Tag Archives: belfast

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

Canal oats

The Freeman’s Journal of 25 July 1832 included a report on the Dublin markets of the previous day. The report from the Dublin Corn Exchange said

We had a moderate supply in market, and prices may be quoted same as last.

The grains traded included wheat (prime red and prime white), grinding barley, malting barley, bere, new oats, new bere, oatmeal, M’Cann’s and First Flour, as well as

Prime Feeding Oats, 14 st [stone] to the brl [barrel], 11s 6d to 12s 0d

Canal ditto, 9s 6d to 9s 9d

Usage

The term “canal oats” is used in a report from New York in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1843 and another in  The Economist in 1847; the Central New-York Farmer has it in 1844 and Walt Whitman used the term in 1846. More from that side of the Atlantic anon.

The earliest occurrence I have found in the British Newspaper Archive is in the Dublin Evening Post of 11 March 1819:

Dublin Corn Exchange, March 10. — Our Market was but poorly supplied this day, particularly with Farmers’ Grains, owing to their being so much occupied at field work. — Canal Oats were more abundant than the demand warranted, and they were heavy sale from 16s to 17s 6d; prime, and for feeding, could not be got under 20s to 21s, and seed from 22s to 30s. — Wheat and Barley steady. — Malt, Flour and Oatmeal without variation, and in but indifferent demand.

There are other Irish instances in 1824, 1825 and 1826; in all cases the price of canal oats is below that of feeding oats.

The only British examples from this period, in Gore’s Liverpool General Advertiser on 23 February 1826 and in the Glasgow Herald on 21 April 1826, are from reports on the Dublin market.

I have not checked every occurrence, but my impression is that, to the end of 1840 (I looked no further), the term “canal oats” was used frequently in Irish newspapers from all parts of the island. However, the term was used only about the Dublin and Belfast corn markets; canals served both conurbations. British newspapers used the term only in reports from the Irish markets.

Meaning

I have found no definition of the term. Here, though, are some comments on possible connotations.

First, I presume that “canal oats” were oats that travelled [part of the way] to market by canal. It is likely that most oats came by road, probably on Scotch carts; that would have required packaging, no doubt in barrels of one kind or another. Some oats did arrive by non-canal boats: on 17 December 1838 the Dublin Mercantile Advertiser, and Weekly Price Current said

Limerick, Dec 15. — […] Oats since Wednesday in good supply by land carriage, prices declined ¼d to ½d per stone, to-day 11¾d is the highest down to 11d; by boat, 10d to 11d; barley, 12d to 15d. The depression of the London market on Wednesday accounts for the fall here.

Second, “canal oats” seems to have referred to oats of an inferior quality, or at least to oats that commanded lower prices. The Belfast Commercial Chronicle of 23 March 1839 referred to canal oats as “generally arriving out of condition”, proving difficult to sell and “going to warehouse for want of buyers”. The Pilot of 11 December 1839 referred to canal oats as “soft”; it is not clear whether that applies to their market or to their physical condition. On 16 February 1839 the Belfast Commercial Chronicle referred to canal oats as “unkilndried”: did that apply only to that batch or to all canal oats?

Third, the Limerick market report, above, suggests that lower prices may have applied to all oats arriving by water rather than by land. It is possible that the prices reflected something about the nature of the transport method rather than the inherent quality of the oats; alternatively, it is possible that water transport (which, where it was available, was probably cheaper than land transport) was chosen for the oats that would sell for less.

The first possibility has, I think, two sub-possibilities: that oats travelling by water might have been more at risk of damage or that their packaging might have been inferior: specifically, that they might have been a bulk cargo, poured loose into the hold, rather than packed in barrels. The Belfast Commercial Chronicle of 16 February 1839 might be taken to suggest that: “cargoes”, not barrels, were being sold, and by the ton rather than any lesser quantity:

Oats maintain their value, and cargoes have been sold from £8 5s [presumably per ton] to £8 7s 6d for unkilndried Canal Oats.

However, that is the only such example that my quick survey found.

Fourth, it is possible that canal oats were not used for human or equine consumption. The Dublin Morning Register of 3 November 1838 reported that

The supply of oats from the neighbouring farmers was short, and brought at the opening 13s to 13s 6d per barrel. Canal oats, of which rather a good quantity appeared, was taken off at 12s 6d to 13s per 196lbs. The distillers, anxious to get into stock, gave these prices freely. The advance is fully 1s 6d a barrel since Friday.

Again, that is an isolated example; it may be that the distillers did not always use oats.

