dealer from the town of Banagher; a cloth merchant from Tuam; two young ladies, one the wrong side of forty, who set up for literati, and gave us during the evening divers dissertations upon books, picked up chiefly from reviews; three Trinity College men, one of them in all probability a pupil[?] of Tom Gannon’s, for he was redolent of puns — and, though last, not least, five Misses Blake, returning after an unsuccessful winter in Dublin, spent fruitlessly in one of the best boarding houses in the city.

Could the Misses Blake have been the daughters of Pierce Blake of Hollypark?

A run upon the banks

“Ho!” said one of our Academicians, looking out of the window, “there is a great run upon the banks.” “Run upon the banks!” exclaimed the elderly-young lady, “run upon the banks! I trust not, for I have five hundred pounds in the Galway Provincial: did you say, Sir, it was a great run?” “Never saw such a run, ma’am, in all my life; the seven-leagued boots never made such desperate haste; if the banks stand it, it’s a wonder: in my opinion they will certainly break; at all events they must receive a great shake. No such pressure has occurred to them these many years; and all caused by one or two individuals.”

“That O’Connell ought to be hanged: I was once a great advocate of his, but I have lately changed my opinion entirely; he ought to be hanged, and well hanged, for I am quite sure he is at the head and tail of the whole business. Oh dear! oh dear! I wish I was in Galway — my five hundred pounds! Do you think, Sir, I shall get there in time to draw my money? — not that I care much about so small a sum, for I have a good deal more some where else — no bad thing, I promise you, for some deserving young man, and I am particularly fond of College men — but then one would not like to lose even five hundred pounds. Oh dear! what luck I had not to keep the gold in my snug leather bag; but they persuaded me I would get two per cent in that nasty, odious Galway Bank. I wish it was in the fire before I put my money there.”

“Why, Ma’am,” said our punster, “that would be a burning shame; and though I am glad your wishes are warm towards the Provincial Bank, yet, just now, they are a little too fervent. Your zeal for O’Connell, also, is scarcely warrant-able; and though it might be a high joke to see him standing sus per coll [suspendatur per collum: let him be hanged by the neck], yet I scarcely think he would find much pleasure therein, poor fellow — particularly as, in this instance, his execution would take place somewhat undeservedly, as the run is caused not by him, but by my friend, James B—, who has been trying to overtake the boat for the last ten minutes, and made such desperate efforts, I thought the bank of the canal would surely give way. And here he comes himself, puffing and blowing like a broken-winded horse.”

“Ugh, ugh! By the goodness gracious!” said James B—, “by the goodness gracious! I thought I’d never overtake you: this infernal boat goes so fast when one does not want it. John Denis Browne, how are you? — glad to see you, by the goodness gracious! how is your friend Sandy Pry, eh? hear from him lately, eh? …”

This John Denis Browne may be the son of George Townsend Browne; if so, he was “admitted to the degree of Bachelor of Arts” in 1830 (Freeman’s Journal 20 July 1830) and was studying divinity in 1831, later becoming curate of Penzance, vicar of Braintree in Essex (Limerick Chronicle 2 June 1852) and author of Satan Enters the House prepared for his Reception. He died, aged 56, in 1864 (Chelmsford Chronicle 19 February 1864). His youthful doings, or alleged doings, and those of James B— [whom I cannot identify], were covered in several articles, perhaps intended to be humorous, in Irish newspapers in 1830 and 1831, at least one signed by Sandy Pry. James B— also appears in several of the articles, whose author seems to have been opposed to Daniel O’Connell and to the Roman Catholic interest.

“… Quite right, quite right; a great blackguard; I perfectly agree with you. Have you signified your intention of leaving town to the proper quarter? We men of fashion, taste, elegance, and birth, should have our several movements duly certified to the public. My Lord, How d’ye do? In your old place near the door, I see. What were bullocks to-day in the market?”

