Towing paths and trackways

…  it shall be lawful for any grand jury in Ireland to present at any assizes such sums of money as may be necessary to repair or widen, to any width not exceeding fifteen feet, any towing path and trackway on the bank of any navigable river on which boats have been accustomed to be towed by horses, such sums to be levied off all the baronies and half baronies in the county or riding of the county in which such towing path and trackway are situate; and such sums so to be levied may be originally presented for at the presentment sessions held in and for the barony in which such towing path and trackway are locally situate.

The Grand Jury (Ireland) Act, 1873

78. A trackway on the bank of any navigable river within the meaning of the Grand Juries Act, 1873, shall, without prejudice to the reasonable use thereof for any purpose connected with navigation, be a public highway, and shall continue to be maintainable as provided by that Act.

Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898

 

Giving confidence to our Lady friends

The water has also been kept at a proper level by lowering the river bar at Galway, and constructing a regulating weir there. At some time the navigation channel in the narrow rocky portions of the lake was deepened, the rocks raised; and by buoying and marking with pillars, rocks, and irons, the steamer’s track, it has been rendered navigable from Galway to Cong, and also to Oughterard, and to within a couple of miles of Maam hotel.

All the marks on the eastern side of our upward course from Galway are coloured white, and those on the western side dark.

It will help to give confidence to our Lady friends, who can almost touch some of these marks, triangles, and gridirons, from the Eglinton, to know that all these rocks were lifted by the present captain of the vessel, who was formerly employed here as a diver.

Sir William R Wilde MD Lough Corrib, its shores and islands: with notices of Lough Mask McGlashan & Gill, Dublin; Longmans, Green, and Co, London 1867

Down with the euro

If Ireland had its own currency, the Central Bank could do things like this.

h/t Matt Levine, the thinking man’s guide to higher finance, who says that this [is that what Twitter looks like?] is a translation and that this is an account of the matter.

Now, over to Philip Lane ….

Who stole the technology?

I was thinking of buying a (secondhand) copy of Juliana Adelman and Éadaoin Agnew eds Science and technology in nineteenth-century Ireland Four Courts Press, Dublin 2011. But, even though the secondhand copy was much, much cheaper even than the publishers’ reduced price, I thought I should check what I’d be getting for my money. I therefore had a look at the contents list, which I reproduce here having nicked it from the publishers’ web page:

The list of contents

 

Is it just me, or is there a big gap there? How can you discuss nineteenth-century technology without an extended discussion of steam power, whether in ships, on railways, for drainage or in mills and other manufactories?

 

Mineral Oil Tax

Here is a list showing the number of returns for Mineral Oil Tax, the number of litres declared and the tax paid. Everyone in Ireland who owns a diesel-powered boat, and fuels it with green diesel, should be making a return; clearly very few are, and I suspect most of the litres (and the money) come from the hire firms. If that is so, their business is improving again.

Year Payers Litres Amount
2010 for 2009 38 n/a n/a
2011 for 2010 41 n/a n/a
2012 for 2011 22 141,503.29 €53,398.58
2013 for 2012 23 301,674 €113,841.45
2014 for 2013 20 279,842.4 €105,561.74
2015 for 2014 26 289,151 €108,934.80
2016 for 2015 18 371,666 €140,021.51
2017 for 2016 21 384,150 €144,724.65

As far as I can make out, in the nine months ending 30 September 2015 (the latest figures I can find here) the Irish Sailing Association [PDF] received €899,000 and individual sailing persons a further €114,000 from the taxpayer. Furthermore, pretty well the entire cost of the inland waterways is met by the taxpayer.

 

The origins of the Royal Canal

The Royal Canal’s origins have never been satisfactorily explained: a later legend even seeks to explain its origins in an obscure dispute between a retired shoemaker and other members of the Grand Canal Company. But in fact its origins were political. As the Grand Canal Company was taken over by the conservative La Touche clique, the opposition launched a new venture: its patron was the duke of Leinster; businessmen and opposition politicians rallied to it; and Gleadowes, rivals of the La Touches, were bankers to the company. In other words, there was to be a left-wing as well as a right-wing way to reach the Shannon. Almost symbolically on its more northerly route to the Shannon, it passed through the duke of Leinster’s land.

