Tag Archives: belfast

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.

 

Archives workshop: a reminder

I mentioned, back in April, that an interesting-looking workshop is scheduled for Belfast on 8 September 2014. It’s being held in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland [PRONI] in the Titanic Quarter and there’s an optional extra tour and reception on the SS Nomadic afterwards. This post is a reminder.

The programme covers waterways, roads, railways and flight. For this site, the opening session is of great interest: Dawn Livingstone, CEO of Waterways Ireland, is to talk about an interactive archive for Waterways Ireland.

By air, sea and land

By air, sea and land

The workshop is being organised for PRONI by A²SN, the Archives and Artefacts Study Network, supported by the Historical Model Railway Society, the Business Archives Council and the Postal History Society.

The [two-page PDF] brochure is downloadable here PRONI transport archives workshop. The workshop fee is £20/€25 with an extra £3/€3.50 for the SS Nomadic visit. Sterling cheques are accepted; there is provision for paying in euro by online banking.

 

Thon sheughery business

It will be recalled that Her Majesty’s Loyal Home Rule Government in Belfast is considering investing in the Clones Sheugh [aka Ulster Canal] and that I asked DCAL, the department responsible, for a copy of the Business Case. To my surprise, it said:

Your request is being treated as a Access to Information request and will be handled under either Freedom of Information Act 2000 or the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

Either way, DCAL has now told me that I can’t see it. The Business Case, which is apparently an addendum to the 2007 Business Case (which was rotten: see here passim), won’t be complete until November. I have made a note to remind myself to ask for it then.

I quite sympathise with the DCAL folks: it can’t be easy thinking of any good reason to spend taxpayers’ [British or Irish] money on the Clones Sheugh. But perhaps DCAL can spin it out until the Shinners have taken over the Free State, at which point the economics of Grattan’s Parliament will be in vogue and we can all take up growing flax, spinning and weaving, giving grants for canals and making money out of the slave plantations.

Speaking of Shinners, there’s one called Cathal Ó hOisín, a member of HM Loyal Home Rule Government in Belfast representing East Londonderry, who said there recently:

The possibility of the reopening of the Ulster canal would open up limitless opportunities in tourism. The idea that, once again, we could travel from Coleraine to Limerick, Dublin and Galway by boat would be absolutely wonderful.

Well, you can do that: by sea. There was never an inland navigation from Coleraine, Limerick or Dublin to Galway, despite the urgings of Lord Cloncurry and the nitwitted ideas of Sir Edward Watkin.

As for a connection between Limerick or Dublin and Coleraine, I suspect that Mr Ó hOisín is perpetuating the error into which Her late Majesty Victoria, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, etc, seems to have fallen when she appointed

Commissioners to inquire respecting the System of Navigation which connects Coleraine, Belfast, and Limerick

which Commissioners reported in 1882. There was no such system and, if Mr Ó hOisín can provide evidence that any vessel ever travelled by inland navigation between Coleraine and Limerick, I would be glad to hear of it. I prefer to think of the Commissioners’ conclusion that

As an investment for capital the whole canal system in Ireland has been a complete failure.

I see no reason why politicians of the twenty-first century should repeat the errors of their predecessors in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

You expect the Parnellite members to have a bit more sense, but one John Dallat said in the same debate:

[…] when the Ulster canal is open, tourists will come in their thousands and that will benefit the Lower Bann, the Foyle as well, and right over to Scotland.

Er, John? There are actually canals in other countries. Even in Scotland. Folk are familiar with canals. They’ve seen them before. And a short sheugh to Clones is not going to attract tourists (apart from the relatively small number of canal twitchers, who will need to tick it off on their lists) unless the town of Clones is particularly attractive. Which … well, let me put it this way: why not look it up on TripAdvisor?

Of course I’m all in favour of Clones myself: I am quite interested in concrete engine-sheds and former canal stores.

 

Waterways [and other] archives

For anyone interested in transport history, there is an interesting-looking workshop scheduled for Belfast on 8 September 2014. It’s being held in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland [PRONI] in the Titanic Quarter and there’s an optional extra tour and reception on the SS Nomadic afterwards.

The programme covers waterways, roads, railways and flight. For this site, the opening session is of great interest: Dawn Livingstone, CEO of Waterways Ireland, is to talk about an interactive archive for Waterways Ireland.

By air, sea and land

By air, sea and land

The workshop is being organised for PRONI by A²SN, the Archives and Artefacts Study Network, supported by the Historical Model Railway Society, the Business Archives Council and the Postal History Society.