Lord R—’s skills

“Oh! what would they be but bullocks? Maybe it’s bullsheens you’d have them,” replied the Peer, “and mighty chape they were entirely. I had fifty head, and I sold them for an ould song, I may say. Every thing is down in the country, Sir — every thing is down except the Terries; and, by my sowl, they’re raising themselves high enough. Shure they had the impudence to visit my own place; but if I could ketch ’em, I’d engage to make ’em civil: I think they might let me alone, at any rate; for shure there’s not an easier man in the country than myself, and I’m among them, as I may say. But it’s all the fault of the change of currency: sorrow much luck I had since these new tinpennies came into fashion.”

“By the goodness gracious, I do not know what will become of us — the rascals will have the whole country to themselves by and by. However, I am glad to see so many troops quartered throughout the country.”

“Did I ever tell you the story of the Dragoon Officer that came into my yard one day, looking for the smith to put a shoe upon his horse?”

“I heard the thing, but I don’t know whether it was from you.”

“Well, no matter, I’ll tell it to you again. You see there was a great hunt in the neighbourhood of my place, and one of the Dragoon Officers from Loughrea lost a shoe from his horse, and he came into the yard to get the smith to put it on for him. ‘Where’s the smith?’ says he. ‘Faith I don’t know,” says I, for it was to myself he was spakin, ‘he’s not in it at all events, but what do you want iv him?’ ‘Oh, what ud I want iv him,’ says he, ‘but to put a shoe upon my horse, to be shure; but as he’s not here, there’s no use in waiting’ and with that he was turning away his horse’s head. ‘Whe-then,’ says I, ‘you’re both of you a fine pair of bastes, and by my sowl it ud be a mighty quare thing to let you go off without getting shod: and may-be I could do the job for you myself.’ ‘Whe-then,’ says he, ‘I’ll be for ever obliged to you, and I’ll give you something for your throuble besides.’ With that I got Larry Moore’s apron — that’s the smith, you know — and I shod the horse for him, nater than Larry could ever do it. ‘Now,’ says I, when the job was done, ‘I have some interest with the butler at the big house, and iv you come up, I’ll get you something to ate.’ ‘Faith,’ says he, ‘you’re the boy for my money, and you’re a Trogien every inch of you.’ ‘Well,’ says I, ‘do you go round to the hall door, and I’ll go talk to the butler.’ And I sent, sure enough, and I orthered up a fine lanshin, and there I was sittin at the head of the table by the time my gentleman came in. You never saw a man so struck all iv a heap as he was, when he found me out.”

Dinner on board

Dinner now made its appearance, “smoking on the board.” A leg of mutton ushered in the train, gracefully leading after it chickens and bacon, and an immense piece of boiled beef and cabbage.

“Where is my porta, gul?” said a fat-faced, ruddy-visaged gentleman, one of our Reverences from the College. “Where is my porta that I paid for?” “The Captain is drawing the cork, Sir,” said the smiling Hebe; you shall have the porter directly.” “I declare I’m chouking with thurst; till the Kiptin to send me in my bautle, and I’ll draw the cok myself. The best way to drive[?] a cok, gentlemen, in a hurry is to push it down.” “Sir, I’d throuble you for another shliver of mouton,” asked our small grocer from Tuam; “it ates remarkably well and thick.” “The pleasure of a glass of wine, ma’am, with you, if you plaise. Phoo, this is nothing but slow water; it’s a grate shame for Mister Blake not to give better wine in the boat;” and so

We eat, and drank, and wined, and then
We wined, and drank, and eat again.

Literary Conversation

When strangers assemble together for a short period, there is generally a feeling among them to make as fine an appearance as circumstances will permit. The tailor’s apprentice, who has just untwined his legs from off the board, and stretches them for the first time in his master’s service, to collect some outstanding debts, or respectfully solicit future orders, attempts the fine gentleman, and frequently succeeds as well as the man who is born one, as the saying is; and the grocer’s boy, emerging from the place of figs and raisins, his Sunday coat well brushed up, his hat smoothed down, and hair curled gracefully on both sides of his cheeks, sets off on his errand for custom, with the fixed determination of doing the agreeable and sweet, to the full extent of sugar-candied excellence.

The man who has learned enough to prove him an ass at the University, delights to exhibit his parts, and make the vulgar stare; and the little pert Miss, just let loose upon the world, and about half a year from the boarding school, rejoices to shew off her accomplishments and tastes to the best advantage — and having been a short period with an aunt in the city, she prates learnedly of the last new novel, scientifically of the last new singer, hobby-horsically of the riding-school, informs you she has taken lessons in drawing, is a famous hand at a sketch, and a very Titian in her colouring, tells you she has been at the play, and can play on the piano-fort.

