Tag Archives: Athlone

Shannon traffic figures to December 2014

I am grateful to Waterways Ireland for sending me the Shannon traffic figures for the last three months of 2014. They sent them last month but I didn’t have time to deal with them until now.

Regular readers may wish to skip this section

All the usual caveats apply:

  • the underlying figures do not record total waterways usage (even for the Shannon) as, for instance, sailing, fishing or waterskiing on lakes or river stretches, which did not involve a passage through a lock or Portumna Bridge, would not be recorded
  • the passage records would not show, for instance, a change in the balance of types of activities from those in larger cruising boats to those in smaller (sailing, fishing, waterskiing) boats
  • figures like these will not necessarily be representative of those for the year as a whole. The winter months, January to March, see little traffic in any year; for April, May and June, the weather can have a large influence on the amount of activity especially, I suspect, in private boats.

On the other hand, the figures do include the Shannon’s most significant tourism activity, the cruiser hire business. And they are our only consistent long-term indicator of usage of the inland waterways.

All boats

Shannon 2003-2014 01-12 all boats_resize

Total (private + hired) traffic for the full year

As we saw in September, traffic is down on 2013, but there has been little change over the last three years.

Private boats

Shannon 2003-2014 01-12 private boats_resize

Private-boat traffic for the full years 2003 to 2014

The vertical scale on this chart is different from that for hired boats so the changes in private boating from one year to another are exaggerated (by comparison). The good weather did not prevent a fall in activity.

Hire boats

Shannon 2003-2014 01-12 hired boats_resize

Hire-boat traffic for the full years 2003 to 2014

Again, the lowest figure in my records, but the drop was small; perhaps the hire trade is bouncing along the bottom (as it were). I wonder whether anyone has a Grand Plan for recovery or rejuvenation.

Percentages of 2003 levels

Shannon 2003-2014 01-12 compared with 2003_resize

Percentages of 2003 levels

Private traffic at just over 90% of 2003 levels, hire traffic at just over 40%.

Private -v- hired

Shannon 2003-2014 01-12 private -v- hired_resize

Still roughly 50:50

Seasons

In the five months January, February, March, November and December, there were 385 passages altogether, less than 1% of total boat movements for the year. If money can be saved by ceasing to operate the locks and bridge during the winter, they should be closed except, perhaps, for one Saturday per month, to be arranged for a non-flood day.

Regions

Here is the order of popularity.

ALBERT LOCK 7205
ATHLONE LOCK  5775
CLARENDON LOCK 5650
ROOSKY LOCK 5565
PORTUMNA BRIDGE 5395
VICTORIA LOCK 4934
TARMONBARRY LOCK 3885
POLLBOY LOCK 1222
CLONDRA LOCK 1020
BATTLEBRIDGE 835
DRUMLEAGUE 797
DRUMSHANBO LOCK 387
SARSFIELD LOCK 97

Lough Allen is a delightful place but it is not popular.

Cycling the MGWR

From Michael Geraghty:

There is a photography exhibition currently running at the National Photographic Archive in Temple Bar’s Meeting House Square called Midland – Lár Tíre: Cycling the MGWR from past to present and features photographs along the 1,000km old Midland Great Western Railway (MGWR) network. The photographer, Pamela De Brí (my sister), cycled the 1,000km and recorded her journey as photographs and audio tapes.

The exhibition will run until Sunday 24 May 2015 and here is a link to an article on the Journal.ie.

The history of the MGWR is linked to that of Irish waterways more closely than, I think, that of any other Irish railway.

The Corrib dredger

Drainage and Navigation Works: Construction of dredging machinery

The Commissioners having authorized the purchase of one of the iron dredgers used in the execution of the Shannon works, and then on that river at Athlone, the operation of removing her to Galway was commenced on 1st of March.

This was effected by first clearing her of all machinery, and then cutting up the hull or shell into pieces suited for carriage by land, in which manner every portion of her was removed to Galway.

In reconstructing this boat, considerable improvement and thorough repairs have been effected. A flat iron plate, three-fourths of an inch thick, has been substituted for the hollow iron keel, which lightens her draft of water five inches without any diminution of her steadiness, and an alteration of the position of the steam-pipes has been judiciously arranged. The keelsons were pieced, and whenever any materials were unsound they have been replaced.

The time occupied in the breaking up, transfer, and reconstruction of this dreder, weighing 200 tons, was five months and eleven days, and the whole work was executed at a cost of £803/8/11.

