Tag Archives: Galway

Dublin to Shannon Harbour 1831

[This account of a journey by Grand Canal passage-boat appeared over three issues of the Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent: 23 July,
2 August and 9 August 1831. The three sections have been merged here and some headings have been inserted. Question marks in square brackets denote words that were difficult to read]

The Grand Canal passage boat

On to the first lock

“We shall be late for the boat, I fear, Mr Coachman,” said I, as I put my foot on the step of one of those vehicles ‘yclept a jarvie — “we shall be late for the boat, unless you promise to drive tolerably fast.” “Yer honor, I’ll drive you faster than ne’er a coachman in Dublin, not even exceptin’ the Markis himself, long life to him; so get in, and you’ll see how I’ll rowl you along.”

We left the steps of the hotel, and for a little time proceeded with great celerity; but the horses soon slackened their pace, and got into a jog-trot at the rate of about five miles in four hours. “Come, coachman,” said I bawling at him out of the window, “this will never do; you promised to drive in a more expeditious manner.” — “Arrah, what way would you want a man to dhrive? — pay-dish-us indeed! You would dish us, sure enough, and want me to kill the poor bastes all out: may-be it is the devil’s own pace you’d like to be dhriving at, but no matter, all in good time,” muttered the fellow to himself, “you’ll be going that road before long.”

“Why, man, we shall certainly not reach Portobello harbour before the boat leaves, unless you get on quicker; I have been told she sails at two o’clock, and now it wants but eight minutes of the time.” “Sails! Och, thin, it’s fine sailing you’d have on boord that same packet, and grate canvass there is in thim same sails; for they are all made of horse skin, agra[?], and put on eight legs, and there you’ll see them walking on, one after the other, like two little grogeens of turf [?].” “Surely,” said I, in something like despair, “the boat will be gone.” “Gone! Never mind that, yer honor; I was never late for the boat but once, and then she went down to the bottom; so that even if I’m late itself, may-be you’d be saved the throuble of being dhrowned. But, hit or miss, I can drive you on to the first lock, and then you’ll be easy, for I can overtake thim spalpeens of horses they have under the boat at any time.”

Portobello to first lock (OSI 6″ ~1830s)

Accordingly, at the first lock, which is about a mile and a half from Portobello, did my facetious jehu deposit myself and portmanteau, safe and sound, on board the Passage Boat, wherein I was to be stowed for the night, coachy charging, of course, five shillings more for the additional drive.

The delights of west Dublin

The scenery along this part of the canal is particularly interesting. A row of very fine beech trees, now attained to their full growth, is planted on each bank, and the overhanging branches present a delightful retreat from the summer’s sun to the pedestrian rambler, while the winter’s blast loses much of its force as it spends its fury against these formidable barriers.

The country, on the left hand, is richly cultivated; the fields, beautifully green, are interspersed with groves waving with thick luxuriant foliage. Neat villas, the summer residences of our Dublin citizens, are numerously spread over the landscape; two or three spires of churches, the tops of which are seen rising above the other buildings, present a variation of character to the surrounding prospect; while that splendid and gorgeous line of mountain which separates the counties of Dublin and Wicklow, glowing now in all the loveliness and true nobility of mountain scenery — a ray of light breaking forth from beneath a cloud, and exhibiting to view a deep and rugged or some cottage before observed, now lying in thick shadow awful amidst its grandeur — gives a finish to the back-ground of the picture, but seldom seen throughout nature’s kingdom.

The [presumably first-class] passengers

Our company was variously composed. We had Lord R—s, who told us he had been “thravelling in that boat, man and boy, these forty years, and never met with an accident except one” — and this he related, for the purpose of quieting the fears of a nervous lady, a passenger in the boat for the first time, and who was accompanied by a sick child.

“I’d tell you how it was, ma’am,” said he, “the boat came into a lock, and by some mismanagement or other she turned upon one side, and down she went just like a stone to the bottom; and myself would have been drowned as sure as gob[?], for I was thravelling in the boat that same time, only I was on the bank. Oh, it was well I wasn’t in her, or there would have been mille murther.” “And were any persons drowned?” asked the lady with a terrified countenance, as the boat just then came whack against the side of a lock. “Indeed there was about six and twenty,” rejoined the Peer; “but don’t make yourself uneasy, for the same thing won’t occur again.”

