Category Archives: Sources

Shannon water levels

According to the Indo, which may or may not know anything about the matter itself but probably got a press release from someone [to whom the same qualification may apply], farmers along the Shannon Callows are concerned about rising water levels at Clonown, an area on the west bank below Athlone.

The level in that area is held up by the weir at Meelick. But according to Waterways Ireland today,

[…]  low water levels exist on the upstream approaches to Meelick and Victoria Lock. Water levels are currently below Summer levels.

According to the OPW gauges at Athlone, the water level is below the 50th percentile and is falling. The same applies at Banagher, although it did exceed the 50th percentile for some days.

Three lessons suggest themselves:

  • farmers might need to get used to the idea that, when it rains, it gets wet — and that, if they choose to farm on a floodplain, their land might get wet too
  • politicians might refrain from issuing nonsensical panic-laden press releases to gain free publicity [but I suppose that’s too much to ask for]
  • journalists might like to check stuff for themselves instead of reprinting press releases unquestioningly [but that too is probably too much to ask for].

Limerick Navigation lockkeepers

The Limerick Navigation was in five sections — three canals with river sections in between — and joined Limerick to Killaloe and the rest of the inland Shannon. The canal sections had locks, each controlled by a lockkeeper who lived on site. The job passed from generation to generation: some of the lockkeepers’ cottages are still inhabited by descendants of the lockkeepers.

Cussane lock (OSI 25″ ~1900)

Cussane was the furthest downstream of the three locks on the Killaloe section of the canal. It was covered by water when the Ardnacrusha hydroelectric scheme created the “flooded area” below Killaloe. If memory serves, Cussane was known as Crowe’s Lock.

In the online searchable catalogue of the Registered Papers of the Chief Secretary’s Office in the National Archives, there is a letter dated 15 February 1830 [CSO/RP/1830/815]

[…] from James Saurin, Henry R Paine, and John Radcliffe, [Directors General of Inland Navigation], Board of Control, [Dublin], to Hugh Percy, 3rd Duke Northumberland, [Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Dublin], recommending Denis Crow to succeed Lott Corboy sheriff as lockkeeper on the Limerick Navigation.]

There is also a letter dated 2 June 1830 [CSO/RP/1830/836]

from James Saurin, J Armit, and Henry R Paine, [Directors General of Inland Navigation], Navigation Office, [Dublin], to Hugh Percy, 3rd Duke Northumberland, [Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Dublin], recommending dismissal of Simon Johnston, lockkeeper on the Limerick Navigation, for irregularities and for deception; asking to employ Michael Gully in his stead, for Stg£9-4-9 per annum.

Gully’s Lock is at Gillogue, on the central canal section known as the Plassey–Errina Canal.

Gillogue lock (OSI 25″ ~1900)

 

 

 

Robert French of Monivea

Another addition to the collection of turf and bog navigations: the Monivea navigations, developed by Robert French in the middle of the eighteenth century. The navigations, like certain others in the nineteenth century, combined drainage, navigation and water power.

Monivea is near Athenry in Co Galway.

 

The Lough Gill Steam Company

Annual report of the Lough Gill Steam Company

Rev Thomas M’Keon, in the Chair

According to the Deed of Settlement, the Accounts are now laid before the Shareholders, and your Committee have the pleasure of recommending a dividend of 7 per Cent, still leaving a balance on hands as a surplus fund. This being her maiden year, during the first six months very few people travelled by the Steam Boat, the people being deterred by superstitious stories; but your Committee are enabled to state, that for the last six months, the passenger traffic has increased 350 per cent, with a prospect of a still further increase.

Lough Gill (OSI 25″)

Most of the passengers come from Drumkeerin, Doury, Dabally, and the country beyond the River Shannon, who are enabled by this conveyance to go to the Sligo Market, and return home the same day, thus travelling upwards of 50 Irish miles. From Manorhamilton and Glenfarn few passengers have as yet come, but it is hoped they will find this the best, cheapest, and quickest route, the fares for nine Irish miles being only 6d in cabin, and 3d on deck. If the contemplated road to Glenfarn by Gurtermore was opened, a passenger trade from Enniskillen (in 4½ hours from Sligo), Blacklion, Glenfarn, almost equal to her present trade, might be fairly expected. The Committee recommend all means to be used to get this road, about 3½ miles long, to be opened.

The number of passengers for six months ending October were:

Cabin 3240        Deck 12932

Your Committee would advise a system of Tickets for Passengers. The improvements of the Shannon are rapidly progressing, and when finished (in about 2 years) will, in conjunction with the Athlone Railway, open an immense passenger traffic on this line, the City of Dublin Company having offered to run powerful Steamers in conjunction with this Company to the Railway, bringing all the passengers between Sligo and Dublin.

The thanks of the Company are due are hereby to given [sic] C W Williams Esq of the City of Dublin Steam Company for his promptitude in attending to the wishes of the Company, and to James Heartley [recte Hartley] Esq for running a Car in conjunction with the Steamer and Dublin Day Coach, and his reduction of Fares on the Line, Passengers getting from Sligo to Dublin for 13s.