Four scows or decked barges have been constructed for the conveyance of the material raised by the dredger to spoil. Two of these boats are capable of carrying 30 tons, and the other two 45 tons.

Extract from the Annual Report of Mr S U Roberts CE, District Engineer for the year 1851 in Twentieth Report of the Commissioners of Public Works 1852

Greyways and the Black Bridge

Martin McGuinness [SF] was asked recently, in the Northern Ireland Assembly, about blueways:

Leslie Cree [UUP]: It was interesting to read that Waterways Ireland has developed this first blueway in the Carrick-on-Shannon area. Can he share with us if, in fact, Waterways Ireland has developed any projects for the Erne waterway itself?

Mr McGuinness said:

These projects are under ongoing consideration by Waterways Ireland, as the development of blueways and greenways could add to our tourist potential. It is clear from how greenways have been used, particularly in the west of Ireland, that they have huge health benefits for those now walking and cycling and involved in physical activity.

There is a proposal for another greenway from Derry city to County Donegal. Blueways and greenways offer important tourist potential, and it is exciting to see that Waterways Ireland is considering the linkage in the Leitrim area and how it can be extended to Lough Erne.

But, if I might remind TPTB, not everybody likes walking, cycling and physical activity; not everybody is going to be rolling around in a kayak or paddling a canoe. There are older folk, there are those who rightly view exercise with the gravest of suspicion and there are those whose interests simply lie elsewhere.

The Greyway concept

It is for such folk that I have developed the Greyway [TM]  concept. It’s the same as a blueway or a greenway but without the sweating or the lurid dayglo clothing.

The basic idea is that you form a “route” or “way” as a marketing concept to get more people using your existing assets. Your expenditure is low: research, product development, marketing and information provision rather than infrastructure; self-guided rather than staffed user experiences. Direct income might be low too, although there may be ways to extract cash from users; there might also be spin-off opportunities for other providers. [All my usual reservations about small-scale providers apply here too.]

There might be Greyways catering for

  • walkers: gentle walks with opportunities for sitting down, drinking tea and getting a taxi back to the start
  • drivers: long-distance routes taking in several sites
  • boaters: most of Waterways Ireland’s sites are accessible by water and by road. Furthermore, some trip boats might use elements of the Greyway material in providing information for their passengers.

Themes

You need a theme to attract people: “come and walk/drive the X Greyway and see all the lovely/interesting Ys”. No doubt there are several possible values for Y: bunnies, trees, fish, bogs, hills …. But the main thing that Waterways Ireland has to sell, and that it does not currently sell, is its industrial heritage. The Shannon, in particular, exists as an improved navigation only because of (a) steam, (b) the British industrial revolution, (c) Irish agriculture and (d) low politics. And industrial heritage is something that interests some at least of the older folk. Package it into routes and sell it for grey pounds, euros or dollars.

There is all sorts of interesting stuff along the Shannon, mostly just lying there, and it should be put to work. The most concentrated section is along the old Limerick Navigation, from Limerick to Killaloe: for instance, last time I looked seven of the original twelve milestones were still present. [The distance was 12 Irish miles, approx 24 km or 15 statute miles.] It’s a walkable route and it includes

  • the neglected Black Bridge at Plassey, whose very existence reflects the Victorian version of Just-in-time delivery
  • the bridge and artefacts at O’Briensbridge
  • the richest waterways heritage site in Ireland at Killaloe.

But there could also be driving tours along the middle Shannon, between Portumna and Athlone, where there is lots to see, and from Lanesborough upwards. Shannon Harbour might eventually house a museum ….

ERIH

What I’m suggesting is that Waterways Ireland should designate the Shannon as the first route (as opposed to site) in Ireland within the European Route of Industrial Heritage [ERIH] framework. ERIH’s website includes descriptions of the route system and of anchor points, which may be too advanced for present use, but why not a European Theme Route in Transport and Communication? Ireland might even make a case for the use of advanced (or at least interesting) transport technology (steamers) in carrying agricultural produce to industrial markets.

Furthermore, if CIE were to cooperate, the railways might be brought in too, and the livestock trade, and Dublin Port, and a regional route linking to Liverpool and the railway to Manchester ….

There is an interesting story to be told about the Shannon and its links to the east coast and beyond; its industrial heritage could be used to attract tourists and entertain natives.

