Tag Archives: Galway

The navigation of Lough Mask

TO BE SOLD, the large well grown Woods standing on the following Lands, viz Tourmacady, Cappaghduff, Drimcoggy, Gortmuncullen, Deryviny, and Cullentragh, consisting principally of well grown Oak fit for any Use, and partly of Sally, Ash, Birch, and Alder, on the Banks of the Lake called Lough Mask, which is navigable to Cong, within a mile of Lough Corrib, a navigable River to Galway; said Woods are very convenient to and near several Iron Works in the County of Mayo, and as they are distant from each other they will be Sold separately, if required. Proposals for said Woods to be received by Sir Henry Lynch, Bart, at Castlecarra, or by Robert Lynch Blosse Esq in Tuam.

Pue’s Occurrences 10 July 1756 from the
British Newspaper Archive

From the BNA

Foynes

The Shannon Commissioners built or improved seven piers and quays on the Shannon Estuary in the 1840s. In their eleventh and final report, the Commissioners gave the total income at six of them, for quayage, wharfage and cranage, for the year 1849. [Eleventh and Final Report of the Commissioners, Under the Act 2 & 3 Vict c61, for the Improvement of the Navigation of the River Shannon, Ireland; with an Appendix Ordered, by The House of Commons, to be Printed, 3 June 1850 407]

Kilteery                                   £0   4s 10d
Kildysart [Inishmurry]      £0  17s  8d
Querrin                                  £7  15s  4d
Saleen                                 £24    0s 10d
Clare [Clarecastle]          £67  14s   7d
Kilrush                             £105   5s  10d

The Shannon Commissioners quay at Querrin

The Shannon Commissioners quay at Querrin

 

The only two with any significant traffic were the existing ports of Kilrush [which was the only one to have a crane] and Clare. The other four were a waste of money [but are nowadays delightful places to visit].

Shannon Estuary (OSI ~1900)

Approximate positions of Commissioners’ quays on the Shannon Estuary (OSI ~1900)

The seventh quay, at Foynes, was not included because work had not been completed: the original plans were replaced by a more elaborate scheme, with a landing wharf, a pier, a slip and a harbour, towards which the proprietor, Lord Monteagle, had subscribed £4250, the largest amount paid by any landowner on the estuary. The Commissioners said:

Foynes Harbour, when complete, will consequently give secure quayage to sea-going vessels at all times of tides, and in fact will be the only port on the Shannon possessing that advantage; all the others, including the quays of Limerick, being dry, or nearly so, at low-water.

Foynes undeveloped (OSI ~1840)

Foynes undeveloped (OSI ~1840)

And so indeed it proved to be. Foynes, sheltered by its island to the north, grew as a result of the development of the quays.

Foynes (OSI ~1900)

Foynes (OSI ~1900)

But Foynes never became quite as important as some folk hoped, in the 1850s, that it would become.

The Irish packet station Commissioners

On 30 August 1850, C E Trevelyan, Assistant Secretary to HM Treasury [who is perhaps best known as the author, with Stafford H Northcote, of the Northcote-Trevelyan Report on the reform of Her Majesty’s Civil Service], wrote a Treasury Minute:

My Lords [of the Treasury] have before them a letter from the Secretary to the Admiralty, dated the 23rd instant, enclosing copies of a letter from the Board of Trade, dated the 8th instant, and an extract from a petition signed by a large number of landed proprietors in Ireland, praying for an inquiry with a view to the adoption as a Packet Station of one of the harbours in Ireland, and suggesting the appointment of a Commission for the above purpose.

Write to the Secretary to the Admiralty, and desire that he will state to the Lords Commissioners that my Lords are pleased to appoint a Commission as recommended by them, consisting of the following gentlemen:—

The Right Hon the Earl Granville, Chairman
The Hon William Cowper, MP and one of the Lords of the Admiralty
Sir James Alexander Gordon KCB, Rear Admiral of the Red, and Lieutenant-Governor of Greenwich Hospital
Sir John Fox Burgoyne KCB, Major-General, and Inspector-General of Fortifications
Captain Stephen Ellerby, one of the Elder Brethren of the Trinity House.

And my Lords desire that three of the said Commissioners form a quorum,

My Lords also concur with the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty that the above-mentioned petition should be referred to the Commissioners, and that they be instructed to make inquiry —

1st. As to the harbours in Ireland best suited for a Packet Station.
2nd. The advantages and disadvantages of adopting a harbour in Ireland for a Packet Station, so far as regards the trade and other interests of the empire, and to report the evidence to the Admiralty, with such observations as may enable Her Majesty’s Government to form a judgment on the premises.

My Lords request that the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty will give such further directions as may be required for the meeting of the Commissioners, and for the conduct of their proceedings.

(Signed) C E Trevelyan

[Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire as to the proposal for an Irish Packet Station. Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty. HMSO, London 1851]

The background to this was the transatlantic mail service, for which the UK contract was won by Samuel Cunard in 1839. Steamers left Liverpool every Saturday in summer (April to November) and every second Saturday in winter “alternately via Halifax to Boston and direct to New York”, with return services on Wednesdays: a packet ship was one providing a regular scheduled service, often but not necessarily carring mails. Cunard’s was not the only north Atlantic packet service: the US government had contracts with

  • Collins and Brown of New York, for a Liverpool–New York service, fortnightly in summer and monthly in winter
  • a line serving Bremen and New York, calling at Southampton
  • a third line serving Havre and New York, also calling at Southampton.