I am unable to identify Lord R— (the final s is not used in later mentions and may be a mistake): I cannot find anyone called Lord R— resident in the west of Ireland at the right time. Michael Dillon, 12th Earl of Roscommon, might be possible, but I have no information about where he lived.

Besides the Lady and the Lord, we had two Roman Catholic Priests, red hot from the College; a publican, and small sugar dealer from the town of Banagher; a cloth merchant from Tuam; two young ladies, one the wrong side of forty, who set up for literati, and gave us during the evening divers dissertations upon books, picked up chiefly from reviews; three Trinity College men, one of them in all probability a pupil[?] of Tom Gannon’s, for he was redolent of puns — and, though last, not least, five Misses Blake, returning after an unsuccessful winter in Dublin, spent fruitlessly in one of the best boarding houses in the city.

Could the Misses Blake have been the daughters of Pierce Blake of Hollypark?

A run upon the banks

“Ho!” said one of our Academicians, looking out of the window, “there is a great run upon the banks.” “Run upon the banks!” exclaimed the elderly-young lady, “run upon the banks! I trust not, for I have five hundred pounds in the Galway Provincial: did you say, Sir, it was a great run?” “Never saw such a run, ma’am, in all my life; the seven-leagued boots never made such desperate haste; if the banks stand it, it’s a wonder: in my opinion they will certainly break; at all events they must receive a great shake. No such pressure has occurred to them these many years; and all caused by one or two individuals.”

“That O’Connell ought to be hanged: I was once a great advocate of his, but I have lately changed my opinion entirely; he ought to be hanged, and well hanged, for I am quite sure he is at the head and tail of the whole business. Oh dear! oh dear! I wish I was in Galway — my five hundred pounds! Do you think, Sir, I shall get there in time to draw my money? — not that I care much about so small a sum, for I have a good deal more some where else — no bad thing, I promise you, for some deserving young man, and I am particularly fond of College men — but then one would not like to lose even five hundred pounds. Oh dear! what luck I had not to keep the gold in my snug leather bag; but they persuaded me I would get two per cent in that nasty, odious Galway Bank. I wish it was in the fire before I put my money there.”

“Why, Ma’am,” said our punster, “that would be a burning shame; and though I am glad your wishes are warm towards the Provincial Bank, yet, just now, they are a little too fervent. Your zeal for O’Connell, also, is scarcely warrant-able; and though it might be a high joke to see him standing sus per coll [suspendatur per collum: let him be hanged by the neck], yet I scarcely think he would find much pleasure therein, poor fellow — particularly as, in this instance, his execution would take place somewhat undeservedly, as the run is caused not by him, but by my friend, James B—, who has been trying to overtake the boat for the last ten minutes, and made such desperate efforts, I thought the bank of the canal would surely give way. And here he comes himself, puffing and blowing like a broken-winded horse.”

“Ugh, ugh! By the goodness gracious!” said James B—, “by the goodness gracious! I thought I’d never overtake you: this infernal boat goes so fast when one does not want it. John Denis Browne, how are you? — glad to see you, by the goodness gracious! how is your friend Sandy Pry, eh? hear from him lately, eh? …”

This John Denis Browne may be the son of George Townsend Browne; if so, he was “admitted to the degree of Bachelor of Arts” in 1830 (Freeman’s Journal 20 July 1830) and was studying divinity in 1831, later becoming curate of Penzance, vicar of Braintree in Essex (Limerick Chronicle 2 June 1852) and author of Satan Enters the House prepared for his Reception. He died, aged 56, in 1864 (Chelmsford Chronicle 19 February 1864). His youthful doings, or alleged doings, and those of James B— [whom I cannot identify], were covered in several articles, perhaps intended to be humorous, in Irish newspapers in 1830 and 1831, at least one signed by Sandy Pry. James B— also appears in several of the articles, whose author seems to have been opposed to Daniel O’Connell and to the Roman Catholic interest.

“… Quite right, quite right; a great blackguard; I perfectly agree with you. Have you signified your intention of leaving town to the proper quarter? We men of fashion, taste, elegance, and birth, should have our several movements duly certified to the public. My Lord, How d’ye do? In your old place near the door, I see. What were bullocks to-day in the market?”

