Category Archives: Suir

The good old English plan

Browsing the Dublin Morning Register of 1 August 1828, I came across this item, taken from the Waterford Mirror:

On Tuesday, John Purcell Fitzgerald, of London, Esq, entertained his numerous tenantry of this neighbourhood at dinner, at his ancient castle at the Little Island, in the river Suir, about two miles below Waterford, on the good old English plan, a plan which we would by no means be sorry to see in more general imitation in Ireland. About five hundred sat to table.

Here is Little Island in the Suir estuary below Waterford:

Waterford Castle (OSI 6″ ~1840)

 

 

It is now a hotel with activities (shooting, archery, croquet and the unmentionable (which involves mashie-niblicks, joggers and cleeks)).

Waterford Castle car ferry (some years ago: I think there may be a new one now)

John Purcell Fitzgerald was born John Purcell, son of a Dublin doctor; he became a Fitzgerald when his already-wealthy wife became even wealthier on inheriting her father’s estates. His main achievement was fathering Edward Fitzgerald, translator of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

Neither of them, though, was half as important as John’s brother Peter, the greatest mail-coach operator in Ireland, hotelier, coachbuilder, promoter of agricultural improvement, lobbyist for Catholic emancipation and against slavery, supporter of innumerable charities and first chairman of the Great Southern and Western Railway. He was one of a generation of supremely capable Irish transport entrepreneurs who managed the transition to steam power on land and water.

This is how the Dublin Weekly Nation of 30 May 1846 announced Purcell’s death:

DEATH OF PETER PURCELL ESQ

We regret to announce the death of this gentleman, which took place at his house, 3, Rutland-square, on Friday morning. He was a man of kind and generous nature; a good landlord, a liberal and considerate employer, and a practical philanthropist. His enterprise did nearly as much as that of Mr Bianconi in supplying facilities of intercourse on a great scale to this country.

He was the greatest coach proprietor, and one of the largest railway shareholders, in Ireland. The Agricultural Society, the Testimonial to Father Mathew, and other national projects in which he was engaged, and the liberal spirit in which he sustained similar movements, are evidences that he had a real and unselfish interest in the prosperity of Ireland.

He was an active member of the Precursor Society till his unhappy quarrel with O’Connell, to which this is not a moment to allude further. In the estimation of his fellow-citizens he occupied a creditable place, and the grief for his death is deep and general.

The Mail of last night, generously oblivious of the political differences between it and Mr Purcell, says:

“As a man of business, whether as a government contractor, or as a proprietor and cultivator of land, he bore the character of a man of energy, enterprise, and honesty; punctual in his engagements — liberal in his expenditure — judicious in his management — a great employer of labour — a charitable benefactor of poverty and distress.

“In the private relations of friendship and family affections, he won all hearts by the homeliness and sincerity of his manner — the unaffected simplicity of his tastes — the hospitality of his table — and the genuine kindliness of his domestic dispositions.

“Strong good sense and natural good humour were his distinguishing qualities in his intercourse with the world. Many a good joke we have run upon him as a public man, in this journal; and we must do him justice to say, they were taken by him, as meant by us, as effusions of a tolerant spirit, which, while it must condemn the exertions of opponent parties, is still willing to soften the acerbities of political strife by as much good humour as can be thrown into the political cauldron.

“We wish we had many such to deal with as Peter Purcell — was.

“We write the word with sorrow. He departed this life — we trust for a better — at an early hour this morning, at his residence in Rutland-square.”

And a few lines from the Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent of the same day:

From Mr Purcell we differed in political opinion, and we have frequently in this journal felt it our duty to comment with freedom on his public conduct, but we never did, and never could deny that he was a fair, straightforward, honorable, and manly opponent, to whose personal character no exception could be taken, and whose sincerity in whatever views he advocated was unquestionable.

Purcell — who worked for Catholic Emancipation but did not want the Act of Union to be repealed — was, for a few years, active in local politics in Dublin. His quarrel with Daniel O’Connell came when he found that the funds of the Precursor Society were lodged in O’Connell’s own bank account. O’Connell promised Purcell several times that he would put them under the control of the society’s trustees but did not honour his promise. Purcell eventually felt that he had no option but to resign and to make public his reasons for doing so.

There is a memorial to Peter Purcell (by John Hogan) in the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin.

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”.

 

State of trade on the River Suir [1842]

People who read this will hardly believe that such a state of things, as it details, can exist in any portion of the British dominions; and yet, in the year 1842, undoubtedly in Ireland, and in Ireland only, can we find such facts — positive facts.