 

 

 

The Steam Carriage and Waggon Company of Ireland

In a piece about developments in steam propulsion in 1829, I mentioned Sir James Anderson’s contract with the Irish Post Office to carry the mails on the roads of Ireland in “coaches impelled by steam”.

The Farmer’s Magazine July–December 1838

The Farmer’s Magazine for July to December 1838 reproduced, on pages 201–211, an article from the Cork Southern Reporter headed “A visit to Sir James Anderson’s Steam Carriage”. Amidst outpourings of national pride at this Irish invention, the “Steam Drag, or Carriage for Common Roads”, praise for Sir James and his father John [who was a Scot], maunderings about the plight of the horse and admiration for Sir James’s Buttevant Castle, we learn that Sir James

[…] spent two apprenticeships and a fortune in building 29 unsuccessful carriages to succeed in the 30th.

There is even a small amount of information about the machine itself:

The “Drag”, or steam engine, is not like those hitherto attempted; it is a machine to do the work now done by horses. The vehicle by which the passengers are conveyed is to be attached to it […].

If the drag broke down, horses could pull the passengers the rest of the way. Fuel to haul 30 passengers and their luggage at 15 mph was expected to cost not more than 4d a mile. The drag’s “broad cylindrical wheels” would act as rollers, helping to preserve rather than damage the roads. Travellers could look forward to breakfasting in Cork and dining in Dublin.

We understand the Irish Company is now forming, and all arrangements making for a commencement in this county as soon as carriages can be made.

The Dublin Monitor 7 October 1841

STEAM CARRIAGE AND WAGGON COMPANY,
FOR THE CONVEYANCE OF
GOODS AND PASSENGERS ON THE MAIL
COACH ROADS OF IRELAND

APPLICATION for Shares to be made by letter (post-paid), addressed to the Directors, at the Temporary Office of the Company, 47, Lower Sackville-street, Dublin, where Prospectuses and every information may be obtained.

J GREY PORTER ATTHILL, Sec

According to the 1835 Report from the Select Committee on Orange Lodges in Ireland [HC 1835 (377) XV 1; Google version here], J Grey Porter Atthill was then Master of the Lisnarric [Lisnarick] District Orange Lodge in County Fermanagh, near Castle Archdale, meeting at Ardes [Ardess?] near the post town of Resh [recte Kesh, I imagine].

The Galway Vindicator 16 October 1841

Steam Carriages on Common Roads

Extract of a letter from a gentleman who accompanied the Steam-carriage from Dublin, on its experimental trip.

Kilbeggan, Oct 11, 1841

You are aware that it was our intention to have taken our new steam carriage to Ballinasloe fair; but finding that the boiler was not sufficiently stanched for a long journey, having only just issued from the workshop, we determined to make an experimental trip along the same line with the old carriage — one intended entirely for drawing conveyances for luggage and goods, at the rate of four to six miles an hour — to enable us to see where proper stations could be established, and to try the machine in every way, and at every speed, during this extraordinary inclement weather, on this hilly road.

We certainly set forth under most inauspicious circumstances; but feeling assured of the power and efficiency of the machinery, no matter on what description of ground, we fearlessly departed, and we have tested the carriage to the very utmost, yet without even deranging or straining a single screw. We have certainly achieved a great undertaking, and incontestibly proved the superiority of the patent of Sir J C Anderson and Mr J Rogers, especially on bad roads, against heavy hills, in rains unprecedented, and without having one station for water along the entire line.

When the steam-carriage left Dublin it rained in torrents, and has never ceased to do so since our departure on Tuesday afternoon. The hill at Chapelizod was ascended with ease, without a check of any kind; and the very steep descent going into Lucan, on the old road, was descended at a walking pace, without drags of any kind, and the engine afterwards ran on and drew up short at the Percy Arms, to the utter astonishment of all the village. From thence to Maynooth the journey was in the dark, and the incessant rain rendered the water in the ditches wholly unavailing, by making it muddy — so that the supply was absolutely obtained by bucket-fulls, at a distance often of two or three hundred yards.

The rain continuing in almost a perfect deluge on the following morning, it was considered only common justice to the men not to proceed, especially as the Duke of Leinster and the gentlemen connected with the College of Maynooth were desirous of inspecting the carriage, which they subsequently did in the midst of pelting rain, and expressed themselves delighted with the machinery and various ingenious movements. Indeed, the Duke of Leinster treated us with the utmost courtesy and condescension, and in the afternoon, on meeting us in the Park, personally took us through some of the beautiful grounds, and showed us his princely mansion of Carton.

