Tag Archives: engineer

William Dargan on the Dublin–Blessington–Carlow road

1580 Is there an engineer employed to oversee the works on the Blessington Road? — There has been a surveyor, a Mr Dargan.

1581 From the commencement of the Trust? — From the commencement of the Trust.

1582 At what salary is Mr Dargan employed? — About £100 a year.

1583 Is he still in the employment of the Trust? — He is nominally so.

1584 Does he receive a salary at present? — He does not.

1585 But he is still in the employment of the Trust? — He is.

1586 What was the reason, if the Trust continue to employ him, that they should take away his salary? — At that meeting in Baltinglass, in November, there were very general complaints as to the quality of the materials then lying on the road, and also of the quality of materials that had been expended on the road during the year; this induced me to ask the question, whether the surveyor, to whom we paid so high a salary, had attended; and upon further inquiry, I could not ascertain that he had done any duty, or taken any active part whatever in the management of the road, for the twelve months previous; upon which I entered on the books of the Trust a notice, that at the ensuing meeting I would move for the dismissal of Mr Dargan from that situation altogether. At the subsequent meeting I brought forward this motion, when there was a proposal sent in from Mr Dargan, in which he offered to do the duty for £50 a year. Upon further pressing the matter, his friends at the Board stated that he would withdraw all claim whatever for salary, would not ask what he might do for the last half year, and that he would be obliged to us if we would allow him to remain nominally as our surveyor, and pay him as we would any other surveyor when we had occasion to employ one. This was a proposition that I thought only reasonable, and I consented to it, and it was so entered upon the books, and I did not further interfere or further press the proposition that I had originally brought forward.

1587 In any further accounts that were laid before the Board, did any charge appear on the part of the treasurer for a sum of £50 to be paid to Mr Dargan after he had refused to receive any salary? — There was; the very first item in the treasurer’s account was a claim for a credit of £50 for salary to Mr Dargan, which he himself had conscientiously refused to take; so that we were, in fact, putting £50 into Mr Dargan’s pocket, whether he would take it himself or not.

1588 What was the proceeding of the Board upon that item appearing on the accounts of the treasurer? — It was, I presume, a mistake.

1589 Was it actually paid? — I never heard; but the moment I heard that it was a mistake, not to go to the credit of the treasurer, I said no more about it. It is not the loss of £50 to the funds. I only mention it to show the willingness to dispose of the money of that Trust.


1656 Can good materials be obtained? — As good as possible; there are as good materials on that road as on any in Ireland.

1657 Then you conceive that the putting on of bad materials was the cause of the bad state of the road ever since? — I do; repairs are eternally going on; it is not permanent. They do not screen it properly, so that it is literally drawing on mud and drawing off mud; for this gravel is not properly screened; the consequence is, that what they draw on to-day they draw off to-morrow.

1658 Do they ever employ an engineer? — Mr Dargan is professedly an engineer.

1659 Did not that engineer give directions as to the materials to be employed? — He may have done; but his directions were not attended to, if he gave them.

1660 Still he received his salary? — Still he received his salary.

Evidence of Peter Purcell in Report from Select Committee on Turnpike Roads in Ireland: with the minutes of evidence and appendix Ordered, by The House of Commons, to be Printed, 26 July 1832 645



One for the Phizzers

Quite a few visitors to this site come to read about the Broadstone. Here is a piece about the pontoon bridge used at the Broadstone between (AFAIK) 1847 and 1877. It was designed by Robert Mallet and it is interesting to see how an inventive engineer solved the peculiar problems of the Broadstone site.

How to collide

Cases, however, occasionally arise in river navigation, wherein it is not possible to avoid collision, either with vessels, barges, or boats; as, for instance, in the pool, near the Tower, &c, owing to the very crowded condition in which such places are generally found; being surrounded on every side by one or the other. In such a dilemma the only alternative is to stop the [paddle-]wheels, and let the vessels close together as easy as possible, taking care to guard the sides and paddle boxes with fenders, and using every endeavour to boom each other off; after which, let the Steamer drift with the tide, but watch an opening among the vessels for escape, and, so soon as it offers, set her on at rather better than half speed, in order to insure a command of her.