Your committee have to thank the Public generally for the support they have received, and they trust by the attention of their officers to serve the Public, that the Public in return will serve them, and hope at the next Annual Meeting to be able to declare a dividend of 14 per cent.

The Lady of the Lake leaves Sligo at 4 Evening, and Dromahair at ½ past 9, Morning

For Carrick and Dublin Per Steamer, Car, and Day-Coach, 13s.

The Lady of the Lake has ceased to ply on Sundays.

Company’s Office, Dromahair, 10th Oct 1844

The Champion, Sligo 12 October 1844

Before the Guinness Liffey barges

During the past half-year also — within the last two months — Messrs Guinness and Co have finished the very extensive stores both here [at Grand Canal Harbour] and at our docks [Grand Canal Docks, Ringsend], and have commenced to carry their whole import and export trade upon our canal between these points. They have purchased boats, and are carrying on the trade with great zeal and efficiency, and we expect it will form a very considerable addition to your revenue from the tolls.

From the address of the Chairman, William Digges La Touche Esq, to the half-yearly meeting of the Grand Canal Company on 31 August 1867, reported in the Dublin Evening Post 4 September 1867

 

Tarmonbarry 1851

To the Editor of the [Dublin] Evening Mail

Sir

In your impression of the 3d instant, under the head of “The Famine Advances and the English Press”, I find a reference to the (so called) improvement of the Shannon; that of the sum of £313009 advanced by government, £230325 has been repaid. In this case you say (and most truly say) “the jobbing was most flagrant, and the reckless waste of the public money unparalleled”.

So far you are correct, but you are, no doubt, labouring under a very common mistake when you say the works have very recently been completed, such not being the case. Some handsome bridges, with swivel arches, and spacious locks — one in this neighbourhood too small to admit an ordinary river steamer. Nor was the level properly taken, there not being sufficient water to carry tonnage drawing more than 5 feet 6 inches, during the greater part of the summer.

Now, I should wish to know, through your well informed medium, to what cause is to be attributed the present state of the weir, or lock dam, adjoining Tarmonbarry, a span of nearly 500 feet. Owing to the improper manner in which the same has been executed, upwards of 60 feet have given way, and when examined by the engineer of the board, the entire is found in such a state as will involve the rebuilding.

In justice to this gentlemen, I am bound to say he was not the engineer under whom it was constructed, nor do I think, until very lately, he had anything to do with the Shannon Commission, every work in which he has been engaged, being acknowledged to be well executed.

I am not aware whether you are in possession of this fact, that in order to make the Shannon improvements available or remunerative, it has been considered necessary to construct a canal to “Lough Erne”, adjoining Belturbet, and thence to communicate with Belfast, by “the Ulster canal”. You will, I am sure, agree with me in the old adage, that “this would be going round the world to look for a short cut”; but the cut I allude to is not so short, as it involves, I am informed, thirty miles of new canal, and several large and expensive locks.

But, Sir, I must inform you, that the tolls of the river Shannon, from Carrick-on-Shannon to Limerick city, are barely sufficient to pay the lock-keepers’ salaries. The Shannon Commission I would henceforth style “the Shannon job”.

I remain, Sir, though a bad dancer, one who must

Pay the Piper

[Dublin] Evening Mail 17 November 1851

From the British Newspaper Archive

Costs on the Royal and the Grand 1843 and 1844

The second half-yearly meeting of the Grand Canal Company in 1844 seems to have been an extended affair. It was adjourned to allow the directors to amend their report on “the state of the company’s works” and, when it reassembled on Saturday 23 November, there was an unusually large attendance and a fractious debate, with several criticisms of the accounts and their “ambiguity and unintelligible nature”. The inconclusive meeting was eventually adjourned until 14 December, to allow proprietors [shareholders] to examine the accounts.

Amongst the critics of the directors was Mr H Bruce, who was unhappy with several aspects of the management of the company, one of them the extravagance of the directors. He said

He had taken the trouble of comparing the Grand Canal with the Royal Canal Company for two consecutive years, and he would give the meeting the result of that comparison.

Here are the elements of that comparison in tabular format.

Those with a keen interest in the Royal Canal Company will no doubt have been surprised to find its management being complimented for anything, but the comparison is interesting even if, as Sir John Kingston James pointed out, the Royal Canal Company had fewer [passenger-carrying] boats “and consequently they had to pay less for horse power”: it would have been fairer to compare the costs per mile.

On repairs, Mr Bruce said that

Every one knew that the Royal Canal was a much more perishable canal than the Grand Canal, for instead of being excavated, a great part of it was built. No canal was more liable to the danger of an outbreak on the country, and of being bored through, than the Royal Canal, consequently it required more money to keep it in repair than the Grand Canal […]. Yet, what was the amount charged for repairing the Royal Canal in 1844, though in that year a serious breach took place in it? — why, only £1869.

Note that salaries cost considerably more than did the boat crews and that horse contracts, for hauling the boats, were about four times the cost of masters and crew on the Grand and aboout six times that cost on the Royal.

Dublin Evening Post 26 November 1844

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.