Our conversation was as varied as our company. The five Misses Blake chattered and tittered, and tittered and chattered, and flattered and fluttered, and fluttered and flattered: when one began to talk, the rest began to talk; the wagging of the tongue of one was the sure signal for the rest to begin; but the two literary ladies fairly beat them wholus bolus out of the field. The comparative merits of Mesdames De Genlis and De Sevigne occupied a good portion of their discussion, which at one period waxed rather fierce. The decryer of Madame De Sevigne’s works informed us “that, indeed, she had no right to speak disadvantageously of De Sevigne’s writings, as she was paid the compliment of being told her own style was very similar.”

After a short digression upon schools, during which the five Misses Blake were able to edge in a few words, here and there, particularly the schools at Portarlington, calling it the Athens of Ireland, they returned with redoubled violence to Fenelon, Bossuet, and the Martyrs in France, whom they took to pieces more mercilessly than even their cruel persecutors; then they crossed over to Moore and Scott, eulogised Lord Byron, great poet, noble writer, exalted genius, pity he died!! At last they settled down upon Lady Morgan: concerning the place of whose education they were strangely at variance.

“Pardon me, ma’dam, she was educated in a Charter-school.”

“Excuse me, ma’am, with great submission to your superior information, she was brought up in the Duchess of Rutland’s family, and afterwards became Governante to the young Ladies Manners.”

“My information, ma’am, was from the very best authority.”

“None can be more surely depended on than my account, ma’am. Surely we all know that her father was a gentleman of fortune, descended from one of the most ancient families in Ireland; and not likely to send his daughter to a Charter-school. His name was M’Keon.”

“There, ma’am, you see how correct your information is: every one knows her father’s name was Owenson; but we’ll ask Lord R—. Lord R—, who is Lady Morgan?”

“By my sowl,” snored out the Peer, “I wish you wouldn’t be disturbing me, for I’m fast asleep.”

Sleeping together

The gentlemen now put on their night-caps, and variously exerted themselves to secure some comfort for the night — Lord R—’s nasal organ giving forth the solemn sound that tells the midnight hour, whilst the ladies endeavoured to look as amiable and interesting in divers mob-head-gear, as they severally might. Two of the male party placed themselves at full length on the table, esteeming, no doubt, that the convenience of the company was but a small matter, in comparison to the enjoyment of having their figures displayed to the best advantage, and their necks stretched before their due time, as our man of puns remarked.

Others took the ease of a berth on the floor, choosing the softest spot, whilst some laid down their heads on a pillow put upon as much of the table as they could obtain, and snored away the time in most pig stye-ish melody. Nothing seemed to disturb the rest of the passengers, except a few abrupt exclamations, now and again, such as — “Sir, I’ll thank you to keep your foot out of my pocket!” — “Pray, Sir, don’t tread on my eye!” — “The next time you give a kick, Sir, if it be somewhat lighter, you will confer a favor!”

The five Misses Blake, after making various wonderful efforts to engage the attention of our College men, including our punster, from whom the others seemed to take their cue, at last settled down into sleep, which was considerably accelerated by the punster having observed that he hated a Bleak retreat. The young ladies set up as pretty a quintetto as the imagination of a snorer well could fancy.

Disturbance in the night

Grand Canal: Robertstown to Shannon Harbour (OSI 25″ ~1900)

Killagally Glebe (OSI 6″)

At Philipstown a great influx of passengers poured in upon us, about half past two o’clock in the morning, just as I was adjusting myself for a sleep; they were returning from the Assizes of the King’s County. — These were divers gentlemen from the neighbourhood of Banagher, wending their way homewards after the toil and turmoil of their necessary attendance upon the law courts; and as they esteemed it futile to attempt a sleep themselves, they were desperately bent on preventing all others from enjoying even that disturbed repose which the very small convenience of a crowded boat could admit. An immediate ringing of the bell was fixed on, as the most notable expedient for this purpose; and this was accompanied by various calls for porter, cider, ale, Mary the maid, and so forth.

