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

Railway horse power

From the result of inquiries, which the Directors have caused to be made, into the system of Scotch railways, it is the intention of the Board to use animal power exclusively until the line is finished half way to Drogheda; and even when finished to Drogheda, it is intended that all the goods will be carried by horse power, and in the intermediate hours, when no steam train shall start for Drogheda; that a horse train shall run from Dublin to Malahide, and another from Malahide to Dublin, as this division of the line must be supplied with extra means for its own peculiar traffic, which will not be required on the rest of the line.

Report to the Proprietors of the Dublin and Drogheda Railway in The Railway Magazine; and Annals of Science No XXVI April 1838

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

Spencer Harbour

Excellent article about the Lough Allen Clay Company on the Dromahair Heritage website, though the schoolboy speculation on the naming of the harbour is not, I think, to be relied upon: the fifth Earl Spencer, twice Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, is I think the source of the name.

h/t COM for the link

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”.

 

Kilbeggan

Grand Canal Passage Boats

The Court of Directors will receive Proposals for drawing Two Small Light Passage Boats daily on the stages between

Ballycommon and Kilbeggan

for the terms, and at the Rates of Travelling which, with all other particulars, will be fully explained on reference to A Bagot Esq, Inspector of Passage Boats, Portobello.

Sealed Proposals, according to forms to be furnished by the Inspector, to be delivered at the Secretary’s Office, on or before the 30th instant.

By Order, John M’Mullen, Sec, Grand Canal House, William-street,
9th January 1841

Dublin Evening Post 12 January 1841

Hotel boats

The Shannon Princess wants a general assistant.

Railway archaeology

Ewan Duffy’s chapter “Royal Canal bridges in Dublin”, in The Royal under the Railway: Ireland’s Royal Canal 1830–1899 [Railway & Canal Historical Society, Derby 2014], drew attention to the hitherto neglected effects of the Midland Great Western Railway’s ownership on the physical structures along the Royal Canal in Dublin.

Ewan’s latest venture is a Railway Archaeology of Ireland, which he is publishing online, at the rate of one chapter per week. The introduction and Chapter 1 are now available. The focus is on “railway-related architectural and engineering structures”, not on trains or rolling stock.

It is possible to sign up to an RSS feed and thus get notified automatically when new chapters appear.

 

More houseboats

From the Indo

h/t Redmond O’Brien

Houseboats

The number of people who lived on boats in the Tang is unknown, but tenth-century Quanzhou was home to “floating boat people” who made their living as fishermen and traders, while in other inland areas as much as half the population was waterbound. The practice of living on houseboats has never died out, and while there are far fewer today, an estimated forty million Chinese lived on the water “in some shape or form” in the mid-twentieth century.

Lincoln Paine The Sea and Civilization: a maritime history of the world Atlantic Books, London pb 2015