The [two-page PDF] brochure is downloadable here PRONI transport archives workshop. The workshop fee is £20/€25 with an extra £3/€3.50 for the SS Nomadic visit. Sterling cheques are accepted; there is provision for paying in euro by online banking.

While on the subject of archives, I might mention again the Archives & Records Association, Ireland branch, whose [freely downloadable PDF] newsletters often cover topics of interest, and their Learn About Archives site here.

The Armagh Canal

Another unbuilt canal mentioned by the indefatigable Mr Atkinson.

A proposal for making a canal from the city of Armagh to the river Blackwater, near the town of Moy

In order to shew, that carrying into effect the annexed sketch of a line [alas not annexed to the Google scan of Atkinson’s book], for opening a navigable communication from Armagh to the river Blackwater, would be a work of public utility, the following reasons are most respectfully submitted to the Right Honourable and Honourable the Committee of the House of Commons.

From Armagh, being the most considerable market in the kingdom for the sale of brown linens, the manufacture of that staple article is carried on to a very great extent in its neighbourhood; but this manufacture is in danger of being most materially injured, from the great scarcity of fuel, which is such as to oblige the opulent inhabitants to use English coal, at a great expense of land carriage; and they have latterly, at inclement seasons, been under the necessity of subscribing large sums, to procure that article at a low price for the poor, to prevent them from perishing.

Should a navigation be opened from Lough Neagh it would give the means of a supply of turf from the extensive bogs in the neighbourhood of the lake, would open a communication with the collieries at Coal island, in the county of Tyrone, and bring English or Scotch coal at considerably under the prices at which they can now be procured.

An extensive trade in general articles of merchandise being carried on from Armagh, not only to its own neighbourhood, but to a considerable part of the counties of Monaghan and Tyrone, by opening a navigation through Lough Neagh to the ports of Belfast and Newry, this trade would be very considerably extended, to the great advantage of Armagh, and all those places to which its trade extends, and would tend much to improve the public revenue.

To the great number of bleach-greens and flour mills in the neighbourhood of Armagh, water carriage would be of the highest importance, as well for the conveyance of bleaching stuffs, coals, grain, and flour, as of timber, slates, and other heavy articles, used in erecting and repairing the necessary buildings, machinery, &c.

In a large tract of country, from Blackwater town to Lough Neagh, and from thence up the river Bann, and along the canal to Newry (an extent of nearly 30 miles), there is no limestone whatever; so that lime can only be procured by land carriage from a distance of several miles, which prevents its being at all used in that important national object — agriculture.

Was a canal opened from Armagh, it must necessarily go through the lands in that vicinity, containing inexhaustible quantities of limestone, which could be conveyed by boats returning from Armagh, at a very inconsiderable expense, to all that part of the county above mentioned.

The cut, as laid down in the plan, would extend about five and a half miles; and according to the estimate, would, when completed, cost from £18,000 to £20,000, about one-third of which could be raised by subscription.

To keep the works in repair, and pay interest to the subscribers, would require a toll of about sixpence per ton on all boats carrying coals, or any other species of merchandise; but boats laden merely with turf or limestone might be charged only twopence per ton.

The number of horses constantly employed in bringing coals, turf, and other necessaries, to Armagh, amount to some hundreds; two-thirds of these would, from a canal, become unnecessary, and consequently make a saving to the country of their keeping, attendance, &c to a very large amount.

Should the Armagh navigation be carried into execution, it would be necessary to give the commissioners of it a power of laying on a very small toll on vessels coming into the Blackwater from Lough Neagh, to enable them to clear, and keep in order, a cut which was made many years ago (as marked in the plan), to avoid a sand bank in the mouth of the river Blackwater.

 

Armagh, Moy and Lough Neagh

Armagh, Moy and Lough Neagh

A Atkinson Esq (late of Dublin) Ireland exhibited to England, in a political and moral survey of her population, and in a statistical and scenographic tour of certain districts; comprehending specimens of her colonisation, natural history and antiquities, arts, sciences, and commerce, customs, character, and manners, seats, scenes and sea views. Violent inequalities in her political and social system, the true source of her disorders. Plan for softening down those inequalities, and for uniting all classes of the people in one civil association for the improvement of their country. With a letter to the members of His Majesty’s Government on the state of Ireland Vol II Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, London 1823.

