Category Archives: The grain trade

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.

 

 

McCanns and the Royal Canal

I mentioned McCanns, important Royal Canal carriers, here. The Dublin Mercantile Advertiser, and Weekly Price Current of 13 June 1845 mentioned the firm in another context. On 11 June 1845 the parliamentary committee on the Dublin and Mullingar railway examined H M Tuite, MP for Westmeath, on the subject. A Mr Callaghan appeared for Messrs McCann, “extensive carriers of the Royal Canal”, who opposed the proposed railway. He cross-examined Tuite who, in response to a Callaghan query, said

Since the canal has been under the management of Messrs McCann it has much improved in every respect; the goods are now punctually delivered at their destination.

It’s not clear what that means. Were McCanns managing the canal itself? Or were they effectively managing the general transport business thereon? Slater’s listing may imply that the Royal Canal Company carried (small) parcels pretty well everywhere but that McCanns dominated the general freight trade. At any rate, I would like to know more about McCanns.

From the BNA

The Ohio River

His tow, like most, was 105 feet wide. The lock chamber is 110 feet wide. To park his 1,130-foot, 19,200-ton craft, he had as much space as a car does in a crowded parking lot.

From a fascinating piece on the New York Times website about two ageing locks on the Ohio and the traffic that passes through them.

h/t Alex Tabarrok on Marginal Revolution

The habits of the papists

On 15 February 1833 the Earl of Roden presented to the House of Lords petitions from various places “praying for the better observance of the Sabbath”. Some of the petitioners seemed to be shopkeepers who liked to take Sundays off and didn’t want anyone else taking their custom while they were closed.

Lord Cloncurry, however, pointed to the problems such observance might cause in Ireland, where there were different understandings of what should be done on Sundays. He felt that

[…] care should be taken, in enforcing the law, not to create discord, and do mischief to the people.

Not that creating discord would have bothered Roden, one of the nineteenth century’s prize nitwits.

Cloncurry, of Lyons House, Ardclough, Co Kildare, near where a brewer is buried, was a director of the Grand Canal Company — or rather

He was engaged in the Canal Navigation of Ireland, which afforded valuable commercial opportunities to private individuals, and to those of the middling classes the means of maintaining their families in decency and comfort.

He pointed out to his noble colleagues that canal boatmen treated Sunday like any other day: boats left Limerick and other places on Saturdays and kept going throughout the weekend, probably stopping for mass on Sunday morning:

Noble Lords, perhaps, were not aware, that in the Catholic Church, the rule was to attend mass in the forenoon, and it was then deemed allowable to spend the remainder of the day in amusement or business.

However, two magistrates had “at no distant period” ordered the police to stop boats from travelling on Sundays. These were probably the magistrates in Athy and Monasterevan, as described by Nicholas Fanning of the Grand Canal Company in 1830. The result of the magistrates’ action was that the boatmen went to the pub and their cargoes were plundered. The same magistrates had stopped cargoes of cattle from Clare and Galway en route to Dublin port [although it is difficult to see why they would have gone through Athy or Monasterevan].

The act of the Magistrates already alluded to was in violation of law; for the proper course was to have summoned the boatmen for the offence, instead of stopping the boat. It was not, therefore, surprising that law should be held cheap in Ireland, when it was broken by those who ought to uphold it.

Roden said that Cloncurry should name the magistrates so that there could be an inquiry — Cloncurry refused as he didn’t want to bring odium on them — but he reckoned that they were probably only enforcing the law. Roden said

As to the opinions of Roman Catholics relative to the Sabbath, he would say, without meaning them any offence, that Parliament ought to legislate according to its own religious feelings.

He didn’t foresee the rise of the shopping centre.

 

Transport history

Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution quotes an interesting extract today from a new book on the history of India:

…the most important technological change for the transportation of heavy goods in nineteenth-century India was not the arrival of the quick, expensive railway: it was the move from pack animals to carts pulled by two or four beasts in the first half of the century.  This was the process historian Amalendu Guha calls ‘the bullock cart revolution’.  Throughout the 1860s and 1870s railways found it impossible to compete not only with bullock carts, but also with human-powered river transport.  Rowing boats along the Ganges and Jamuna won a price war with the railways over the cost of transporting heavy goods.  Vessels powered by human beings were able to undercut steam vessels elsewhere.

There is a description of the book (which I have now ordered) here.

How did transport in Ireland compare? In the first half of the century, road transport using Scotch carts dominated carrying. Within about 55 miles of Dublin, eastward of Mullingar on the Royal and Tullamore on the Grand, canal carriers did little business except in the heaviest goods: the Scotch carts, each drawn by one horse and carrying about one ton, dominated the trade. But the Scotch carts relied on there being good roads, which in many cases required government intervention of one sort or another.

But rowing boats do not seem to have been serious contenders on Irish inland waterways. They might have been used on the Shannon, to tow canal boats, and the idea was mooted, but nothing seems to have come of it. The problem, I suspect, was that there was little or no trade: when it did arrive, it did so because the steamers created it. And the capital cost of a large pulling boat might have been beyond the means of a small-scale entrepreneur who might have been able to afford a cart.

On the other hand, vessels powered by sail retained certain markets, including traffic across the Irish Sea, until the middle of the twentieth century.

Much about Irish transport history remains unclear to me.

The Irish family farm …

why we don’t need it.

h/t Alex Tabarrok on Marginal Revolution

Cussane lock

Cussane or Coosaun Lock was the lowest of three on the Killaloe Canal, which was the uppermost section of the Limerick Navigation. It was a double lock or “staircase pair”.

Cussane Lock (OSI ~1900)

Cussane Lock (OSI ~1900)

 

You can see what the lockkeeper’s house looked like in 2015 in the article “A Flooded Landscape Revealed“, written by folk who surveyed the area last year for Irish Water.

My OSI logo and permit number for website

Lough Gill

Mr Kernaghan’s steamer is navigating Lough Gill, which has increased the value of country produce in Sligo market 15 per cent, and it is proposed to connect the Lough with the Shannon four miles distant.

Roscommon & Leitrim Gazette 11 May 1844

From the BNA

Irish waterways in context

More than 25,000 barges were being used on Britain’s inland waterways in the middle decades of the nineteenth century.

Philip S Bagwell The Transport Revolution from 1770 B T Batsford Ltd, London 1974

I wonder what the figure for Ireland was. My guess is that, including small turf boats and cots, it was probably less than one tenth of the British figure.

Horses for towing? Bullocks!

The Colthurst canals.