On Thursday we again set forth — again in the midst of heavy rain — and immediately on leaving Maynooth had to pass through the flood, which extended along the road for about 300 yards, and about a foot deep. This was effected gallantly, and curious and interesting in the extreme was the effect of the carriage proceeding through the water. Hundreds of persons, notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, came down to witness this feat, and expressed their gratification at the successful issue by deafening cheers. The impression was, that the fire would be extinguished, and it is only right that I should mention that young Lord Otho Fitzgerald, who came down early to see us off, rode into every part of the water to show us the depth, and to be ready to ride back for horses, which, entirely from himself, he kindly and most considerately proposed to do, in case of the fire being put out.

The floods being out to this extent furnishes some notion of the state of the roads, but it is almost impossible to describe the trying condition of the whole line. It is, indeed, lamentable to see corn, hay, potatoes, and every description of agricultural and garden produce floating about. The residents of Maynooth say that for eighteen years they have not known the floods so high, or the country in such a saturated state.

From Maynooth the carriage proceeded to Kinnegad, through Kilcock and Seafield, passing over two bridges of a rise of one in fifteen, and one in ten feet. At the latter the mud was so deep, and the ground beneath so soft, that the carmen were unable to go on, and were compelled to put up altogether. These were surmounted without check or hindrance, although in the latter there was a very sharp turn, independent of the great rise.

From Kinnegad to Tyrelspass was the most difficult part of the line, from the softness of the roads (newly macadamised) and continuous rise, independent of the great hill of Gillabonine, about three quarters of a mile long, with a rise in parts of one in ten, one in fifteen, and averaging one in twenty-two feet. On the summit hundreds of persons assembled to witness what could be done, and fully impressed with a belief that the carriage could never get up. To their evident astonishment, however, the carriage ran up at about four or five miles an hour, taking a direct line from bottom to top. It was received at the summit with immense cheering, and commenced the descent — which is even more precipitate than the rise on the other side — in a quiet walk, to show the power of withholding the speed at pleasure, no matter how sudden the fall may be.

Below the middle of the hill the speed was increased, and we ran into Tyrelspass at the rate of twenty-five miles an hour, and drew up short at the inn door. Coming down the hill an incident occurred which may be mentioned as showing the command of the conductor over the carriage: when at the greatest speed, a pig dashed across the road. Mr Rogers, who was conducting, instantaneously checked the speed, and, altering the direction of the carriage, avoided the animal with the utmost ease. This astonished the people above all things.

A similar circumstance occurred at Rochfort Bridge, where a greyhound ran close to the wheel. Mr Rogers immediately stopped, and the whole population (for every body was out) expressed their astonishment and admiration by an unanimous cheer.

A letter

The following letter, from Mr Rogers, has been received since the above was in type:—

The rain continued incessantly the next day, we were stormstaid at Kinnegad, but ceased the following; we started for Tyrelspass, having to ascend the famed hill of Guineabawn, a mile long, and varying from one in twenty to one in ten. As usual, this hill was also crowded by the inhabitants, who cheered us as we passed it, at a speed of four to five miles per hour, descending the opposite side at a walk, and subsequently entering the town on its flat and firm road, at a speed of at least fifteen miles an hour.

Here the excitement was so considerable that we were obliged to remain some time to gratify the people, and in consequence darkness came on before we reached Kilbeggan, at the entrance of which the steersman, not seeing his way, ran one of the wheels off the road, when the wheels sunk, but after some little delay, the carriage was backed out and steamed into the town, accompanied by almost all the inhabitants. Every window was illuminated to welcome us in, and, amidst the most joyous cheers, we reached the yard of Messrs Mullins, brewers, who kindly came to offer it for our use, and to whom our entire party are much indebted for their warm-hearted hospitality and attention.

But here I fear my narrative must end, for here we found the first supply of Ballinasloe coke. Being desirous to show the powers and command of the engine to the inhabitants who had so kindly received us, we delayed a day, but on getting in our fire, found at once its total inefficiency. We, however, ran through the town at a slow speed, proving the management and power up a stiff hill in the Main-street, but it was impossible to proceed on our journey.

Steam can no more be had from bad fuel, than condition and mettle from bad oats. A steam-carriage may as well attempt a journey to Galway and keep time, without relays of coke and pure water on the road, as a mail-coach attempt it without relays of horses, oats, and pure water too; but still I may, perhaps not too proudly, say, that more has been done to prove the undoubted capability and durability of steam carriages than ever has yet been accomplished.

