Tag Archives: Crichton

A Tale of a Tug

Improvement in Steam Vessels

(from a correspondent)

One of the greatest applications of Steam Vessels, has lately been made in Scotland, and, we learn, with the most complete success. It appears that since the opening of the Forth and Clyde Canal (upwards of 30 years ago) a navigable communication has existed between Glasgow and Leith, the port of Edinburgh, notwithstanding which, by far the greatest portion of the trade between these places, has been carried on by land carriage, an an expense more than double what it might have been done by water.

This navigable communication consists of a Canal, for 29 miles, and a broad River or Firth for 26 miles; and it appears, that the obstacle which has prevented the benefit being taken of such apparent advantages, is the extreme difficulty of constructing vessels, which from draught of water and mode of rigging, would answer for the navigation of the Canal, and at the same time be able to contend against strong and contrary winds in the Firth of Forth.

To obviate this difficulty, a Company in Leith, have equipped a powerful steam vessel, or tracker, possessing extraordinary strength, and completely adapted for encountering stormy weather. This vessel, which is most appropriately named the Tug, is meant to track ten other vessels alternately, which have been peculiarly constructed by the same Company for carrying goods along the Canal.

The Tug, which may thus be compared to a team of horses in the water, tracks these vessele between Leith and Grangemouth, the entrance of the Canal, along which they are tracked by horses. But the utility of the Tug is not confined to tracking; she has also two commodious cabins, and combining the two purposes of tracking and conveyance of passengers, she is able to convey the latter with a degree of cheapness, which resembles more the track schuyt of Holland, than any conveyance we have in this country; the passage in the best cabin, being for a distance of 26 miles, two shillings, and in the second, one shilling.

For this most ingenious application of steam to this conveyance, we understand the public are indebted to Lieut George Crichton RN, Edinburgh, an officer who has long been distinguished for scientific knowledge in his profession.

It has long been known that a steam vessel will tow a ship out of harbour, in calm weather, or with light contrary winds, but her velocity was generally considered so much obstructed by the operation, that no idea appears to have been formed that an expeditious conveyance could be so established; but Lieut Crichton, it seems, had calculated on the peculiar manner in which a steam vessel is impelled, and by which any increased resistance to her motion through the water enables her wheels or paddles to act with more effect in proportion, and had estimated that in drawing a vessel of half her own size, she would not lose more than a fifth of her velocity. The Tug draws a loaded vessel of 50 tons, against a moderate breeze of wind, at the rate of nearly seven miles an hour.

The improvements which this invention may lead to in the river navigation of this country are incalculable; for by thus uniting the conveyance of passengers and goods, steam vessels will probably be established between points, which, [illegible] only one of these objects, would not have found sufficient employment.

We understand that Colonel [illegible] of Edinburgh, Kirkman Finley Esq MP for Glasgow, and several other Gentlemen of high respectability, are at the head of a Company, which have with much promptitude and [illegible] carried into effect the plan proposed by Lieut Crichton.

Perthshire Courier 23 October 1817

The steamer Firefly at Crom in 1850

Some time ago I posted a query, asking whether anyone could identify the location shown in this drawing on the National Library of Ireland website. Click on the thumbnail to expand it; you may then need to click “PRINTABLE VERSION”. I said:

The black object between the sailing boats and the church looks to me like a paddle steamer, but the image is quite blurred so I’m not certain.

I have now seen the original in the National Library. I have also seen a print of a painting that is, I think, based on the drawing; the painting was done by Henry Brocas junior and is entitled “Lord Clarendon’s visit to Crom Castle, Co Fermanagh, 1850” (tiny thumbnail here).

According to the Erne papers [PDF]:

The earliest known steam boat at Crom was the “Firefly”, which is recorded as having brought the Viceroy, Lord Clarendon, from Crom to Lanesborough Lodge [Belturbet] on his visit of 1850.

It may be that the view is pretty well south from Crom Old Castle with its yew gardens  (Historic 6″), which might explain the odd shapes in the foreground, but it could also be from Crom new castle or even from Inisherk: I don’t know the lie of the land well enough, and would welcome enlightenment. The church on the right-hand side of the picture is Holy Trinity (C of I) church at Derryvore, which originally had a steeple. The drawing shows the island of Innisfendra (Inishfendra) on the left, after which Waterways Ireland’s latest tug has been named.

Another Brocas pic on the NLI site seems to complement the first image: it shows a view to the right of the other, with Gad Island and with Corlatt in the background. I suspect that The regatta  was done (perhaps from a boat) at the same event: the ruins look to me like those of Old Crom Castle.