The Irish petition, which was concerned only with the UK mails contract, claimed that the total time required, from Liverpool to Halifax or New York, would be shorter if the mails went

  • by train from Liverpool to Holyhead [which the Commissioners reckoned would take 4 hours]
  • by steamer from Holyhead to Kingstown [6 hours]
  • from Dublin by rail to one of several Irish ports
  • thence by steamer across the Atlantic.

The Commissioners allowed for time on transits between steamers and railways; they assumed that the railways could operate at 30 miles per hour, which was 5 mph faster than the average at the time. They considered nine possible Irish ports: Cork, Long Island Sound, Berehaven, Crookhaven, Dunmanus Bay, Valentia, Galway and, in the Shannon Estuary, Foynes and Tarbert. Most of those had no rail connection to Dublin, but the Commissioners gave them the benefit of the doubt, assuming that a line would be built to wherever the packet station might be located.

The Commissioners took their job seriously. They circulated queries and received responses from 83 individuals and institutions including shipping firms, naval and coastguard officers, government departments, chambers of commerce, local politicians and officials. They interviewed 32 individuals and deputations, some of them more than once. They considered 36 items of “further documentary evidence” and 53 “further papers, reports &c” and wrote up the whole lot, including two plans (maps).

The Commissioners were not keen on using any port in the west of Ireland:

It appears, from the evidence of the majority of the naval officers to whom we have referred, that the navigation of the west coast of Ireland is dangerous, particularly in the winter. The coast from Mizen Head round to Galway Bay is, in nautical language, “steep-to”; there being 100 fathoms water at 18 to 29 miles off its outlying dangers. It is also subject to fogs and hazy weather, and to frequent heavy gales of wind blowing towards a lee-shore, with high Atlantic seas and very uncertain soundings.

Balancing the time to be saved on the transatlantic crossing and the “nautical qualifications” and resources of each port, the Commissioners said that the two best options were Foynes and Galway. However, the Commissioners did not think any Irish packet station would be a good idea:

We find no reason to conclude that the local and particular advantages resulting from the proposed measure would be so great, or the saving of time so important, as to counterbalance the large additional expense which would be entailed upon the Imperial Revenue, and the evils and inconvenience which would be inflicted on the great body of the mercantile and travelling portion of the community by removing the packets from the place where they were originally established, as being the focus of the commercial transactions of the United Kingdom with the North American continent.

None of the suggested locations for an Irish packet station would save more than 12 hours in a voyage of about 11 days, so the benefit to be gained for the mail service was small. But the principal problem was the effect on the passenger service (and the small amounts of high-value, low-bulk freight which could be sent by steamer). The steamer owners needed the income from both passengers and mails to make their operations pay, and the Irish proposal would have imposed great inconvenience on passengers. Instead of loading themselves and their luggage on the steamer in Liverpool, and unloading in Halifax or New York, passengers would have had to change

  • from steamer to railway at Kingstown
  • from railway to carriage in Dublin
  • from carriage to railway at Kingsbridge or Broadstone
  • from railway to carriage at or near the Irish packet station
  • possibly from carriage to a small steamer acting as tender
  • from tender to transatlantic steamer.

Apart from the inconvenience, the process would have introduced several opportunities for delays.

The Galway and Shannon ports Committee

The Commissioners, then, rejected both Foynes and Galway. But several people in Ireland rejected the Commissioners’ findings, mostly on grounds that were entirely irrelevant. There was a particularly colourful diatribe in the Galway Mercury, and Weekly Connaught Advertiser of 8 May 1852, which lauded Galway’s “glorious expanse of water, deep, and capacious and sheltered as it is, and pronounced by the most competent naval authorities to be one of the finest ports in the whole world”. The decision not to base the packet station there was “a fair specimen of Saxon justice to Ireland”: basing the packet station in Galway would “have the effect, in the course of a few years, of destroying in a great measure the commercial pre-eminence of that country [England, rather than Great Britain or the United Kingdom, it seems], and transferring much of its wealth and its greatness to this island which it hates so cordially, and which for six centuries it has ceased not to plunder and oppress”.

The editor did not, alas, have space to consider such mundane matters as the inconvenience to British passengers of being forced to travel to America via Galway. But the focus of the promoters of an Irish packet station, and especially of the vociferous Galway gang, turned to communication between Ireland and the USA. There were unsuccessful attempts to set up steamship companies; Packet Station Committees were set up [eg Tipperary Free Press 28 January 1852 on Mr Wagstaff and on the Dublin Packet Station Committee;  Galway Mercury, and Connaught Weekly Advertiser 31 January 1852 on the Irish and American Steamship Company]; the merchants of Belfast were persuaded that, with a packet station in Galway, American merchants and buyers would visit Ireland and (once a railway link was provided) especially Belfast before visiting England and Scotland [Northern Whig 12 February 1852; Morning Post 16 February 1852; Belfast News-Letter 23 February 1852]. Also in February, the Limerick Packet Station Committee was forced to publish a pained refutation of the recommendations of one James Whiteside, a member of the Dublin committee who was a strong advocate of the Galway proposal [Report of the Dublin Committee Considered, and Mr Whiteside’s Statement Reviewed, with remarks on the relative advantages of the Shannon and Galway Bay published by direction of the Limerick Packet Station Cmmittee, Browne & Nolan, Dublin 1852].