“Eh! what’s all this?” roared out James B—, suddenly awakened from a deep, sound sleep, “By the goodness gracious, we are going to the bottom. Eh, what’s this? is hell broke loose? Bedlam is let out, I believe!” “No,” said the pupil of Tom Gannon, “it is only the people discharged from the Assizes, and they are making merry on the occasion.” “By the goodness gracious though, they shall not be making merry at our expense; I’ll commit them to Galway jail. My Lord, will you get up and keep the peace? you’re a Magistrate boati.” “Pace,” replied his Lordship, “Pace: you’re more handy at the pace yourself (either breaking it or keeping it), James B—, than I am. But what can you expect from Leinsther men? They haven’t the dacency in them like us at all.”

Morning

The sun now rose in his unclouded majesty, gilding the towers and woods of Charleville, the magnificent seat of the Earl of that name, and exhibiting the town of Tullamore to our view at a little distance. The windows of the cabin were put down, some fresh air admitted, and the impurities of the past night cleansed away.

Preparations for breakfast soon began, and anticipation of a raking pot of tea, after the fatigues of the night, was by no means a small enjoyment, whilst the occupancy of the thing itself was the source of no little pleasure. The merits of divers eggs were entered into with a gout seldom exhibited any where else; and sundry pieces of bread were sent to be toasted from one end of the table, which, upon their return, were most religiously waylaid and devoured by those through whose hands the toast should pass to reach the sender.

Our literary ladies warmly discussed sundry cups of tea, with even greater heat than the comparative excellencies of Fenelon and Bossuet, digesting the matter with more apparent good will; and agreeing fully upon this, that Nott, Fergusson, and Company had been of great service to the tea trade of Dublin, as they were now able to get their favourite beverage full three halfpence an ounce cheaper than before their establishment was set up.

Journey’s end

As we passed Killigally, John Denis Browne, the notable, gave us an entire relation of his misfortunes in that quarter, and almost charged James B— with being the author of that egregious hoax, which brought him so fruitlessly from his alma mater, and led, in pursuit of exaltation and honor in the church militant, to the prejudice of his studies and lucubrations for the benefit of his country. The five Misses Blake condoled with the misfortunes of so sweet a youth, at the same time congratulating him, by way of comfort, on the splendid address which he got up for himself upon leaving College, and the numerous and respectable signatures affixed.

Killagally Glebe north of the canal (OSI 6″)

 

We discharged our cargo of Banagheronians at Shannon-harbour, and soon the noble river bearing that name greeted our delighted eyes. A wooden bridge, upon which the horses tread who tow the boat, has been built in this place. Here the stream, though not rapid, always flows majestically.

Shannon Harbour (OSI 6″)

I got into the steamer which plies between this and Killaloe, and bid farewell to my boat companions, leaving the two literary ladies hard again at De Genlis and Madame De Sevigne; and the youngest Miss Blake, at last successful in attaching to herself the wayward fancy of John Denis, by her merciless application of the Blarney stone.

This account is of interest for two reasons. First, it is one of a number of articles featuring John Denis Browne and James B—; it would be interesting to know who wrote them and why they were published. They seem to have been written to promote Browne’s interests; why did they deserve publication?

Second, it provides some useful information about the canal passage-boats: boarding away from regular stations, meals, sleeping. In particular, it confirms that the Shannon steamers, which met the boats from Dublin, did not enter the canal but took passengers aboard on the river, perhaps downstream of the bridge. Was there a quay or wharf to make that easier?

 

 

A summons from the sea

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].

CoDSPCo ad from the Dublin Evening Mail of 8 August 1827. Image © The British Library Board. All rights reserved.

 

 

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.

Tennyson, Hallam and the Harden family on board SS Leeds 1830

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.

 

 

 

Killaloe in the age of steam

That’s November’s talk at the Killaloe-Ballina historical society; details here and an account of Sandra Lefroy’s talk about the Phoenix here.

Canal restoration: Strabane and Broharris

Alas, the Derry Journal [h/t Industrial Heritage Ireland, the indispensable source of IH news] tells us that

STEVE BRADLEY believes Derry’s forgotten canal heritage could boost the region’s economic fortunes

No, it couldn’t.