Lord R—’s skills

“Oh! what would they be but bullocks? Maybe it’s bullsheens you’d have them,” replied the Peer, “and mighty chape they were entirely. I had fifty head, and I sold them for an ould song, I may say. Every thing is down in the country, Sir — every thing is down except the Terries; and, by my sowl, they’re raising themselves high enough. Shure they had the impudence to visit my own place; but if I could ketch ’em, I’d engage to make ’em civil: I think they might let me alone, at any rate; for shure there’s not an easier man in the country than myself, and I’m among them, as I may say. But it’s all the fault of the change of currency: sorrow much luck I had since these new tinpennies came into fashion.”

“By the goodness gracious, I do not know what will become of us — the rascals will have the whole country to themselves by and by. However, I am glad to see so many troops quartered throughout the country.”

“Did I ever tell you the story of the Dragoon Officer that came into my yard one day, looking for the smith to put a shoe upon his horse?”

“I heard the thing, but I don’t know whether it was from you.”

“Well, no matter, I’ll tell it to you again. You see there was a great hunt in the neighbourhood of my place, and one of the Dragoon Officers from Loughrea lost a shoe from his horse, and he came into the yard to get the smith to put it on for him. ‘Where’s the smith?’ says he. ‘Faith I don’t know,” says I, for it was to myself he was spakin, ‘he’s not in it at all events, but what do you want iv him?’ ‘Oh, what ud I want iv him,’ says he, ‘but to put a shoe upon my horse, to be shure; but as he’s not here, there’s no use in waiting’ and with that he was turning away his horse’s head. ‘Whe-then,’ says I, ‘you’re both of you a fine pair of bastes, and by my sowl it ud be a mighty quare thing to let you go off without getting shod: and may-be I could do the job for you myself.’ ‘Whe-then,’ says he, ‘I’ll be for ever obliged to you, and I’ll give you something for your throuble besides.’ With that I got Larry Moore’s apron — that’s the smith, you know — and I shod the horse for him, nater than Larry could ever do it. ‘Now,’ says I, when the job was done, ‘I have some interest with the butler at the big house, and iv you come up, I’ll get you something to ate.’ ‘Faith,’ says he, ‘you’re the boy for my money, and you’re a Trogien every inch of you.’ ‘Well,’ says I, ‘do you go round to the hall door, and I’ll go talk to the butler.’ And I sent, sure enough, and I orthered up a fine lanshin, and there I was sittin at the head of the table by the time my gentleman came in. You never saw a man so struck all iv a heap as he was, when he found me out.”

Dinner on board

Dinner now made its appearance, “smoking on the board.” A leg of mutton ushered in the train, gracefully leading after it chickens and bacon, and an immense piece of boiled beef and cabbage.

“Where is my porta, gul?” said a fat-faced, ruddy-visaged gentleman, one of our Reverences from the College. “Where is my porta that I paid for?” “The Captain is drawing the cork, Sir,” said the smiling Hebe; you shall have the porter directly.” “I declare I’m chouking with thurst; till the Kiptin to send me in my bautle, and I’ll draw the cok myself. The best way to drive[?] a cok, gentlemen, in a hurry is to push it down.” “Sir, I’d throuble you for another shliver of mouton,” asked our small grocer from Tuam; “it ates remarkably well and thick.” “The pleasure of a glass of wine, ma’am, with you, if you plaise. Phoo, this is nothing but slow water; it’s a grate shame for Mister Blake not to give better wine in the boat;” and so

We eat, and drank, and wined, and then
We wined, and drank, and eat again.

Literary Conversation

When strangers assemble together for a short period, there is generally a feeling among them to make as fine an appearance as circumstances will permit. The tailor’s apprentice, who has just untwined his legs from off the board, and stretches them for the first time in his master’s service, to collect some outstanding debts, or respectfully solicit future orders, attempts the fine gentleman, and frequently succeeds as well as the man who is born one, as the saying is; and the grocer’s boy, emerging from the place of figs and raisins, his Sunday coat well brushed up, his hat smoothed down, and hair curled gracefully on both sides of his cheeks, sets off on his errand for custom, with the fixed determination of doing the agreeable and sweet, to the full extent of sugar-candied excellence.