It is still more surprising to find that this extraordinary state of things should exist on a river on which a very considerable export and import trade passes — and yet so it is.

A fair challenge to the Chambers of Commerce of Clonmel and Waterford is now given. Let them deny the following data, if they can, seriatim, honestly and plainly:—

  1. That the boat trade between Clonmel and Waterford is in the hands of so few persons that it is, in truth and fact, a monopoly to all intents and purposes.
  2. That those corn factors, who export their produce by these boats, are allowed to import coal, iron, timber, groceries, or other goods, at a lower rate of freight than merchants or shopkeepers, who only import those articles, and do not export.
  3. That combination exists amongst the boatmen to such an extent, that they are, in point of fact and truth, the masters of the river, and have in reality succeeded in their “strikes”.
  4. That only a certain fixed number of boats are allowed to ply on the river, and that when a new boat is built, part of an old boat must be worked up into the new one.
  5. That although great improvements have been effected at Carrick in deepening the river, and thus bringing up vessels to the new quay there, the boatmen of Clonmel and Carrick will not navigate any boats from Clonmel which are to ship their cargoes at Carrick, but they insist and do take such boats on to Waterford.
  6. That when the bill for the Limerick and Waterford railway passed, and £100000 was granted in aid — which railway was to pass through Carrick, Clonmel, Caher, and Tipperary — not one merchant in Clonmel took a share.
  7. That the exports of Waterford amount to above two millions annually, a considerable proportion of which is the produce of the vally [sic] of the Suir, and descends that river.
  8. That the state of the river Suir, as a navigation, between Clonmel and Carrick, is the worst in Ireland; that the import trade in these boats is dragged up the river by horses; that great delays take place, to such an extent, that the import trade suffers most considerably, to the detriment of every person in the community.
  9. That the expenses of the towing path &c fall upon the county at large.

Can it then be matter of surprise that, under such circumstances, Ireland is so much behind hand as she is?

Dublin Evening Mail 28 March 1842

Coolawn

Graving Bank, Waterford

Three River Barges, also the Steam Barge ‘Coolawn’, for sale

To be sold by auction, on Friday, 8th September, 1905, at 12 o’clock, at the Graving Bank, Waterford, by directions of Messrs Robert McAlpine and Sons (owing to the completion of the Waterford and Rosslare Railway), 3 River Barges, also the Steam Barge, ‘Coolawn’. Carrying capacity, 25 to 40 tons.

All are in good working repair, and well found. Terms — Cash.

THOS WALSH & SON, Auctioneers, The Mall, Waterford

Waterford Standard 26 August 1905


City of Waterford // Valuable Steam Barge for sale

To be sold by auction, on Tuesday, 2nd October, 1906, at Twelve o’clock, at the Graving Bank, Waterford. By directions of Messrs Robert McAlpine and Soons, Railway Contractors, the steel steam barge ‘Coolawn’.

To carry from 40 to 45 tons on light draft of water; length about 58 feet, beam 13 feet 6 inches; fitted with Winch, Double Cylinder Engine, Screw Propeller with three blades, Boiler of the locomotive type, by Tangye; Two feed Tanks, to hold about 600 gallons each.

This Sale is well worthy the attention of contractors and others. She is in good working order, and can be inspected day previous to and morning of sale. Terms — Cash.

Thomas Walsh & Son, Auctioneers etc, The Mall, Waterford

Irish Times 29 September 1906

Big Knock

During the past month business at the Larne Shipbuilding Works has been exceedingly brisk, and the carrying out of new orders is still proceeding apace. […] There was launched on the 19th inst one steel motor barge, 70 X 16 X 7 feet, and fitted with 40 BHP Bolinder engines, to consume crude oil. The barge was built to the order of Messrs E Dowley & Sons, Ltd, of Carrick-on-Suir.

[…] The motor engines are installed by Bright’s Patent Pulley Co, Portadown.

Larne Times and Weekly Telegraph
22 February 1913

I don’t have the dimensions of the Big Knocknagow, but 70 X 16 is larger than the Little Knocknagow, so I suspect that this shows that the Big Knock was built in Larne and launched in 1913.

No doubt information about the origins of the Little Knock will turn up at some stage.