Unfortunately, in the same month, Lord John Russell’s Whig government collapsed and the Earl of Derby set up a minority Conservative government — in which the same James Whiteside, MP for Enniskillen, became Solicitor-General for Ireland. The Tribes of Galway soon descended on the unfortunate Prime Minister, with a “numerous and influential deputation” led by that turbulent priest, the Very Rev Peter Daly, a spiritual father of Monsignor James Horan, determined to wring every penny he could from the temporal power.

The Rt Hon Earl said that improving Galway’s harbour would make sense, in an imperial context, only as a packet station. And because the Irish Packet Station Commissioners had recommended two Irish ports, Foynes and Galway, the first step was to decide between the two of them. Accordingly, the government had decided to appoint three naval officers to visit the two ports, inquire into their relative advantages and report back. He could not commit himself to anything more until he had the report and he was sure that the deputation understood that [Dublin Evening Mail 10 May 1852].

That got Derby through the general election in June, after which he formed another minority government, which lasted only until December. In the meantime, though, the three naval officers — Captains F W Beechey, Henry Smith and James Crawford Caffin — visited Galway and inteviewed witnesses recommended by the Harbour Commissioners and other authorities; they also inspected the port and considered what works might be necessary. They then embarked on HM steam sloop Geyser and sailed to Limerick: they were thus able to see the approaches to both ports. They visited both Foynes and Tarbert on a small steamer and, again, interviewed witnesses. They returned to Dublin by railway.

Their focus was on whether Galway and the Shannon would be accessible at all states of the tide, at all times day or night, and in all weathers. Only with such access could the “greatest regularity and dispatch” be maintained for “steamers of the largest class”. That access was needed whether the ports were to be packet stations or harbours of refuge or both. It was appreciated that both ports would probably need engineering works to be carried out, as well as links to the railways.

On 15 September 1852 the Limerick and Clare Examiner reported Lord Monteagle [former Chancellor of the Exchequer; landlord at Foynes] as saying that the naval officers’ report had been submitted to the Admiralty and that they had preferred Foynes to Galway. However, in its issue of 25 September 1852 the Examiner carried extracts from the report itself, in which the three captains said:

  • the Shannon was better than Galway for the “safety and expedition with which a vessel when arriving can be got within the limits of her port” or clear the land on departure
  • neither location could provide the required “security and accommodation of the packets, and the convenience for landing and embarking passengers and dispatching the mails”. Facilities could be developed at Galway or at Foynes or Tarbert in the Shannon Estuary; Galway would be much more expensive
  • either Galway or the Shannon could act as a harbour of refuge for vessels that had good anchors and cables, but for those without the Shannon provided more safe options
  • the west coast of Ireland was “subject to higher seas and worse weather than other parts of the British Islands not so situated, and that weather in which no vessel would be justified in running for a port, does appear to prevail to a greater extent off the western ports of Ireland than at other ports”, which would mean that the “greatest regularity and dispatch” could not be assured
  • accordingly, neither Galway nor the Shannon was suitable as a packet station.

The report is Galway and Shannon Ports: Return to an Order of the Honourable The House of Commons dated 31 March 1859 for a copy of the instructions of the 11th day of June 1852 from the Admiralty to the Committee appointed to inquire into the suitableness and capabilities of the Ports of Galway and of the Shannon for a Transatlantic Packet Station, in connexion with a harbour of refuge … Ordered, by The House of Commons, to be Printed 19 April 1859 257.

Only the Cork [Cork Examiner 27 September 1852] and Belfast papers [Belfast Mercantile Register and Weekly Advertiser 28 September 1852] were pleased, seeing an opportunity … as did the Earl of Mayo, who wanted the packet station set up in Blacksod Bay.

The packet station schemes

It seems that the packet station enthusiasts wanted

  • the government to pay for whatever harbour and other works were needed
  • the government to designate the chosen port as a packet station for the mails
  • one or other of the private-sector contractors to be forced to use that station
  • the Post Office to cope with the many links in the chain from the Atlantic through Galway and Dublin to Britain, each link providing an opportunity for things to go wrong — and all of them on the critical path.

There do not seem to have been any serious attempts to quantify the likely passenger traffic: at that time, as in the early days of air travel, only small numbers of passengers could be carried and high fares were required. Furthermore, only for small, high-value or perishable freight was the extra cost of steam travel worth paying: for anything else, sail was cheaper. But the enthusiasts do not seem to have been willing or able (at least at that time) to come up with the money required to set up their own steam shipping company: the Dublin committee had decided that it would be too risky an investment given the competition from established operators at British ports.

The whole thing sounds like the mad attempt to get a canal to Clones.

The Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment

But the politicians have not yet finished with Foynes. According to the Limerick Leader of 10 November 2016,

Foynes in line to be US transit hub, says minister

Hundreds of jobs could be created at port

I can’t find any mention of this on the website of the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment, so I am unable to check the newspaper report. It begins:

FOYNES Port is poised to become a major European link with the US in the wake of Brexit, in a new Government proposal that could create hundreds of local jobs.