The man who has learned enough to prove him an ass at the University, delights to exhibit his parts, and make the vulgar stare; and the little pert Miss, just let loose upon the world, and about half a year from the boarding school, rejoices to shew off her accomplishments and tastes to the best advantage — and having been a short period with an aunt in the city, she prates learnedly of the last new novel, scientifically of the last new singer, hobby-horsically of the riding-school, informs you she has taken lessons in drawing, is a famous hand at a sketch, and a very Titian in her colouring, tells you she has been at the play, and can play on the piano-fort.

Our conversation was as varied as our company. The five Misses Blake chattered and tittered, and tittered and chattered, and flattered and fluttered, and fluttered and flattered: when one began to talk, the rest began to talk; the wagging of the tongue of one was the sure signal for the rest to begin; but the two literary ladies fairly beat them wholus bolus out of the field. The comparative merits of Mesdames De Genlis and De Sevigne occupied a good portion of their discussion, which at one period waxed rather fierce. The decryer of Madame De Sevigne’s works informed us “that, indeed, she had no right to speak disadvantageously of De Sevigne’s writings, as she was paid the compliment of being told her own style was very similar.”

After a short digression upon schools, during which the five Misses Blake were able to edge in a few words, here and there, particularly the schools at Portarlington, calling it the Athens of Ireland, they returned with redoubled violence to Fenelon, Bossuet, and the Martyrs in France, whom they took to pieces more mercilessly than even their cruel persecutors; then they crossed over to Moore and Scott, eulogised Lord Byron, great poet, noble writer, exalted genius, pity he died!! At last they settled down upon Lady Morgan: concerning the place of whose education they were strangely at variance.

“Pardon me, ma’dam, she was educated in a Charter-school.”

“Excuse me, ma’am, with great submission to your superior information, she was brought up in the Duchess of Rutland’s family, and afterwards became Governante to the young Ladies Manners.”

“My information, ma’am, was from the very best authority.”

“None can be more surely depended on than my account, ma’am. Surely we all know that her father was a gentleman of fortune, descended from one of the most ancient families in Ireland; and not likely to send his daughter to a Charter-school. His name was M’Keon.”

“There, ma’am, you see how correct your information is: every one knows her father’s name was Owenson; but we’ll ask Lord R—. Lord R—, who is Lady Morgan?”

“By my sowl,” snored out the Peer, “I wish you wouldn’t be disturbing me, for I’m fast asleep.”

Sleeping together

The gentlemen now put on their night-caps, and variously exerted themselves to secure some comfort for the night — Lord R—’s nasal organ giving forth the solemn sound that tells the midnight hour, whilst the ladies endeavoured to look as amiable and interesting in divers mob-head-gear, as they severally might. Two of the male party placed themselves at full length on the table, esteeming, no doubt, that the convenience of the company was but a small matter, in comparison to the enjoyment of having their figures displayed to the best advantage, and their necks stretched before their due time, as our man of puns remarked.

Others took the ease of a berth on the floor, choosing the softest spot, whilst some laid down their heads on a pillow put upon as much of the table as they could obtain, and snored away the time in most pig stye-ish melody. Nothing seemed to disturb the rest of the passengers, except a few abrupt exclamations, now and again, such as — “Sir, I’ll thank you to keep your foot out of my pocket!” — “Pray, Sir, don’t tread on my eye!” — “The next time you give a kick, Sir, if it be somewhat lighter, you will confer a favor!”

The five Misses Blake, after making various wonderful efforts to engage the attention of our College men, including our punster, from whom the others seemed to take their cue, at last settled down into sleep, which was considerably accelerated by the punster having observed that he hated a Bleak retreat. The young ladies set up as pretty a quintetto as the imagination of a snorer well could fancy.