The Armagh canal document, bearing a date of June 20th 1800, is also included in Rev John Dubourdieu Statistical Survey of the County of Antrim, with observations on the means of improvement; drawn up for the consideration, and by direction of The Dublin Society Dublin 1812 [Google scan, again sketchless] but is not, oddly, mentioned in Sir Charles Coote Bart Statistical survey of the County of Armagh: with observations on the means of improvement; drawn up in the years 1802, and 1803, for the consideration, and under the direction of the Dublin Society Dublin 1804 [at archive.org here], although Coote does say of Newry

A canal has been in contemplation, to be cut from this town to Armagh, and an iron road is also talked of, but there has been no decision in either cases.

My OSI logo and permit number for website

Dargan, O’Regan, steam and the Newry Canal

I wrote here about Simon O’Regan’s passenger-carrying screw steamer tried on the Grand Canal in Dublin in 1850. I am grateful to John Ditchfield for pointing me to an article about what happened next: steam trials on the Newry Canal in 1850, but this time with a lumber (freight) boat.

I would welcome more information about Simon O’Regan or about the use of steam power on the Newry Canal.

Simon O’Regan -v- John Inshaw

Did Simon O’Regan attempt to preempt John Inshaw? Here is a page about O’Regan’s single-screw passenger steamer, demonstrated at Portobello on the Grand Canal in Dublin in 1850.

Clever chaps …

those Danes and Belfast folk at Harland and Wolff (which is on the Lagan, so this is of inland waterways interest).

More Northern Ireland engineering ingenuity here.

The Lagan and Lough Neagh in 1830

Philip Dixon Hardy wrote in The Northern Tourist, or Stranger’s Guide to the north and north west of Ireland: including a particular description of Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway, and every object of picturesque interest in the district referred to William Curry, Jun and Co, Dublin 1830:

The river Lagan, although of very considerable breadth in the immediate vicinity of Belfast, and running nearly thirty miles, is yet by far too inconsiderable to be of any great advantage to the town in the way of trade or commerce. By its means, however, a regular communication is kept up between Belfast, Lisburn, and Lough Neagh. Since the year 1755, upwards of £100,000 have been expended in forming a canal, by the assistance of cuts in various places along the line of the river, where it was found too shallow for lighters to pass.

The Lagan Navigation Company have now the direction of the entire line, and have made such judicious improvements, as materially to promote the desired object — a speedy transit of goods and merchandise. This, however, can, after all, be only partially accomplished, as, from the circumstance of the Company not being able to have a horse-track-way along the entire line, nor to introduce steam power, the journey can be performed in a much shorter space of time by waggons and drays going direct. On Lough Neagh there is a small steam-vessel, by which the goods taken up in the lighters are rapidly conveyed to the different towns which lie in various directions round that extensive sheet of water.

W A McCutcheon, in The Canals of the North of Ireland David and Charles, Dawlish 1965, confirms the point about the trackway:

As a result [of various improvements in the early 1800s] traffic greatly increased, though water supply problems remained, and there was a horse-towing path for only part of the length of the navigation.

He gives no details, though, so I don’t know why the trackway was incomplete, how lighters travelled on those stretches that had no trackway or when and how the deficiency was remedied. My guess is that those stretches were along the river rather than the artificial cuts and that the riparian landowners were unhelpful, but I would welcome further information.

McCutcheon does not mention the steamer on Lough Neagh. However, D B McNeill mentions it in Coastal Passenger Steamers and Inland Navigations in the North of Ireland Belfast Museum and Art Gallery Transport Handbook No 3 1960:

The first steamer on the lough was the Lagan Navigation Company’s Marchioness of Donegall. She was built by Ritchie and MacLaine of Belfast, her engines were obtained from David Napier of Glasgow and she was launched at Ellis Gut in November, 1821. She was the first inland navigation steamer in Ireland and was used for towing the Lagan canal boats across the lough. When new, she was reputed to have had a speed of two knots. She was uneconomical and her owners tried to sell her in 1824, but there were no buyers. It is believed the Marquess of Donegall used her occasionally as a yacht. She was broken up sometime about 1840 and her engines were stored in Belfast.

In his Irish Passenger Steamship Services Volume 1: North of IrelandAugustus M Kelley Publishers, New York 1969 he says that the Marchioness was a wooden paddle steamer, built in 1821 and broken up in 1843, 73′ long with a beam of 16′, with a simple single-cylinder engine. He says that the engine cost £1,400, provided 30hp and gave her a speed of 6 knots. A passenger service was considered but never provided, but picnic parties could charter the boat for five guineas a day.

 

Lagan Navigation: Ballyskeagh High Bridge

A brief account here, with some photographs and some thoughts on the design of the locks of the Lagan Navigation.