Mr Bradley’s article is extremely interesting. He describes the history of the Strabane and the Broharris canals and, in the process, shows me that my page about the Broharris was entirely wrong. I am about to update that page but I am grateful to him for the information he provided. I hope he will forgive me, then, if I disagree with him about the economic potential of canal restoration.

He makes no exaggerated claims about the potential of the Broharris as anything other than a walking route; it could not be used by boats larger than canoes or kayaks and, even for them, there are no obvious launching or recovery sites.

But he wants more for the Strabane. He says that digging up the canal basin in the town, and restoring the navigable link to the Foyle, would provide a new Canal Quarter to attract investment even though it would, he concedes, be an expensive project.

But it is on the navigation aspects that he goes seriously astray:

Restoring the canal would hopefully also kick-start the use of the Foyle for leisure, recreation and tourism purposes. And restoring the 200 years old link between Strabane and the Foyle would be a great flagship project for a new council district with Derry and Strabane as its two main population centres.

Towns elsewhere have shown how restored canals can help bring new life and prosperity to the districts they flow through, yet locally we have neglected our water assets. It is time to give serious consideration to the role that our forgotten canal heritage could make towards improving the economic fortunes of our area.

I wrote about the Strabane Canal here and here. Sinn Féin, always keen on eighteenth century economics, tried to get Waterways Ireland to waste some of its money on the thing but, happily, failed.

The real problem with this is that there seem to be very few boats on the Foyle; I suspect that many of them are sailing boats that are not terribly suitable for use on canals, while others are fast seagoing vessels that would damage the banks. And boats will not come from Britain or Ireland or anywhere else to visit Strabane by canal: a boat suitable for the sea passage to the Foyle would be inherently unsuitable for the canal, even assuming that the delights of Strabane were sufficient to entice boaters to make the journey.

Irish waterways promoters have operated for years on the principle that, if the government gives them the money to build the canal, the traffic will come. Anyone who believes that should visit Tralee, where a similar canal, short and isolated, linking a town to the sea, is not used other than by walkers and the local rowing club. Seagoing boats go to Fenit instead.

And, on “how restored canals can help bring new life and prosperity to the districts they flow through”, I recommend a visit to the Royal Canal, which is very nice but has very little traffic. As, indeed, does the Grand Canal. English experience with a large connected network of canals is not relevant to Irish conditions, whether on geographic or on economic grounds.

 

The Hind

The River Hind Navigation is not well known, which may be attributable to its non-existence. There were several proposals to make the Hind navigable, to link the town of Roscommon to Lough Ree on the Shannon, but none of them were implemented. One of them almost made it, though, and such interest as the topic has is the result of the Hind’s inclusion (or semi-inclusion) on the list of navigations for which W T Mulvany, Commissioner for Drainage, was responsible in the late 1840s and early 1850s.

Mulvany was responsible for five drainage-cum-navigation projects (and many drainage projects), whereof the Hind was the least important. The other four were

  • the Lough Oughter navigation, upstream on Lough Erne from Belturbet, which was never completed: various (mostly Fianna Fáil) insane politicians in the area are still trying to have it completed
  • the Cong and Belturbet Canals, which were abandoned before they were finished
  • the Junction Canal in the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Drainage District, later known as the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Canal, which had a brief and notoriously unprofitable existence, but which was later transformed into the Shannon—Erne Waterway, which was a good investment for Ireland because the Germans [or someone] paid for it
  • the Lower Bann navigation, linking Lough Neagh (which already had two links to coastal ports) with the North Atlantic in the middle of a beach near Coleraine. This was the only one of Mulvany’s navigations that was completed and that remained open, despite its complete uselessness, as the railways got to the area before the navigation did.

In this catalogue of commercial nitwittedness, the Hind had the advantage that it was delayed: an even more insane proposal, to drain the Suck into the Hind, meant that the Hind navigation scheme was deferred long enough to be abandoned altogether, which was just as well as the railway soon made any navigation unnecessary.