Disturbance in the night

Grand Canal: Robertstown to Shannon Harbour (OSI 25″ ~1900)

Killagally Glebe (OSI 6″)

At Philipstown a great influx of passengers poured in upon us, about half past two o’clock in the morning, just as I was adjusting myself for a sleep; they were returning from the Assizes of the King’s County. — These were divers gentlemen from the neighbourhood of Banagher, wending their way homewards after the toil and turmoil of their necessary attendance upon the law courts; and as they esteemed it futile to attempt a sleep themselves, they were desperately bent on preventing all others from enjoying even that disturbed repose which the very small convenience of a crowded boat could admit. An immediate ringing of the bell was fixed on, as the most notable expedient for this purpose; and this was accompanied by various calls for porter, cider, ale, Mary the maid, and so forth.

“Eh! what’s all this?” roared out James B—, suddenly awakened from a deep, sound sleep, “By the goodness gracious, we are going to the bottom. Eh, what’s this? is hell broke loose? Bedlam is let out, I believe!” “No,” said the pupil of Tom Gannon, “it is only the people discharged from the Assizes, and they are making merry on the occasion.” “By the goodness gracious though, they shall not be making merry at our expense; I’ll commit them to Galway jail. My Lord, will you get up and keep the peace? you’re a Magistrate boati.” “Pace,” replied his Lordship, “Pace: you’re more handy at the pace yourself (either breaking it or keeping it), James B—, than I am. But what can you expect from Leinsther men? They haven’t the dacency in them like us at all.”


The sun now rose in his unclouded majesty, gilding the towers and woods of Charleville, the magnificent seat of the Earl of that name, and exhibiting the town of Tullamore to our view at a little distance. The windows of the cabin were put down, some fresh air admitted, and the impurities of the past night cleansed away.

Preparations for breakfast soon began, and anticipation of a raking pot of tea, after the fatigues of the night, was by no means a small enjoyment, whilst the occupancy of the thing itself was the source of no little pleasure. The merits of divers eggs were entered into with a gout seldom exhibited any where else; and sundry pieces of bread were sent to be toasted from one end of the table, which, upon their return, were most religiously waylaid and devoured by those through whose hands the toast should pass to reach the sender.

Our literary ladies warmly discussed sundry cups of tea, with even greater heat than the comparative excellencies of Fenelon and Bossuet, digesting the matter with more apparent good will; and agreeing fully upon this, that Nott, Fergusson, and Company had been of great service to the tea trade of Dublin, as they were now able to get their favourite beverage full three halfpence an ounce cheaper than before their establishment was set up.

Journey’s end

As we passed Killigally, John Denis Browne, the notable, gave us an entire relation of his misfortunes in that quarter, and almost charged James B— with being the author of that egregious hoax, which brought him so fruitlessly from his alma mater, and led, in pursuit of exaltation and honor in the church militant, to the prejudice of his studies and lucubrations for the benefit of his country. The five Misses Blake condoled with the misfortunes of so sweet a youth, at the same time congratulating him, by way of comfort, on the splendid address which he got up for himself upon leaving College, and the numerous and respectable signatures affixed.

Killagally Glebe north of the canal (OSI 6″)


We discharged our cargo of Banagheronians at Shannon-harbour, and soon the noble river bearing that name greeted our delighted eyes. A wooden bridge, upon which the horses tread who tow the boat, has been built in this place. Here the stream, though not rapid, always flows majestically.

Shannon Harbour (OSI 6″)

I got into the steamer which plies between this and Killaloe, and bid farewell to my boat companions, leaving the two literary ladies hard again at De Genlis and Madame De Sevigne; and the youngest Miss Blake, at last successful in attaching to herself the wayward fancy of John Denis, by her merciless application of the Blarney stone.

This account is of interest for two reasons. First, it is one of a number of articles featuring John Denis Browne and James B—; it would be interesting to know who wrote them and why they were published. They seem to have been written to promote Browne’s interests; why did they deserve publication?

Second, it provides some useful information about the canal passage-boats: boarding away from regular stations, meals, sleeping. In particular, it confirms that the Shannon steamers, which met the boats from Dublin, did not enter the canal but took passengers aboard on the river, perhaps downstream of the bridge. Was there a quay or wharf to make that easier?



What is Fine Gael smoking?

Here’s another Fine Gael TD spouting nonsense. Seán Kyne is a TD for Galway West and Mayo South, and he wants the taxpayer to build him a train set.