We have journeyed here amidst incessant rain — the roads saturated till the carriers’ traffic was stopped — the whole line to this, covered so much with broken stones, that one wheel of the carriage was rarely, if ever off it, while the other ploughed its way through mud some inches deep; hills met us at elevations pronounced impossible of ascent, and which in the present age may be considered barbarisms; barbarisms, indeed, where horses are made I may say, to pant out their very lives in ascending them.

“Pure water” we had none, for the elements conspired to give us mud; and I need scarcely say in this enlightened age that pure water is an essential to the proper working of the locomotive engine — at least every engineer well knows that without it the most injurious effects arise. Since we started we have not had it half a dozen times; and yet our engine and boiler are at this hour as perfect as the day we set out.

It has been said of common road locomotives, “they come out with the butterflies and go in with them”. We have come out in the storm, and passed over the heaviest and worst roads in the country, when not a vehicle was to be met — and yet we are uninjured one particle, and are “driven in” alone by want of proper fuel.

Pardon the length of what I have called “a short narrative”; but I think I am not wrong in believing that the advancement of any science will find amongst your readers an interest sufficient to excuse my perhaps too minute description. Let me add, that, although the weather would have driven most men to their houses, the party of directors &c who accompanied our expedition, remained to prove and test the carriage to the last moment, suffering every hardship from the weather. If, in naming Messrs Mansell, Reardon, and Williams; also Mr Maunsell, the Company’s solicitor, and Mr Motley, an English engineer, who accompanied them, I may be thought to have needlessly eulogised what I believe they considered to be their duty, they will, I think, excuse it, when I give their names also as witnesses of what I have thus stated for the information of the public.

I have the honour to be, sir, your faithful servant,

Jasper W Rogers

Dublin University Magazine November 1841

I outlined the company’s November 1841 Plan [Jasper W Rogers Plan proposed by Sir James C Anderson Bart and Jasper W Rogers CE for establishing Steam Carriages for the conveyance of goods and passengers on the mail coach roads of Ireland; also a proposed system for repair of the roads by means of a Road Police, and for telegraphing Nicholas Walsh, Dublin 1841] here. In the same month the Dublin University Magazine had a two-page ad for the new company, headed

Steam Carriage and Waggon Company,
for the conveyance of goods and passengers
on the mail-coach roads of Ireland.

There were ten Patrons and Honorary Directors: four marquises [Downshire, Donegal, Sligo, Ely, all KPs], two earls [Mountcashell, Bandon] and four barons [Arden, Muskerry, Riversdale, Cremorne]. The Directors were:

  • the Hon Major Massy, Upper Fitzwilliam Street
  • the Hon Robert Le Poer Trench RN, Garbally
  • Sir Valentine Blake Bart MP DL, Menlo Castle
  • Sir William Chatterton Bart DL, Castle Mahon
  • Sir James C Anderson Bart, Buttevant Castle
  • Colonel Richard England KH
  • Captain Hamilton T Johnston JP, Holly Park
  • Captain John Irvine DL, Rockfield and Fitzgibbon Street
  • Captain Fitzgerald Higgins JP, Westport
  • Arthur Hume Esq, Dawson Street
  • Crofton Moore Vandaleur Esq DL, Kilrush House and Rutland Square
  • H K Grogan Morgan Esq DL, Johnstown Castle
  • Robert Guinness Esq, South Frederick Street
  • William H Reardan Esq, Cor Mem Council Coll C En
  • George Newton Esq, Upper Buckingham Street
  • Henry Williams Esq, Essex Bridge
  • William W Mansell Esq FSA, Kildare Street Club.

The Managing Director was John Jemison Esq, Drumcondra Hill, and the Directing Engineer Jasper W Rogers Esq CE, Nottingham Street. The auditors were George Hatchell Esq, The Priory, Rathfarnham, and Henry Dwyer Esq, Upper Mount Street. Counsel were Richard Wilson Green, Christopher Copinger and Charles Granby Burke; solicitor was Robert Maunsell, London law Agent W Mosson Kearns, Secretary J Grey Porter Atthill (Barrister) and bankers Messrs Ball & Co in Dublin and Messrs Coutts & Co in London. The company had local directors and agents in Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford, Wexford, Belfast, Londonderry, Enniskillen, Dundalk, Athlone, Westport and Ennis.