L M Cullen “Politics and Institutions, 1731–1835” in Economy, Trade and Irish Merchants at home and abroad, 1600–1988 Four Courts Press, Dublin 2012

Float Bridge

I have added some information to the post The Avarice of the Ferryman about Float Bridge. The Comments too contain useful points.

Up the Inny

The navigation of the River Inny from Ballynacarrow upriver to Lough Sheelin.

The opening of the Royal Canal

On 27 May 2017 the Royal Canal Amenity Group and Waterways Ireland are to commemorate the fact that

In May 1817 the Royal Canal was officially opened from Dublin to the Shannon ….

[Unfortunately I am unable to find anything about the commemorative event on WI’s website, although they did send me some information about it.]

I wondered how the opening might have been celebrated in 1817, but I haven’t been able to find out anything about it. I am hoping that some more knowledgeable person might be able to provide information: please leave a Comment below if you can help.

Ruth Delany gives 26 May 1817 as the date on which the contractors said that the western end of the canal (to the Shannon at Richmond Harbour) would be ready to hand over to the Directors General of Inland Navigation, who were running the show after the Royal Canal Company collapsed under the weight of its debts.

However, as far as I can see, the British Newspaper Archive contains no mention of any opening ceremony at any time in 1817. The Lanesborough Trader, the first boat to travel from the Shannon to Dublin did so in January 1818 [Saunders’s News-Letter 2 February 1818] and in May Mr Peel moved that a further £15000 be granted for completion of the navigation, where “shoals were
found to interfere” [Dublin Evening Post 23 May 1818].

Traffic increased later in 1818: in October the directors of the New Royal Canal Company went by boat

… from Dublin to Tarmonbury, and thence to the termination of the Canal, near the river Shannon, to inspect the works and give every necessary direction for the entire completion of that great and important undertaking ….
[Dublin Evening Post 20 October 1818]

The same newspaper reported that several boats of coal, found on the banks of the canal near Tarmonbury, had arrived in Dublin. It seems, therefore, that the canal was usable even if not entirely finished.

Later that month Christopher Dillon of Athlone, who had been trading on the Grand Canal and the Shannon, announced that he was moving his boats to the Royal Canal — but the western terminus for his boats was at Ballymahon, from which (although he did not say so) goods could be carried by road to Athlone: just the situation the Grand Canal Company had feared. [Dublin Evening Post 27 October 1818]

I have found no evidence of an opening ceremony in 1817; nor have I found evidence that the canal was actually open from the Shannon to the Liffey (or the Broadstone) in 1817, in that no boat seems to have travelled between the Shannon and the Liffey. At least one boat did so in 1818, but again I have no evidence of any opening ceremony.

There is one further mystery. The Royal Canal harbour at the junction with the Shannon is called Richmond Harbour. I presume that that is a compliment to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, His Grace Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond, 4th Duke of Lennox, 4th Duke of Aubigny, KG, PC. But he had ceased to be Lord Lieutenant in 1813 and was presumably unable to dispense favours after that, so why was the harbour named after him? I don’t know when the construction of the harbour was begun or finished.

I have not visited the National Archives in Dublin to look at the papers of the Directors General of Inland Navigation, which may have something on the events of 1817 and 1818. Perhaps WI’s archive has something relevant too. I would therefore be glad to hear from anyone who has searched those archives or found other evidence about the period.

Newspapers cited here were accessed through the British Newspaper Archive.

 

Float Bridge

This post was originally entitled “The avarice of the ferryman” but, as more information has been added, it seemed best to name the post for the remarkable Float Bridge itself, which links road, rail and waterway transport.

The avarice of the ferryman

Castlepollard, Sept 11. Last Week the following Accident happened at the Ferry, or Float, plying for Passengers over the River Inny, in the County of Westmeath: — A Post-Chaise and Four, with a Lady and Gentleman, were imprudently put upon this dangerous Conveyance, without separating the Cattle from the Carriage; unfortunately a Car and Horse had been put in before them, which, with the Post-Chaise and Horses, occupied the full Length of the Float.