He favours what is called the Western Rail Corridor, a mad scheme to reopen yet more uneconomic railway track to places that have neither passengers nor cargo to justify the expense. The nutters have already had a service provided from Limerick to Galway, running pretty well alongside the new motorway. Kyne says

With over 380,000 annual passenger journeys the service has far exceeded initial estimates on which the original business case was based.

A business case is, as far as I can see, a way of whiting a sepulchre: coming up with some excuse for spending public money of a boondoggle that would be exposed as such were a proper cost-benefit analysis conducted instead. What Kyne doesn’t tell us is whether the service makes or loses money (and if you can find that information in any of the publications on the websites of CIE or Iarnród Éireann, I’d be glad if you’d let me know) or why the state should provide both buses and railways on the same route.

But Limerick to Galway isn’t mad enough: he wants the ghastly thing extended to Tuam and Sligo, because that would provide “greater transport connectivity in the West”, whatever that means. Is there anything that rail could do that roads could not? Kyne doesn’t say; nor does he identify any traffic that requires rail. He says

I also believe that the way to enhance infrastructure in the West of Ireland is not by developing one [road] at the expense of another [rail].

What Kyne wants instead is that both be developed, and run, at the expense of the taxpayer, when only one of them is needed. Ireland needs to start closing down more railway lines, not opening them up.


How to civilise Co Galway

An article from the Dublin Penny Journal of 13 September 1834 [Vol III No 115], conducted by P Dixon Hardy MRIA, solves that and other longstanding problems.

Public works in Ireland

The tunnel or archway through Lord Cloncurry’s grounds

Having in our last described the line of railway from the entrance station in Westland-row to the Pier at Kingstown, we now take the opportunity, while presenting our readers with two other views of the road, of inserting an article which, since our last publication went to press, has appeared in The Sun newspaper, relative to the carrying on of public works in Ireland. Our readers will perceive that its general bearing is in perfect accordance with the opinions we have more than once before expressed, when speaking on the subject of railways. We have already stated our reasons for giving a preference to railways over other modes of conveyance; but we fully agree in opinion with the writer of the article to which we refer, that no greater benefit could be conferred upon Ireland than the introduction of a cheap and expeditious means of conveying her agricultural produce from the heart of the country to the extremities — whether this be by canals or railways is a matter to be decided by the locality of those districts through which the lines of road may pass.

“We do not often derive so much pleasure from the perusal of a public document as we have from a careful inspection of the plans, and consideration of the suggestions, contained in the Second Report of the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, just printed by order of the House of Commons. Notwithstanding the low ebb at which the tide of Ireland’s prosperity stands at present, we predict, from the great improvements that are now being carried on, in clearing harbours, opening canals, and making roads along the eastern, southern, and northern coast, that the day is not very long distant when Ireland will, from being a bye-word among the nations of Europe, become equal to some of its proudest states in industry, wealth, intelligence, and love of order.

The worst crimes of Ireland are the results of the poverty and despair, rather than the evil disposition of her population. Public works, besides giving employment to thousands of her labouring poor, whom want has rendered almost desperate, will be the means of inducing capitalists to establish factories where facilities are afforded for carrying on an extensive trade; and will enable agriculturists to raise produce wherever a line of good road, a cheap water carriage, or convenient shipping, supplies them with a sure market for the fruits of their industry.

During the last eighteen months the sum of one hundred and twenty-nine thousand, six hundred and thirty-three pounds were expended in the improvement of Kingstown and Dunmore harbours, the making of roads on the Antrim coast, and the building of bridges, and other improvements in different parts of Ireland. The consequences of these works are already beginning to be manifested in the improved condition of the inhabitants in their vicinity, and the altered aspect of the immediately adjoining face of the country.

The commissioners themselves say that ‘Wherever a new road is constructed, flourishing farms at once spring up, and the carts of the countrymen press on the heels of the road-makers as the work advances’. And in a preceding paragraph the following most important information is given: — ‘In traversing a country covered with farms, and in a high state of cultivation, showing every sign of a good soil and of amply remunerating produce, it becomes difficult to credit the fact that, ten or twelve years since, the whole was a barren waste, the asylum of a miserable and lawless peasantry, who were calculated to be a burden rather than a benefit to the nation; and that this improvement may entirely be attributed to the expenditure of a few thousands of pounds, in carrying a good road of communication through the district’.