Now, we must immediately eliminate the exaggeration that might be the fault of the minister or the journalist: “in line to be” and “poised to become” might suggest that there is some plan or perhaps even some agreement between the USA and some undefined European body, whereas all we have, it seems, is a bright idea, the first phase of the underpants gnomes’ business plan.

It seems that there might be a demand for the use of facilities at Foynes for one or more of these reasons:

  • Brexit (which, of course, means Brexit)
  • “US pre-clearance for ships crossing the Atlantic”
  • congestion at Rotterdam
  • Foynes as a transit point for freight to and from North America.

This mishmash of unconnected ideas may or may not be the minister’s fault. Let’s see if we can make sense of it.

Brexit

According to the article

“Our second biggest export destination is the USA. From a Brexit point of view this is an opportunity to attract industries from right across Europe that are exporting into the US,” said Minister Naughten.

“The reality is that post-Brexit exports into the UK are going to be put under pressure, so this is an opportunity to make a new market and make it far more efficient for the export of goods.”

A ‘hard Brexit’ could result in EU borders, which would increase costs for freight companies shipping out of Britain into Europe. This proposal means that Foynes could become a more attractive destination for these companies to ship from.

The first paragraph is nonsense. Existing trade with the US is irrelevant to the proposal. As for the “opportunity to attract industries from right across Europe”, their ability to export to the USA is entirely unaffected by Brexit, unless that nice Mr Trump arranges something really insane with Ambassador at Large Farage. If you’re exporting widgets from Dusseldorf to the USA, why would Brexit cause you to route them through Foynes?

The second paragraph is no better.

The reality is that post-Brexit exports into the UK are going to be put under pressure, so this is an opportunity to make a new market and make it far more efficient for the export of goods.

Whose exports are we talking about? What new market? Far more efficient than what?

The third paragraph is confusing.

A ‘hard Brexit’ could result in EU borders, which would increase costs for freight companies shipping out of Britain into Europe. This proposal means that Foynes could become a more attractive destination for these companies to ship from.

There are, we are told, freight companies shipping out of Britain into Europe. I don’t know why we’re discussing freight companies rather than manufacturers or distributors [the ultimate emptors, who will pay the freight companies for the cost or inconvenience]. But anyway, these companies are shipping “out of Britain into Europe”, so we can assume that the goods start in Britain. If they are to get to Foynes, they still have to be shipped out of Britain into an EU member state, ie Ireland. So instead of going straight to Calais, say, they get shipped to the far side of Ireland and then back to the continent. How does this make the freight companies’ lives easier? Why would the UK/Ireland border be any less hard, or less bureaucratic, than the UK/France?

US pre-clearance

This seems to deal with a separate set of exporters: presumably those remaining in the EU and exporting to the USA. The idea seems to be that they will send their stuff to Foynes, where

“Freight would come into Foynes, get scanned there, get certified, and land in New York and would be the same as an internal shipment.”

According to the Department, Mr Naughten met with the US Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley and asked him to support the proposal, which would involve US custom official staff being based in Foynes to give full pre-clearance.

I can see that this might create a job or two in Foynes for US customs officials, and perhaps some local admin support. But I see two possible problems. The first is that this might count as an international trade agreement, and Ireland may not be entitled to make its own agreements outside the EU system. I do not, however, know whether that it so. But the second problem seems to me to be more serious: it is that the idea cannot be copyrighted or protected. There would be nothing to stop any other port applying to set up a similar arrangement, getting the benefits of US pre-clearance without the cost and loss of time in sending ships via Foynes.

Congestion at Rotterdam

I do not know whether there is congestion at Rotterdam, but if the volume of world trade is falling that problem might solve itself. Nonetheless, it is useful to keep things in proportion. Here is a map showing the whole of the Shannon Estuary. I’ve circled Foynes.

foynes-resize

Shannon Estuary (Imagery copyright 2016 DigitalGlobe, map data copyright 2016 Google)

And here, on the same scale, is Rotterdam. All those bits that look artificial, too straight to be natural, are docks. You can fly over it yourself here [short URL].

rotterdam-resize

Rotterdam (Imagery copyright 2016 DigitalGlobe, map data copyright 2016 Google)

 

Here’s Foynes in close-up.

Shannon Estuary (Imagery copyright 2016 DigitalGlobe, map data copyright 2016 Google)

Foynes (Imagery copyright 2016 DigitalGlobe, map data copyright 2016 Google)

I don’t think much of the overflow from Rotterdam will fit at Foynes. Of course there is lots of space elsewhere in the estuary, but it can’t be used: it’s reserved for the tweetie-birds.

That may be a bit of an exaggeration, as you can read here, but the Shannon Estuary isn’t going to get to even 1% of Rotterdam’s capacity.

Foynes as a transit point

I don’t know what that means. Maybe it’s just attaching another buzzword to the pre-clearance idea. If, though, it involves any sort of transhipment, forget it.

Solutions in search of problems

The Shannon Estuary may contain more wasted public-sector investment than any other estuary in Ireland, from the Wellesley [sorry: Sarsfield] Bridge through the Shannon Commissioners’ piers to the minor railways. [As if three loss-making railway lines — to Galway, Ballybrophy and Waterford — weren’t enough, there is a campaign to restore a fourth, to Foynes.]

Both the Shannon Commissioners’ piers and the packet station campaign sought public money to build facilities in the hope that they would attract private investment. In those cases, and with this present campaign, it might be better to wait for a private-sector investor to put money on the table first.