The ad said:

The practicability of running Steam Carriages upon common roads, with a degree of rapidity far beyond the utmost speed of horses in draught, and at one-half to a third less cost, has long since been made evident by the report of a Committee of the House of Commons, after a most minute and searching inquiry; and has now been confirmed by the Carriage built at Manchester by Sir James C Anderson Bart, for the Steam Carriage and Waggon Company of England, and those built at Newcomen Bridge Works, upon the same principle for this Company, by Jasper W Rogers Esq, the partner of Sir James Anderson, which for some time past have been publicly shown and tested in every way in the streets and neighbourhood of Dublin, as well as by the late experimental trip of about sixty English miles along the Galway road, against heavy hills, through even floods, in rains unprecedented.

It quoted from the account given in the Galway Vindicator and from that paper’s laudatory comment, concluding with an invitation to buy shares.

The company’s report November 1841

On 2 November 1841 the company issued its Report of the Steam Carriage and Waggon Company of Ireland, another short document. This showed William W Mansell as Managing Director and John Jemison as an ordinary director. It also listed 32 local agents.

It is a report from Mansell about the setting up of the company. It said that two drags had been built and tested: one was for goods and luggage, the other for passenger carriages. It reported the favourable impressions of Mr Motley, the Liverpool engineer, and described the trip to Tyrrellspass. Some additional information:

From the time we left Dublin not a single horse took fright, nor did any accident even of the most trivial nature occur […].

Independent of the unusually severe and unseasonable weather, about 76,000 sheep, 13,300 horned cattle, besides a great number of horses, independent of the regular traffic, have passed over this line of road, going and returning from the [Ballinasloe] fair, which it is needless to say tended greatly to render the roads more difficult for the Steam Carriage.

None of the persons in charge of turnpikes asked us to pay any thing excepting at Kilbeggan; but when we begged to know what we were drawn by, the man soon shrunk back.

Mansell recommended opening the Galway road as soon as possible, with enough vehicles “to supply the wants of communication”. He had been corresponding with people along the line and, with Mr Reardon, had inspected it as far as Ballinasloe, to which a new, shorter and more level road from Athlone was planned; a new road of 1½ miles had already been made between Horseleap and Moate. Thomas Bermingham, who had favoured a railway to Galway, now supported the company’s plans and had agreed to become a director.

Mansell gave an interesting sidelight on the reaction of the mail-coach operators:

The Nenagh Guardian is the only paper which has attacked us; but the nature of its remarks is strong evidence indeed of the manner this undertaking is making way, and arise wholly from interested persons. A gentleman from Nenagh voluntarily wrote to our Secretary on this subject, saying: ‘It so happens that the only Reporter and chief Editor the Guardian has, is the Stage Coach Agent of Messrs Bourne, the owners of the turnpikes and coaches on the Limerick and Dublin line of road; and as the Messrs Bourne have already been most illiberal monopolists, and as they apprehend serious consequences to themselves, and advantage to the public, from the success of the Company — after, I presume, trying their feelers elsewhere — they could not succeed in enlisting any Journal in their dirty work but an obscure venal publication.’

I should mention that the writer who thus apprises us of the management of the Messrs Bourne is not a Shareholder, nor, indeed, acquainted with any person connected with the Company, further than being a gentleman of standing and high character. The monopoly of Messrs Bourne expires in about three years and a-half.

[Note: Bournes had been partners with John Anderson [Sir James’s father] on the Dublin to Cork mail coaches.]

Various nobles and gentlemen had supported the idea. Coach-operators wanted to buy or lease steam carriages; they included Mr W Staunton of Killiney, who

[…] is desirous of having a Carriage to draw ten tons for supplying Limerick with pure water.

There had been applications for 5179 shares, but few from Galway, Cork or Limerick, all of which would benefit from the operation.

Mansell said that six steam carriages would be enough to work 100 miles of road, whereas on a railway the same distance would require 100 engines: there were over 40 on the 32 miles between Liverpool and Manchester and over 120 on the 110 miles between London and Birmingham.

The Company had expected to sell 3000 shares and to supply 7 carriages for the Dublin to Limerick route and the same for each of the lines from Dublin to Galway, Sligo and Londonderry; 2,500 shares and 6 carriages would serve Dublin to Belfast and 2000 shares and five carriages each for Dublin to Waterford and Dublin to Wexford. It had not yet issued its prospectus in England but expected extensive support there.

Anderson and Rogers had spent over £60,000 perfecting Locomotive Carriages.