What Ireland stands most in need of at the present moment is, a cheap and expeditious means of having her agricultural produce conveyed from the heart of the country to the extremities. Now, in our judgment, the best way of effecting this would be by canals, of which she stands in the greatest need.

The first of these should be a canal from Dublin to Galway, which would cut the whole island across, from east to west, uniting St George’s channel with the Atlantic ocean. This line of communication between the capital of Ireland and a great commercial town on the extreme coast, would be of immense importance to the inhabitants of both, but of still more so to the whole population of Connaught, among whom it would be the direct means of introducing manufacturing industry, and a taste for the arts, enjoyments, and elegancies of civilized life. The distance between Dublin and Galway is about one hundred and four miles, through which a direct line of canal has already been carried for forty-two miles — namely, from Dublin to Philipstown; so that in point of fact the work is already begun, and only wants the aid of government, and the assistance of the landed proprietors in King’s County, Roscommon, and Galway, the value of whose estates would be trebled by it, to effect its entire completion.

The next line of canal should be from Ballyshannon Harbour to Dundalk, by Enniskillen, by which the greatest facilities would be given to agriculture and manufacturing improvements in the counties of Donegal, Fermanagh, and Leitrim; and more especially to the trade of Ballyshannon and Dundalk, which, though capable of being made emporiums of provincial industry and wealth, are now little better than marts for the fish caught along their coasts. However, great praise is due to Colonel Conolly, the member for Donegal, who has advanced a thousand pounds, and given security for four thousand more, for repairing the harbour of Ballyshannon, which, when finished, will be of great benefit to the people of the town, and the inhabitants along the western coast, from Sligo to Killybegs.

The last line of communication which we would suggest to the government, besides the navigation of the Shannon, which is sufficiently dwelt upon in the reports of the select committee on that subject, is a canal from Waterford to Sligo, intersecting the canal from Dublin to Galway, somewhere about Philipstown.

This, with such a line of communication from Dublin to Belfast, would unite all Ireland; and in a very few years would render the country as prosperous, as rich, and as contented as any in Europe. The intercourse which those canals would give rise to between the people in every part of the provinces, would extinguish that spirit of religious animosity which now divides and destroys them. Bring men only together, and they will soon remove the prejudices of each other.

The people of Ireland are at present as much removed from each other at the distance of fifty miles apart, as if the whole Indian ocean rolled between them. Hence, the jealousies, and hatreds, and cherished recollections of feudal wrongs, so common in almost every district of Munster and Connaught. But let once manufacturing industry prevail in these districts — let the voice of the mechanic be heard in the villages — and we will pledge ourselves that the people of Ireland, with all their alleged love of mischief, will find other employment than that of parading nightly in a Captain Rock uniform, or recording vows of vengeance against Sassenachs and collectors of king’s taxes.”


The Cong Canal and the Ballinrobe navigation

I have extended my page on the Cong Canal by adding some photos of the sluices and the embankments on the Cong Canal and by improving some maps. I have also added some photos of Ballinrobe, including the quay from which it was hoped that boats would depart for Lough Mask and, via the Cong Canal, Galway. When the Cong Canal was abandoned, so too was the Ballinrobe navigation.

Giving confidence to our Lady friends

The water has also been kept at a proper level by lowering the river bar at Galway, and constructing a regulating weir there. At some time the navigation channel in the narrow rocky portions of the lake was deepened, the rocks raised; and by buoying and marking with pillars, rocks, and irons, the steamer’s track, it has been rendered navigable from Galway to Cong, and also to Oughterard, and to within a couple of miles of Maam hotel.

All the marks on the eastern side of our upward course from Galway are coloured white, and those on the western side dark.

It will help to give confidence to our Lady friends, who can almost touch some of these marks, triangles, and gridirons, from the Eglinton, to know that all these rocks were lifted by the present captain of the vessel, who was formerly employed here as a diver.

Sir William R Wilde MD Lough Corrib, its shores and islands: with notices of Lough Mask McGlashan & Gill, Dublin; Longmans, Green, and Co, London 1867

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


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.


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.


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 (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.



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.