Fifth, a case heard in the New York Court of Appeals in 1851, and reported in Henry R Selden Reports of Cases argued and determined in the Court of Appeals of the State of New York; with notes, references, and an index Vol I Little & Company, Albany 1853, concerned a contract for the sale of canal oats. The appeal was against the verdict in a case in which Messrs Vail and Adams sued Mr Rice

[…] in the court of common pleas of the city of New York for the breach of a contract dated New York April 28th 1847 for the sale of “a lot of canal oats, say about four thousand bushels, more or less, at forty seven cents per bushel, deliverable in all the month of May next, from boats at or near the foot of Broad street in this city, cash on delivery”.

The ultimate decision turned on other issues, but the relevant part is that Vail and Adams had called a witness who was in the grain trade and who said

[…] that oats sent by the canal vary about five per cent when they arrive from what they were when shipped. They generally overrun or fall short about five per cent. This is always expressed by the words ‘more or less’. We always make our contracts in that way and we mean by ‘more or less’ to provide for an excess or a diminution not over or under five per cent. We use the word ‘about’ to express the same thing. It is generally customary among us that the purchaser takes whatever it is, and gets the benefit or suffers the loss, not exceeding five per cent. On his cross examination the witness stated ‘The custom is a general custom. I have never known any particular instance. All the grain dealers do. SS & Co have such a custom. I can’t mention a particular instance. I can’t give any other instance. I have sold grain to M & D this way.’

If Irish usage was the same as American, this might strengthen the suggestion that canal oats were a bulk cargo, not measured before shipment, and thus with some uncertainty about the exact amount being shipped, bought or sold. That uncertainty might account for a lower price.

Envoi

None of that amounts to conclusive evidence, and I would be glad to hear from anyone [please leave a Comment below] who knows more than I do about canal oats.

 

A summons from the sea

Older readers may, at some stage, have been forced encouraged to read some part of In Memoriam A H H, an extraordinarily long poem [make sandwiches (preferably anchovy) and a flask of coffee before you start reading it] written by Alfred Tennyson about the early death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam. The poem was finished sixteen years after Hallam’s death in 1833.

In 1830 Tennyson and Hallam visited France and returned from Bordeaux by steamer. The steamer was the SS Leeds, owned by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, which had been operating on the route from Belfast to Dublin and Bordeaux, in the summer months, since 1827. Passengers from England were given free transport from Liverpool to Dublin [Saunders’s News-Letter 11 June 1827 via the British Newspaper Archive].

CoDSPCo ad from the Dublin Evening Mail of 8 August 1827. Image © The British Library Board. All rights reserved.

 

 

On their homeward journey, Tennyson and Hallam met the Tipperary-born landowner John Harden and his family. Harden lived in the English Lake District; he and his wife were “talented amateur artists”. The shipboard meeting is described in this extract from Leonee Ormond’s Alfred Tennyson: a literary life [Macmillan Press, Basingstoke 1993]. Harden sketched the group on deck`; here it is.

Tennyson, Hallam and the Harden family on board SS Leeds 1830

I cannot remember where I got that image. I presume that Harden’s copyright is long expired but it may be that a publisher or someone owns rights to the image. If I am in breach of copyright, leave a message below and I’ll remove the image.

 

 

 

Northern enterprise

On Friday, 25th ult, the Antrim and Tyrone Lough Neagh Steam Ferry Company’s first boat, the Enterprise, was launched from Port Armagh, on the Tyrone side of Lough Neagh. She is a most beautiful boat, and does great credit to Mr Hiram Shaw, of this town, for his exertions in bringing her out in such fine style. Her engines were built by M’Adam, Currell, and Company, of Belfast.

The Vindicator, Belfast 7 August 1839

From the British Newspaper Archive run by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited, in partnership with the British Library.

[Notes: I do not know where Port Armagh is or was. The Enterprise is not mentioned in D B McNeill Irish Passenger Steamship Services Volume 1: North of Ireland Augustus M Kelley Publishers, New York 1969]

Travelling

Newry steam-packet

The Waterloo will sail hence for Warren’s Point, This Day (FRIDAY) the 16th instant, at Three o’clock; on TUESDAY the 20th, and SUNDAY the 25th instant.

Dublin steam-packets

The Mountaineer, C H Townley, will sail hence for Dublin, on SUNDAY next, the 18th instant, at Three o’clock.

The Belfast will also shortly resume her station between this Port and Dublin. These being the only Steam-packets which land their Passengers AT THE CITY, by them the Public avoid the dangerous landing at Dunleary in small boats, the hazardous and expensive mode of conveyance thence to Dublin (a distance of several miles), the disagreeable disputes with boatmen, the impositions practised by the lowest order of society, with various other difficulties; against which the complaints are universal.