On the Passage, the Car Horse grew very uneasy, and going back, the Car annoyed the Post-Chaise Horses, which occasioned them to back in like Manner, until the Post-Chaise fell into the River, and dragged the Horses after it; three of the Horses were drowned, being entangled with the Harness; the other broke through his Harness, and swam over to a boggy Place, but could not get upon Land; one of the men followed him in a small Boat, to lead him to a proper landing Place, but not being able alone to guide the Horse and row the Boat, the Horse got too near it, and striking it with one of his Feet, overset and sank it, by which the Man was drowned; the Horse then swam, and was saved.

It was very lucky for the Lady and Gentleman that they alighted from the Chaise at going into the Float. The Carriage, which belonged to the Gentleman, was got out with much difficulty; the Horses were Hacks. The Avarice of the Ferryman occasioned this melancholy Accident.

Hibernian Journal; or, Chronicle of Liberty
18 September 1775

 

 

That report came just about a year after this next one.

Good shot wanted

FERRY-BRIDGE, over the River Inny, between the County of Westmeath and Longford, 3 miles from Castlepollard, 12 miles from Mullingar and Longford, Sept 1st, 1774. Complaint having been made, that the Smallness of the Float rendered it inconvenient, and occasioned timorous People to drive or ride many Miles round to avoid the Ferry, the Proprietor therefore has undertaken to build a Bridge at his own Expence, which will be finished with all convenient Speed; in the mean Time, a Part of the intended Bridge, above 30 Feet long, Battlements fixed on each Side, properly gravelled over &c, will be made Use of to ferry over Carriages, &c. A Coach and four may now pass with the utmost Safety, without taking off the Horses, or 20 Head of Cattle, &c in less than 2 Minutes; and, to accommodate Graziers and others, as soon as said Bridge is compleated, Droves of large Cattle, above 30 in Number, will be passed over at the Rate of a British Shilling per Score, private Soldiers with Furlows from their Commanding Officers, in Time, gratis, all other Passengers, Cattle, &c at the usual Rates taken above these 20 Years.

This Road is now in good Repair, and well known to be many Miles nearer from Dublin to the County of Longford, Leitrim, Roscommon, Sligo, Mayo, &c than any other Road; a commodious Inn, near Ferry-bridge, on the Westmeath Side, is building, and a Carriers Inn on the Longford Side, will be both soon finished, and proper People to keep them.

Wanted, to take Care of said Bridge when finished, and to collect the Toll, &c a sober, honest, careful, active, middle-aged, single Man; he must be a Protestant, write a good Hand, and if a good Shot, and understands fishing in Lakes and Rivers, and delights in those Amusements, it will be more agreeable &c. Comfortable Lodging and Board, and not less than £12 per Ann will be made good to the Person approved of, and shall be treated (as far as can be reasonably expected) agreeable to his former Manner of Life. None need apply but such as have an undeniable good Character, as to Honesty and Sobriety, from his former Employers or Neighbours. Inquire of the Printer hereof.

Saunders’s News-Letter
2, 7, 9, 12, 14 September 1774

Sir Thomas Chapman

The Dublin Evening Post of 9 August 1810 advertised part of the Meath and Westmeath estates of Sir Thomas Chapman Bart to be let. They included

The Tolls of the Float near Castlepollard
And an excellent house and fifty acres of land

Applications were to be sent to Sir Thomas at St Lucy’s, Athboy, or to Mr High Dickison at the same address.

St Lucy’s was also known as Killua Castle, set of the Chapman baronets, of whom Sir Thomas was the second. Do be sure to read about the seventh baronet.

Sir Benjamin Chapman

Sir Benjamin James Chapman was the fourth baronet. Ewan Duffy writes:

Float bridge was a privately owned toll bridge. Its owner, Sir Benjamin Chapman, offered the bridge to the Midland Great Western Railway if they would build a station at Float, for which he would also give the necessary land. He subsequently suggested a variation on the agreement that if the company were to cease using the station, the land and bridge should be re-conveyed to him!* As the bridge remained in CIE ownership up to 1971, when it was transferred to Westmeath County Council under the Transport (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1971, he clearly did not get such a deal!

The original bridge is no longer there — I paid a site visit there last year, given its railway connection, but it has been replaced sometime in the 20th Century.

* W E Shepherd “The MGWR’s Cavan Branch – 1” JIRRS Vol 16 No 104, pp 282–3