It is somehow consoling to know that even Commanders RN have been known to collide ….

The quotation is from Commander Robert Otway RN An Elementary Treatise on Steam, more particularly as applicable to the purposes of navigation, with a familiar description of the engine; Shewing the manner of its management in giving the Rotatory Motion; how started, eased, and stopped; the Nature and Properties of Steam, on both High and Low-pressure principles; its introduction into, and discharge from, the Cylinders, illustrated; as, also, how to ascertain the quantum of Actual Pressure at which the Engine is working; and the manner of Condensing Steam explained; together with a General Account of the operations of the Engine-Room; shewing the Accidents to which Steam Boilers are liable, and means of prevention; and, further, the Economy of Coals, how to be effected, &c, &c G Poore, Plymouth 1837.

This is a very readable book, available here as a free Google PDF, giving an interesting insight into the problems of the early naval steamers — and of their engineers.

Alexey Grigoryevich Stakhanov

There has been such interest in my posting on Stakhanovite homoeroticism that I thought I would post a few close-ups of the mural. The light fittings get in the way a bit, but you can pretend that they represent the fires of passion.





The chap at the bottom of that last one may represent Diogenes addressing a meeting of the directors of the Royal Canal Company.


Value for money

Regular readers will be aware that I think the proposed canal to Clones is a bad investment. I thought it might be useful to look for information about other Irish canal restorations to see what they cost and what the return on investment has been. I understand that there was a study of the Shannon–Erne Waterway, but I can’t find a copy on tinterweb (if anyone has one to lend, please get in touch).

I therefore asked Waterways Ireland about the restoration of the Royal Canal:

I would be grateful if you could tell me the cost of the restoration of the Royal Canal, the annual cost of running it and the revenue it generates.

The reply (for which I am, as always, grateful) said:

Restoration of the Royal Canal commenced in 1987.

€37m Capital Expenditure on the restoration project funded through (1) Operational Programme for Tourism 1994-1999 (2) National Development Programme 2000 – 2007 and (3) National Development Plan 2007-2013.

The Maintenance Cost for 2012 is €2.46m.

The revenue generated by the canal in 2011 is not available.

I didn’t really expect that there would be a meaningful figure for revenue. A full assessment of the benefits would cover far more than the (probably minimal) direct revenue; I think such an assessment should be done, but that’s not what really got my attention.

According to Waterways Ireland, the Main Line of the Royal is 146 km long and has 46 locks and many bridges, some of them newly built as part of the restoration. Harbours have been improved, slipways have been provided and service blocks have been built. And all of this was done for €37 million (I don’t know whether that’s in constant prices and, if so, at which year’s rates: I’ve asked a supplementary question).

A canal to Clones would be 13 km long and, according to WI’s final restoration plan [PDF], would have one double lock (staircase pair). Some dredging would be needed on the River Finn and a new canal 0.6 km long would have to be provided; the work at the Finn end would cost €8.5 million altogether. On the line as a whole, work would be required on up to 17 bridges, some major and some minor or private bridges. And there would be a cost for land acquisition, although the Updated Economic Appraisal put that at a mere £1,268,280, a very small portion of the total cost. And then there would be the pumps and pipes to take water from the Erne, pump it to Clones and let it flow back down; it is not clear whether WI would have to pay for the water. And the total cost of this lot would be €38m + VAT, which I am told is about €45 million altogether.

Now, even allowing for the facts that there had been some voluntary and FÁS scheme work on the Royal, that no land had to be acquired and that parts of the canal were in water, I still find it difficult to see how a 13 km canal with one double lock can cost more than a 146 km canal with 46 locks. I have asked WI for a comment, but perhaps readers — especially if any of them are engineers or accountants — would be able to help to explain the mystery. Maybe it’s something simple like a mistake in the figures or maybe I’m missing something about the nature of restorations …. Enlightenment welcome.


Skew arch canal bridges in Co Kildare

See the Helpful Engineer’s site here (and h/t Industrial Heritage Ireland).

APB: Dudley Fletcher

This is an All-Points Bulletin seeking information about Dudley Fletcher, former Shannon Navigation/Board of Works Engineer. I believe that he worked for the Grand Canal Company before moving to the Shannon. I wouold welcome any information about his career.