The Galway Vindicator 8 December 1841

The Galway Vindicator had two relevant items on 8 December 1841: both of them written by the indefatigable Thomas Bermingham of Caramana, Kilconnel, Co Galway. The shorter was a letter to the editor; it permitted him to print the longer, a letter to the Guardians of the [Poor Law] Unions of Galway, Loughrea, Tuam, Athlone and Ballinasloe and to the other inhabitants of counties Roscommon and Galway.

It seems that Bermingham was less than completely convinced of the virtues of the Steam Carriage and Waggon Company’s locomotive carriages. He felt that they should run on a line of their own, a level road from Athlone via Ballinasloe to Galway, with branches to Tuam and Loughrea. Then, if the venture failed, the line could be converted to a railway, using either horse or steam power. The building of the road would provide employment to the poor and its completion would assist the prosperity of the port of Galway.

Bermingham reckoned the cost of the road at £1000 a mile for 80 miles; he allowed £6000 to connect Mutton Island to the mainland and rounded it up to £100000 to provide for station-houses. He thought that the Board of Works should provide 40% of the cost as a free grant and the rest as a loan at 5%.

What good came of it at last?

Canal, road and rail were, it seems, vying for Ballinasloe’s traffic. The canal got there first but the railway took over from 1851 (and the line to Galway passed just south of Thomas Bermingham’s house). Did road-going locomotive carriages ever successfully serve that, or any other, town?

In 1902 Rhys Jenkins, in Motor cars and the application of mechanical power to road vehicles [T Fisher Unwin, London; J Pott & Company, New York], wrote [pp68–69]:

Anderson, however, nine years later [1838], came out as an inventor himself with a new boiler. The Steam Carriage and Waggon Company was formed to build carriages on his plans, and a number were made in the years 1839 and 1840 in Dublin and Manchester, and carriages were to be seen at work in both places. There are glowing accounts of the success obtained at experimental runs, but the scheme very soon fell through.

I would be glad to hear from anyone who can fill in the details or point to a source that does so.

A little rain goes a long way

Here are some water level readings from Athlone Weir. I’ve taken them from the OPW’s very useful water levels site, where you can monitor levels from the comfort of your own armchair. [If only there were a gauge at Killaloe ….]

At Athlone, staff gauge zero is 35.360m above Poolbeg datum (from 18 Oct 2003). I chopped the bottoms off the first two graphs. The first one shows the level for 35 days to 30 September 2014; I presume that the level of Lough Ree was being reduced to enable it to hold some of the autumn’s rainfall.

Athlone Weir 20140930

Athlone Weir 35 days to 30 September 2014 (truncated)

Here’s the graph for the 35 days to 15 October 2014.

Athlone Weir 20141015

Athlone Weir 35 days to 15 October 2014 (truncated)

Then, in October, the level began to rise again. By 30 October, it was back to about 2.1 metres, roughly the starting point on the first of the graphs above.

Athlone Weir 20141030

Athlone Weir 35 days ro 30 October 2014

And since then it has continued to rise.

Athlone Weir 20141117

Athlone Weir 35 days to 17 November 2014

Met Éireann’s weather summary for October 2014 [PDF] has this chart:

Met Eireann weather Oct 2014

Met Éireann rainfall October 2014

It says:

Rainfall: wet conditions nearly everywhere

Monthly rainfall totals were above-average nearly everywhere with the exception of stations in coastal areas in the Northwest and West and in parts of the Midlands. Percentage of Long-Term Average (LTA) values ranged from 81% at Gurteen to 161% at Johnstown Castle, which recorded it wettest October since 2002.

Fermoy (Moore Park) reported 135% of its LTA with 153.6 mm and its wettest October in 10 years. The wettest days were mainly the 3rd, 5th and 28th, with the month’s highest daily rainfall reported on the 5th at Cork Airport with 38.6 mm, its wettest October day in five years. Mullingar reported its wettest October day in 12 years on the 28th with 26.4 mm. The number of wet days (days with 1 mm or more rainfall) ranged from 12 at Casement Aerodrome to 24 at Valentia Observatory and Claremorris, with Claremorris reporting its highest number of October wet days since 1973.

Use of the OPW charts is licensed under Directive 2003/98/EC [PDF] of the European Parliament and of the Council on the re-use of public sector information. Met Éireann allows use of “the web pages, and the information contained within them, for private and non-commercial purposes, for teaching, and for research […] is allowed subject to the condition that the source of the information is always credited in connection with its use”.