My OSI logo and permit number for website

Building Ireland

There is a television series called Building Ireland, about “Ireland’s building and engineering heritage”. A series of six programmes will begin on Friday 30 September 2016 at 8.30pm on RTÉ One, which is a television station.

The third programme, on 14 October, covers Ardnacrusha and the sixth, on 4 November, is entitled “Galway’s Corrib Canal” and covers canals in Galway and, I believe, may have some material about the Cong Canal.

Here is a PDF describing the series.

building-ireland-series-info-and-billings

 

Holiday tours in Ireland VII

On Lough Derg

There are two Lough Dergs in Ireland. One is in the County of Donegal, within four and a half miles of Pettigoe, and is celebrated for its St Patrick’s Purgatory. The lake is but six miles long and four miles broad, and can hardly vie for scenery with its namesake in the south.

In order to reach this, probably one of the most exquisitely beautiful loughs in Ireland, it is necessary to make for the town of Killaloe. This can be done by leaving Euston at a quarter-past ten at night, when Killaloe is reached by 3.10 the following afternoon; or should the tourist prefer the Irish mail, he can leave at a quarter to nine in the evening and arrive at Killaloe at half-past eleven the following morning.

Few Irish towns contain so many antiquarian relics, combined with such beautiful scenery, for Killaloe stands on a hillside tufted with wood and surrounded by mountains. The old cathedral occupies the site of a church founded by St Dalua, in the sixth century. The present building dates from the twelfth century, with a central square tower whose effect is somewhat spoiled by a  modern crown. Its gem is a Hiberno-Romanesque doorway, which has, unfortunately, been blocked into the south wall of the nave. The precincts also contain a small stone-roofed church, said to date as far back as the sixth century.

The fishing is generally extremely good, though many prefer Castleconnell, some five miles to the south on the road to Limerick. In any case few portions of the United Kingdom furnish better salmon fishing than that reach of the river Shannon that lies between Killaloe and Castleconnell.

Lough Derg must, however, remain the greatest attraction of the district. It is twenty-three miles in length, and varies in breadth from two to six miles. Nothing can surpass the loveliness of the scene, especially on a fine summer’s day. On the one side the well-wooded and smiling hills of Limerick and Tipperary, where Thomthimia, with its slate quarries, slopes down to the water’s edge; while on the other the darker and more rugged mountains of Slieve Bernagh, Ballycuggeren, and the Crag form the most effective contrast.

Kincora was once the residence of Brian Boroimbh, King of Munster, and its magnificence was long the main theme of the ancient bards. But little now remains of the ancient palace beyond a long circular earthen fort, with a single vallum some twenty feet in height.

Inishcaltra or the Holy Island is, however, well worth a visit, and for this purpose it would be better to utilize the local service from either Scariff or Killaloe to Mountshannon, which faces the island. It possesses a round tower some eighty feet high, and seven churches, or cells, and oratories, the most remarkable of which is that of St Caimin, originally erected by him in the seventh, but subsequently rebuilt by Brian Borombh in the tenth century.

Scariff may this year be approached by steamer, and is a very prettily situated village, within access by road of Woodford, in County Galway, and Ennis in County Clare. The steamer then crosses the lake to Dromineer, at the mouth of the Nenagh river, where the ruins of the castle stand out with such picturesque effect. The bay is one of the most popular resorts, both of the angler and of the yachtsman; for to the latter it has earned a well-deserved reputation for its annual regatta.

The steamer then stops at Williamstown while a boat from Kilgarvan occasionally lands passengers and conveys them to the steamer. As soon as the new jetty has been constructed by the Board of Works, Woodford will be equally accessible; but there is no doubt that the approach to Portumna pier at the head of the Lough, lying as it does between the well-wooded demesnes of Portumna Castle on the one side and Belleisle and Slevoir on the other, presents one of the finest pictures that the lake discloses, for there we see the most striking contrast between the tame verdure of the river Shannon and the bold mountain scenery of Lough Derg.

It would be tedious to dwell on the varied beauties of those innumerable seats that dot the shores of the lake on all sides; suffice it to say that few parts of the United Kingdom present as many diverse attractions as this wide expanse of water. Much as one may appreciate Loch Lomond, Loch Maree, or the Caledonian Canal, this Irish lough certainly surpasses them; and much gratitude is due to the Shannon Development Company for bringing within such easy access of the average tourist a wealth of scenery that certainly equals, if it is not finer, the finest spots that either Scotland, Norway, or Switzerland can offer.

This is, however, but half the trip from Killaloe to Athlone. Portumna is chiefly remarkable for the ruins of a Dominican priory founded in the thirteenth century, as well as for the Castle, the property of Lord Clanricarde, in which he has not resided since his succession to the estate. The village of Lorrha, three miles further up, also contains the ruins of a Dominican abbey, an oblong pile 120 ft long, as well as a castle and two old ecclesiastical buildings called by the peasantry the English churches, owing to their having been built by Norman settlers.

The river now assumes a totally novel character, winding by graceful curves through low-lying but rich meadow lands. Their luxuriant appearance is largely due to the fact that they are usually submerged under the waters of the river during the winter months.

Meelick Abbey is next passed. It was founded by the Franciscans in the twelfth century, and was at one time a sumptuous structure, but is now a roofless and mouldering ruin; and a beautiful pillar which formerly supported the arches on the south side has been torn away with ruthless vandalism, in order to make headstones for the graves in the cemetery.