Days of sailing from Liverpool will be, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Apply at the Packet-office, bottom of Redcross-street, or to WILLIAM STEWART.

Liverpool Mercury 16 May 1823

From the British Newspaper Archive run by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited, in partnership with the British Library.

Northern nutters

I suppose this might be a Shinner ploy to annoy the DUP, but it is eloquent testimony to the pointlessness of the Northern Ireland Executive. It is unable to get its own act together, it can’t agree a budget — but one of its ministers thinks it should waste yet more of HMG’s money on yet another useless canal restoration proposal.

The Lagan Canal Trust is, it appears, funded by DCAL to enable it to draw up funding applications to DCAL ….

Races on Lough Erne

To the Editor of the Erne Packet

Me Editor — The stir visible amongst the seamen of the Lake, assures a most interesting contest. Four new boats are to enter the lists — their prowess will best prove the merit of those which have on former occasions been exhibited.

To the amateur, the scene cannot fail of proving most interesting, as well from the unrivalled beauty of the sailing ground, as from the superiority of the boats, some of which, built on the Thames, are considered to be superior to any other vessels of any size, for lake sailing.

The mariners of Donegal Bay will not, it is to be hoped, sleep on their oars; if rumour is to be credited, they are not to yield the palm so easily as they did last year. Four boats besides those already mentioned, are reported to be in readiness to invade the lake, from the sea, to assert the superiority of the Donegalian over his fresh-water competitor.

Some experiments are to be tried upon scientific principles,where lightness of draught of water, and form, altogether differing from what, for centuries, has been in use, are to be put into competition with bulk and beam. The well established speed of the Lough Erne cot is also to be tried, a boat being in preparation; these rivals to be pulled by Gentlemen of the lake. Great confidence is expressed by the owners, and any money for hands with good beam and bottom. NB — Dandies not admitted.

To cheer the toils of the seamen, two Balls are in contemplation, where all the rank and fashion of a wide extended country have engaged to attend. A very distinguished party from London, òn a visit to the Lakes and Bundoran, will also be present, and gratify the eye, as they have already done the mind’s eye of most of us.

Besides the beauty of the Lakes, much speculation exists to account for their visit, whether an examination into the minerals and collieries of the neighbourhood, or the general capabilities of Lough Erne, an extension of the navigation, and perhaps a decision of a question which has long barred up our Lake; the choice between a canal to Lough Neagh and Belfast, or one from Ballyshannon. In giving information to these sagacious explorers, Gentlemen will do well to bear in mind, that their evidence should be divested of any private favour, for should it be found to contain more affinity for party purposes than the general object, the benefit of the country, it will instantly, and perhaps not civilly, be rejected as unfit matter to enter into such an important digest.

NOTUS

Enniskillen Chronicle and Erne Packet
12 August 1824

News from the Windsor and Eton Express

A memorial to the lord lieutenant from the gentry and landed proprietors of Sligo, Leitrim, Fermanagh, and Cavan, lies in Enniskillen for signatures. It prays that a canal may be formed which will connect Lough Earne [sic] with Lough Allen, and that again with Lough Gill, which is navigable to Sligo. This, with the canal already sanctioned between Lough Erne and Neagh, will open a communication across the kingdom, from Sligo to the ports of Newry and Belfast. In a commercial point of view, this undertaking is of the greatest importance to Ireland.

Windsor and Eton Express Saturday 28 May 1825

How true these words are …

… even today.

Connected system

A1 @ A2SN

I wrote here about the workshop, being organised by A2SN, the Archives and Artefacts Study Network, and PRONI, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, entitled

By air, sea and land — Transport & Mobility through the archives.

I attended the workshop yesterday; it was absolutely excellent. I can’t remember the last time I attended an event where every speaker was both a good communicator and worth listening to. The programme covered waterways, roads, railways, aircraft, public transport and shipping, with two more theoretical, but no less interesting, sessions at the end — followed by a reception on and tour of the SS Nomadic.

The timetable had been designed to provide much opportunity for discussion between speakers and attenders: it was successful, thanks largely to its enforcement with a rod of iron, or rather with three sheets of card.

I imagine that the A2SN blog will have a full report when KH has had a chance to recover, so I won’t cover it here, but it was gratifying to note that Waterways Ireland is working on making access to its archive much easier.

If A2SN hold any more events on the island of Ireland, I’ll be there.