 

 

Any old iron

Amongst the objects of iron found during the Shannon Navigation Works, 1843–48, and presented by the Shannon Commissioners to the Academy, an iron sword (figure 1) is of much interest. It is of the Halstatt class, and is, I believe, the only iron example of that class which has been found in Ireland.

A label attached to the sword states that it was “taken up in the buckets of the ‘C’ dredger” out of the bed of the Shannon above the new bridge of Athlone, August, 1847.

It is incomplete, and has lost much of its substance from rust, especially along the edges. The form, however, can be distinguished. It is made on the pattern of the leaf-shaped bronze sword. The width of the blade increases towards the point, and the handle-plate was of the flat form of the bronze swords.

Fig 1 Iron sword found in the Shannon [rotated]

Fig 1 Iron sword found in the Shannon [rotated]. Top end to right-hand side

This latter feature is certain, and is the most definite in the specimen. The edge of the handle-plate is intact for a short length at the right side; and the remains of a rivet-hole can be seen on the expanded portion at the hilt.

The curve in the blade does not appear to be intentional, but to be due to a bend it has received about one-third up; the line of the ridge is straight to and beyond the bend. This ridge along the centre of the blade is not a very usual feature; but it occurs occasionally on the bronze swords, and on an iron Halstatt sword found in Poitou, figured by the Abbé H Breuil (Revue Archéologique 1903 II p57).

This latter sword was found at Mignaloux-Beauvoir, near Poitiers, in 1836, but had remained unnoticed in the Museum at Poitiers until the paper mentioned. It measures in its present state 45 cm. The Irish fragment is 18½ inches long (47 cm); so the two swords were much of the same length.

A fairly large number of the bronze swords of the Halstatt type have been found in Ireland. There are twenty in the collection, and six of the winged chaps or scabbard ends of that period.

The occurrence in Ireland of the type in iron is therefore of considerable interest. The somewhat slender look of the sword and the ridge disposes me to regard it as late in the series; it must, however, rank as probably the earliest type of the iron sword which has been found in this country.

The early iron sword with flat handle-plate had been found in considerable numbers east and south of Poitou in Berry, Bourgogne, and in Lot. But its extension to the west had not been known till the example figured by the Abbé Breuil. It should be noted that Poitiers is close to the old line of communication between Ireland and the Continent by way of the Loire valley.

Illness has prevented me from placing before the Academy the archaeological evidence I have collected bearing on the question of early intercourse between Gaul and Ireland; but I should like to state as a preliminary note, that certain forms of bronze caldrons and types of pottery at the close of the Bronze Age, also of types of iron spear-heads and other objects of the La Tene period, may be advanced in support of the historical tradition in our tales of a settlement of Gauls in Leinster under Labraidh Loinngsech, at a date placed perhaps too early by the Four Masters (BC 541), and from whose “broad blue spears” the name of the province of Leinster (Laighen) is derived.

George Coffey “Early iron sword found in Ireland” Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy Vol XXVI Section C No 3 February 1906 Hodges, Figgis & Co Ltd, Dublin; Williams & Norgate, London

Demolishing the bridge at Athlone

If you happen to be thinking of demolishing the road bridge in Athlone at any time, please try to remove the foundation stone carefully, without breaking it, and look for a cavity.

Mr Rhodes, the principal Engineer of the River Shannon Improvement Works, having paid a visit of inspection to the bridge works of Athlone; a copperplate, with an inscription thereon, was deposited in a cavity in the foundation stone, which was laid on the 6th instant. The site on which the new bridge is to be erected is 70 yards up the river from the present bridge. The new bridge is to consist of three elliptical stone arches, each of 60 feet span, and 14 feet rise, and one iron swivel arch of 40 feet, to admit the passage of steam vessels of a large class.

The Galway Vindicator and Connaught Advertiser 27 November 1841

If you find the copperplate, do please tell us what the inscription says.

The monsoon is coming …

… perhaps. The water depth at Banagher has stayed at around 2.1 metres but that at Athlone has gone down to about 2.0 metres. Are TPTB lowering Lough Ree so that it can store the water from the autumnal rains? Information welcome.

GCC Shannon steamers 1866

Here is a new page with an illustrated article from 1866 about the steam engines in three Grand Canal Company steamers of that era, which were used on the Shannon. I am grateful to Mick O’Rourke of Irish Shipwrecks for sending the article to me.