Banagher can boast of a fine stone bridge, opened some fifty years ago to replace the preceding structure, which displayed no less than twenty-three arches of various forms, with massive piers between, and was so narrow that only one carriage could pass at a time.

Shannon Harbour is best known from the description of its hotel in Lever’s Jack Hinton, but that building is now let in tenements. Shannon Bridge is one of the three fortified passes built to guard the Shannon, and is but four miles from Clonfert, whose cathedral, now being restored, contains one of the finest Hiberno-Romanesque doorways to be found in the three kingdoms.

Few spots, however, offer greater attractions to the antiquary than do the celebrated seven churches of Clonmacnoise. The most remarkable of these are the Diamhliag Mhor or Great Church, which dates from the fourteenth, and Fineens Church, built in the thirteenth century. The former was originally the work of Flann, King of Ireland, in 909, and contains several bits, more especially the sandstone capitals of the west doorway, that may be traced to the earlier period. Besides these churches, there is much to be seen at Clonmacnoise, which includes among its ruins the episcopal palace and castle of the O’Melaghlins, a nunnery, two round towers, Celtic crosses, and inscribed stones. The grand cross, formed of a single stone 15 ft high and elaborately carved, surpasses every other in beauty of execution and elaborate detail.

Though the tourist may gaze upon Clonmacnoise as he approaches and leaves it and enjoys a particularly fine view of its beauties as he passes by the curve of the river on whose banks it is situated, no provision has yet been made to enable him either to land or to make a closer acquaintance of its many beauties as he passes by. This is due to the refusal on the part of its proprietor to meet the proposals of the company. It is, however, to be hoped that more favourable terms may be made in the future, as the traveller must now proceed straight to Athlone and visit the ruins from there either by road or by water.

Much more might be said of Lough Derg as well as of the Shannon from Killaloe to Athlone. Fair hotel accommodation may be obtained at Killaloe, Dromineer, Portumna, and Athlone at from eight to nine shillings a day. Lodgings can also be procured at Killaloe, where the proprietors have learned to cater for the requirements of those anglers who frequent this highly-favoured spot.

Return tickets may be obtained from Euston to Killaloe by the North Wall at
£4 13s 6d first, £2 16s second, and £2 third class. Lough Derg may also be visited from Athlone by the Midland Great Western Railway from Broadstone. The fares by Kingstown and the mail are somewhat dearer.

Pall Mall Gazette 1 August 1898

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

Pollboy Lock

I mentioned some time ago that, according to its Business Plan 2015, Waterways Ireland was considering automating Pollboy Lock, on the River Suck to Ballinasloe, in order to save costs. Like other offshoots from the main Shannon Navigation [Killaloe to Lough Key], the Suck is relatively little used.

According to the Connacht Tribune, the automation is to proceed and the lockkeeper is to be reassigned. It seems that some local councillors and “business interests” — who do not, as far as I know, contribute to Waterways Ireland’s income — regret the loss of an ambassador for the town. The keeper, Mr Coyne, was indeed extremely helpful to visiting boaters.

However, he could help only those who arrived at his lock: he could do nothing to attract more boating visitors to the town. That is not in the least a criticism of him, but rather a suggestion that councillors and business interests might perhaps have done, or yet do, more to attract visitors and increase the usage of the splendid harbour in Ballinasloe. Perhaps they might even appoint and pay a town ambassador?

A Sinn Féin councillor quoted in the article seems not to be entirely familliar with the duties of lockkeepers. Furthermore, he does not take account of the fact that the Shannon–Erne Waterway succeeds without lockkeepers — or that it was proposed that the Clones Sheugh [not-the-Ulster-Canal] operate in the same way. Surely a Sinn Féin councillor is not suggesting that, without keepers, the Sheugh might not be the enormous success that his party purports to believe it would be?

PS: the Tribune also has a piece about rubbish at Castle Harbour, Portumna.

 

Grand Canal passage-boat

Here is an account, published in 1862, of what it was like to travel from Portobello, in Dublin, to Ballinasloe by the Grand Canal Company’s passage-boats — and of why rail travel was much to be preferred.

A grand day out in Galway for small boats

Here, courtesy of Kyran O’Gorman, are his notes on navigating the Ballycuirke Canal from Lough Corrib to Ross Lake. Small boats only, and at your own risk.

Mr Roberts and his basin

To complement my page on the Eglinton Canal in Galway, here is one about the Claddagh Basin.

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

The madness of Daniel O’Connell

In 1828 Daniel O’Connell was elected to the House of Commons for County Clare. As a Roman Catholic, he could not take the Oath of Supremacy [Frizzell, the illustrator, seems to have got his date wrong] and so could not take his seat, but the Emancipation Act 1829 removed that obstacle. However, it was not retrospective, so O’Connell had to stand again in County Clare; he was elected unopposed in July 1829.

On Sunday 31 January 1830 “The Patriotic member for Clare, Daniel O’Connell Esq, sailed from Howth […] at 8 o’clock, for England, to attend his Parliamentary duties” [Tipperary Free Press 3 February 1830] and when Parliament resumed on Thursday 4 February 1830

Daniel O’Connell Esq took the oaths prescribed by the Catholic Relief Bill, and his seat as a member for the county of Clare. The honourable member seated himself on the third row of the opposition side of the house, and exactly opposite to Mr Peel.