However, the proposal was there and, if you are very bored, you might like to read about it. But this is for anoraks: the subject is unimportant, the detail [163 endnotes] outweighing what little interest the scheme possesses. There are no photos of boats or of locks, because there weren’t any; there aren’t even any cat videos.

 

They haven’t gone away, you know ….

There we were, about to breathe a sigh of relief that the Clones Sheugh had been buried at the crossroads, with a stake through its heart and numerous rows of garlic planted around it, when a crack appeared in the earth and the shriek of the undead made the night hideous.

Yes, it seemed that the Minister for Fairytales had successfully diverted everyone’s attention away from Clones by (a) designating the River Finn as the Ulster Canal, which would lead to a scout camp at the spiritual home of Ulster Unionism rather than to Clones, and (b) supporting a greenway walking route to take care of the handsacrosstheborder bit (although ministers from up there seemed to be scarce at the launch. I suppose they’re scarce anyway).

The greenway seems like a better idea to me, given that it’s significantly cheaper than canal restoration and likely to attract far more users, although I wasn’t impressed by the economic assessment in Waterways Ireland’s Ulster Canal Greenway draft strategy document from April 2017 [PDF]. Here is the assessment in full:

6.2 Economic Assessment
Ultimately, the cost of developing a route will play a part in the decision-making process. It may be technically possible to overcome an obstacle, but the cost might make it unfeasible and a longer route chosen. All factors in the Greenway Strategy will be assessed and the most sustainable routes chosen.

That seems to suggest that the costs and benefits of the plan have been thought through with as much care and attention as Her Majesty’s Government over the way has given to Brexit. Which, I imagine, will put paid to much handsacrosstheborderism anyway; I hope it doesn’t put paid to Waterways Ireland as well, although it’s bound to increase the difficulties under which that body labours.

But revenons à nos moutons. Just when we thought it was safe to go out, the dead arose. Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy said

Clones needs the Ulster Canal if it’s to have a viable tourism future.

Also from the report of the meeting:

A presentation at the meeting revealed that over 50 percent of buildings in Fermanagh Street in Clones are derelict.

Frustration at the lack of progress with the Ulster Canal was voiced, with representatives stating that it was on the agenda in 1999 and is still on it now.

Perhaps Clones has not got the message: the Ulster Canal is off the agenda. But there is a more fundamental problem: [some] small rural towns are dying because there is no longer any economic need for them. The scale of things has changed since the late nineteenth century; consumers can travel to Aldi and Lidl in larger towns; local markets and fairs are no longer how business is done.

Tourism is unlikely to rescue Clones: if it could do so, why isn’t the town already a tourist destination? Why aren’t its attractions well known throughout Germany and wherever else tourists come from? Enabling tourists to visit by water is not going to attract significant numbers from abroad: there are more scenic and interesting waterways elsewhere, in Ireland and on the continent. There would be a very poor return on the millions that a canal to Clones would cost — not helped by proposals for significant overpayment for land.

I still don’t understand why Sinn Féin is so keen on canals generally and the Clones Sheugh in particular. But Clones might find a new economic role as a post-Brexit smuggling centre.

 

The vast utility of internal navigation

As a manifest proof of the vast utility and advantage of internal navigation, the present price of land carriage to Banagher, which is that particular part which the Canal is to extend to in its Westerly progress, is 2s 4d per hundred weight, or 2l 6s 8d the ton, but the freightage and tonnage by the Canal cannot exceed thirteen shillings, which in some articles, either sent to or from the capital, must reduce the price upwards of forty per cent.

From this calculation we suppose the tonnage to be three halfpence a mile and the freightage a penny, but there will be many loadings that will not be rated or charged at so high a price; as for instance, lime, stones, flag and slate, which are to pay but a halfpenny, fuel a farthing, and dung, marl, and gravel for manure, entirely exempt from any charge.

Of what infinite use it will be to the manufactures of this kingdom in the article of fuel only, may be evinced by the price of Kilkenny coal being reduced more than one-half, and corn, flour, with an infinite variety of other matters, being sent much cheaper to this city. The profits resulting will enable this useful design to be still extended, by forming collateral branches, with all the navigable rivers in the central counties, and perhaps making communication with the remotest part of this kingdom.

Saunders’s News-Letter 24 October 1785