Down the Suir

Cheekpoint

Andrew Doherty runs the Waterford Harbour tides’n’tales blog which, starting with a focus on the traditional fishing community of Cheekpoint, has broadened out to take in the whole of the Suir estuary and a few other things besides. As he says

My unending passion is researching and writing about our way of life and more fully understanding the history and heritage that surrounds us here.

Before the tide went out

Andrew has now written a book, Before the tide went out, and it will be launched at Jack Meade’s on Friday 20 October 2017 at 7.30pm.

From the blurb:

Andrew Doherty vividly brings you into the heart of a now practically vanished fishing community, deep into the domestic lives of the people making a hard and precarious living from the river, only 6 miles from Waterford city centre. You share his affectionate memories of the local people and the fun that was to be had as a child playing in and around the fishing boats and nets on a busy quayside.

He also takes you out on the river, on bright and beautiful days, and on wild and dangerous nights, which he describes with a naturally story telling turn of phrase. You feel the cold, the misery of sea-soaked clothing and the pain of raw hands hauling on fish-scaled nets.

But what keeps you going is what kept him going for 15 years, the camaraderie and pride of spending time with brave, skilled and wise fishermen who could be grumpy, hilarious, sometimes eccentric, but never
boring.

Update: to buy the book see Andrew’s page here.

 

Increasing trade

Some of the boatmen of Carrick-on-suir burned a new boat to the water’s edge, on Monday last, as it was made contrary to the rules of the body, that no boat should be built except an old one was broken up. Informations have been taken.

Clare Journal, and Ennis Advertiser
24 August 1843

A new sporting opportunity for the Suir?

This could work, from Carrick-on-Suir up to Clonmel, as there is already a towing-path.

A Bourne mystery

Here is an ad, from 1785, offering to let flour-mills at Portlaw, Co Waterford, and a bake-house in John Street, Waterford, to a “tenant possessed of abilities”.

The ad is interesting in several respects. First, although the location of the flour-mills is not clear, they may have preceded the iron-works, the famous Malcolmson cotton-mill and the later tannery on the site; they certainly seem to have used the water power of the Clodiagh.

Second, the ad suggests that flour could be carried from the mills by three rivers to Waterford: the Clodiagh, the Suir and St John’s Pill, which is another navigation featured on this site.

Third, the ad invites applications to be sent to either John Thomas Medlycott in Dublin or John Edwards Bourne in Mayfield, Waterford. The Post-Chaise Companion [4th ed] says

Within half a mile of Portlaw, on the L is Glen-house the seat of Mr Bourne.

At Portlaw are the extensive mills built by Edward May Esq, and about a quarter of mile beyond Portlaw on the L is a large house built by the same gentleman.

About a mile from Portlaw, on the R situated on the banks of the Suir, is Mayfield, the noble and delightful seat, with very extensive and beautiful demesnes and plantations, of William Watson Esq and on the L is Coolfin, the seat of the Rev Thomas Monck.

That puts a Mr Bourne in Portlaw, though in Glenhouse rather than Mayfield. The Glenhouse address is confirmed by Matthew Sleater in 1806.

But what interests me is whether the John Edwards Bourne mentioned in the ad is related to John Edwards Bourne of Dunkerrin, Co Offaly, formerly of Nenagh, Co Tipperary, who died in 1799 or so. The Offaly Bourne seems to have had four brothers and three sisters.

I would be glad to hear from anyone who knows anything about the Portlaw Bourne (or indeed any of the other Bournes). If you can help, please leave a Comment below.

 

 

Railway progress

It is proposed that six cwt should travel on the Rail-road between this City and Waterford, ten miles an hour, urged by the propelling and locomotive engines. Thus, on the sixth day, the heaviest goods will reach London from Limerick; the fourth, Liverpool; and the third, Bristol.

In case the navigation of the Suir should be found inapplicable, an extension of the Railway to Dunmore is intended.

The undermentioned are expected to form the Committee, some of whom have already signified their intention to that effect:—

The Duke of Devonshire, the Marquis of Lansdowne, Earls Darnley, Glengall, Kenmare, Charleville, Kingston, and Ennismore; Lords Oxmantown and Lismore; Messrs T S Rice MP, J Smith MP, R Wellesley MP, Captain Maberly MP, Sir C Flower, Alderman Heygate &c.

Dublin Evening Post 3 February 1825

From the BNA

Some later information here.

Nowadays, the average duration of the eight daily trains between Limerick and Waterford is four hours and five minutes, for say eighty miles, so speeds have doubled since the 1825 proposals were made.