[London] Standard 5 February 1830

O’Connell’s letter

Before he left Ireland, O’Connell issued a letter to “the people of the County of Clare”; according to the Morning Post of 20 January 1830 it was issued from the Parliamentary Intelligence Office, 26 Stephen-street, on 15 January 1830. It began

MY FRIENDS AND BRETHREN — I take up the pledges which I made to you when I called on you to repose in me the high and awful trust of being your Representative. I will endeavour honestly to redeem those pledges.

For this purpose I propose to leave Dublin on the 26th of this month. I go off at the commencement of Term, and I shall be absent for two, if not three, entire Terms. Men will sneer at me for talking of these sacrifices to public duty, who, themselves, seek their own individual advantage in all their political exertions. I readily consent, and will proceed to do my duty to you with alacrity, zeal, and perseverance.

There was more along those lines, and then he said

My Parliamentary duties will naturally divide themselves into two distinct branches: the first relates to your local concerns; the second, to those mighty interests in which your prosperity is involved with that of all Ireland.

There were four local concerns: two about canals and two about ports.

An asylum harbour

West Clare [OSI ~1900]

West Clare [OSI ~1900]

The first port proposal was to build an “asylum harbour” on the west coast. An asylum harbour was a port that provided refuge in storms: Kingstown [Dun Laoghaire] was an asylum harbour (amongst other things). O’Connell thought an asylum harbour on the west coast would provide a safe haven for vessels coming across the Atlantic, feeling the force of the Gulf Stream and the prevailing westerly winds: they risked being “embayed on the iron-bound coast between Loop Head and Hag’s Head” where the Cliffs of Moher are. It is not clear how vessels could safely enter such a harbour, given that it would require them to come close to the lee shore, but O’Connell said

The existence of an asylum harbour on Malbay would be of the greatest value to the trade of the British Isles. I do hope to be able to realise this project, in the execution of which the talents of my most valued friend THOMAS STEELE would be found to be most highly beneficial to that county which he adorns by his abilities and patriotism.

O’Connell no doubt had in mind Thomas Steele’s talents as a urinator.

Carrigaholt and Kilrush

O’Connell also wanted

[…] the construction of two suitable piers, with other works, completely to protect shipping; the one on the Bay of Carrigaholt, the other on Scattery or Kilrush Harbour.

The commerce of Kerry, Clare, and Limerick, are interested in these works. We shall certainly obtain the powerful assistance of the patriotic Member for Limerick. His assiduity, information, and public spirit, render him a model which Irish representatives should imitate.

He wasn’t quite as complimentary about Thomas Spring Rice a few years later, when O’Connell’s five-hour speech in favour of the repeal of the Acts of Union was topped by Spring Rice’s six-hour contribution.

Here is a page about Kilrush. I haven’t done a page about Carrigaholt so there follows some information to fill the gap until I get around to doing it properly.

The earlier pier at Carrigaholt was built by Alexander Nimmo and was more successful than his harbour down the road at Kilbaha. Despite the description on the DIA site, I assume that it is the one shown on the 6″ OSI map.

Carrigaholt map 1

The old quay at Carrigaholt (OSI ~1840)

Here’s a photo.

Carrigaholt August 2011 7_resize

The old quay at Carrigaholt as extended

Commander James Wolfe’s Sailing Directions [PDF], compiled some time before 1848, say

Round Kilcradan, to the northward, and protected by it, is the anchorage or Road of Carrigaholt. It is a very fine secure anchorage with all winds from the westward, but from the ENE to S much sea prevails, though not heavy enough to endanger a vessel well found in ground tackling. With SW gales, a long rolling swell sets in round Kilcradan Point, which renders riding here at those times very uneasy. These roads have the advantage of being free from any great strength of tide.

The ground is level all over the road, but from six fathoms it shoals gradually towards the shores; the bottom, of sand over clay and mud, is generally considered good holding ground. The best anchorage for a large ship is with the top of Ray Hill in one with the Coast-guard Watchhouse W ¾ N, and Moyarta Lodge, just open of the point on which Carrigaholt Castle stands, nearly N ½ W in 5½ to 6 fathoms low-water springs.

The shore forms two smaller bays, the northern of which takes its name from the village which stands on its shores, and the southern is called Kilcradan. Both are very flat and shallow; in the latter there is a coast-guard station, but it is not a boarding station. The village is a poor miserable place, and does not afford supplies of any sort, nor can a ship complete water here. At the village is a small pier, accessible only (to loaded boats) at high water. It is used by the turf-boats, though most of these load on the beach.

Carrigaholt Castle, a high square tower on the point, and the chapel, a cruciform building, with its belfry, are very conspicuous objects.

As those directions were written some years ago, I suggest that you should not use them for navigating nowadays. You can tell that they are out of date because the village does now afford most excellent supplies, chiefly in the Long Dock. The Long Dock does not, alas, seem to have updated its website since 2006, having gone over to the Dark Side of FaceTweet which, at least to me, is impossible to search, so I can’t point you to a list of the interesting beers the Long Dock stocks in addition to its excellent food.

My spies tell me that, if you happen to be driving a barge from, say, Donegal to Limerick — not that I’m encouraging you to do anything of the sort — Mr Luke Aston of the Carrigaholt Sea Angling Centre will be able to advise on moorings. He’s got a Lochin, so he must be sound. You can have a day’s sea angling with him or a day watching dolphins with Geoff Magee (to whom I owe a glass of sherry), followed by a meal at the Long Dock: what more could you want?

Carrigaholt new harbour 24

Luke Aston’s Lochin [I assume] and Geoff Magee’s Draíocht

Well, if you were Daniel O’Connell, you’d want a new pier or quay.

Carrigaholt map 2

Carrigaholt old and new quays [OSI ~1900]

The old quay was extended at some stage and a new quay was built at the castle. I don’t know have dates for either of those, but I think the new quay was built as a fisheries pier in the 1890s. If, Gentle Reader, you know the dates, and can save me from having to plough through years of Board of Works reports, do please leave a Comment below.

If O’Connell had any role in having the old pier extended, that would have been the only one of his four local concerns on which he had any success, although he could also claim a minor supporting role in having the pier at Cappa, Kilrush, extended in the 1840s.

Carrigaholt new harbour 30_resize

Carrigaholt new quay seen from the old quay

The canal to Ennis

Daniel O’Connell’s third local concern was

The opening of the navigation of the Fergus to Ennis, so as to make that town a sea-port. The tide rises about half a mile beyond that town; and if there were a short canal cut near the village of Clare, of about 300 yards, vessels of burden could deliver their cargoes at Ennis, and carry away the produce of the country to the most remote markets.

This was a proposal that came up several times, but it was never implemented. The Shannon Commissioners built a fine quay at Clare [now Clarecastle] in the 1840s, but they left it as the head of the navigation.

Wolfe’s Sailing Directions made it clear that the passage of the Fergus estuary was not to be undertaken lightly:

A mile to the eastward of the Beeves is the principal and only navigable entrance to the River Fergus, which comes from the NNE amid vast banks of mud, and numerous islets and rocks. Having passed the Beeves, steer up for Feenish Island till you bring the tall square tower of an old castle (called Court Brown) in one with the north point of Low Island, WNW¼W, which is studded with white houses.

You must then keep rather more to the northward for the round hill of Coney Island, until Cannon Castle is in one with the peak of Grady Island, W¼S, when you must bear away for the east point of Coney Island; you will then shortly come into five and six fathoms, where you must anchor with the sharp peak of Coney Island bearing N by E and Cannon Castle WSW1/3W in about six fathoms soft muddy bottom.

Grady's and Cannon Islands from off Innish Corker [Admiralty Surveyors 1841 by kind permission of the UK National Archives]

Grady’s and Cannon Islands from off Innish Corker [Admiralty Surveyors 1841 by kind permission of the UK National Archives]

Beyond this it would be impossible to proceed without a pilot. The river beyond Coney Island winds through vast banks of mud, extending from 1 to 1½ miles from the shore, decreasing gradually in width from 600 yards, and varying in depth from nine to three feet up to the town of Clare, nearly seven miles in a direct line, and nine following the channel.

At Clare the bed of the river is dry at low water, but there is a quay, alongside of which vessels load. Clare is a miserable place, though the shipping port of Ennis. It is a military station.

Pilots may be had at Low Island, but no vessel above 150 tons should go up to Clare.

Clare_resize

The bridge at Clare[castle] [OSI ~1840]

As well as a lock, some opening mechanism would have been required for vessels to get though the bridge, which was not the current flat structure; here is a photo of the old bridge.

Clarecastle Fergus Navigation June 2007 07_resize

Looking from the Shannon Commissioners 1840s quay at Clare towards the bridge

Clarecastle November 2014 16_resize

Clarecastle gandalows at the quay

Clarecastle old quay from far side 03_resize

The quay from across the river

Very low water at Clarecastle 5_resize

Low water at Clarecastle

The interesting thing is that, even though a boat could not pass through Clarecastle to the estuary, there must have been some navigation on the Fergus; I would like to know more about what and how much was carried when. There was a quay, Parson’s Quay, in Ennis …

Ennis_resize

Parson’s Quay in Ennis [OSI ~1840]

… and another quay further downstream. I put the next map in black and white to make it easier to see things; it’s scaled down from the Ennis map.

Quays_resize

Ennis and district [OSI ~1840]

The map also shows that O’Connell was right about the tide: it did flow well above Ennis.

The other canal

Although the first three proposals were not implemented, and probably would have been either uneconomic or unsuccessful, they weren’t absolutely bonkers. His fourth idea, though, was nuts.

The fourth local concern relates to a communication by a canal from the bay of Galway to Limerick. The point of junction should be somewhere in the neighbourhood of Killaloe. The entire of the western and midland counties of Ireland would derive great advantage from such a canal.

Getting through the hills above Killaloe would have been fun. But the real problem with the proposal is that O’Connell fundamentally misunderstood the nature of the Irish economy. Each Irish port served its own hinterland, shipping out its produce and shipping in coal, timber and other overseas goods. But the ports did not need to trade with each other, as each performed the same function.

The exception to that was created by the application of steam on the inland Shannon, which allowed perishable produce from the Limerick area to be carried across Ireland for export through Dublin to Britain. That role was soon taken over by the railways.

But there was no point in connecting two westward-facing ports by canal: if they needed to trade with each other, they could do so by sea.

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